Lee’s on the couch wearing sound-cancelling headphones reveling in composing music for our podcast -- and I’m in the kitchen -- earbuds in -- rocking out to some serious guitar riffs on my Spotify wedding reception playlist while whipping up some fresh-basil/roasted-garlic raspberry vinaigrette.
Lee’s still excitedly sliding dials on his virtual mixer board, so I pull out my yoga mat and breathe through some stretches for my bones and some poses for my balance. He’s still riffing, so now why not address a topic we want to include in our book -- alone time.
Holding balance poses carries my mind to Mom. Despite decades of long ridge hikes, moving the furniture around regularly and sweeping the driveway free of leaves(!!!), Mom’s balance is now a sometimes proposition. Falls are not a surprise to any of us anymore -- except maybe to her. Yes, she’s 94 -- but maybe, just maybe she’d still have better balance if she’d been mindful about it sooner. I know that seems off topic -- but it’s not, because I’m not just across the room doing something different than Lee -- I’m truly alone with my thoughts.
As Lee and I pass by each other on the way to the bathroom or to the kitchen to get an apple, we almost always lean in for a kiss, and sometimes I ask Lee if he’d like another pair of ears on the tune he’s composing. Or I ask him to taste what I’m cooking and tell me what’s missing. It’s a great flow. It’s alone time together in a small space.
A time will come when we’re not waiting for the phone to ring and one of the Heart Transplant Team to say, “We have a heart for you--” -- when Lee is fully recovered and we’ll go places separately again. Now, in this one-room flat, we find ways to be alone although we’re physically in the same space. Make no mistake, we love being together. That doesn’t change the basic truth that EVERYONE needs time to be unsupervised and roam free. If it’s not built into the schedule -- and even if it’s improbable that you can carve it out --your imagination can find its secret room/treehouse/attic corner/hidden grotto and a little time to spend there enjoying your self.
I remember reading a book titled The Overbooked Child years ago when my children were very young, and this truth stuck with me all these years: The over-scheduled child (horseback riding on Monday, gymnastics on Tuesday and Thursday, piano lessons on Friday and soccer on Saturday) is in danger of never developing an internal dialogue. I was immediately glad that I didn’t have the resources for multiple activities, so my son did take private art classes but spent many more hours making mud obstacle courses for ants. Mayme did take ballet, and also regularly lined up 20 or so dolls and stuffed animals and gave them spelling tests (she recorded all their answers and corrected each paper with care). Their internal dialogues are intact! And they are both comfortable, as they say, in their own skins.
Of course, in this small space Lee and I inhabit now, headphones help! The garden is a great separate room too. The bathroom and especially the shower provide other quality solitary moments. It’s good to know, though, that we can create our own alone time when we are only a few feet away from each other for extended periods.
There are endless things that Lee and I LOVE to do together -- walking, cooking, cuddling, talking about ideas, sleeping, heading down the road together to name just a few. This doesn’t reflect our respective lives before we found each other; we’d each always been independent, self-starting people who spent much more time alone than in the company of others.. We often say something akin to -- “How come I don’t feel that familiar compulsion to just get AWAY by myself since we’ve been together?!”
Lee and I enjoy each other’s company beyond all others, but still, there is a universal need to let the wind blow through my own thoughts without interruption or input on a regular basis. Alone time is when I have the quiet space to make course corrections so that this journey takes me where I most want to go. It’s when faces arise in my mind of people that may need to hear from me. In the best case scenario, it holds the door open to that connected-to-everything space where greater wisdom resides.