February 27, 2006

Alone

Last week, the elementary and secondary schools here were closed for winter vacation. My husband took the week off and took the three boys out of town, leaving me alone for the week. So I had the whole house to myself for a week.

I had wondered how it would be to stay alone. I can think of only two nights in my life when I’ve slept in a house by myself. I’ve never lived by myself. Or had a room to myself. In fact, for most of my life, I have lived with a whole crowd of people, usually jammed into a fairly small house.

How strange it felt to go to the grocery cart and buy food only for myself. Instead of loading five gallons of milk into the cart, I bought one quart of soy milk. The cart seemed empty. Perhaps the strangest thing was that when I returned from the grocery store, my house was still as clean as when I had left. The house stayed clean – and I mean company level clean -- the whole week.

It was funny at first to be by myself, to make decisions on what I felt like doing without considering anyone else. I had so much time on my hands. No driving kids to music lessons, no cleaning up after everyone, no putting anyone to bed.

I had planned all kinds of nice things for myself – having friends over, eating dinner at my parents’ one night, having my daughter over one night, taking a bunch of our extra kids snowboarding – so it felt like a vacation week. And even with all my plans, I still had lots of time to just be alone in the empty house.

What I discovered is that I liked being by myself, having the freedom to spend my time any way I chose. I liked having the house clean and quiet for a week. I liked just sitting by the fire with my laptop and a snack, working with no interruptions at all. How nice not to be interrupted.

Of course, by the end of the week, I had had enough alone time. I missed my kids, my husband, the noise and confusion, the warmth and affection and teasing. I would make a terrible hermit. I am too much of an extrovert. I was happy to have my family return. A week was enough.

But I am thinking that having a week to myself every winter might be a tradition we will continue.

18 comments:

peripateticpolarbear said...

a sort of a temporal room of one's own, eh?

Mona Buonanotte said...

I'm so used to kid-clutter, I don't know how I'd handle a clean house for more than a day!

wolfa said...

I am so good at being messy that my place gets messier when I am not there.

I don't know how you do it. I am a real introvert, yes -- I like seeing people now and then, a few times a week, a few hours each time (and I need this much interaction with people I like, I go insane with less) -- and reading about your family exhausts me.

wolfa said...

I don't mean that in any slam against your family. I am sure they are all lovely people. I just can't imagine being with so many people all the time.

Jen said...

Isn't spending time alone lovely? I don't have nearly as many full-time people in my life as you do, but I still really appreciated my own monastery retreat primarily because it was just me, myself, and I, and I didn't have to be responsible to anyone else.

Friday Mom said...

A week alone sounds like pure bliss to me right now. Glad you enjoyed it. I can imagine after having so few nights alone in your life that it could have been a bit overwhelming.

Terminaldegree said...

A week is nice.

But a lifetime of it gets lonely.

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

This is a really interesting post when read against some of your other posts. One of the big themes in your writing, I think, is being alone or finding places to be alone: camping, early mornings, the woods, your crying space, all of the meditative activities, and all of the places that you go alone (including blogs, even p/h's bar where everyone gets to be alone together). And then this is all set against the thoroughly communal part of your life. I think this dialectic is one of the keys to your basic experience, at least as refelcted in your writing. And I think that, together, these two things nourish each other.

zelda1 said...

Being alone is nice, and I think everyone should have alone time and special alone places, but I'm like you, at the end of the week, I'm ready for the clutter, even if it's just Mr. Zelda's shoes in the middle of the floor.

delagar said...

"How nice not to be interrupted." Yes. Every summer we send the kid off to stay with her grandparents for three or four weeks - we've only got one, not your kibbutz, but she's high maintenance -- and I experience the same bliss. How nice to have long hours that are only mine! How nice to have a living room *stay* *clean*! How nice not to have to make dinner!

But I am glad to get her back.

Jesse said...

I am always quite happy when my roomates take off for a while and I get the house to myself.

I quite enjoy the alone time.

Yankee T said...

I know I would miss them, but I would LOVE a week to myself.

Limon de Campo said...

I spend a lot of time alone, and it's made me somewhat intolerant of other people. It's great that you have such a big, enjoyable family (but it's always nice to have a bit of time to yourself).

halloweenlover said...

It sounds like a good break, and an even better reminder of how much love and fun comes with your family.

Seeking Solace said...

One year for my birthday, my husband sent me to a spa for a three day weekend alone. I had a room with a king size bed, Jacuzzi tub and a fireplace. All of my meals, spa treatments and gratuities were included in the price. He just dropped me off and took my cell phone away and said "See you on Sunday." It was exactly what I needed at the time. I came back relaxed and grateful for such a wonderful husband.

Laura said...

laptop. fire. snack. quiet. I'm salivating.

timna said...

I love the alone in the house time. Don't get it very often.

Rana said...

Echoing what Terminal Degree and Limon de Campo said...

I've spent so much time by myself it is a familiar state, and it has led me to become a somewhat selfish person who has "opinions" about things like how to place food in the refrigerator and how to wash dishes. It also means that I can get annoyed by the distraction of other people's noise if it's close to me, and I like quiet sounds more than loud ones.

That said, I feel comforted knowing another person is in the house somewhere with me, and having a warm body to talk with and snuggle up to at night, and having someone there to listen to me talking at the tv.

But it really is all about the balance; at work it's either deathly quiet because I'm the only one there, or it's nerve-wrangling chaos because everyone's there, and the student workers are all chattering away and teasing each other while my co-worker talks out loud to herself. Oy.