When was the last time you had real alone time? Not just time when the kids are sleeping and you’re grabbing a couple hours to yourself. Not just a solo shopping trip. I’m talking real alone time. Over 24 hours of solitude.
This weekend is my first in the sublet E and I are splitting during the course of our separation. The kids stay at home and we switch time with them. I have them from Monday morning until Friday evening and then spend my weekend in the sublet. It is small, furnished, with everything I need. (Except a coffee maker.) It’s in one of Boston’s many college neighborhoods, which is actually nice because there’s a decent amount of hustle and bustle on the street and I’m close to the T.
But it’s the alone time that’s so strange. I’ve been wanting it and wishing for it for ages, it seems. Now that it’s here I realize how long it’s been since I was really alone. E and I have lived together for over 6 years. It’s just different when you’re alone in a space you occupy with someone else.
Now I find myself picking up the same habits I used to have when I lived alone. I’ve forgotten what it’s like and what you do to punctuate the rhythms of the day.
I narrate my life in my head. I forgot I did that. There’s rarely any room for an inner voice in my life now, it’s loud and busy. But here there is so much silence, even in busy shops and restaurants and trains, that I find that internal narration picking back up. I think it’s one of the reasons I always fancied myself a writer, walking by a flower I can’t just think, I am walking by a flower. Instead I think of how I would describe the flower if I was writing an essay or memoir or narrative of my day. It’s now a tulip, just past its peak, with the petals starting to fall outwards and it leads to some kind of meditation on how tulips are all potential, how their value is all before they really bloom, etc. etc. etc.
I people-watch. I wasn’t on Twitter last time I was single, it’s lovely to have some place to point out the girl I see on the T wearing a top with a sheer back who is wearing a rather dingy white bra underneath and surely didn’t have a friend okay her outfit because she looks sad from the back with the hooks of her bra visible. Also the girl in white lace formal shorts this morning. Because those just shouldn’t exist. And you have to admit that in 10 years we will all look back at Toms shoes and wonder why everyone wanted something so ugly.
Because it is Boston, though it is a student-heavy neighborhood it isn’t all students. Grad students and young couples are here. There’s a decent number of old people. And now and then I see moms who look like they’ve come straight out of suburbia, I assume they’re trickling down from the nice houses up the hill.
I wonder what people think when they see me. Do I blend in here? I feel like the shape of my body tells my story, the small but obvious swell of my tummy tells the world I’ve had children recently. There is still a ring on my finger. But I walk alone without any family around me to give me context. Do I still blend in as a student the way I used to when I taught on campuses? I doubt it. At least not the current version of the female student, who seems to look put together even when she’s in her gym clothes. Lululemon yoga pants and skinny jeans everywhere. Sunglasses. Long sleek ponytails. I ventured out this morning in my pajama pants and a hoodie and feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. In my day this was acceptable morning-coffee-run wear, I’m not sure if things have changed or if it’s a Northeastern thing or what.
At first I wondered how I would squeeze in any relaxation. I still have Graham’s soccer practice on Saturday, which will take up more than a couple hours, including travel time. I have lots of blog work to do. (SELF-PIMP ALERT my new site Crayons & Coupons is now live and I hope to put a lot of my products-that-are-cool-and-stuff-that-is-on-sale info there to keep my blog a little more me.) Sunday I have an afternoon and an evening event. It would be a packed weekend, right?
But it isn’t. The bed is hard and I can’t seem to sleep past 8. This morning (I’m writing this on Sunday) I woke up at 6:30 and just stayed in bed until after 8 because I refused to get up. When there’s no distractions to worry about it takes me a shockingly short amount of time to get ready. When there’s nothing to clean, no laundry to fold, no meals to prepare, the day is just empty. After I got back from soccer I had hours upon hours to fill.
Time moves more slowly when you’re by yourself.
There is only so much reading, so much work you can do on your computer, so many jaunts out for a cup of coffee before you find yourself confronted with hours to fill and nothing to fill them with.
I’m sure I’ll adjust. In a lot of ways I’m happy with the solitude. I don’t necessarily want to fill it with lunches and dinners and drinks and nights out and brunches and shopping and whatever. I want to find a balance and I’ll definitely be working on it.
The best part of the weekend, though, has been seeing the kids for that hour on Saturday. Why are they so much more beautiful and sweet and pleasant when you get them for a short, specific period of time? Even if you just saw them less than a day ago?
Tomorrow I go back to my soft bed and my loud life for 4 and a half days. I don’t know how re-entry will feel. I’m just figuring this out as I go.