Sunday, July 6, 2014

mind if i share?

I am alone and the house is quiet, except for the hum of the dishwasher and the occasional clatter of a cat hurling itself at the walls and down the hallway. I’ve been alone all day, although I did manage to leave the house for a few hours. But even though I was surrounded by people, I was still alone.

This time last week I would have given anything for the ability to be alone, doing nothing, with no noise or distractions or feelings of guilt at not having enough entertainment planned for the kids. Time to myself, to think about what I want to think about, to make plans, to read or write or even sleep in the middle of the day if I wanted to. But on this, my third straight day of such blatant luxury, and for the first time in living memory, I am not so sure that I like being alone any more.

The girls have been staying with my Mum and Dad a couple of hours away, and while it’s something I sorely needed after a couple of bouts of the flu, it’s never easy to drive away from them knowing it will be days before I see them again. I know they will be having fun and they will be happy, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling rotten that I have to leave them somewhere miles away just so I can get some time to myself.

Not that I haven’t had a lovely time these past few days with my dearest husband and soul mate. I haven’t cooked a single meal, we’ve done dinner and a movie and just enjoyed the closeness that comes from not having three other people in the house. When we arranged the break, I knew he would have to work all weekend but he’d be home every afternoon and we would have the evenings together. What bliss, I thought, to have two days to myself. What will I do? Where will I go? Cafes? Shopping? Long walks on the beach?

Day one I went shopping, but it wasn’t as much fun as you’d think. Because the other word in it was ‘grocery’. Good job to get out of the way, but by the time I got home it was midday and after I’d had some lunch (okay, a chocolate chip muffin and a cup of tea) I really couldn’t get motivated to leave the house again. I put on some music and enjoyed the beautiful winter sunshine (and empty clothes line) instead.

Day two involved a trip to the farmers market for supplies, a hit and run mission to avoid the babies and cute children all rugged up against the cold that played into my mothers’ guilt. I hauled my bags to the car and thought about calling a friend to see if she was up for a visit. Knowing how busy she always is, and how long it’s been since I’ve seen her, I thought twice. I drove to a weekly trash and treasure market that I’ve always enjoyed looking around with the girls, and today was no exception. Lots of trash and a few little treasures, plus a chance meeting with a friend from high school who is just as lovely now, maybe even more lovely given my scarcity of friendships and desperate need for adult conversation.

I lugged my treasures back to the car and decided to call my busy friend. True to form, she wasn’t home. In fact she is not home almost as often as I am home. Which is all the time. Literally every waking moment. When I am not driving to or from school, which amounts to roughly 25 minutes each weekday and nothing on weekends.

So here I am. I have had my nap, I have read the Sunday paper, I have even done a load of washing to satisfy myself that I still exist. But despite having wished for this time, time to myself, time alone, I now realise how very alone I am. Maybe not lonely, because that’s a different thing. But sadly and forlornly alone.

I thought a bit of reading might help. But everywhere I look there are people leading full and interesting lives and feeling the uncontrollable urge to tell everyone about it. The newspapers are full of horrible characters, from the news pages to the social pages, and the online ‘presence’ of anyone with opposable thumbs is doing my head in.

In the past two years I’ve let lots of things go. Some go easily, others are harder. Hopes of an overseas holiday don’t seem to matter so much until you become an unwilling observer of somebody else’s holiday snaps and realise they are the closest you will ever come to that side of the world (or country). And nobody begrudges a person for having fantastic hair but it does make it all that harder to look into any reflective surface and be reminded that nine months have passed since your last visit to the hairdresser and the grey on your head is starting to match the grey of your face.

People are everywhere, sharing the minutiae of their lives every single second it seems. They have so much to say, but it doesn’t stop there. There’s all that information that somebody has decreed we the public must know. The newspapers are full of it, churning it out in great meaningless slabs that can really only be discerned from the David Jones and Myer sales ads by the altered font.

The vast majority of this is information I neither need nor want. My brain is overloaded with other people’s memories of misery and abuse and suffering and the only way to avoid it is to leave the newspaper at the front door in its plastic cocoon. I don’t want to know these people. I want a real conversation with a real person. It seems I want too much. It seems my company is no more appealing to others than it is to me.

I know I’m feeling sorry for myself. But the one thing I miss about being alone is being able to write. To take all the crazy thoughts that fall over themselves inside my head and get them out. So it is done. I have not walked on any beaches, mainly because Are you kidding? It’s freezing outside! And I have not visited any cafes, mainly because the point of going to a cafĂ© is to meet somebody else there and enjoy their company. The point of solitude, in contrast, is to be alone. And not just alone surrounded by people. Actually alone. Like I am right this minute, save for a mildly concussed cat, although I am still really wishing I’d had somebody else to sit down with today and just share an hour and a hot chocolate. Unlike filtered Instagram photos of overseas sojourns and blissful firesides, that’s the kind of sharing I miss.

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