real life., Uncategorized

Solitude.

I am an introvert. Of the highest order. I live in my head, and my family often has to shake me to pull me out. Having been neck deep in the trenches of marriage and large family life since my early 20s, I’ve spent far too many hours fantasizing about having a prolonged period of silence to read, write, or pray. I think mean those in that order, whatever it says about my faith.

We often wax poetically about the things we wish for and how wonderful they would be because for the most part, we don’t often expect to receive them. As a homeschooling mother who also helps her husband in his profession throughout the day silence is a rare commodity for me and, like most people, I always want what I can’t have. And then, last weekend, I actually got it.

Through a relatively random series of events our children, all five of them, went on a road trip which extended from Friday through Monday. What’s more is that it was a weekend that my husband had lots of work scheduled, which meant that I would have Friday and Saturday at least, all to myself. Do wonders never cease? Silence, solitude, and the space to think were just around the corner. You’d think I grabbed the bull by the horns and soaked up the opportunity, and you’d be wrong. Well, mostly.

On Friday, after the kids left and my husband headed off to work, I found myself slightly disoriented. It was so quiet it felt like I had stepped into a parallel universe, and like anyone else in a foreign environment, I wasn’t sure what the rules were. I washed the breakfast dishes and cleaned the kitchen, resisting the urge to turn on my old Motown favorites or worse, the TV, just to fill the silence.

That task took all of half an hour, and right about then one of the kids texted me: “Is it strange being there all by yourself?” It was, I told her and after a few back and forths, I figured I should tackle some laundry. Laundry is the one chore around our house that I frequently fall behind on and the last thing I make time for as the day wears on. But here I was with no kids to teach, no riveting conversations to engage in and no fights to break up. I really had no excuse for avoiding the laundry (ooh! an epiphany!) so I got to it. There was a lot of it, too.

While I did the laundry I felt a sudden desire to pray. Silence and privacy are a great opportunity to get honest with God without worries of being overheard. The laundry and simultaneous time of prayer got me to lunch time, which is usually when I waste copious amounts of brain cells on the Internet. I’m doing that right now, in fact. I chatted with a few friends via email, wrote a blog post, and then cleaned up my teeny tiny lunch mess. It was nice, the minimal effort and small number of dishes.

I was starting to feel pretty good about it all, because not only was my psyche being served by the silence, but my home was too. I knew there was no point in getting used to my quiet, clean house, but it was kind of nice. The best part was that a particular mood of anticipation to see my husband kicked in. We always enjoy each other’s company immensely and have learned increasingly how very fortunate we are in that, but this was different. This was like a throwback to 26 years ago, before we were ever married, when  I anticipated his arrival. It was a great night. I think the mental shift provided by the silence in the absence of the kids was freeing. Day one of the solitude experiment was a success.

On Saturday, duty called. Friends are important and we were grateful for the occasion to be there for ours. Afterward, the day was still relatively young and my husband had work to do. I had the option of soaking up some more silence while he went off to do his work. Suddenly the prospect of another day of solitude didn’t sound so great. Maybe it was the remaining glow from our totally fun time together the day before. Whatever it was, despite all my purported introversion and desire for silence,  I wasn’t quite feeling like being alone.  So I packed up my own laptop in a bag with a couple of books and went with him because, I told myself and him as well, when he was done we’d be closer to the restaurant where we’d be having dinner. We had another great day together, and it never even occurred to me that  I was missing out on the chance to be alone to soak up some silence. It was a long day, but the sleep was sweet.

Sunday was worship, family, fun and whatever else we found to occupy ourselves, only without our children’s accompanying noisy presence. I was missing them, and their mess, and their noise. By the time they got home on Monday morning, we were both ready to embrace them, and I’d learned that I really do love my kids! Because we live in a culture where absolutely nothing goes without saying anymore, I feel it imperative that I take a small detour here and elaborate on that last bit.

Of course I love my children, have always loved my children, and have always known that I love my children. What I had begun to lose, kicking and screaming from beneath the weight of all the duties attached to raising them, was the ability to enjoy them. I carried a weight of guilt over that, and I worried that my bouts of impatience coupled with the urgency to tick off all the boxes made them feel unloved. That’s a kind of mother guilt you have to a be a mother to appreciate. Unless you’re a mother, looking for the sanity in this is probably a waste of mental energy you’d be better off using far more productively elsewhere. Now…where was I?

My truncated time of solitude was equal parts productive, instructive, and illuminating. I learned that I do need some time to myself every now and again. It frees me to commune with my Creator, it sparks an opportunity for me to remember everything that my husband and I were together before we were the parents of many children, and it reminded me of what a blessing it is to nurture, love, and be loved by these young people I was honored to be bring into the world as a vessel, participating in beginnings of their very existence.

I’m still an introvert. I still live in my head, and there will still be times when my family will have to shake me to pull me out. I’ll still have moments when, as I contemplate being pulled out, I wish for some silence and solitude. Because we always wish for the thing just out of our reach, but I know some things now.

I know that solitude can be good, but it  can also be overrated. I know that I don’t need nearly as much of it as I thought I did, although I do need a little. I know that once I’ve had my fill, I’ll be more than happy to crawl out, reach for my man, kiss my kids, and enjoy my noisy, crazy, busy life.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s