I’ve been away from home for the past couple of days.
When my husband decided to travel to the middle east recently for a thirteen day vacation, I knew that upon his return, after nearly two weeks with my heightened needs children I would need a couple of days (at least) me time to decompress after the challenges of having (other than school hours) 100% responsibility for the kids.
And including a visit from my mother.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love my mother. She is 82 years of age. She lives alone, and has for several years now after her ‘boarder’ (her sister’s former boyfriend who rented a room for nine years after he and my aunt split up) moved out. She has been retired for several years now, and never, to my mind, prepared for this eventuality. She has few interests and hobbies, aside from reading (where I get my love of books from), watching tennis, and Lifetime Television For Women movies. She doesn’t go far, doesn’t really travel, and doesn’t participate in any real group activities. I suppose that sounds kind of like me to some degree, but the difference between us is that she ‘complains’ about it. I don’t. Therefore, I think she tends to ‘invent’ reasons to call me and chat nearly every day of the week, without a lot of activities in her life to talk about, and so I hear the same stories from her a lot. My mother isn’t senile, but she repeats herself a lot when she talks, and rarely can take a hint that she’s engaging in a thrice-told (or more) tale, which I try to make known to her by saying ‘yes, we discussed this already’, but she just keeps going and tells the story again regardless. During her recent visit I heard about her new ‘attached to the garage’ mailbox so she doesn’t have to walk down an icy driveway and her mail-carrier being named Betty at least half a dozen times. While my mother visited she talked……..a lot.
I don’t talk all that much. Certainly I can carry on a lengthy conversation with someone, and have even been called long-winded. But those instances are few and far between. I am an introvert. I do my best to not ‘stand out’ in a crowd, or draw attention to myself. I listen a lot more than I talk. I relish the times when I can go into a room and close a door and be by myself. My favorite ‘leisure time’ activities are writing and reading. I spend a lot of time ‘taking a scene in’ before I will participate in it. I also can only really ‘handle’ a few hours at most in a crowd. I am not a ‘close down the place’ kind of person.
In a crowded bar or restaurant (where I will usually eat at the bar when dining alone), I hope for an ‘end seat’ so that I can partially turn my back to a wall or window. I want no one ‘behind me’. It’s not paranoia that ‘everyone is watching me’, it’s that I want to be able to watch everyone, and contrary to what I tell my kids I do not have eyes in the back of my head. I will silently observe others and listen to their conversations and soak in atmosphere without uttering a sound. I hate small talk. It’s painful. I enjoy talking (listening really) to people I know, but with strangers it’s about as enticing to me as the idea of jamming a corkscrew into one of my nostrils and twisting it, and even with people I know and love, I can only really do it for so long before I need a break from it all.
And so, after two days with my mother in the house….okay, two hours really; I was just about maxed out on conversation and had several days left to go. I had to spend a lot of time redirecting my kids (re: talking a lot) and then holding conversations with my mother, and by the time everyone (but me) was in bed….after spending nearly every waking moment of the day ‘talking’…..since my mother and the kids are all up early…I was ready to lock myself in the basement and hide in a dark corner.
And by the time day thirteen of my husband’s vacation was done, I was MORE than ready to get away on my own.
I have long been a fan of traveling by myself. I hemmed and hawed about spending money on a hotel room when I am not working and subsisting on unemployment pay and what I banked of my severance, although I knew that trying to get some ‘alone time’ at home with the kids about for the weekend was not a realistic pursuit. But in the end I realized I really needed some time away…some ‘me time’. I didn’t want to take up much precious time off with driving, so long-distance travel was out (and flying not an option with the added expense of airline tickets). Therefore, I opted for the next sizable ‘city’ in a neighboring state. I knew I’d want to park and walk away from my vehicle for the time I was here, so I chose the downtown area, where there are shops, restaurants, etc., all within walking distance from my hotel.
What I like about traveling alone can be summed up rather simply. It’s not a desire to do anything ‘sketchy’. It’s not a desire to ‘get away’ from my loved ones or my friends. It’s really a desire to get away from being responsible for or to anyone but myself, even for a short while. It’s the opportunity to be anyone or, more importantly, no one. I don’t have to speak more than ordering a meal or a drink or saying ‘thank you’ as a clerk finishes up a sale. It’s the chance to sit in a coffee shop that has a sofa and open a book and decide to linger for just one more chapter, because I don’t really have to be anywhere else if I don’t want to. It’s a chance to have no schedule, no routine, no obligation to do anything other than exactly what I want to do…or DON’T want to do.
I arrived at my destination city at 11:30 yesterday morning. I am in a city that I’ve only been to a couple of times. It has a downtown scene that is, even in the winter, rather lively it would appear. There are galleries, restaurants, theaters, etc. I’ve spent the bulk of my time in my hotel room. I’ve gone out twice today, once for breakfast and to hit a used book store, and once for a late lunch and to pick up something to take home to each of the kids. There’s a couple of shows playing locally that sounded nice, but I’ve not made any move to see them. There’s clubs nearby, plenty of them, where I’m sure plenty of people will take advantage of the fact that tomorrow is a holiday and venture out tonight, especially after yesterday’s inclement weather. I have zero interest in any of it.
I have scoped out a nearby karaoke venue, and that *might* entice me out, but other than that….I might just make my way downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant and bar and have a light dinner and then retire to my room for the rest of the night and read. I did neglect to verify that my hotel room bathroom would have a tub and not just a shower, whereas if it did have a tub then all bets would be off about tonight and I’d soak in a nice hot bath for a few hours before turning in. Oh well. Next time.
Some might try to tell me I’m missing a lot by not getting out and about more while I’m here. I feel very much to the contrary. I feel as though what I’m gaining by spending a lot of time by myself is far more valuable than anything I’d see while I was here. I may not have the healthiest self-esteem in the world, but thankfully I enjoy my own company well enough to be alone as much as I can while I’m here. This, more than getting into ‘the thick of things’ recharges my personal batteries.
Many people that I know thrive on and get their energy from being with others. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just completely contrary to my way of thinking and my needs. I’m not hiding out while I’m here. I’m not ‘afraid’ to socialize and to go out and about by myself and walk the streets of an unfamiliar place. I’m not trying to escape anything or anyone. This long weekend to myself, like all the other ‘alone’ trips I have taken in the past boils down to one thing. It gives me the chance to spend unlimited, unencumbered, and uninhibited time with the one person I need to be with more than anyone else in the world right at this point in time.