This morning I was alone in my house for thirty minutes. I thought it was going to be quite a bit longer since Howard and Kiki had gone out to see Infinity War. But before I really had a chance to stretch out into the aloneness, I got a text from 17 asking to be picked up early from school. I suppose there are some people for home “alone at home” is a common experience. It is certainly the source of significant emotional adjustment for those who become empty nesters at about my age. Between a spouse who works at home, a daughter who works at home, and two partially homeschooled teenagers, I don’t get to be alone very often.
It is strange to note the ways that I expand internally when I know there isn’t anyone else in the house. I know that I won’t be interrupted. I don’t have to track anyone else or predict when they’ll need my attention. I don’t have to reserve a portion of my brain so I’m prepared to respond. The thing is, I’m not even aware that I’ve got attention on reserve. It is something my mind does automatically and I only notice it was a thing when my brain stops.
Going to a retreat has an added layer of expansion in that I’m outside my usual context. At a retreat my first question is always “what do I need?” While at home the prevailing question is “what needs to be done next?” Retreats give me a chance to live inside my mind in different ways. Unfortunately stepping outside my context can also trigger anxiety precisely because I’ve stepped away from my usual tasks. Some retreats I’ve spent far more energy on battling panic than I have on thinking writing thoughts.
As I drove to pick up my daughter from school, I tried to figure out how I felt about having alone time taken away from me. The feelings were subtle, a faint sadness perhaps. A slight shouldering of responsibility, because with her in the house I am reminded of the work she needs to do in order to not fail some of her classes. It is her work, not mine. I shouldn’t have to track it, but the overdue work exists because she’s been off kilter for months. She’s overwhelmed even though I’ve already adjusted her workload downward as many times as I can. She’s not functioning at capacity, so when she is home, I track where she’s at and whether she’s been able to work. With those tracking circuits re-engaged, I proceeded onward with my day. I have things that need to be done. Those things don’t change much whether my house is co-occupied or empty.
However it is important to note that arranging for time alone is probably something that would be beneficial to me.