November 21, 2014

Loneliness and the luxury of solitude

A few weeks ago, a friend posted an article (here) on facebook about the loneliness of being a stay at home mother with small kids. The part that really resonated with me was the beginning, when the blogger is talking about getting on facebook late at night and seeing a picture of friends all gathered together and then the light hearted bantering in the comments below. Jealously and envy and all kinds of emotion because she doesn't have that in her life. I don't normally think of myself as lonely. I have family and things I like to do, and I enjoy my quiet little life. Sure I miss having my best friend around, miss having close friends that I want to go to lunch with, but I am not overwhelmed with loneliness. But this fall, I found myself desperate for adult interaction. When people would make polite chitchat at the checkout counter, compliment me on my kids in Wal-mart, make a passing comment when I was at school picking up the girls, I found myself bubbling over with words. I was that socially awkward person who is incapable of cluing in that people are over the conversation already and keep talking. This puzzled me. I generally feel that talking to strangers is tantamount to holding them captive against their will, so I only talk if they initiate it and even then, I make sure my answers are short enough and shallow enough that they can walk away at any moment they feel like it. (I know, I know. This probably indicates some sort of psychological something or other.) Yet here I was forcing strangers to talk to me. And what can you call that but loneliness? I was lonely. But why? As bizarre as it sounds, I realized I was missing Gilbert's tutors. For the past four years tutors have been in and out of the house four days out of the week. That stopped this fall, due to state regulations about turning five. I didn't realize what an impact that would have on me as well. I had become friends with these tutors. Sometimes it was just "How are things?" and a quick two minute conversation. Other times, we talked for half an hour. But there was always adult interaction. When that was suddenly cut off and I was thrown back on my own resources, I suddenly realized I had very little adult interaction in my day to day life. And I noticed myself getting jealous of people hanging out with friends. Why not me? Why can't I do fun things in the evening with a group of women I know and love?

And then, Nina, put up this article, about the luxury of solitude. I love that phrase "luxury of solitude." I love solitude. I love solitude almost as much as I love people. I did one of those personality quizzes this week, and while I am not going to base my life around a computer personality quiz, something it said really stood out to me. My personality type is an extrovert, but I must have alone time. Of course, this is something I have always known about myself, but I never put it into words. Growing up, I took long rambling walks quite often. And then I would come home, ready to enthusiastically jump into the fray of a 10 person household. As a grown up, when there is a large group of people, I have a wonderful, noisy time and then develop a consuming passion to go do the dishes or cook in the quiet kitchen. Where I can still hear everyone, sometimes still see everyone, occasionally join in the conversation, but am ultimately separated from them. I am not sure how I would handle living amongst a large group of close friends who was always getting together. I think I would love it. But I definitely couldn't handle being together all the time. There would still have to be times when it was just me and my family. And I realized, Justin and I have made choices (like where we are living) based on our enjoyment of that solitude and our need for space. Why shouldn't we be okay with that? We have each other, we have our kids, we have my family, and we have dear friends we see a couple times a week. We have email, texts, and phone calls to the far away family members and other close friends too. Maybe I don't have a Mommy group. Maybe I can't meet my sister for lunch or Orso's and work on the local paper's daily crossword anymore, but that's okay. Right now, I am busy living life and it is a rather dear and beautiful life.

This fall has been an adjustment, but I am adjusting. Sometimes I wonder if that is why I am better about writing blog posts--putting my overflow of words to use. I no longer feel lonely. I don't feel the need to tell the cashier at Price Chopper about my new idea of shopping once a month or what happened on the way to the store. (Once a month shopping did not work. Just in case you were wondering.) Unless of course she feels like swapping stories. Then I feel quite free to babble to my hearts content. And then I head home to revel in my own boring little life.

I have the luxury of solitude.