Battery status: fully charged

I wanted this all year: time by myself. Not an hour. Days. Gratuitous, excessive amounts of time by myself. Peace, quiet, and being directed by only my needs.

Spouse combined birthday, Solstice, Christmas, and Hanukkah presents and sent me to a cabin by myself.

I almost didn’t go. I had an intensely difficult time saying goodbye to my boys, the wonderful, funny, loving little creatures whose needs and moods dictate my every single second. The amazing humans whose care is more important to me than my career. My tiny little gobs of love, running around all day and waking me all night.

How could I leave them? For three whole days?

Part of that resistance was Newtownian. We’re all still rocked, and as I said before, I’m not going to talk about it. I can’t. Part of my resistance was Puritanical. And part of it was the chorus of critics in my head, telling me I wasn’t worth a special thing. A just-me thing. I shouldn’t because it’s unseemly. It’s gratuitous. I have a job to do, every day for 24 hours a day and how dare I shirk that responsibility?

“”Who needs a whole weekend alone,” my chorus berated. “There are people without homes, without food, without basic security. There are people cold without respite and people sick and dying.

I know that. I really, really, really do.

I tried several times to cancel. Spouse wouldn’t let me. He knows I’m fed by solitude, by quiet, and by following my own rhythms. He knows I need, desperately, to create. To write, to read, to hike, to eat. And he knows that for seven years I’ve subsumed those needs to other people. Lovely people whose well-being I take incredibly seriously. Too seriously, maybe.

Since having children I have experienced more frequent and intense joy than ever before. I’ve also been haunted by a daily thought that I’m really meant to live alone and am living the wrong life.

I know that sounds awful, but it’s true. Or it was true. Since I hadn’t had solitude for more than a couple of hours at a time in almost a year, I was running on empty. I needed my own personal fuel. I can’t do my multiple jobs without energy, and I had absolutely none left. Before this trip I couldn’t figure out why I was resistant to write, to read, to exercise, to explore, to try new things.

The simple answer is that I wasn’t myself. I was a shell.

Being a shell isn’t good for anyone. It isn’t good for our families, it isn’t good for our art, it isn’t good for our individual and collective moods, and it isn’t good for our brains.

This is my seventh trip away since my first darling boy was born. Most have been short: a day or two. A conference here, a loved one’s new babies there. Two visits to a treasured friend to talk and watch movies and read books. And two solitary, see-nobody-and-speak-to-nobody-and-do-whatever-I-choose trips including this one.

A farmyard cabin. Clear air, lowing cows, croaking frogs. Nighttime fears of the sinister things that movies and novels make seem normal but are really intensely rare, ridiculous wastes of my worry energy.

I haven’t slept much. I haven’t exercised much. But I’ve worked almost non-stop on my book and on a client project that’s bringing me intellectual joy. I’ve eaten only healthful food because that’s all I brought. Despite my cravings for candy and wine, I’ve had salads and tea and barbeque field roast sandwiches. In fact, everything I brought was good for me. Two awesome books (and a chapter of a book that I’ve been meaning to read, found in the cabin’s library). A computer on which to create and learn.

I’m intensely lucky. I know that.

Good heavens, I cannot articulate how good I feel. There are now in front of me, beyond the enclosed porch on which I now sit typing, nine different tree species. Clear skies, sunshine, picturesque fluffy clouds. A chilling breeze kept somewhat at bay by a wool throw and a rumbling wood stove. Sunshine.

There’s copious sunshine at home. And blue skies and fluffy clouds and trees. But here nobody asks me for anything. No fights. No stress, no frustrations. No ups and downs. Just being. Centered, listening to my own body and brain existing.

I have to go now. I have to make the most of this time. But I wanted to say this: I wish you this. I hope you find your version of this.

When you’re making New Year’s Resolutions, if you do such things, find what makes you tick. What centers you to who you are and what you need and what makes you the most you can be. Writing down the things most important to how you fuel yourself to make it through the days and weeks is immeasurably useful.

Because I hope you find a way in 2013 to get what you need. Not every day, not in a way that overwhelms your responsibilities or finances. But push just a little beyond what you think you should do or get and bring yourself back to center. Take time off work or away from family, visit family or sleep or paint. Take a class or explore new movies and music. Once you take care of yourself you will have more to offer others. Play with your children, invest in your employer, build your company. Volunteer until you feel you’ve made more than a difference—you’ve made a mark. Write letters to your elected representatives until your hand cramps. Give others what they need.

Whatever you most value, invest in it. More than you otherwise would. Do a little too much so that you can push past the limits you’ve hit. To restore the core of who you are and what you want. This weekend cost me too much time from my family and too much money. And I know that for most people anything that costs money will be too much. But whatever “that’s all we can afford is,” do a little more. Because this weekend hasn’t cost too much, really. Throwing the money in the trash would have cost too much. Buying solitude on my own terms has been so immeasurably good for me that it exceeds the monetary and absent-mother cost by about one-thousand-fold.

I’m glad I was led outside what I felt was too much. I will not forget how this feels. I will bring to my every endeavor for the next few months the energy and passion that had dwindled as I pushed through each day, driving on fumes.

I have more to give because I was given. Because I gave myself what I actually, really needed. Tired isn’t just about sleep. Sad isn’t just about sorrow. Hungry isn’t just about food. Angry isn’t just about being wronged. All needs are about not getting enough.

It’s not enough until the little battery indicator on your soul blinks full that you’ve had enough.

I’m getting there. And soon I will share my recharged self with two little guys and a big guy and a community and a nation and a planet who all really deserve the best I can give. Something I can now offer.

I wish you more than enough now, next year, and always.

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31 thoughts on “Battery status: fully charged

    • You can do it. Send out an offer to housesit (catsit, dogsit, emptynestsit) for someone to save cost. Schedule when your partner is in town and can take a day off work. Your kids are old enough to benefit from seeing you take care of yourself.
      You so absolutely need and deserve mental and physical space so you can love and create and be.

  1. Oh, yes. The lack of “me” time has always been the hardest sacrifice I’ve made as parent and partner. Luckily, like you, I have a supportive partner (who even encouraged me to go away for school, as you know), but I’ve also sabotaged my own needs out of some weird sense of guilt or sense that I don’t deserve the “indulgence” of time by myself. I’m so glad your partner wouldn’t let you wriggle out of your “see-nobody-and-speak-to-nobody-and-do-whatever-I-choose” time. I’m looking forward to my own trip in February, and holding on as best I can until then.

    • Hey, AM! Good to hear from you!
      You do have a pretty awesome partner, it’s true. And you are pretty awesome. And I hope February is absolutely wonderful. Everything you need and more.
      Hug everybody for me.

  2. I’m very happy for you that you got this. Maybe a little jealous too. You got to take a shower, right? Maybe more than one, whenever you wanted? Or maybe-OOOO!–a BATH.

    Standards are low for me, obviously.

    But seriously, good for you. And good for your husband for making it happen.

    • Kristin, you’ll both laugh and understand: three days, one shower. And no use of the soaking tub.

      What is wrong with me? Some habits die hard, and the “if there’s any time I’m playing with words not hygiene” habit is too ingrained now.

      I have been brushing my teeth, though. It’s never okay to get lax about oral health.

    • There is a dance-in-the-living-room freedom from having the family house all to yourself. I love the days when my husband takes the boys to a playground, even for two hours.

      Mmmmmm. Quiet house.

      Maybe they can work up a snow park version in February, too?

  3. fabulous. Simply inspiring. I am not ready for this exactly, but something like it. Someday soon. Glad you are relishing it. I am not going to tell you you deserve it because i know you know that. we don’t have to earn stuff like this, we just have to take it in.

    • Well, you’re not ready because you’re traumatized by L.A. and gastrointestinal apocalypse.

      Once you figure out what you’re ready for, do it. Plus a little.

      Congratulations on being alive after your travels. Take some time to settle back into the land of the living. And Happy New Year!

  4. Wonderful! We need to take care of ourselves. We require care and feeding and solitude and time to think and just time to be. We enrich our lives and those around us by doing so. Bravo. I’m glad you didn’t get to cancel!

  5. Time alone is so valuable that I can’t explain how desperate I have been at times for it. Fortunately, hubby understands, and I get alone time when I need it. Sometimes it’s not enough, though, when you come back to the same disappointing shit. I hope that’s not the case for you. I hope your battery stays full for a good long time. Happy new year.

    • I was surprised at how calm I was to find the frustrating stuff even worse when I got back. I’ve been calm and mindful during conflicts and respectful during absolute b.s. Plus, the cuddles feel even better. Like they’re new!

      We’ll see how long it lasts…

  6. What a wonderful gift from your husband…and to give yourself! Your words speak sooth. Recharge to become a better you. Probably the best New Year’s advice one can give. I’ve always thought that resolutions should be focused more on core strengthening which in turn provides us with the fuel to overcome the challenges of life and the courage to pursue our passions, despite obstactles.

    • Mrs. P., I couldn’t agree more. If you’re not doing all you think you should, back off and find out why you’re not getting all you need.

      Strengthen your core…like pilates for your soul! ;-)

      • I read him every facebook comment and every blog comment and he can repeat them all. He is quite proud of his performance. Yes. Time to do that would be lovely. Or maybe just the name of your cabin. I still have a ticket that wasn’t used when my son broke himself in Central Park and thwarted my trip to LA. I’ll re-book to your haven.

  7. Boy, can I relate to this. ALL of this, including the feeling like you’re not quite special enough to “deserve” the joy of having no one else to take care of or deal with other than yourself – and you – in your blissful solitude of a few days can actually read – guilt-free, or write what you please, and possibly, just possibly… put a small amount of distance between yourself and all those Major Life Worries.

    Sounds like the perfect gift.

  8. LOVE this post my friend! As you can see, I’m a little behind in my reading, but I so needed to see this right now. Thank you. Wishing you a beautiful year – although it sounds like your life is filled with an abundance of beauty and love every day! And so it should be!

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