With more free time, we’re rediscovering what we like to do

All 14 of us, plus a few others who did not send their children to the same Jewish day school and thus were not on the email chain, are lying face up on the floor of the yoga studio, our palms facing up, listening to our instructor Laurie tell us how to relax. “Take one more cleansing breath,” she almost whispers. The lights have been turned low. “Now forget about your breathing and let go of your mind.”

Forget about my breathing? After she just talked us through three cleansing breaths? And let go of my mind? How am I supposed to that? Every time I try, I end up thinking about not thinking, which isn’t the same as letting go of your mind.

This is our third session. Clearly I am not cut out for yoga.

But I’m doing it, for several reasons. The first reason, confirmed during our first session, is because I am made entirely of poured cement. When Laurie tells us to touch the ground, I touch two stacked Styrofoam blocks. Child’s Pose makes my left shoulder grind, and you can forget about Half Lotus Crow. I can do Tree Pose, where you’re basically standing straight up. Still working on “stretching my kneecaps,” however.

The second reason is because my wife and I are enjoying our new status as an empty nest couple and would like to maximize our enjoyment by remaining ambulatory for as long as possible, something that can be difficult to manage when you are made of poured cement.

This third reason is that couples yoga is just one of the many new activities we’ve tried since August, all the better to replicate the car commercial where the young adult worries about her parents’ social lives because they’re not on Facebook. In addition to couples yoga, we’ve tried spin class, are taking epic walks and hikes on weekends and recently spent hundreds of dollars on golf lessons, new clubs and subdued but tasteful golf clothes. The new garb was inspired by my niece, the high school golfer, who “always looks cute.” The insistence on hitting up the 19th hole after every round was inspired by me.

If our life has begun to resemble the opening of a Viagra commercial, it’s because my wife and I have discovered a truly remarkable thing about ourselves that had remained, if not hidden, than maybe obscured during the 18 years we spent devoting ourselves to raising an upstanding young would-be engineer/radio DJ/movie enthusiast/late-night Hot Pocket consumer: that we really like spending time together.

Which is good, because, boy, suddenly we have lots of free time. Time to work longer hours, time to go to the gym, time to have people over for dinner spontaneously, even if we wait until Friday afternoon to decide it might be nice to have some people over Friday night. This is our life now, and we know it doesn’t work that way for everyone.

For some, the empty nest can be lined with dull razor blades, making each step forward agony. Some people awaken in October of their child’s freshman year and think, “Ugh. Now what?” That hasn’t been our experience. Maybe it’s partly because we’re committed to trying new things.

Here’s the good news: It’s really easy to find a cohort of like-minded middle-age adults for these follies. They’ve been there the whole time. Your kids were in kindergarten together. Now it’s party time. Or yoga time. Or golf time. Each time we meet for our activities we ask each other the same questions: “How is (son or daughter) at (name of school)?” “Has (son or daughter) figured out a major yet?” “Is (son or daughter) coming home for the holidays?”

Even better: “Remember when (son or daughter) were in kindergarten? It seems like yesterday.” And then we all get quiet for a second, compose ourselves and drop back into Warrior Pose, taking deep, cleansing breaths, clearing the mind and definitely not thinking about what advice to drop on our son, who texted this morning to say that he’s thinking of switching his major from mechanical engineering to film studies.


Larry Rosen
Larry Rosen

Larry Rosen is a writer, husband, father and author of “The Rabbi Has Left the Building,” a memoir about his son’s bar mitzvah. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”