The year I dropped out of college, I spent a great deal of time alone. My friends were all at their respective universities, my brother was in love, and my parents spent a lot of time at their cottage. It was unnerving to me at the time, being alone. Yet, I had actively chosen this reclusiveness. When I craved social contact, I had to remind myself that I chose to exorcise myself from a place that had the potential of offering me ultimate social contact. Of course, I found ways to occupy myself, but when I was really feeling secluded, I dreamt about what I wanted my life to be. Someday, I wanted a family. I would welcome the busyness and noise that went along with it. Solitude seemed deafening to me, and I loathed being alone.
Here I am twenty odd years later and I am fortunate that I was able to relinquish loneliness. I do have the family that I wanted. And as predicted, having a family does come with effort and industry, with pandemonium and commotion. It has gotten so chaotic as the girls have gotten older, I recently realized that I am rarely alone. Of course, you know this is an exaggeration. I am alone every day in my car on my way to work. In my defense, traveling to work is almost an extension of the day. I think about the lessons I have planned, the tests or assignments I need to write, the copies I need to make, the students I need to talk with, the papers I need to finish grading. Some mornings, I get so deep in thought that I literally cannot remember driving. I remember getting on I-480, but how am I already at Grayton Road? On the way home, it is really not that different. Instead of planning my day, I am replaying its triumphs and disasters.
Thus, my life is somewhat of a paradox. At twenty years old, I told myself I never wanted to be alone again, yet as a 42-year-old mother of three, all I crave is being alone. It is rare for me to indulge in what has now become my greatest decadent pleasure: being in my house by myself.
Today, I am home alone. When I woke up this morning, I put my hands to my face and, like Macauley Culkin, I thought, “They have all gone. I am alone!” At this juncture, however, our stories veer. I have not been left behind or forgotten; I had the day off of school today and my daughters’ school did not.
When the alarm went off at 6:30 to wake Tom to start his day, he leaned over, kissed me, and said, “Don’t get up. Enjoy your day. Sleep in.”
So I stayed in bed. Linus, our dog, realized something good was happening, and he moved up on the bed and rested his head on Tom’s pillow. Petting Linus, I listened to Tom get the girls ready for school: breakfast plates clanking, water splashing, Lizzie yelling about the brush pulling on her tangled hair. No one came into our bedroom to ask for my help. It was like I didn’t exist. I was well aware, as I was in and out of consciousness, dozing and dreaming, that when the door opened and shut at 8:00 AM, I would be alone.
So what have I done today? If I were industrious I could have cleaned the house, washed a few loads of laundry, paid some bills. But I didn’t. Tom said, “Enjoy your day.” I took that to heart. I slept until 9:00. I made coffee and Linus and I sat in bed and watched Kelly Ripa and Josh Groban. I had a second cup of coffee and played some Words with Friends. I went on Facebook, played Tetris, read some news. I have two hours before I have to get the girls. I may just plop on the couch with Linus and watch TV.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t give yourself a break from the stress and the toil, you might just miss it (because stress kills)!
I have given myself the day off. I am relishing in the pleasure of solitude.