Drinking in the beauty of Austin, Texas, with its deep green cedar trees and gnarled oaks, I’m staring out over the yard one last time. No more will I sit on this porch in my red wicker couch on the long covered porch with the tin roof that rings like a metal drum with each raindrop. No more will I cuddle with the dogs here as I write. I’ll miss the deer in the yard and the neighbors’ Longhorn cattle, but alas, now that the kids have graduated high school, summer calls us to an old cabin on the lake where I’ll be reaching out to you for the balance of the summer. It’s good for us, our family, our kids, and even the family who stays in our Austin home each summer, who get a change of scenery.
But when we return, our secure little nest will be silent. No more slamming doors, teen drama, setting the table for five, no more arguments, but also no more hanging out on the couch with a day-to-day debriefing. Thankfully, two of our triplets remain in the state, only a couple of hours away, and one in a neighboring state about a day’s drive away.
Years ago the stress of parenting made us eager for these stress-filled, high-drama days to be replaced by quiet moments, but as we approach the runway for takeoff, we’re getting sad. It’s the start of a new chapter.
Over dinner the other night we were reminiscing about school with the kids, how they were so stressed about moving to a new city and a new school. They were stressed about elementary school, then stressed about the transition to middle school, then high school. As parents we knew how short and insignificant it would all one day feel. Yet no matter how much we told them everything would be OK, their stress levels were high until they’d had time to adjust.
All New to Us
Now the tables are turned. Our anxiety about kids in college is probably as bad as theirs, as is our anxiety about moving to the next chapter. This new chapter will be a trial run, kids away from home, us being alone together and having to get to know one another all over again. Yet we’ll still be coaching kids in school and reminding them occasionally of life choices they need to be making. And after college, if there is no grad school, it will be graduation to life, a new chapter for them and for us. We don’t know what it will bring, but chances are our little family of five will grow, with new personalities injected into our lives, and hopefully one day some little ones who can call me Gramps.
Perhaps I’m a late bloomer, or maybe I just delayed things as long as possible. My cousin, one year younger, just retired this week and already has grandkids who will soon provide great-grandkids. Me, I’m still putting in 15-hour days with no intention to retire, and my kids are just now leaving the nest.
As we turn the page to a new chapter, or click the remote to a new episode, I for one am in love with the idea of change. I used to fight it, now I crave it.
Tolstoy said, “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Roy Bennett said it this way: “If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.”
Breaking the Rules
Though I’m not critical of the mold for how we’re supposed to act or be when our hair turns white, I feel like this chapter brings many new possibilities. I’ve passed on hundreds of invitations to paint at events or speak at colleges and events, and skipped all-expenses-paid trips to foreign lands because I wanted to be home as much as possible. Now, I’m free to go, and my wife is willing to go along. And, for the first time, she is free and has ideas for which I must be the one to tag along. It’s only fair.
The winter pastor at our old church in Florida, author John Maxwell, says, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
As I watch friends who have lived this chapter before me, I’ve seen some become stagnant ponds, and others become waterfalls. Movement creates movement and energy. Stillness creates more stillness. There is a time for each, yet too much still water breeds mental bacteria.
The Edge of the Earth
Each of us is in a different place. Your life may be ahead of you. My friends with young kids don’t yet realize it passes in the click of your fingers. I never believed it, yet here I am. Some of you are at the edge of the earth, about to jump off for the next planet. Like changing seasons, we each move from chapter to chapter, often clinging to the past only to be dragged into the future. Then when we get comfortable, we get dragged out of that comfort zone again.
I for one am enthusiastically looking forward to being uncomfortable. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
“The comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” – Brian Tracy
Where are you?
Are you so comfortable you don’t want to be ripped out of your easy chair? Or are you waiting for the next chapter to begin?
I for one am excited.
PS: We’ve all been ripped out of our comfort zone. Each day when we shop for groceries, we wonder if we’re the next victim of COVID-19. But, if you dig deeply, you’ll find this time has been a gift. Look for it.
My gift for my art-loving friends has been almost 70 days of art instruction video samples. But, like all good things, they are soon to go away. People have asked me to keep them up a little longer so they can catch up … so to find them, follow these steps.
- Go to YouTube.
- Search Streamline Art Video.
- Click “Subscribe.” You’ll have access to everything for a while after we make them disappear from the public page. Please do so today, so you don’t forget.
PS 2: Big news. Sometimes bad things lead to good things. My summer painting retreat in the Adirondacks was postponed, then canceled because the college we normally stay in has closed for the summer. But a place I’ve always wanted to hold the event has opened up because they had to cancel their summer camps. For our 10- year anniversary, we are staying in one of the GREAT CAMPS of the ADIRONDACKS, which was built in 1901 for 2.5 million ($70 million in today’s dollars). It’s a classic, on a different, more beautiful lake. If you’re interested, we’re still accepting people, and we have a 100% money back guarantee if we or you have to cancel.