Do you ever wonder what people do at home alone? I think about this more these days because I spend considerably more time home alone as a divorced mother. I usually stay fairly busy on my own with work and good friends and social plans, but over this holiday break I’ve had some down time. Occasionally, I’ve gotten a little bored or lonely, but ultimately, I know this time is good for me and especially for my household because I have to face my chores head-on with few valid reasons to ignore them.
For instance, I can’t recall if I’ve written previously here about my relationship with my laundry. I should refer to this as my disdain for my laundry. It is the domestic task that challenges and troubles me most. So much so that I’ll admit I’ve paid people – former in laws and friends and professional launderers – to do it for me more times than I can count on both my hands.
But on a free night over the holiday break, if you were a middle-aged woman with time off from work and two children out of town, maybe you would decide to conquer your 8 loads of laundry once and for all because you’ve decided it’s part of a fresh start for the New Year. Soon you will also pitch the overflowing shoebox of “odd man out socks.” There seems to be little hope in finding them at this point. In fact, instead of locating matches, you keep adding singles to that box, which is really grating on your semi-OCD side. When you do find a rare match, there’s nothing more satisfying. (It’s the small wins in life that keep you going.)
What else does this kind of rare quiet evening look like for you? Snacks for dinner. Yes, Chex Mix. You squeeze in a Ham and Swiss Cheese sandwich for the protein factor, but let’s face it, Chex Mix is the main entrée.
Beverages will be the adult kind. Because, why not? But don’t tell your male coworkers you used the double-oaked barrel bourbon the boss gave us to mix into a blackberry-flavored drink you invented. They will admonish you for not downing it straight. You do like bourbon; however, you LOVE mid-priced gin and, quite honestly, any bottle of wine you can get your hands on, even if it comes from Aldi. And don’t knock those until you try them, please.
You decide to take your first bath in six months, (wait – that could be misunderstood as not bathing at all. You DO take daily showers!) You use a loofah infused with a bourbon scent to match the cocktail you just had. The entire time you try to soak peacefully in the tub, the puppy is barking at you and making muddy paw marks all over the bathroom, including on your freshly-laundered white towel. She can’t understand why you are in the tub and she isn’t.
This brings me to the unfortunate truth that you are not actually home alone. You have two canine sidekicks who literally never leave your side unless you barricade them in a space with the cheapest baby gates known to man – the lightweight wooden style that you simply prop against doorways and trip over 20 times a day. The dogs are a bittersweet aspect of your life. They do represent bursts of joy for you, but much like a toddler does. They are cute and occasionally cuddly and sweet, but this comes at the tremendous expense of having to monitor or contain them 24/7 to avoid destruction of your personal property, accidents in the house, or one pup murdering the other at any moment.
You call them The Pug (age 7) and The Thug (9 months) because this is both a funny and accurate way to refer to them. The Thug is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the same breed the Queen of England prefers. You’ve considered many times shipping her off to a place like Buckingham Palace or, much closer, the local Humane Society or a nice Hamilton County farm. But the hopeful side of you thinks and prays that things might improve once she is spayed and walked more often in this mild winter weather we’re having, and you also have the option to send her away to doggie camp for $25 per day. Money well spent, much like the $2.25 per pound you sometimes pay to get the laundry washed, dried, and folded.
After the bath you have every intention of starting that photo project you’ve been trying to do since July. It was intended to be a Christmas gift for three of your best friends. But now it will have to be a New Year’s gift. But you never actually start it, so now it’s looking like a nice gift for their birthdays in 2020.
The house is relatively quiet with the exception of a variety of sounds made by the aforementioned canines. There are also tunes humming in the background thanks to DJ Alexa and several of your favorite male performers: Elton John, Billy Joel, John Mayer, Michael Bublé. However, you do play a good dose of Adele, because she is the Queen of Nights Alone.
Your biggest and most exciting plan for the night, in between folding all that laundry, is to watch tonight’s 10 o’clock Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel. You go to tune in, but the cable isn’t working AGAIN so you decide to land on the couch and play purposelessly on your iPhone even though one of your goals (NOT resolutions) is to do that much less. But it’s not 2020 yet. So, it’s Facebook for you until you doze off on the couch around 11.
These are the typical activities you can find me doing when home alone. Not exactly the material of a classic 80’s holiday movie, yet it’s all quite fulfilling for me. I get things done, I do things my way, I eat my food, I play my music, and I try to unwind and reflect. There are things I love about being home alone, and a few things I don’t like at all. But I do view the time as self-care, because it almost never used to happen and now I am grateful it does.
That said, I don’t need a lot of it. Because my favorite place to be is with my favorite people – whether that’s at my house or theirs or someplace in between. Home is where my people are. And that’s where you will find the true me. Not buried in piles of laundry nor soaking in the bathtub; not even planted on my couch in front of a Hallmark movie. The best version of me comes from being with the friends or family who love me for everything I am and despite everything I am not. That’s why being home alone is bearable and doable and healthy. Because I know it’s occasional and temporary and leads me to appreciate the company I keep even more. If this includes you, I say Cheers and Thanks, my dears. May this year of precious time ahead of us hold many blessings, loads of laughter, and endless joy and love.