Monday, January 31, 2011

A Meal of My Own

So its the end of January and just in the nick of time, I found an afternoon free to go get a lunch all by myself. It happened sort of by accident so I didnt make it to one of the fancy places in town as I had hoped. I had an eye doctor appointment that turned into an insurance change fiasco that left me out and about and no plans for an hour. So off to lunch I went.

It was prime lunch eating time and many business lunches were being had. Since it was school time, there were not many families with small children or couples to be seen. More of the working lunch crowd surrounded me. I ordered and sat with nothing to do. I did have my phone with me so I sat and read the news as I waited for my food to come out. When it did come, I went back to my table in the middle of the restaurant and began to enjoy.

I decided not to sit all the way in the back at a booth since this would be anti-social. I sat right in the middle, amongst the shmoozing crowd and people-watched and caught up on a few magazines. Unlike the movie where folks don't talking during the main event, I found this meal to be less relaxing than I had anticipated. It seemed more about the eating and the food part of the meal rather than the enjoyment of sharing a meal with someone while eating.

Perhaps if I had sat in the back, it would have been a quieter, more relaxing experience. Perhaps if I was at a upscale locale, the food would have been more enticing. But I'll take what I can get. I ate alone, I watched people chatting and working away with their laptops and blackberries and I caught up on some top entertainment stories. Mission accomplished.

I can't say that after a month of actively spending time on my own, I would be thrilled to be a loner everywhere I went but I can say I did enjoy having the freedom to go where I wanted without any accoutrements for a change. At least I don't find being alone quite as lonely as I used to. I kind of enjoyed the empowerment of making the decisions and setting aside time for me. Now a week at a day spa.... that is sounding better every day!

Stay tuned to next month where I volunteer with a professional baker in her studio to learn about the art of baking!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Movie for One

So I did it. I finally went to a movie by myself. Its funny, I thought I had gone to one many years back when I was in my secret PhD program at Maryland that I left almost as quickly as I was accepted. Long story not worth going into here. Either way, I was wrong. I remember picking the film, getting there early but then running into a friend in the lobby and sitting with her through the film. So nope, didnt count.

This week though, I did make it to my own movie. Let me first say that the movie was not that great and about an hour too long. But I chose it and I went alone and that's what counts. The theater was filled, well half-filled on a Thursday night with cuddly couples seeing the chick flick I selected. No surprise there. Seat selection was tough. I was trying to decide whether I should space myself out in the back row alone to prove I didn't need socialization but I copped out and chose a seat in the middle just a few seats from an older couple. Gotta have a good view.

I bet an afternoon matinee would be more of a welcoming movie to see alone. This was a bit frightening for me. Parking in the parking garage, walking alone at night through downtown which was filled with shoppers and diners was totally fine. It was the post-movie walk back, alone and in the dark, that sort of spooked me. The movie itself was fine. I chose a movie I wanted to see without having to trade my husband for a sci-fi action packed, men toting guns movie in the coming months. Win. I enjoyed the time to myself without needing to talk to anyone or stay for the credits at the end. Although I did miss having the almost mandatory discussion during the coming attractions of whether any of the upcoming films looked good enough to see.

All in all, it was a fun time to myself. A bit lonely and scary wandering the streets at night, but a bit empowering too. Time to myself is hard to come by these days and I am happy to have this month to force myself to get out there and try to get comfortable with the quiet or at least the alone time. Its nice to have alone time that is chosen and planned for, not handed out by default. I say this amidst a tough month and an especially hard week where I get to see my husband awake and interactive between the hours of 5 and 7pm. Thats it. Let me tell you, it rocks. Ok, not really.

The whole concept of someone "choosing" to be by themselves always sort of confused me. I mean I'm social so why would I chose to be alone when I could be with a family member or friend? I guess its sort of like the mindset of people who refuse to be single. But I remember now what it was like in high school, college, grad school, etc. choosing my own path, my own schedule, my own gambles. Sometimes I wear the mom hat or the wife hat so long that I forget that I don't cover my hair anymore. Ok Jewish joke out of the way. No but seriously, its great to get down to my roots, redirect the train every once in awhile besides the late night tv watching, snack eating schedule that has become my nights alone.

So here we are folks and where are we? Still in the middle of this adventure. Next up will be a meal out on my own and who knows what else I will discover when I give myself the time and space to think. I kind of like knowing that I have this time to explore my deepest thoughts or to tune out completely to things around me and just float through the experience. Sometimes things are over-thought, over-planned, over-anticipated and its nice to just be. Yeah that's what its about. Just being in the moment as you are. How many chances do we really have to do that? I, for one, am ready to find out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Losing Steam

So I am about five months in to my year long project and I think I've hit the winter slump. I started off this adventure all bright eyed and bushy tailed, excited to climb some trees and arrange some flowers. And while I thought this project would bring a lot of life to my challenging emotions of a year, I didn't realize how much work it would be. Not just to identify goals and obstacles to overcome, but to find places to volunteer and carve out time in my already chaotic schedule to make the time.

I work part time, care for my kids and try to spend as much time with my husband that his schedule allows. That being said, I find that the only times I can squeeze in time for my projects are either very late night when the hubby is home and thus I am spending time away from him that could be a "date night" or during my workable hours when my responsibilities are on the lighter side. Time I should be seeking additional professional tasks and pushing my professional opportunities to the extreme, as well as bringing in my much needed financial contributions to our dual family income.

So here I am, trying to find alone time when I can actually go out, without taking time from family/spouse time and work time. Isn't this everyone's challenge or is this just a working mom thing? I would sometimes rather just take a hot bath and get into bed early but that's not at all what this year is about.

So I have to collect my thoughts, plan my calendar like a madwoman and make time to fit this all in. In addition, I need to identify some additional projects to fill up the months to come. I have a few ideas (whitewater rafting and public speaking) but I need more ideas. Some of these may come about as I am working through one month but I welcome your ideas and suggestions or connections for a place to volunteer. I would love to learn how to professionally bake or cook, perhaps work at a battered woman's shelter or serve food at a food bank. I also have this strong desire to visit New Zealand and Australia... how I'm going to fit that in with two kids under the age of three is beyond me but perhaps there is a local club of Kiwis I can meet with and learn about their culture (and secretly start planning a trip)....

Those are my thoughts for a windy winter Thursday. Ebbs and tides are normal in a long project like this but I need a rejuvenation to see I am almost halfway through and yet still have a long way to go.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Sounds of Silence

So December has passed us now and I've taken off my dancing shoes. Truth is, I only learned a few basic dances this past month and we have a long, long way to go before competing. I still have the dvd's with instruction and I hope to make some more time in the weeks to come to learn a few more steps for the road.

But with January upon us, on I must go. I have been thinking a lot about 2011. It is the year of so many changes. My littlest will turn one in a few months. My husband will enter his third year of residency and we will begin to think about jobs and places to live. But it also includes my 33rd birthday, which although many months await, demonstrates that an end to this year of introspection is almost halfway over.

While this doesn't mean that I will ever stop exploring my thoughts, fears and dreams, it may mean that I will go back to the ordinary plans of a working mom and leave the monthly expeditions to summer and winter vacation. So, it is with this look of the year behind and hopes for the year ahead, that I cast my most personal month of achievement for January. To come face to face with one of my deepest fears: being alone.

How can one be alone with a husband, two kids, a job and an extended family? How can one feel alone with so much movement and change all around you? How can one be afraid of being alone when so much business creates an urge for private time and personal reflection? What I'm saying is, how come I'm afraid of being/feeling alone when many times its what I crave most: time to myself?

This month I want to carve out time for me to be alone and to be comfortable with that. Rather than being the one always calling friends to go out or making plans for my family, this month, I want to make a few endeavors for me to do on my own. While I do not have them all picked out yet, I do want to experience going to a movie on my own and going out for a meal on my own. I don't mean a quick slice of pizza either. I mean, I'm ordering a meal, bringing a magazine or people watching by myself surrounded by couples and families just so I can find some comfort in being alone.

I think part of getting married, becoming a mother and working part time, makes one uneasy about being alone. Almost makes me wonder how I existed before I had this part of my life. What is it that I'm afraid of? Am I afraid of silence? Lack of conversation? Taking the driver's seat? Kind of reminds me of those friends, and we've all had them, who are always around and then one day, they meet their mate and thats it. Its goodbye. Almost like they ceased to exist as an individual anymore. I think its lovely that people find so much meaning and connection in others. But if you don't exist for yourself or have your own identity, then what do you bring to the table? How do you continue to work on yourself? Meet your goals? Live your dreams? Don't you lose sight of it all so easily? For me, and for many of those living through residency or some other high intensity profession, I already spend a tremendous amount of time on my own. During night shifts, holidays on call, weekends with two little ones, far from family, alone is something I am a lot. But rather than sink my face into the tv or run to a friend for comfort and support, I want to be finding a way to enjoy some "me" time. So here's to another year and another adventure on the horizon. And for me, some inner peace with the silence that January brings to my month of solitude.