Friday, November 21, 2008

Shared Solitude

Yesterday was FoxyJ's and my seventh anniversary. We got a babysitter for the first time in months and went out for bowling, frozen yogurt, and Borders browsing. Then we came home and watched Smallville, which was a special wedding episode just for our anniversary (never mind the fact that the groom got impaled and the bride got dragged off to the Arctic by a Kryptonian monster). It was a nice evening.

I am not by nature a very social person. I like my quiet and I like my solitude. It's pretty horrible of me to feel this way, but often when the children are demanding my attention I wish they'd just go away. I sometimes envy my single friends whose time is their own, who can spend five hours reading a book or browsing Wikipedia or taking a nap and not have to justify their use of time to anyone (never mind the fact that few people, single or not, ever have five hours of free time to do anything).

I've actually tried living that fantasy life of solitude, though, and it wasn't as great as I'd imagined it would be. It was, as a matter of fact, kind of lonely. Tonight Emily Pearson posted a little about her evolving thoughts on marriage, citing a line from Shall We Dance?:
[We get married] because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything – the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things. All of it. All the time, every day. You’re saying, “Your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will be your witness."
When I lived alone for three months in a mildewy basement apartment in Seattle, with much of my time free to spend as I pleased and no one who cared what I did or didn't do, that's what was missing: a witness.

I'm thankful to witness my children's lives as they grow, to have them to witness mine. I'm thankful to put them to bed every night by 7:30 and have peace and quiet for the rest of the evening. I'm thankful to have someone to spend those evenings with, and I'm thankful that person is FoxyJ, who's happy to spend those evenings together watching a movie or playing Scrabble, but is also happy to pass the evening quietly reading a book or browsing the internet. As I write this post the children are sweetly sleeping (is it bad that I love them most when they're asleep?) and Foxy is sitting on the guest bed next to the desk, researching for a paper on Titus Andronicus (never mind that the play ends with everyone brutally murdered and/or eaten). We each have our solitude, but we have someone to witness that solitude, to be there when we decide we aren't in the mood to be alone anymore.

All things considered, I'm a pretty lucky guy.


Th. said...



Tricia said...

Wow, I really like this idea. Although I, too, really am very happy being alone, many times I call one of my kids who live far away just to validate that I matter. Then, satisfied, I can go back to doing whatever ... alone.

For now, that is enough, and I'm doing okay - but someday, I would like to be married again and have a witness to my in and out daily life. It's worth whatever autonomy I may give up.

Mr. Fob said...

Thanks, Th. and Tricia. I think it's a cool idea too--and I can say that because it wasn't my idea.

TK said...

Very interesting concept. 'Fits in with my memories of one of my favorite things to do with my first husband. We would both read our own books, but then discuss them with each other. And then there's those family nights on Liholiho street when we'd do something similar - read our own books, outside, even after dark, by the light of the lamp posts!

I guess what it amounts to is being alone, but doing it WITH someone.

Mr. Fob said...

Yeah, that's it.

skylark said...

that was wonderfully beautiful. thanks.

green mormon architect said...

I can completely relate to this post and appreciate your perspective on being alone. While I was here in Utah and Julie and the kids were in Oregon for two months, I experienced similar feelings. I am also naturally introverted and appreciate when Julie drags me out of the house to social events. I go kicking and screaming, but afterwards, I am always glad I went.

Amanda said...

I think a lot of us parents are happiest when our kids are quiet, asleep, somewhere where we can get some time for ourselves or with our significant others.

Spencer said...

This was really nice to read, especially as someone who is very envious of single friends without kids sometimes.

Mr. Fob said...

Skylark: Thank you.

GMA: The kicking and screaming is what makes you so popular at parties.

Amanda: Oh good, I'm glad it's not just me.

Spencer: I can't believe you'd say that. You must be a horrible parent to even think such a thing.