Heading Into The Next Phase

In a recent post on his blog, A Satisfying Retirement, Bob Lowry wrote about his granddaughter comparing growing older to the most exciting part of a roller coaster ride, the ending with its big, exhilarating runs. It’s a great analogy: a roller coaster ride typically begins with a slow climb, and few tame dips and turns. As the ride continues things pick up, and twists and turns, climbs and drops begin coming at a faster pace, but the when and where are a mystery and add to the excitement and increase the thrill level. Finally, the car once more heads for the top to begin its big, exciting finale before finally slowing down and coasting to a stop.

Brett and my start together was like that initial slow climb. He was one of my first instructors in the navy, for a two-week course I was required to take for my rating following boot camp. It was pretty much love at first sight for both of us, and as soon as the two-weeks were over we began dating, and before long we were talking about our life together and how we saw that unfolding. There was never a distinct marriage proposal that either of us can remember, but somewhere along the way we both realized we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with the other. We’ll celebrate 42 years together next year while we’re in Tokyo.

Just like a ride on a roller coaster Brett and I have already passed through two distinct phases in our married life: our beginning years while he served in the navy followed by a second phase in civilian life and raising our daughters. Both time periods were very different from the other, full of twists, turns and surprises (not all of which were pleasant), but we had different goals and expectations during each one, and in hindsight both phases were positive for the most part. We were always looking to the future. The segue from the first into the second phase was fairly bumpy, but we somehow managed to get over and through those bumps and came out stronger than before. Our life choices, especially adopting three additional children in our mid- to late-forties were not the ones that most people would make, and we’ve paid or are still paying for some of the choices we’ve made, but as Brett and I have always said, we can’t imagine now having done things any other way. We chose the right coaster for us.

Brett and I have been raising children for most of our time together. Other than the short time we had before our son was born there was only a six month period with an empty nest after our son headed off to college and before we brought Meiling home. Before I met Brett I had no dreams or desires to have children, let alone four of them. Or, to have them in two separate groups with a nearly twenty-year gap between them. However, that’s how it happened, and of all my life’s accomplishments so far I am most proud of my children, of their efforts and accomplishments and the adults they’ve become. Our goal has always been to give our children roots, but wings as well so that when it’s been time for them to leave the nest they would be able to fly. It’s been exciting and rewarding to watch each of them take off and soar, with their wings spread wide.

We’re segueing now into a third phase, a time when Brett and I will also leave our nest and spread our wings. For the last 40 years our lives have been completely entwined with our children, with our schedules determined by their schedules, our plans and finances controlled by their needs. But, beginning in August it will just be the two of us, and we are ready to fly. I am so excited about being able to explore the world with my best friend, the person that knows me best, but I also realize it’s going to feel “different” for a while. It’s going to take time for me to adjust to not having children to accommodate in one way or another. Thankfully the segue into this third phase has been easier so far than it was between the first and the second because I think we’ve done a better job this time of preparing ourselves for the transition.

A roller coaster ride has been my metaphor for life for a while now. As my mom approached the end of her life a couple of years ago I kept thinking of roller coasters, and what a ride she had, and I’m beginning to see my life in the same way. Are Brett and I making that last big climb to the top? I don’t know right now, but we are preparing for an exciting finale that will hopefully go on for a good long while. Our ride up until now has been full of thrills, chills and surprises but it’s never been dull. And, like Bob’s granddaughter pointed out,  I believe the best and most exciting part is yet to come!


12 thoughts on “Heading Into The Next Phase

    1. Thanks Denise! We may not get to always choose the roller coaster we climb on to, or the path it takes, but it becomes our ride, and we get to choose how we deal with all the twists and turns, ups and downs.

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  1. It will be an exciting time. How different our experiences can be. I married my high school sweetheart at 18. But then we headed to the University of Arizona for 5 years. My husband was a year ahead. But we didn’t have children for 15 years. So we had lots of time to do crazy fun things. Now as he approaches retirement, we will have a change in our lives too. I also didn’t have my 2nd child till I was 42 so I was always the oldest Mom at school.
    Your trip sounds great, although I’m such a homebody after a week I just want to go home!!!


    1. We have always been the oldest parents too, especially for YaYu, and many times people haven’t know what to say or how to react. Being an older parent has actually been easier – I’m way more patient and better at picking my battles than I was when I was younger. The kids have helped keep us young at heart too, and more current with what and how millennials and younger think about things and process information these days.

      With a couple of exceptions we’re staying at most locations at least a week, time enough to unpack our suitcases a bit, and have a day off if we feel like it rather than feeling like we have to be doing something every day. Hopefully that will make the whole experience easier and less frantic than it might be otherwise.

      Go Wildcats! My parents were both graduates of UA – they met at a sorority/fraternity dance there (Gamma Phi Beta and Delta Chi). I was accepted into the school of nursing, and ended up going there for a year and a half, but the profession was changing then along with educational requirements and I didn’t like the direction the degree would have taken me so I transferred out. I still LOVE Tucson though!


  2. I have been looking at the downside of life recently but your post was a great example of how to look at life with great expectations. Love your point of view.


    1. It was gratifying to think that someone else was using the same metaphor as I was, but I had been thinking that maybe Brett and I were heading into our last downward drop, that this would be it for us. Bob Lowry’s post got me thinking that maybe we are really entering the most exciting part of our ride, and that we have longer to go than originally thought. We’ll see!


  3. Loved Bob’s post and love this one too.

    The empty nest is a thing, but I think I adjusted pretty quickly TBH. We married after all of our kids were grown (five between us from our previous marriages), so it’s just been the two of us and the dog for quite a while. We love to travel together, but I’m not sure we are the type to take on a trip like yours. I love that you’re doing it, though, and that we’ll be able to come with you vicariously. 🙂


    1. Brett and I have been feeling a little freaked out lately about the trip, but then we realized it’s because we’re right in the middle of all this major craziness of moving out of this house and our trip is going to be and feel very different. With a couple of exceptions, we’ll be able to unpack our suitcases most of the time during the trip and settle in to each location which I think is going to make a big difference in our experience versus shorter trips we’ve taken. Plus, I know our former nomadic lifestyle (thanks to the navy) will help too. We’ll just have to see whether we never want to see a suitcase again for the rest of our lives or whether we’ll want to want to keep going once this adventure is over.


  4. Unfortunately, I’m still riding the roller coaster of life. Coming up on the four year mark since my husband of 37 years passed away. Was doing pretty well until my house flooded last month and having to handle all that goes along with that and my husband’s angelversary has thrown me into another loop on the coaster. As Maya Angelou said, “I will Rise”.

    I’m fairly certain your trip/next phase in your lives will be nothing short of amazing!!! I’m looking forward to following along… It helps keep me sane and be able to have new dreams and hopes.


    1. Not all of the dips and turns of our lives are exciting or fun – many are outright dreadful and their effects never disappear. The best we can do I think is remember that everything changes, and that while life may not get better, or turn out the way we hoped, it will get different. Your attitude, “I will rise” is a powerful force for moving forward. The sadness will always be there (as it should) but it’s a recognition of your ability to deal with and change what you can.

      Our remaining days here seem to be moving along very quickly now, and trying to stay organized is becoming more difficult. But, out of chaos will come order and adventure . . . or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.


  5. I’ve just returned from a two week trip through Europe. I was thinking about you and Brett and your upcoming adventure while I was away. My trip was a mini adventure since it was much shorter and we sometimes only stayed in one place for a night, but I was happy to read that you’ll be staying in most locations for at least a week. That will give you time to get a real ‘feel’ for the place you’re in and you won’t feel like you’re living out of a suitcase. The trip I went on was through a tour company and it was a frantic pace (7 countries in 2 weeks!), but I saw a lot and had a great time. I’m sure you and Brett will do great as you transition into this next phase of life. Enjoy every moment, you’ve earned it!


    1. We’ve come home from vacations in the past feeling almost more exhausted than when we set out, so we purposely planned our travels this time so we didn’t feel like we were rushing from place to place, so we could unpack our suitcases, and so we could take a day off and “stay home” and relax if we felt like it. We’ll be busier in some places than others, but hopefully we will be able to get a “feel” for the places we’re staying. We’re growing more and more excited about setting off the closer we get to departing – just a few more arrangements to make and everything is ready!


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