As summer winds down to its inevitable close, we pause to consider all we have taken on and accomplished over the last few months, and what we have chosen to put on hold out of necessity. While many people we know enjoyed a summer of adventure, outdoor activities or exotic trips, our summer involved adventures in transitions. Kelli accepted a full-time clinical position at the beginning of summer and started an intensive training program, followed by the launching of a new business unit. Dorothy launched her son into his freshman year at an East Coast University, starting with a trip with her children to visit her dad, followed by the University’s on-site orientation, shopping excursions, and ultimately helping him move into his new home. Consequently, our writing for The Seattle Lesbian took an unexpected summer break, as did our fledgling monthly dinner group, social activities with friends, and our beloved hobbies and personal interests. We lost a fair amount of free time and down time as we attended to transition details. What we endeavored not to give up in the midst of these transitions, however, was attention to our relationship, and as fall arrives, we are beginning to plan our next stage of life.
Launching my son came a year and a half after launching my daughter, which has been thrilling to witness as she thrives on her own. I’ve heard other parents express the bittersweet feeling that ‘empty nesting’ brings: we spend years preparing our children and ourselves for this moment, and when it arrives we are both deeply proud and deeply sad.
Over the summer, Kelli and I supported each other in what were ultimately our separate experiences: her beginning a new job and me ending one of mine (I’m keeping my for-pay job for now!). It was important to me to keep Kelli apprised of college preparations, to attend to my son’s questions and process, as well as to listen to Kelli’s experiences of intense training sessions and building a team within a new business division. Sometimes attending to both transitions was a balancing act that took all of my energy and attention, however in retrospect, every moment of authentic connection was worth it.
As my role shifts from that of mothering to that of guide and coach, and as Kelli and I experience time together without the kids around, I’m exploring my answers to two questions? What do I want to experience individually? What do I want to experience with Kelli?
When it comes right down to it, the degree to which I’m personally fulfilled and satisfied is the degree to which I can fully engage in all of my relationships. I’m beginning to resume activities that I had put on hold, those that sustain my heart and spirit: yoga, pleasure reading, gardening, and volunteerism. I feel inspired by the opening the ‘empty nest’ provides to reset my head and heart in addition to rekindling my relationship with Kelli. We are talking about the interests and activities we want to explore and nurture together as we enter this new phase: entertaining, traveling, collaborative writing, hosting a therapeutic writer’s workshop, expanding our social circle, and perhaps moving into a new home, thereby embracing a ‘fresh start’.
My role also shifted this summer, from that of a step-parent involved directly and indirectly in the daily activities and decisions surrounding living with and launching teenagers to a partner excited to have the experience of connecting with Dorothy in our ‘empty nest.’ On the other hand, beginning a new career venture shifted me from working part-time to a demanding full-time position, thereby losing the ability to pursue some of my own interests. Freedom gained and freedom lost…bittersweet for me, as well.
Moving into a new phase of our relationship has motivated me to think about what I want to create next. For us as a couple, I’m looking forward to having more time and energy for dinners with friends in our home, for romantic excursions, for quiet time reading and writing together, for redesigning our space to accommodate guests and maybe a writing room. And I want to navigate our schedules collaboratively, so that each of us has alone time in the house. For me personally, the simple word is freedom. I want a calm, quiet space that inspires creativity and moves my writing life forward. I want to walk around the house half-dressed all day if I feel like it…doing chores, taking long baths, listening to music, cooking, reading, writing, watching a good movie…
Dorothy and Kelli speak
In the midst of launching into a new phase of life, we’ve begun to explore what it now means to be a couple at this point in our relationship. New paths are being forged. Our minds and hearts are open to new ways of being, individually and together. Kelli is noticing that she feels more generous and receptive now that she can focus more energy on her needs and responsibilities. Dorothy is noticing how satisfied she feels with her parenting accomplishments as her children reveal their strengths, along with the freedom that new openings provide. We are engaged with each other and excited about what lies ahead, supportive of ourselves, each other and the relationship…a wonderful launching pad!
Our Relationship speaks
With mindfulness, grace and compassion, Kelli and Dorothy are letting go of past difficulties and placing their attention on future opportunities. They are reaching forward and allowing the transitions of the summer to settle into what comes next. They are redefining what they want to experience individually and as a couple. They continue to ask and consciously answer a question key to all relationships. What is most important for us right now? Choosing how to respond to situations and each other and what to pay attention to in the relationship guides them on their upcoming adventures.
Kelli Williamson holds a Master of Arts degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from The School of Leadership and Education at the University of San Diego. Kelli has extensive experience working with couples, children and families. She has worked in private practice and held leadership positions in non-profit organizations directing counseling services, supervising staff and interns, and providing training in child and family therapy. In addition, she consults with non-profit agencies providing organizational development and leadership training.
Dorothy (Bosteder) Emerson graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Economics. She is a Senior Product Manager in the banking industry and has served on the board of directors for non-profit agencies serving women and children. Dorothy has expertise in building relationships by facilitating communication and collaboration while navigating complex systems. Dorothy is also the mother of two teenagers who are beginning their independent lives. She offers clarity and focus on listening to and following one’s heart as a parent, as well as many other roles.
Dorothy and Kelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.