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  • Cynthia Ramnarace

All Alone and Not Sure What to Do with Myself

I find myself in a very unfamiliar predicament: It is 6 pm on a weeknight and I am the only one home. My husband is out to dinner with a colleague. My son is babysitting. My daughter is working. And I am:

1. done with my workday

2. staring at the sleeping dog

3. listening to the quiet house

4. feeling a bit unmoored

First, I prepped dinner. My daughter will be home at 8, and we have a Gilmore Girls date. I told her I’d make cheeseburgers – feels very Gilmore, right?

So I sauteed onions. I defrosted hamburger buns.

I unloaded the dishwasher (which, for the love of all that is holy, is the task no one else seems to be willing or able to do. More on that in another post.)

I turned on the radio. “All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun” came on. Ah, Sheryl Crow, whom I consider to be one of the wisest singer-songwriters. Yes, I do want to have some fun!

I looked at the sleeping dog. How does one have fun these days?

I’ll sit outside. I’ll make a gin and tonic. Oh, and, yes! I’ll write.

So here I am, writing. I realized recently that writing solely for myself is a pleasure I have not explored in a really long time. I always laugh a little to myself, in a giddy way, when I think about how writing -- a pursuit that many find painful -- brings me immense joy. I get to be in the carnival of my own mind, where I control everything and can create anything. I get to try out ideas, test out word combinations, dream dreams. It’s a worthy escape and a mental exhaust valve. It's working especially well right now, when I don’t know what to do with myself and realize that I do not know how to relax. Thankfully, I’m able to lean on this crutch of being a writer to save me from being inert. Writing to me is thinking without having to think about thinking. I just let the ideas flow. (That makes sense to me, yet I realize it probably sounds bonkers).

I look at the dog. Still sleeping. I take a sip of my drink. I’ll be ready for a refill soon. I’m in the shade on a hot day, and the warm breeze has a tropical, vacation vibe. A car drives by, music blaring, and I wonder if this is a New York City thing, or a beachside thing, this need to live-out-loud the party going on in your own mind.

I keep writing because I’m not sure what I’ll do when I stop. Should I clean something? God no. Feed the dog? Yes, eventually. Balance the checkbook? Paint my nails? Organize a closet or a drawer?

Why is it so hard to go from doing everything to doing nothing? Is this an inherently female problem? A mother problem? Someone recently told me that she notices men are much better at treating hobbies as necessities in their lives, while women are more prone to feel guilty about them. I think that’s true. A hobby feels to me like a gift that I’ve earned, rather than an escape I deserve. Why is that? And how can I stop feeling like “Me” time is somehow a subtraction from the time I give everyone else?

The dog still sleeps. My drink dilutes in this intense July heat. I write because it keeps my hands busy and my mind occupied. If you’ve made it this far, thank you and my apologies. Sometimes a stream of consciousness is just that, and wisdom ebbs and flows.

Do our brains just move too fast throughout the day, juggling all the to-dos of work and family, and is that why it is so hard to decompress? Does the piling up of life’s responsibilities make people like me manic and unable to settle down? Is it a generational curse—we grew up watching our parents work incredibly hard, and figure that’s our lot as well? I look at today’s 20-somethings, who are throwing off this yoke of “I’m so busy” for “I need self-care” and “work hard play hard” for “work less, play more.”

I don’t want my life to become a stream of “somedays” and “when things calm down I’ll…” I want to enjoy life now, in the way I can now. A 50-something friend told me she is going to Peru this fall not because it makes sense financially, but because “I know I can hike Machu Picchu now – I don’t know if that will be true later.” Ain’t that the truth.

Creating the life that you want involves big plans but also small choices. For me today, that’s choosing to write a blog post in my backyard on a day when everyone is out and no one needs anything from me (except the dog. Who is asleep. Still.)

And so I write, because it feels good. And because in this moment, it was the thing I wanted to do. How amazing is it to live out what you want in the moment? Not wishing or planning for the future, but embracing the now?

Interestingly, my brain feels calm now, like I wrung it out and worked out its restless energy. My drink needs a refresh. And the house is still quiet. In the list of moments to live in, this one isn’t too bad.

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