Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ruth, the Person: hanging out with me, myself and I

It was Bizarro World.

My husband was in a T-shirt and jeans, filling a plastic cup with milk and mediating an argument involving Legos.

I was tossing luggage into a sedan, hugging everyone goodbye, and driving to the airport.

It felt wrong. Awkward. As I parked, checked in, and went through security, my movements were jerky, my brain muddled. I was like a fish out of water. A mother kangaroo with no joeys in the pouch.

Sitting at the gate with my laptop and cell phone like a seasoned business traveler, I exchanged several text messages with my husband. I kept coming up with information he might need in my absence. Things like, “rash cream on dresser. xtra wipes by tub.”

Finally he wrote: “go have cocktail at bar.”

But I was at the one and only terminal in Omaha, Nebraska and there was no bar. So I sat there and tried to relax and get used to spending time with myself.

I definitely needed a break. Last week my five-year-old asked innocently, “Mom, do you ever smile?”

Ouch.

So I felt I was due for a weekend vacation, the longest stretch of alone time I’ve had in six years. However, the purpose of this hastily-planned trip was also the reason I’ve been a walking ball of stress in the first place.

We’re moving to California, and I was on my way to scope out the area and try to figure out where we should live. This sort of thing is more easily accomplished in the absence of small children.

Even away from my kids I found that I was still Ruth, the Mom. When I saw a baby crying or a toddler throwing a fit, it was all I could do not to run over there and see if I could help. But I held back, eager to concentrate on being Ruth, the Person for a while.

Sitting on the plane I realized it had been five hours since I left home. Ordinarily by then my time would have been up. Ding. Get back in car. Drive home. Embrace children.

And the thing is, usually two or three hours is all it takes for me to feel refreshed, appreciate my many blessings, and enthusiastically jump back into caretaking mode.

This was different. I was experiencing withdrawal. Sure the kids missed me, but most of the trauma was on my end. I was surprised at how incredibly difficult it was to be on my own, with no one to care for, reprimand, protect or entertain.

As the hours wore on it got a little easier. On the plane I found that I enjoyed having uninterrupted time to read, write, think, and converse with other passengers. By the time we touched down in Sacramento, I was feeling more comfortable, if a little tired. It was after midnight (which is 2:00 a.m. Central time) when I finally stepped up to the counter at Avis.

By then the selection of vehicles was dwindling, so instead of the midsize I’d reserved, I drove away in a sleek sports car.

The next day on the highway, top down, music blaring, my shoulders turning pink in the California sun, I found my smile. I found a great place to live. I found the time to make a journey to the Pacific coast, just for kicks. I found out it was cold by the coast. I found a little surf shop where I bought a long-sleeved shirt. I found myself driving along the winding shoreline north of San Francisco with the top down even though I was freezing, because when will I ever be driving a convertible again? I found the Golden Gate Bridge, quite by accident after taking a wrong turn.

Would it be too cliched to say I found myself? In the day to day dealings of being [insert your name here], the Mom, do you ever find that [insert your name here], the Person is lying dormant somewhere? Do you ever forget she even exists?

I’m back at home now, wearing a T-shirt and jeans, filling plastic cups with milk and mediating arguments. My husband threw his luggage in the sedan and drove to the airport. Now I’m just trying not to become a walking ball of stress as we navigate the process of moving five people, two dogs and a wide assortment of consumer goods across 2,000 miles, putting our house on the market, and starting over in a brand new place.

My weekend excursion made all the difference. I think I can handle this, even enjoy it. I’ve learned: If you get the opportunity, take it. If your husband says go, run--before he changes his mind. And if they offer you the sports car, by all means, say yes.

3 comments:

Maureen said...

Woo Hoo! What a great journey- literally and figuratively. I hope you enjoy the time in Cali, it's not as bad as people make it out to be- esp. Northern California. You have S.F. and Tahoe all at your fingertips....plus it's wine country. How can a place that produces so much wine be bad????

Meaghan said...

Wonderful journey! Thank you for sharing!

Angela said...

That is so great!! Woow!Hoow! Oh, I'm so so thrilled for you! Miss Independent! Wow! I'm so impressed! Next time, can I come, too? I promise I won't speak until spoken to! HA!