This year has sucked. Officially. If you count the news in January that our trusty car needs a new catalytic converter, every month this year so far has carried its own bad news. Unemployment, its attendant loss of insurance, my dad died, we were nearly homeless, I applied for several dozen jobs and was rejected for all of them, our cat got badly ill, and now Tim’s going to work in New York state for a year.
But in the last two days, with the help of some devoted friends, I’ve been starting to see the potential benefits of this change.
–Tim’s new place of residence will provide us a place to stay as we explore the East Coast. I’ve never been to Boston (in the fall or any other time), and have always wanted to visit. And while I have been to NYC, and Tim has been to NYC, and we were once at NYC at the same time, we have not been in NYC *together.* And we’ve never been without kids. So we’ve made a list of the things in NYC we want to do. Together. Oh, and then there’s DC, which we love. And we’ve made a list. so, TRAVEL!
–He’ll be visiting frequently, so this arrangement might fit into my idea of a perfect marriage: I’ve always thought couples would get along much better if they lived next door to each other. We’re just living farther apart than “next door.”
–While he’s living alone, with no one to distract him with her sparkling personality, Tim will have the time and space he needs to study his next programming language.
–While I’m living alone, with no one to distract me with his intense gaze and warm hands, I will have the time and space I need to complete a project. Okay, a couple of projects. Okay, I have a year full of projects to do. And with Tim gone, I will be able to spread my materials out and leave them there.
–While Tim’s gone, I’ll also have the freedom to explore Oregon guilt-free. This is weird, I know, but bear with me; this dovetails into the next one.
–As happens with women who spend their lives caring for children and a husband, I developed a frustrating habit of turning my attention to the needs of whatever person is in the house. I don’t hover over them, but my senses are always attuned their direction.
I have a feeling it’s heightened in me because I parented a child with a physical disability, so I was always ready for medical emergencies, whether my child was in the house or not. A bump, a cry, a crash, a whimper, an area rug out of place, a tower of heavy things that could fall on her, an open stairwell into which the wheelchair could fall; I was always on the alert for danger. My therapist has indicated this is most likely the case, that my parenting experience counts as “extreme” parenting, and I learned some different habits.
I call this parenting style “Eye of Sauron”. It’s gotten better with the kids grown and on their own, but Tim being at home since February has reinvigorated my powers. With Tim home, and solely as a result of my own habits, having nothing to do with Tim’s behavior or attitudes, I am calibrated to think of him first in all things.
It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s the truth.
So with Tim gone, I will no longer have another being in the house to take care of. Aside from the pets, I will be alone, and have only my needs to think about.
This has never happened before.
I have never lived alone in my life. I went from my parents’ house to the dorms to having a roommate to being married (well, I was a single parent with a really bad roommate), then I was a single parent for real for a while, then I was a single parent again for a while but with Tim around most of the time, then I was married to Tim. During that time, I have always had someone else to think about. The roommate situation was close to living alone, but lasted a very short time. Being a single parent is certainly not “independence.”
And so for the first time in my life, I will truly be independent. I have work at the music and arts centers, I have the garden–both activities require regular and reliable attention. But inside the house, I will have quiet inside my own mind. I’ll have the space in my head to set up whatever project I feel like working on inside my brain, and I can leave it all laid out all the time, without having to tuck it away when someone else needs me.
All this space inside my head…all this is mine now. MINE.
These are up-sides to this otherwise sad and lonely time. Yes, I feel guilty for feeling even slightly good about this change. But I’m pushing past that, reminding myself that I have an opportunity here that I’ve never had before. This is *my* chance.
I’ll miss Tim. I know he’ll miss me. But I will never have this chance again.
I’m going to take it.