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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

I Want to Be Alone

When I think about my overfull life, I sometimes try to think of things I could cut out of it, to create more breathing space, more time to do the things I really care about. I can never come up with anything to cut. Everything "optional" in my life seems essential in some small but important way to my wholeness (playing guitar, reading and writing poetry, writing in my journal and in this blog, and doing yoga are examples that spring to mind). When I think about giving these little things up, I fear I would stop being me, or at least being me as fully as I need to be in order to be happy. As much as I love my job, I would cut that out (or at least cut it back significantly - teach half as many classes as I currently do, say). But of course, I can't do that. I'm actually the primary breadwinner here at Casa Oral Hygiene (the Old Man teaches half-time, wrangles children and cooks a lot of the time, and fits as much freelance editing as he can in the remaining spaces), and we need my whole salary to pay the bills. I don't want to spend less time with my family. In fact, I'd like to spend more. But I'd also like to spend more time alone.

Actually, time alone is probably the one thing I have really and truly given up in my quest to fit everything in. And that is sad. But as important as it is to me, it's the hardest thing to create and the easiest thing to let slide. In order to be alone, I have to make space and time, space and time with no immediate goal or end product. That means enlisting the help of my Old Man, and luckily he is very supportive whenever I do say I need time alone. But it's very abstract, this business of spending time alone. It didn't used to be. It used to happen all the time, naturally. And then we had O., and it seemed like I rarely got to be alone. But as he got older, it became more and more possible to make that time. And then we started thinking seriously about another baby. And I knew, as I grappled with that huge, difficult decision, that one thing I'd probably be giving up, for all intents and purposes, was time spent alone.

And I was so right. Now I'm the mother of two small children and it seems like I'm never alone. Of course, I'm alone sometimes. I drive places alone. I go to the gym and work out without interacting much with anyone. I grade papers alone in the office or at the kitchen table after the kids are in bed. I walk to or from school by myself. But none of those count. Time in the car is not time for reflection or time to let my mind wander, and lord knows time at the gym isn't. Time out walking by myself could be, but not when I'm trucking as fast as I can to make it to work on time, or trucking home as fast as I can so I can pick Roo up from daycare on time or get O. to soccer practice. The one time I'm really alone anymore on a semi-consistent basis is when I go to the library or shut myself in my office to write poetry. Then, I'm by myself, I can let my mind wander, and reflection is part of the process. But that time is so limited anymore, and I sometimes feel like the need to sit and just think is so great a prerequisite for actually trying to begin a poem that I spend an inordinate chunk of writing time just sitting and staring off into space.

It used to be that I'd get an evening alone sometimes when my Old Man was at band practice. But then I joined his band. And I love that - it's fun, fulfilling, and challenging, and it gives me something I'd really missed not playing music with other people for so long. But it's something added to my life. And it eclipses alone time that I didn't even think that much about 'til it was gone. I could certainly just not hang out with my man some evenings when we're both home, and occasionally I do that in order to work on a poem or submit poems to journals. But I like spending time with him, and I feel like I don't get enough of that either, so I don't always think of that as something I want.

At this very moment I'm stealing a few minutes alone to write this post, and I can hear my Old Man and my beloved kids downstairs. And I need to go. It's nearly time to get the kids ready for bed. Its funny: I began this post intending to talk about sleep as one thing I prioritize in my life, but would still like to prioritize a lot more (something I'm especially aware of now that it's summer break and I'm actually getting eight hours of sleep most nights). But I realize that of all the things I value and cling tightly to in my life, one of the ones that is most crucial to me is the one I've really let slide. And it's the easiest to let slide because when it's gone, it becomes nearly invisible. But I sometimes think I can't let it slide much longer and hold on to the relative degree of sanity I currently enjoy.

Thankfully, summer is here and time is more free, so I guess it's time to start working time alone back into my life. Maybe by the time school starts I'll be able to remember how important it is to make it happen, whatever else is also going on.


Anonymous DoctorMama said...

I hear that.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I value alone time enough that it was one of the many factors I took into account when deciding not to have children. That and time with my spouse and time with my work (which I simply love).

8:12 AM  
Blogger E. said...

Though I love my kids and don't regret having them, I think the decision not to have kids is an entirely rational one.

7:32 PM  
Blogger rachel said...

Yes, I miss solitude the most, too.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous oral care said...

really great

2:37 AM  
Anonymous cialis online said...

For me listening to music is just my number one activity, then sports, without these two my life wouldn't mean anything.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...

I'm about 6 months late to this post, but I relate so much I just have to comment. Our culture doesn't value alone time, so it doesn't get talked about often.Its refreshing to read your thoughts on the issue.

Losing my alone time was the hardest thing about becoming a mom--much more so than lack of sleep.

9:40 AM  

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