Dear Dr. Norquist:
I’ve been married for 20 years now and I have an 18 year-old son, whom I adore. I’ve been a home-keeper and mother my whole married life. I fully enjoyed devoting my time to raising my son. Last week, my husband and I dropped my son off at college for his freshman year. His college is in North Carolina – very far away. This week I’ve felt so empty and dead inside. I find myself either crying or in bed. I don’t have any desire to do anything at all – not even make dinner for my husband – which I’ve done faithfully for all these years. I’ve never felt this way before. What can I do to get back to my old self?
Dr. Norquist responds:
With your son out of the house and managing his own life, the focus, drive and meaning that energized your days for so many years has suddenly disappeared. This drive had 18 years of focused attention. That kind of a drive cannot be immediately redirected. Think of it as a bicycle moving forward at a rapid pace. What happens if it can no longer move forward? It doesn’t suddenly change direction. Rather, it wobbles and then eventually falls broadside to the ground. Given this analogy, doesn’t it make sense that you are finding yourself without motivation or direction, lying in bed, unable to make dinner and be productive? It’s not that you can’t, or won’t get the wheel going again. It’s just that you are in a different phase of the cycle. Activity is followed by inertia. The harried completion of a project is followed by downtime. Your activity cycle will come around again. You will again feel motivated and engaged. Now is the time to appreciate your accomplishment, mourn the endings and inevitable changes and recover from the completion of this 18-year project. Soon enough you will feel revived, and energized for starting anew.
Starting a new project requires desire, hope and an inspiring vision. This inspiring vision will create enough energy and drive to get the wheel rolling again in a new direction. When the time is right, you will start a new cycle. In this way life provides you with new experiences and new directions for your growth – emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2012 Chaitanya Counseling Services