alone time can be a tricky thing to navigate for women, for mothers. for anyone, I suppose. sometime the other morning after Mike got home from work and maybe while I was folding laundry and thinking about how the rest of the day would go, I realized I needed to claim some time for myself. right away. and so I told him I'd be going on a walk or a hike, by myself, before Claire and I headed out to teach art class later in the afternoon. he was fine with it. I am fortunate to have a partner who sincerely wants to and does play a very active role in raising our child, one who is perfectly amenable to helping me get time to myself now and again.
but here's the thing: I have to remember to ask for it. and usually, I don't. because it's easy to fall into the routine and just go with it. 'no, no, it's alright, I'll just take her with me, then there won't be a fuss', or some other such words strung together that basically mean the exact same thing. she comes with me to art class these days since it's so easy now. gone are the days of me trying to simultaneously thread needles for a dozen kids for an art project while somewhat discreetly nursing an 18 month old Claire. now she comes, does some art, plays with kids who each year she is getting closer to in age, and then we go back home. there's no reason for her not to come with me, whether Mike is off that day or not. but if I'm honest, here is where I have to admit that there is a part of me that sometimes starts knocking on bitter-and-resentful's door wanting to talk about why papa gets those afternoon art class hours to himself (home! alone!), that downtime at the fire department to himself, and I don't? and the answer really is nothing more than because I don't make it happen. and if I'm not going to prioritize it and make it happen, who will?
so I said 'babe, I need your help' and asked him to please encourage me to take the time, to ask for the time. it sounds so easy. and guys like that, right? clear announcements of what we need and what exactly we are asking of them. none of that 'gosh honey, I just, you know, really wish you could just kinda know what I need and intuit what I want from you when I need it- you know, like in the movies and all?' kind of man-woman interaction that happens from time to time. you know. or so I've heard. not that I've ever acted in such a silly fashion. (ahem)
okay, so: prioritize my need for some time alone and clearly ask for it. check.
I'm a thinker, a contemplator, an observer, and most certainly a reminiscer. I want, and need, time alone to wonder and remember and ponder the world around me. where I've been and where I may be going, all of it. I remember happily playing alone as a child, taking long drives and solo walks by myself as a teenager, going away alone after Mike and I got together. I went to Maine alone for a week not all that long after we got married. and it was wonderful. of course, I haven't done much like that in more recent years, and now there's the added need of some time alone, together for papa and I now that we are on this parenting adventure together (our first time alone, together was earlier this summer when we snuck into NYC for 36ish hours), but still I need to sneak it in when I can.
so I'm working on that. and for starters, I went on a nice hour-and-a-half-long hike that morning.
not a hundred steps into my hike I came across a big, fat acorn. there were lots of them, it being late summer and all, but something about that one kinda shouted out to me. I leaned down to pick it up, then looked up to confirm that it came from a red oak, as I suspected it did. I held it, rolled it around between my fingers, and suddenly I was back in the greenhouse at college, the final months of my senior year, tending to hundreds, maybe thousands, of red oak acorns. babying them into sprouting and then becoming saplings that would later be handed out to each graduate. I enjoyed that time alone in the greenhouses. I needed it at the time. there was lots to think about.
I pocketed the acorn and kept on walking, now thinking about myself in those years and all that came from them. about the woman I was becoming, and the woman I already was. I like to think of her as being fairly brave and spontaneous, comfortable to step put of her comfort zone, perhaps a bit more than I am now if I'm being honest. and even then I knew I was stepping out of it, but something about those years fostered a certain bravery and cradled me through it. of course I've grown a lot since then, learned a lot about defining myself on my own instead of in terms of how I think others see or perceive me. all bits and pieces of the passage of time from then to now. I thought about meeting Mike, about our sweet beginnings. how fun to just walk and think and remember.
and so I was reminded of how being alone can so deeply nourish our relationships, as well as ourselves. I needed that time to think about the beginnings of one of the most important relationships of my life. to think about all that we've been through and done and seen together. I needed that time to remember walking the same trails with Claire at various ages, from still-inside-mama to riding in the carrier to walking on her own two feet. and even though what lead me to that mountain was the overwhelming feeling that at the time I needed my space away from them, needed it for me, for me, for me..... all the same it brought me closer to them. it was just the medicine I needed.
somewhere along the way, thinking about all that, I was struck with a thought. (possible rambling about to happen here) that I bet this was part of the often overwhelmed feelings of motherhood- we need our stories, we need to think about them and ponder them. yet when we are walking side by side with our little ones, how often do we get ample time to really stew on things? had she been with me I may have still picked up the acorn and thought briefly about those times a decade and half ago, but likely within seconds I'd have been called (along with my attention) away to watch her jump off a rock or kiss a scrape or chase her up the trail. or something. something wonderful, possibly, but still...... I think these moments that are offered up to us in code, these moments that reach out to give us glimpses of thoughts and memories that just may be what we need more than anything else right then... well, very often those moments aren't really allowed to fully bloom and soothe. so we are left with snippets and our minds start to feel overwhelmed with bits and pieces and could-haves and should-haves. to such an extent that later on, when we are trying to quieten our mind and tend to our inner self and sanity, it can be, well, all too noisy in there. too many prematurely-shushed thoughts vying for attention. perhaps.
so simple, then. we just need that time. that quiet, alone time. and not always for the reasons we think we do. sure, I wanted to be all by myself and I craved some real exercise, I wanted to sweat and feel and hear the blood rushing and whooshing behind my eardrums. I needed some peace and quiet and to not be asked to watch someone do something or to get anyone a(nother) snack. but maybe I needed some of those memories to come rolling in just as much.
so thank you, big fat red oak acorn. for all of your medicine and memories. I hope you are enjoying your new home on my mantle, where I intend to notice you often and remember. remember oh so many things.