Last night there was no New Year party or counting down to midnight. It was just me, Norrin and Netflix. And Norrin fell asleep by 9:30. It was my first solo New Year’s Eve in almost 20 years. Spending time alone was something I had to learn.
I spent the last eight months of 2017 pretty much alone. I took a lot of long walks alone. Went to a play alone. Ate lunch or dinner at restaurants alone. I walked the High Line alone. Sat in Central Park alone. Visited museums alone.
Mostly, I just walked.
Lauren Hill, Mary J. Blige and Beyonce kept me company on those long walks. Every day after work, I’d walked from 58th and 8th through Central Park to 77th and Lexington. Other days, I walked all the way up 5th Avenue to 86th Street. A few days, I’d walk up to the 100s to catch the 6 train home. (For those not familiar with NYC streets – I was walking a few miles on a daily basis.)
I walked out of necessity and avoidance, not wanting to go home. I walked through my anger and sadness and grief. During those walks, I had time to think.
I didn’t realize how much I needed time alone until it was forced upon me.
And in November, Joseph moved out. After 17 years with a partner, I found myself alone.
I’m not quite ready to get into the details of our separation (I probably never will). But I will say, that Joseph and I still love each other. He’s a good person, an amazing father. Marriage is just hard. And as a couple, we went through a lot – stuff that cannot be repaired or undone.
It’s fine. I’m fine. Norrin’s fine.
And we’re still a family – atypical as always.
The coparenting thing has been an adjustment. It’s been a work in progress.
With Norrin spending the weekends with his dad, for the first time since being a parent, I have entire weekends alone. These are the moments when I feel the emptiness of my home. The loneliness can feel crippling. There are some days when I wander from room to room, wondering what to do with all this free time and then doing nothing at all.
But there is liberation in the loneliness.
The part of me that enjoys the time alone. That craves and yearns for it. I like being home alone. Cleaning alone. Watching TV without interruption. Doing my nails. Eating a snack without being asked to give up half. Being able to leave the apartment without having to worry about someone else.
During my moments of solitude, I’ve started writing in my journal. I made my own wontons for wonton soup. I enjoy blasting music – singing along to the Hamilton soundtrack – while I cook or clean. Even just sitting in my living room, lighting candles and just being in the moment.
Being alone has also forced me out of my comfort zone. I’ve repainted and redecorated alone. I’ve put together furniture alone. (I did have some help, but mostly – I worked alone.) I used a drill – yeah I may have drilled into my thumb but so what? When you spend so many years depending on someone else to do things for you, it’s easy to forget how strong you really are and how much you can do on your own. It’s nice to have a helping hand but it’s satisfying to know you can hold your own.
I woke up yesterday morning, made myself a cup of coffee and started setting quarterly goals and planning out my month. In my months of spending time alone, I neglected my blog, my writing, my dreams, my joys and had a love/hate relationship with social media.
Spending time alone inspired my word for 2018.
As a mom, especially as an autism mom, it’s too easy to lose focus on the things that matter to me and only me. It’s all about the kid(s).
FOCUS is my word in 2018, because I want to focus on myself – as a woman and as a writer.
For the first time since being a mom, I now have the opportunity to spend time alone – to do the things I want to do, when I want to do them.
And I’m ok doing it alone.
Earlier this week I wrote about learning to spend time alone. And I was moved by all the words of support, love and encouragement. The time I spent alone made me realize how much of myself I’ve lost. My #2018wordoftheyear is FOCUS. Focus on my own self improvement. Focus on myself as a woman and as a writer. Focus on the friendships that hold me up (and let go of the ones that bring me down) – because being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. Focus on setting goals, trying new things and breaking out of my comfort zone. Focus on the people and things that I am grateful for. Focus on making an effort and putting in the damn work. 👊🏼#weallgrow
“We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart…and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together….I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.” —Helen Hayes