My wife’s schedule allowed her to visit my daughter in Argentina and so I am alone in my house for a couple of weeks. Though I would love to see my daughter—last time was in India a year ago— I found myself quite happy to stay home. This traveling music teacher is mostly going from one room in the house to another and then to school and back and it feels just fine. Just six weeks back at school after the Fall off, I have a rhythm going that feels important to maintain. Happy for once not to be on a plane.
But alone in my house! That’s rare. I’m a person who needs a healthy dose of solitude and mostly get it on planes and in strange motel rooms. I tend to be the one who travels and it’s rare for my wife to be gone without me, leaving me with the house to myself.
Of course, when I was off this Fall, I had plenty of time during the day, but to have nights home alone is a different story. I get to control the lighting! Decide on the music and just how loud it can be! Eat dinner on my own time and clean up according to my rhythm! Play the piano more than usual (though I still have the neighbors to consider)! If I want to go out to a movie, why, I just get in the car and go! No discussion as to which one or where or when. And most amazing of all, I get to leave the toilet seat up! It’s great!! We all should have time like this to remember who we are face-to-face with ourselves.
But dinners are a little odd. I notice how cooking for one is not like half of two—there’s a different mathematical principle at work that mysteriously makes more food than two minus one would suggest.
It also has a different feeling cooking, either not inspired to do anything particularly interesting or to do something great and feel like the pleasure of sharing it is missing. And the silence during the evening meal is a contrast to all the years of family dinners. “How was your day, Doug?” has a bit of a hollow ring when I'm both asking and answering.
I also notice, as I have sometimes in hotel rooms, how the line between solitude and loneliness is a constantly shifting border following no logic but the whims of the heart. The conversation between our need for some quiet solitary moments and shared relationship often follows “the grass is greener” model. After too much time alone, we crave company. After too much company, we crave time alone. “If only I weren’t single! If only I weren’t married!” is our opposite announcing our need of the moment—these are not long-term cure-alls for whatever we think is ailing us, just our constant search for an elusive equilibrium. I suppose it’s how we keep moving and hopefully growing, looking for what we don’t have at the moment and if we’re wise, simultaneously grateful for what we do.
Meanwhile, I’m hitting the stride of solitude. Got a great book (ironically titled “The Marriage Plot”), getting in shape on the piano with Bach, Schubert and the usual jazz standards, keeping this blog well-oiled, taking care of my elderly cat and throwing wild bachelor parties. (Well, not really, but just checking up to see if my wife is reading this.) I hope she’s enjoying the glaciers of Patagonia while I change the light bulbs and pay a bill or two— something she has done faithfully while I’ve traveled and I’m grateful.
Now off to the kitchen to make an inspired quinoa salad. Anyone want to come for dinner?