I get to be alone today. Not just for a little while, but for a full day and night.
This is quite uncommon, but also a very welcome experience. I love my extroverted high intensity time with my family and friends, but the other half of me is quite introverted - I love being alone.
I didn’t fully believe this until my first baby came and it was never quiet. I experienced anxiety and feelings that I needed to escape, if only for a little while to the grocery store or to fill up the car with gas – you know you need to be alone when these activities become “fun”.
Then the second baby came, and then the third, and then they were always talking to me, asking me for things, and it caused me to live in a state of constant disruption.
I live my life in half sentences and half thoughts. I have racked up an uncountable number of unmade points and forgotten ideas because I am constantly interrupted by the ones that need me, the ones I love most.
Not easy for a chronically introspective person like myself - I revel in processing through the most mundane things. But as the mom in the family it is not always possible for me to be my typical reflective self. My reality necessitates that I am “on” and in tune with four other people.
So to keep my sanity, I found tools that offer me a release. I take notes when I have a deep thought, I journal, I blog, I talk and process on our radio show, and I make a best effort for 10 minutes of quiet in the morning (but depending on the morning, this is not always possible). I do my best to respect the introverted part of my nature.
Then my extroverted self can enjoy taking on the demands of family and the daily schedule - dropping off, picking up, helping with homework, eating together, talking through the day. Reading books together, watching a movie, getting ready for bed. This daily routine gives me a sense of stability and structure, a feeling of connectedness and necessity.
So I live in the paradox – I need both of these experiences. But part of the paradox means that when I am experiencing one, I often find myself thinking about the other.
When I am with my family at the dinner table, I have passing thoughts of eating alone while reading a magazine. But when I am alone in a restaurant, I longingly look at the families who are eating together.
I love quietly reading a book on the couch, but the mere process brings to mind reading a favorite book with my kids. And when I get the rare opportunity to sleep in, I find myself longing for a wake-up call from my favorite little people.
This may sound as if I am complaining or not appreciating my moments, but that’s not at all my intention. I embrace the paradox and realize that it’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. I need to be alone and I need to be needed - both are essential parts of my being. One does not decrease or threaten my love for the other.
When I am experiencing one I naturally think about the other, but I am simultaneously aware that the grass is not greener over there. My thoughts may drift, but I am acutely aware that it’s not time for over there, it’s time for now.
Like right now - I am writing in the quiet of my office. Every now and again I forget I’m alone and turn to say something to my husband. A few minutes ago I heard something that sounded like my daughter’s cough, and when I heard some creaking upstairs I thought it was one of the girls playing.
But they are not here; I am by myself. I have completed so many tasks, sat and stared out a window, played my own music, turned myself inside out with introspection, and felt gratitude for the silence. And at the very same time, I miss all the sounds. I miss my family.
But I stay present with my night, enjoy a few movies, and eventually fall asleep. And in the morning I wake up to find everyone home earlier than expected. My husband is sick. The girls need a shower and they need to go to the library. The car needs to be unpacked, the laundry needs to be done. Dinner needs to be made and so do lunches for tomorrow…
I kind of laugh as I think about the slowness of yesterday, the time for introspection, the rare opportunity for so many personal choices. What a different day today will be.
But as my thoughts drift, I am acutely aware that it’s not time for over there.
It’s time for now.