the gaping void

Absent any pressing need for me to cook, garden, escape, I slump.

mead in the making

You all know this — I’ve said it many times — but to quick recap: for two decades, my family was my life’s backbone, giving me structure and purpose, as well as something to rail against and escape from. And now that that’s (mostly) done, I’ve got to figure out what to do. 

sour cherries, lemons, raisins, honey, pre-blending

In some ways, this problem is a gift: many people can only dream of such freedom, and it’s all I dreamed of when the children were little. But I also think that many people (me included) who say they want this freedom really don’t. They (I) will do anything and everything to avoid getting sucked down into the abyss of the gaping void of “why does this even matter” and “who am I anyway”. 

aeration via the creation of a cyclone

To put it another way: sometimes the busyness becomes the fuel, the reason for Doing. We have to do it, we say, and as long as we believe that, we’ve got something to safely rail against. Because once an element of choice is introduced — I don’t absolutely have to do this, so why am I? — suddenly there’s a gaping void. 

It’s unmooring. 

Day five: we have fermentation, wheeeee!

To be clear, in my situation doing something like taking a job or going back to school or taking up watercolors, just for the sake of doing it, is not gonna cut it. Sure, I can (and do) fill my days with stay-busy activities, but those things don’t even begin to come close to meeting my need for a bigger purpose. I need to need it, or it needs to need me, whatever “it” is. That’s what I’m figuring out.

watching the fruit slowly swirl and the water in the airlock bubble as the mead off-gases

I’m doing all the things I know I should do, that I want to do, to keep me healthy and on the right track: exercise, community involvement, expanding my social circles, and in the darkest of times, cleaning. I also I signed up for a four-week kickboxing course that’s cheerfully whupping my butt, two months of hip-hop and jazz classes that haven’t started yet (can’t wait!), and I auditioned for a play. I figured burning off my angsty energy and pushing myself to do new things in my body might help ground me.

Or at least help me sleep better.

This same time, years previous: family road trip: Boston, the coronavirus diaries: week seventeen, burnt cheesecake, roasted zucchini parmesan, twist and shout, the quotidian (6.30.14), fútbol!, dark chocolate zucchini cake, a break in the clouds.


  • Christine

    I really appreciate this post right now as I get ready to take my youngest to college next week and become an “empty nester”. I’ve followed your blog for years (introduced to it a long time ago by Mavis at onehundreddollarsamonth) and have always enjoyed your candor, humor, and some great recipes to boot. Trying to envision what my own next chapters of life will look like for me and my husband. Nervous for sure, but also intrigued by what is to come and the journey ahead. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  • SB

    I’m at a similar age and stage as you (2 kids in college, one a rising HS junior). I’ve always worked a 2-3 part-time jobs and decided to leave those and get one full-time job a year ago. Whew! What a life change that has been. In addition to going from being somewhat independent in my work life to working closely with a team and a boss (never really had that before!) to adding a much longer commute (taking a train into Boston), I’m still deciding whether this was a good choice. I really like the people I work with/for, enjoy the challenges and I’m good at my job. However, the drive and motivation to succeed that I may have had in my 20s and 30s isn’t strong — i.e., what’s the point of working crazy hours (yes, definitely a position of privilege). One positive is that the work that I do is highly rewarding and impactful, so that is motivating. Still … figuring out how to approach my time, leisure, money, parenting, marriage, relationships, friendships, health, taking care of my body … still figuring that out!

  • Rose Shenk

    Maybe you should write a book! Oh wait. You already did! Maybe you should publish it (a much different task).
    This unsettled energy is important. Listen to it, and you’ll find your direction. Go on a vision quest or a pilgrimage. Oh wait! You already did! Maybe go on another one. So much love!

  • Liz

    It sounds like God is giving you a restless heart. He did the same thing to me and it led me into becoming the Director of Religious Education at my parish. If you want peace, ask God where he wants you to be in your life and then listen. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and amaze you with God’s plan. If you watch religious vocation stories on YouTube, in almost every one of them, they mention a restless heart or feeling unfulfilled and adrift before they found their calling. It’s not always a religious vocation, sometimes God knows you are needed somewhere else or doing something you were created for to be happy. May God bless you with peace as you find your calling.

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