Today, I'm in Bethesda for a conference. Last night I put the kids to bed, kissed Michael goodbye and boarded a train. We do this train ride often - from New York to DC. But this time was different.
It was quiet.
I love being a mamma. It's just the best thing ever. I love the hugs and kisses and, in all honesty, the neediness. I love being loved. I love caring for my family. I love giving to A, B and M, anticipating their needs and creating a happy home for them. That doesn't mean it isn't exhausting, and difficult, and hard. But it's the best.
That said, I guess I didn't realize how badly I needed this time alone. I have spent the entire day avoiding my work and spending as much time sitting quietly, taking care of myself, as possible. I went for a walk during our morning break. I walked around a strip mall during lunch, then sat with the Wall Street Journal and a sandwich before our next session began. As soon as the last session ended, I bolted for a yoga studio 15 minutes from the hotel and took a 90-minute hot, sweaty yoga class.
And it has been so, so good.
As soon as I entered the yoga studio, I felt myself ask, "Why is it so hard to find the time for this?" Why is it so hard for us to eek out time for ourselves, away from the family, without rushing from one thing to the next? The demands on our time these days far surpass the number of hours in a day. But that can't be an excuse. Because nothing in our situation is going to change in the next few years. We won't all the sudden have 30 hours in a day, or have a baby who can entertain himself. There is nothing in the equation of our demanding lives that will offer up a few hours a week to listen to our bodies and minds to give us the space to care for who we are.
I've had - and continue to have - all kinds of strategies and dreams in my head about how to make this happen. Michael and I could each have one night a week when we don't have to be home for dinner. We could trade off early mornings in the office, or at the gym. I could find some sort of Alice-and-me yoga class.
All these options are viable, but so hard to manage in the chaos of our lives. But I'm holding on to these resolutions, praying that we can find some time for both of us to have this space. I know Michael needs it as much as I do.
Minnie, Michael's grandmother, died this week. She was 86, and had been in poor health for a while. It was expected, and remains insanely sad. We are experiencing her death as a loss - not necessarily unjust, as she had lived a long and meaningful life, but her absence will be profound.
(Will be. I'm not yet willing to admit that it already is.)
Minnie and I clicked immediately. I've been thinking about why that was, why she was so good to me and why I loved her dearly. Why we were connected almost instantly? I think, above all, it was because she knew how much I loved her grandson.
Minnie loved to tell me about how, when Michael was little, he had beautiful, long eyelashes (which thankfully Alice inherited) and sweet blonde ringlets; how, at parties when other people wanted to hold him, she refused to share him. She loved him intensely and immediately.
We had a special goodbye. Michael and I were visiting with her. She, laying in her bed, was not completely coherent. She was saying something about our family, listing our names in a type of mantra. And then, as we were about to say goodbye, she had a moment of clarity and said to me, "It's been fun. Thank you. I love you." I gave her a series of kisses, because I didn't have it in me to say goodbye. And then I told her we loved her so much. And we left.
Since she's left us, I've been saying to her, "I'll take care of him. I'll take care of him. I'll take care of him."
I'll take care of him, Minnie. We love you. It has been fun.
"But when she stepped off the train in New York, her plain little face looked beautiful for a moment, as if the future were opening before her and its glow were already upon her forehead, as if she were eager and proud and ready to meet it..."