February 14, 2019.
My husband asked me the other day if I remembered the last time he went into the office to work, and I replied immediately: February 14, 2019.
He said “how can you remember that date for sure? It was two years ago!”
I remember because it was the last time I felt truly unrestricted and free.
This is one of my life’s main conflicts right now. After working for two decades in a job that supported our family but was frustrating and unfulfilling, my husband has a job that he loves. He gets raises and feels valued and we don’t have to live with the constant fear of him being laid off. A huge perk for him in this job is that he can work from home. (Even before the pandemic and shut downs he was working from home.) This means no commute in traffic (he hates traffic) and when he has a break in calls he can do stuff around the house.
He is much happier in this job than he was in his old one.
While I am…I can’t push it all the way to “miserable,” but I am less happy.
My whole life I have thrived when I had solitude. Even as a teenager with a large friend group, my happiest times were when I was alone in my bedroom. As a mom, I structured my days around solitude. Maybe it sounds selfish, but I wasn’t the mom who scurried to clean the house only when the baby was napping. I needed their nap times, then their preschool afternoons, to recharge myself. To be alone and to do something I love in solitude. (Reading, scrapbooking, quilting. Oddly enough, I don’t need solitude or quiet for writing.)
This is something I love: no one at home but me, the house already clean, maybe a load of laundry running. Time alone in my house, making something.
Oh, that solitude.
It is like the feeling that comes when you’ve hiked for a long time on a hot day, and you get to a stream of ice-cold, snow-fed water. You take your shoes off and plunge your feet into the water, and you almost want to weep as the coldness travels through your body. It is a quiet, rejuvenating pause.
Being around other people all the time makes my brain feel hot and overworked. It makes me wilt.
Solitude revives me.
It’s not really that Kendell is doing anything annoying while he works. He rarely says “maybe you should clean the kitchen” or anything like that. (To be fair, this is because I have carefully, and sometimes angrily, taught him that he is not my boss.) It’s just that he’s here, in the same space as me.
It’s a tug. A constant awareness of someone else here.
It makes me feel an almost physical response. It’s a sort of low-grade anger that’s always there. It would calm down if I could just be alone but since I’m not it never gets a chance to sizzle out. It is also based on guilt, and my flawed sense of self-worth, and the indoctrination of how women are “supposed” to be. It doesn’t help much that Kendell is not an introvert. He doesn’t need a lot of people around, but having people around doesn’t tug at his energy sources. He doesn’t understand my need at all.
Then the pandemic started. Jake worked from home, Kaleb did school at home. Not only was I never alone, there were two more people here all the time. The tugging was never-ending.
(At this point I feel I should clarify: I love my people. I love spending time with them. I love taking care of them. I also just need time to myself.)
So what do I do with this situation? When Kendell didn’t work at home, he was unhappy. Now he’s happier, but I am less happy. How do we find equilibrium?
Some of it has come by me learning to adjust. Part of it has been Kendell learning not to take it personally. Most of it still weighs on me.
For more than a year, I haven’t really had a choice. This is just how it is, people working at home and there is always someone here.
But dare I confess that I hope it will change in the future? Maybe when the offices open back up. Maybe when we move.
Today, Kendell, Jake, and Nathan are hiking. I would’ve gone if my foot allowed it, but it doesn’t. So I’m happy to stay home. Kaleb is here, but he’s sleeping. And for a minute, even for a couple of hours, I will have solitude. My feet are tingling with the chill and it’s starting to work its way up to my overheated heart, to my scorching brain. My lungs are filling up with air and I can breath for real again.