At Loose Ends

Perhaps it’s the same for marathoners. For recent college graduates. For prize winners of any sort.

I distinctly remember feeling this way twenty years ago, in the days and weeks following my wedding.

Months of planning and effort had yielded the desired outcome and after the excitement, the commotion, and the relief of having gotten through it – there was disorientation and fatigue.

The Land of Letdown.

It’s to be expected, I know. We muscled our way through to the end of the school year, and God knows I’ve been at my wit’s end in the past six months more often than I care to say.

But mission accomplished on that score.

Surviving graduation was another hurtle to jump, filled with anxiety in the period leading up to the event, and not without its challenging moments. But we did it. Got through. Moving on.

Maxwell Smart? KAOS Calling

But that’s the issue. Moving on.

My sons’ paths are now directed. But what about my path in the wake of these endings, with more to come, even as I anticipate beginnings?

As for my boys, they eat, sleep, sun, and socialize through their downtime. This past week they’ve been in and out at all hours. And yes, I’m allowing it, but it’s getting on my nerves and disrupting my skillful and well-oiled Worry System. Might I add that we continue to be Teen Grand Central?

The bottom line is that nearly all the interwoven routines of the past nine months are suddenly gone. Evaporated. And my process of stepping into the unknown?


KAOS calling? Is there someone, somewhere, to help me out of the void? Some me to do so?

It’s not like I’m doing nothing. Yet as I try to put my arms around the many somethings I’m hoping to undertake, I’m frustrated by the embryonic stage for each and by this sensation of floating. Neither here nor there. Neither young nor old. Neither happy nor sad. I’m in between – (as yet) unable to impose the structure of goals and schedules, (as yet) unable to engage myself in a predictable rhythm with the momentum it provides, (as yet) unable to give myself what I know I need.

Needs vs. Wants

And I do know what I need at this stage – renewed emphasis on health, focus on generating income, and a means of emptying the stress of the past year from my mind and my body.

Easier said than done, right?

But I remind myself that distinctions between needs and wants are to be respected. And needs – food, shelter, health – hello, Maslow? – must be addressed first. Everything else?


But why is it that wants are so much more pleasurable to contemplate, especially when we’re at loose ends? And I am – utterly – in languid and listless limbo – hardly a helpful state of affairs for dealing with needs and driving toward wants.

Wants like writing without constant interruptions. Turning writing into revenue. Making relationship a priority. Allocating the time it takes to pursue a relationship – and then savor it.

Trotting out my tried-and-true temperament, then testing its pliability. Getting out of my comfort zone.

Obliterating obstacles.


Knowing what we need and what we want is a beginning. But it’s only that. Perhaps this letdown, this scattered feeling, this sense of loss – all of it, and more – are part of transition. Necessary nothingness. Destruction before recreation.

So how do we ride it out?

  • What do you do when you find yourself at loose ends?
  • Are you good at transitions?
  • How do you recapture your balance as major events cede to unknowns?

© D A Wolf



  1. Madelia Tower says

    Holy cow, could this have been more timely? I find myself clutching my to-do list and lying down. Can’t motivate myself to put on moisturizer at night though I KNOW I need it. Listless. Edgy. Limbo-ed. The shouting is over, but I can’t see the what-next.

    So I’m taking baby steps. Put on the moisturizer. Shred one file, not the whole box. Leg lunges in the kitchen while waiting for the coffee maker. Go through the motions, hug the kids, close my eyes with a prayer and pay the bill, make it to work on time. Hoping I’ll recognize when this limbo period is over… I think that’s my biggest fear, that I just won’t know when I’ve transitioned because I can’t envision the other side of this. How do you do that?

    • BigLittleWolfAnd says

      Listless and edgy. Exactly. It seems like an odd combination, doesn’t it?

      As for the transition you’re in (one I know too well), you will get to the other side. I promise! But it takes its own time. (Personally, I think doing anything and everything within reason to “just get through” and fill the time isn’t the worst thing… And whatever routine you can keep for the kids – that’s helpful, too.)

  2. says

    Lately when I feel at loose ends I sit in front of the computer reading other people’s blogs. When I stumble across another person’s experience that resonates with mine, I feel a little more grounded.

  3. Linda says

    Neither happy nor sad. No truer words fit my life right now. It’s a weird feeling. When my children were younger the transitions seemed easier. Now that they are older, and I am older, the transitions all of us are going through are more difficult, at least for me. I am like Pauline, I read other people’s blogs. I also find myself sometimes watching bad reality TV, and just getting lost in it for awhile.

  4. says

    I can see how you are in new territory. Your focus – THE main focus of your life for so many years – is concluding. Not that your boys don’t still need you, but it is different. It’s easy to focus when there are no choices – your choice has been your children for so long. Sure you’ve been busy with other things, but none of those things have been your focus. Now you have options. Decisions, decisions, decisions… seems easier when there really weren’t any.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      You’re quite right, Cathy. It’s about focus and priorities shifting dramatically. Options and constraints, both changing. (Speaking of transitions, hoping your new job is going swimmingly! That’s always a major transition, especially when juggling parenting.)

  5. says

    I dread transitions with a fear that has no basis in reality, at least for me. Maybe it is a genetic thang, a survival instinct. But so far, I have handled them with aplomb, maybe even with a sense of panache thrown in. The dread is far worse than the actual occurrence.

    I should mention that going it alone, like so many people are forced to do, is not for the faint of heart. I paired up early in my life with my significant other. And between the two of us, we have been able to handle the ups and downs that make life interesting. YMMV.

  6. says

    Transitions. Usually I am pretty good, unless I have to be the adult. Emptying our house has been my responsibility and I will admit to feeling beyond frazzled. Even my beloved Podcasts can’t make everything better–or easier.

    I do hope this transition flows for you. Both your boys will be gone in an instant and you’ll have all the silence you need.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      And I hope your move is going well, Amber. You’ve certainly had to be the “adult” as you say, in so many ways, with no let-up.

  7. says

    Change is living life. Repetition is dull. Change for getting divorced from my former wife (when the kids were old enough for her to leave the family home), change in meeting Fran — I looked forward to both of these changes. I look forward to the change when my boomerang stepson leaves our house — whew. We make these changes happen. Not all change is positive (you gotta be philosophical about old age), but when you see what needs to be done, you see how to make it happen.

    You’re a forward-looking organized person (even if you’re a bit of a worrier, which goes hand and hand with it), and you’ll arrange your life to have some great times.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      A bit of a worrier, Paul? Moi?

      Repetition is dull. For many of us, it is indeed. But in some instances, also helpful. You and Fran are such a wonderful example of staying open to change, and embracing life in the process.

  8. says

    These in-between times are the ones that have been dangerous for me in the past. My fear of having “nothing to do” led me to say yes to everything. Before I realized it, I was (once again) extremely over-committed. My task for the past year has been to “sit” with the fear I experience during this current in-between time and experience it rather than running from it. I know you will find your way thru your in-between time!

  9. says

    How I feel that sense of floating! The structure I’d been given by my thesis — gone in a blink. I don’t need to describe what you’ve already done so well here, the casting about for projects and plans to get behind, whether it’s toward employment and stability or just a sense of productivity. I know I need all of that to feel like I’m living with purpose. Perhaps you feel this way too?

    Some good friends of mine visited last week and gave me some much-needed reassurances: the energy and focus will return; forcing that process — as opposed to taking just a little time to recenter — makes redirection harder and slower. Part of me resisted the advice, but I’ve tried to heed it anyway. It hasn’t been instinctive or easy! I hope you find some combination of planning/goal-seeking and allowing yourself time where you need it that feels right for you.

  10. NoNameRequired says

    I try to think of transitions as thresholds, or liminal states. Here, we are in-between, which offers a chance to compare and contrast. Then, we might be selective about our responses. I do not mean this to sound all elevated and perfect. My house is on the market and I really struggle with the details of keeping clean, packing, de-cluttering, and keeping a sense of home, despite the reality of the living in the wide and open threshold of moving soon. Or soonish. And, that the sale does not mean cash or income…just a settling of burdens and then a cleaner (yet thin) slate. I am grateful.

    And, always, in joy or worry or exhaustion or exhilaration I have my garden (which will be left)…touch petals, stroke leaves, gaze at tree-tops, inhale rose scent in the AM….. and, as a practical balm, I am collecting and potting seedlings, taking cuttings, transplanting portions to “nursery yards” of friends.

    My son graduated from high school yesterday and the surprise was an astonishingly relaxed lunch with former husband and his wife. My son beamed at the ease….I can take that moment (two hours) as a gift and a threshold. Now, make no bones about this: if I assume that former husband will treat me better now….I will likely be sorely disappointed. So, I will not assume that. Instead, I say these true statements inside myself:

    Imagine that?!

    I wonder what will happen next?

    These statements also help with transition or threshold states. Take care, BLW, and also, your thoughtful digital band here.

  11. says

    I hate the feeling of betwixt and between. Transitions often require so much effort, I find myself spent as I step through. I wonder though, are some transitions more like tunnels and less like doorways? When you get married (you at least think) you can see what’s on the other side. But this journey towards college and ever increasing independence, well, what’s next is less clear. And the process towards these changes has been long and arduous.

  12. says

    “I have a feeling that my boat has struck,
    down there in the depths,
    against a great thing.
    And nothing happens!
    Nothing … Silence … Waves.
    Nothing happens?
    Or Has everything Happened
    and we are standing now,
    quietly, in the new life?”

    Juan Ramon Jimenez

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Lovely. How and when do we recognize that we are already standing in the new life, or perhaps, we are always in the process of stepping into it?

  13. says

    I don’t have the grace to get through transitions. As you know, the process of getting between A and B feels a little too daunting for me. My inside and outside feels more transparent. Through the years, I’ve learned to embrace transitions a little more, but it still is difficult.

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