There are a few essential things in life that I’ve accepted I’m just not very good at. Feeding myself is one of them – I don’t enjoy cooking or preparing food unless it’s for someone else, and I never know what I’m hungry for. I remember an ex-bulimic, future-therapist college friend once probing me with, “Ask your body what it wants.” And while I do ask fairly often, my body rarely answers – much to Doug’s frustration as well as my own. Although I spend most of my days in a food-for-sale environment, I rarely buy any, and as a result, when left to my own devices, I eat things like cereal, edamame, frozen rice, or peanut butter on a spoon.
I feel like the feeding myself thing is a microcosm for the larger issue, which is that I’m not very good at being by myself in general. I have never lived alone, and struggle with the idea of spending even a few hours in solitude. On days I have off, when Doug is working, I work myself up into really weird and unpleasant moods: a cross between having cabin fever, and being too depressed or anxious to find the motivation to actually leave the cabin.
Today is bordering on such a day. Doug and I went to the gym in the morning, then I had a few mid-afternoon appointments while he was at work. But now I’ve been sitting here for a few hours, doing nothing but looking at funny things online and talking in circles to myself about what I’m going to do with my night.
(There’s a yoga class I could go to. But the parking lots in my apartment complex are being repaved again, so half are closed, and if I come back from class after 9, I’ll never get a spot. Also, I already went to the gym this morning and will be going on a bike ride early tomorrow, so maybe I should just take it easy and go to bed early tonight. But sitting here by myself is stressful; I’m sick of staring at this screen. And I have to figure out something to eat. We have another box of Mac & Cheese, but we’re out of milk.* And I don’t want to go to the store. And I’m lonely.)
In my therapist’s waiting room this afternoon, I copied down the following quote, unaware that it was going to become so immediately relevant:
“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” –Dr. Wayne Dyer
I liked it because it made me think of how valuable my alone time can sometimes be. It really is nice to be here without Doug every once in a while, since, for all that I am bad at feeding myself, Doug is bad at silence. Without the noise pollution of the TV, radio, or video games, I make tea and read. I take bubble baths. Without the pressure of another person looking to me for company, I call my mom or Carrie, both of whom are unable to have short conversations. I take over the TV myself, and watch Grey’s Anatomy or movies in French. I am reminded of who I am, of what I enjoy, and of the fact that my very birth sign dictates that I need to do this sometimes: stay home, recharge, reconnect with myself.
This, of course, is a best-case scenario situation. The worst-case scenario situation has me sitting in front of my computer, obsessively checking my email and social-networking sites, while my anxiety level rises at the prospect of spending an evening alone and lonely and not doing anything. It usually results in me attacking Doug when he gets home, insisting that he entertain me and make my night more interesting, when all he wants to do is relax after his shift.
My aversion to this alone time may go back to when I was living with my ex-husband in Wales, and the amount of forced alone time I had that year. Or I could conclude that I just don’t really like the person I’m alone with. Whatever the case, I feel like learning to be alone and enjoy solitude would benefit me at this point. After all, isn’t being alone with a baby kind of like being alone with yourself,** but, um, way less peaceful? And isn’t being alone with a baby what I’m signing up for when I say that I just want to be a professional mom and write from home – maybe keeping a part-time job at the grocery store for the sake of my benefits/sanity – and let Doug do all the real money-making?
I don’t think I’m going to let tonight become one of those worst-case scenario nights. Instead, I think I’ll open the patio door, close the laptop, and say some thank-you’s for the fresh air, the solitude, and the silence, as I practice enjoying my own company.
*In junior high, my friend Whitney and I used to make Mac & Cheese without milk all the time – all butter works just as well. This is probably what I will end up eating tonight, except that I also don’t have butter, and will be substituting Earth Balance. If that fails, there’s always edamame.
**I do have one friend who talks about herself and her baby in the first-person-plural (“I don’t know what we’re doing this weekend”), as though the baby really had a say in the matter, but most of my friends who are parents still maintain their singular identities with the baby tacked on at the end (“I don’t know what I’m doing this weekend, probably just taking the baby to the park”).