Serendipitous Solitude

The other day, I happened upon an overstuffed envelope filled with old columns. Most of them pre-date my time on the internet. I enjoyed some quiet time, re-acquainting myself with the young wife and mother who wrote those columns. And since I'm need of a bit of a blogging break, I'm going to share her with you in the next few weeks. I hope you are blessed.

from February 1998

In A Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes, "It is a difficult lesson to learn today--to leave one's friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week. And yet, once it is done, I find there is quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before."

She's right. It is a difficult lesson. I have adopted a style of mothering that leaves little room for solitude. For 10 years now, I have had a child with me almost constantly. I don't even share the collective sigh of relief that echoes in the neighborhood when the school bus lumbers off in the morning. My children are home, looking at me expectantly, ready for a day of home education.

This is a carefully chosen lifestyle, one which I embrace wholeheartedly and love dearly. Still, I have days when I crave solitude. I yearn for time to think uninterrupted thoughts or not thoughts at all. Usually, if I am alone or if I am at home with sleeping children, I am sitting in front of the computer, frantically trying to meet a deadline.

There is a time, however, when the very clinginess of my children gives birth to time alone. When my fourth child was born, my mother gave us a king sized bed. While this is certainly not on ordinary baby gift, she knew that she was giving my husband and me the precious gift of sleep. She knew that ours is very much "the family bed."

The nursing baby is often allowed to nod off between us because I have nodded off before her. The three-year-old who insisted on his own bed until his second birthday, now insists he can't sleep can't sleep alone. We start him off in his room; he usually migrates to ours. And the five-year-old still hasn't slept through the night. (Please don't send me suggestions for solving my child's sleep problems. I've been there and don't care to do that.)

When our bed reaches capacity, at five bodies, I crawl out. I go to my son's room where the blinds block the light totally and the bed is made with inviting flannel sheets and a flannel-covered down comforter. It is a twin bed and the first time I escaped to its safe harbor, I felt like I was back in college. It was so quiet. I was so alone. I made a personal rule not to think of anything in that bed that I wouldn't have thought of in college.

I don't think about kids, or teaching, or homemaking. I don't compose columns in my head to be written at dawn before children arise. I don't think of my husband in anything but the romantic, dewy-eyed, "engaged" frame of reference.

Since I don't have any exams, term papers, projects, or extra-curricular activities to think about, I usually just fall asleep. But for the few moments between leaving the crowded bed of grown-up responsibility and falling asleep in the solitary bed of a carefree youth, I am completely relaxed and very open to creative ideas. It is enough to make me wonder if I shouldn't pursue solitude occasionally when I am fully awake.