As I write this, my husband and my two younger children are enjoying a winter break vacation in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. They are gone for almost two weeks, leaving me and my oldest son (nicknamed “the tenant” this year, for we see him about as often as if he were simply leasing his room) alone in the house.
Yes, I was sad not to be able to take a long vacation because of work responsibilities. Yes, I am truly sad not to see my in-laws, whom I love and only get to see once or twice a year. Yes, I am sad not to be in Arizona, which I also love – I derive great inspiration and peace of mind from the Southwestern desert. And yes, I miss my family and it feels a little off kilter and quiet in the house.
But that quiet is enough to cause a great echo and reverberation in our empty front hallway when I kick up my heels and scream,
For I absolutely, positively, unequivocally love being alone.
My husband and I, while we love each other and love spending time together also love doing different kinds of things. From the very early days of our dating, my love of antiquing, the great pleasure I take in sniffing around farmer’s markets, and my joy in treading the streets of a city in search of a great café in which to sit and sip chocolat chaud and watch the world march by was in marked conflict with his weekly JCC softball game, poker matches, and weekend armchair sports watching and analysis.
We began to understand that while we loved each other, maybe we didn’t love each other’s interests so much. I brought the Sunday New York Times to the softball field, which irritated him, and he dawdled and moaned about staying too long at the farmer’s market, which bugged me. So early on, we gave each other permission not to accompany each other on the outings for things in which the other has no interest.
This has surprised many people, who often do most things together with their partners or spouses or families. We just simply understand that we appreciate each other more when we allow each other the freedom to do things that make us happy – sometimes separately from each other.
And to take this one step further, not only do I love to do many of these things alone, I truly love to simply BE alone. And when I am alone, it takes me a while before I start to miss being with people. As I often say when either my husband or I go on a long work trip, I don’t miss anyone for at least a week.
I find that people fall into one of two categories around our system of marital and family togetherness. Either they applaud it, understand it and seek it themselves, or they don’t get it at all and think that something’s wrong.
When I told a colleague that my family was away and I was home, essentially alone, for 12 days, he smiled and said “Wow! You must be so excited!” I know that he understands, and I didn’t have to pepper my announcement with a feigned pity party about how much I miss them and wish I could be with them. I do, but the feeling of joy around being alone outweighs it.
Likewise, many friends, when hearing about the trip, looked at me quizzically, wondering if perhaps I was about burst into tears from being so lonely.
When you have a life proscribed by work and family responsibilities, free time is at a premium. Alone time is even rarer. And to have 12 days without being responsible to anyone or anything, 12 days in which to see every movie in the theaters, visit multiple museums, take the bus to New York without having to run back to tuck someone in, inhale the entire first season of “Girls” and eat cereal for dinner, perhaps downed with a glass of red wine, and write late into the night, falling asleep with the light on and book on my lap, you feel blessed.
I will admit that as we tumble towards my oldest son’s departure for college next fall, and the inevitable shift in our family dynamics, I find myself missing my family a little earlier than schedule. For I know that soon enough, I will have all the time in the world to do these things again, and that day is sooner than we think.
But despite that little tug at my heart, I am home alone, and I am divinely happy.
Let the wild rumpus start.
Photo by .Va i ♥ ven. Arp via flickr