Photo by Cyrus Gomez on Unsplash

By Maria Sylvester, MSW, CPC

Let me attempt to capture here, if even possible, an inner experience that literally stopped me in my tracks and left me completely out of sorts. It’s that moment when you notice an odd giant space between your thoughts. A truly vacant landscape. A clearing of sorts. In that instant, you’re unsure exactly how you feel. Happy? Sad? Confused?

I’ll zero in a bit more. The void occurred split seconds after I suddenly realized, with lighting-bolt impact, I no longer have any dependents to look after. Oh. My. Gosh. Anyone else with me here? 

If so, perhaps you’ve experienced a similar surreal state. A huge hole opens. You fall in. You plummet into the awareness that you no longer need to mentally ponder any details of nurturing little ducklings — or, in my case, kids, dogs, and elders. Zillions of repetitive details become irrelevant. Details like what to feed them, how to cloth them, what to check up on, ask about, or help them with. Quite the change. It’s bizarre, really.

You see, my friends, as we head into this new year, life is dramatically different in our home. I’m sharing this with you because if it hasn’t happened already, it will most likely happen in your home at some point, too. So prepare yourself. Reach out to me if or when you need first aid or support as you venture through this mysterious portal.

The Basics

My daughter is thriving in her 24-year-old adult life. I get to relish her career accomplishments and the joys she experiences in partnership with her beloved. She no longer needs my care. Instead, we share the blessing of an incredible friendship and the delight of sharing many adventures together. 

My parents are both deceased. My elderly father passed away several years ago. My mother died suddenly this past April from the coronavirus. Visceral memories of my parents’ powerful impact on my life randomly pop into my awareness. I smile. Or tear up. It all depends on what has surfaced. I can feel them with me with such emotional intensity; it’s otherworldly. 11:11 moments happen all the time too. My angels — they are so with me.

Yet, as suddenly as my mother’s passing came the instantaneous falling away of all considerations related to her well-being and care. No longer did I need to do any mental gymnastics to determine when I would call her, or ponder what I might bring her when I visited her next. Instead, there’s this incredible sad, empty void now where caregiving thoughts had previously existed. A vacant landscape, for sure. 

The most recent shift — the one that clinched the totality of my massive mental and emotional transformation — was the loss of our little Yorkshire terrier, Sneakers. After 14 years of this little guy preoccupying a significant portion of my headspace, he moved on to the high heavens. We’re sure he’s romping around wild and free in a blissful state of pure doggie contentment.

Sneakers’ passing thus brought to an end all the simple and repetitive dog considerations. All dog owners, I’m sure, can relate. From the moment I woke up, it was always a routine. Time to feed the dog; let the dog out; playtime; cuddle time; loving time. And of course, as he aged, there were extra considerations. No reason to go there in my mind now. So odd.

Two Emotional Realities at Once

My new reality is indeed strange. It’s gut-wrenchingly painful and incredibly freeing. Its both, in the same split second. Where do I emotionally land with all of this? How can I hold these awarenesses simultaneously? Which way might I turn? Have any of your ever felt what I am trying to capture here? The heart breaks open in two directions at once. You’re on a threshold. 

Being a good enough daughter, mother, and pet owner has taken up a hell of a lot of heart and head space over the course of my life. In an instant, I’ve suddenly become free of worry or regard for all details related to the art of nurturing well. Granted, my beloved husband gets a ton of my loving vibes, but this kind of care feels different. It’s icing on his cake rather than essential for his survival and well-being. We’re simply creating a marriage by stringing one good moment after another together, ironing out the occasional wrinkles as necessary.

Different, Yet Delightful

It’s different, yet so, so delightful. That was what I felt as I sensed that new, strange whisper —the whisper of awareness: I can return completely to myself. I have no person or creature needing or calling for me. Wow. Happy New Year to me! I reveled in the realization that I could now focus on myself with a spaciousness I had not ever felt in my adult life. A magical midlife moment, one might say. A sweet portal to to the palace of Self drawing you in. I bet some of you can relate.

Returning Home to Myself

Returning home to myself was and continues to be an absolutely marvelous experience. Time feels deliciously different — because it is. I wake up and get to attend to myself first. How novel! Time feels rich and precious. Transformative, actually. Each day holds limitless possibilities. I feel expansive, and compelled to boldly seize the day. I can decide what I want to do, focus on, create, or tune into with fresh breath and depth. Is this real? I pinch myself. I get a new opportunity to fully become the woman I’ve longed to be, taking magnificent refuge in myself.

Most days start with meditation in a beautiful decorated l room I’ve recently created for myself in what used to be my daughter’s bedroom (with her permission and blessings granted, of course.) I even treated myself to the luxury of a vegan leather meditation chair — something I highly recommend, especially if backaches have derailed previous attempts to establish a practice. I’ve perfected the art of sitting still. Quite the change from the on-the-go, get-it-done, keep-juggling-all-the-balls mama-mode that I’d been in for so many years. 

My day then continues to unfold in wonderfully unpredictable and magical ways. Perhaps I cook a breakfast feast, or maybe I fast. Some days I walk in the nearby woods, other days I hop on my elliptical. Maybe I spend time contemplating something I’ve read. Or perhaps I enjoy analyzing the dream I had the previous night, searching for clues to my next best move on my path. I love savoring the intuitive knowledge that drifts across my awareness as I go about my day, now more than ever able to trust myself with myself. This muscle has grown much stronger with age and the gift of time. 

The joy of being able to slow down always harkens me inward. My attention and ability to focus internally fuels my superpowers and my spiritual life. I’m a better life coach for my clients, a better partner in my marriage, a more consciously connected friend, and a fun-loving, carefree mama for adulting-time with my daughter. Nothing seems to drain my life-force, and my creative energy is typically firing on all cylinders. I spend time and money investing in myself and my personal growth. I feel happy and content. Definitely up-leveled!

And so, my friends, as we enter another glorious new year, I know mine shall be like no other. I invite you to celebrate as I will be. I’m a free spirit continuing my upward evolution. Not wasting a precious second. Not settling for any midlife mediocrity. For time is lovingly moving us (and our dependents) right along. 

Step into the spaciousness. Thrive there. Go after that which gives you goosebumps! And remember to take a moment to simply be.


Maria Sylvester, MSW, CPC is a certified Life Coach in Ann Arbor, MI who loves empowering
adolescents, adults, and couples to live from the HEART of what really matters to them so that
they can bring their fully expressed, vibrant selves into the world. She has a special gift for helping
women reclaim their feminine power, and embrace their radiant, sensual, sexy spirits. Their lives
transform. They soar into their mid-life magnificence!