28 January 2012

We Are Not Alone

I've come to realise just what a unique position I was in.

My husband travelled for his job, leaving every week before the sun rose on Monday morning and returning usually after midnight on Friday. For nine years, I was 'home alone' for four days each week, and then on Fridays from 7am-7pm while he was in the office. I was alone on birthdays - but thankfully not on birth days. I was alone on holidays. I was alone on anniversaries. And, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary - including my own upbringing, for most of those nine years I thought everyone lived like this.

I thought everyone was vigilant and wakeful at night. Everyone with children, at least. I thought everyone was scheduled and structured and spent their time always on, always busy, unable to relax. I thought everyone kept calm and carried on.

And I knew lots of people had it worse than I did.
 So I didn't complain. Not overtly. Outgoing introverts seek other outlets.

I busied myself, as you do, with the goings-on of my children. With the forced friendships of 'Mommy-and-Me' classes at the pool. With the friends who hadn't abandoned us when we left the city for the suburbs. With overseeing the maintenance of a first house. With scheduling visits and roadtrips and long walks and meals. And in all of this scheduling, I lost myself. Literally. I lost the ability to see clearly the situation I lived in. The incessant busyness of cleaning and decluttering and surfing the web, and sourcing and researching and volunteering built a wall between my life and 'the rest of the world.'

And so I became a bystander. Where once I had carried giant balloons in festival parades for the World Cup, I was now carrying Red Robin balloons tethered to Vera Bradley bags. Where I once had hopped a plane to Seattle 'just because', I was now drinking 'Pete's Blend' on a bench surrounded by prairie grass. Gloriously, I had turned my life into a role I longed to play but with a script I couldn't read. And I seemed, like a voyeur, to be watching it all happen from the cheap seats.

I remember the day I first thought: "I did this to survive." It was five months after my younger son was born and I was planning the daily 'afternoon outing'. Recalling both the freedom of my own youth and the memories of long days spent in offices with windows that wouldn't open, I wanted my children to spend as much time outdoors as possible regardless the weather. As I was planning where to go on that bitterly cold day, my best friend phoned to cancel her plans to join us. Her oldest was sick the day before and it was travelling through the family at breakneck speed. I made plans with her to get food and drink on her table that night when she said something that threw me: "I keep thinking that I just have to make it until 6pm and then he'll be home and I can relax."

I have no idea how many times she'd uttered this phrase previously. A dozen times? Perhaps a hundred times. But it was like reading a verse or hearing a song that you've heard so many times before and only now really understanding what it means. She only had hours to wait until she could relax. She only had hours. I had days. It was just Tuesday, after all. I had days. Days before I felt like I might be able to relax. Days, actually just a precious 48 hours, that would be chewed up and spit out and then Monday would come again. And then I would have more days. And I realised that not everyone lived like this.

I went through the afternoon focused on getting the meal prepared for her. I piled the children in the station wagon and drove the 30 minutes to her house. After setting the table, getting the oven prepped, and cleaning up what messes I could, I made the reverse trip with both the rush hour traffic and the realization that I was in a new place emotionally closing in on me. Later that night, when the boys had been lovingly sanitized from our trip into that familiar but infected home, I sat on my sofa in front of 'Location, Location, Location' on the DVR and sobbed.

I didn't answer the phone when my husband called that night. I listened to the voice mail he'd left with a numbness spreading through me. I remember ringing him back, cognizant of the distance in both my heart and my voice. I remember thinking how unfair I was being. How removed. How cold. He told me I was. And I remember thinking "I did this to survive. I did it to survive being alone and what it feels like to be alone. I am alone and I don't want to be. You made me be alone."

We are made to be in relationships. We are not made to be alone. That we have to or that we believe that it's OK if we are is a lie. No one earns points for being alone in a world that is full of harmonies and dissonances and complements and contrasts.

Two years ago, I asked to not be alone anymore. He said, "I never meant for you to feel alone. Because you never seemed like you were."

Today's conundrum:
If we pay to have something installed 'within 48 hours', are weekends included in that 48-hour window?

Future conundrum:
Do fish really gotta swim and birds really gotta fly?

Thanks for perusing the blog. Speak again soon.   tIO x

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