Recently, I had the opportunity to live on my own for 6 weeks. I was changing jobs and changing cities, and left my family behind to sell the house and tie up loose ends while I got started here. While of course I knew I would miss my family, I have to confess that, like young Mr. Culkin, I was kind of looking forward to having the place all to myself.
Things didn’t turn out exactly as I expected. You tell yourself that you are going to be productive, you are going to be responsible, you are going to get caught up. Get things done. This is how that went for me.
(1) Reading- As I believe I may have mentioned, I love reading more than just about anything else. There are a very few things I would rather be doing. Or at least that’s what I thought. I was actively reading about 6 books when I began the separation. I finished exactly one of them. In 6 weeks. That is slow, even for me. Here is what I determined. I do love reading, but I only really love it when I am supposed to be doing something else (i.e. dishes, helping with the kids, listening to my wife talk about our budget). When left on my own, with absolute freedom, I end up doing other things (watching TV, talking, playing basketball, running mindless errands, generally just goofing around). I actually did make time for reading as well, but at the expense of other things that I should have been doing instead at the time (more below). That’s the crux of it. I do love reading, but more than reading specifically, I most enjoy doing things when I really should be doing other things.
(2) Sleeping- We have three young kids, and I never get enough sleep ever. By the time we get them all three down, it’s usually close to 10 o’clock p.m. As anyone with young kids knows, time with young kids is great, but it is very difficult to get anything resembling quality interaction with your co-parent whilst the little ones are conscious. So when your evening doesn’t start until 10, and you need to be up at 7 a.m., you aren’t exactly looking at a perfect formula for the recommended 8 hours of shut eye. When together, we usually snack and talk and watch TV or movies until at least midnight, then “get ready” (which involves more talking and teeth-brushing and, for her, some intense, multi-step regimen that I cannot begin to comprehend, nor could I fully describe, as I usually sneak away to read in the other room while pretending to be listening to whatever it is she is talking about). If, when together, we get to bed before 1 a.m., we are lucky. That is not enough sleep. I am perpetually exhausted. When I knew I was going to be on my own, I thought I would catch up for sure. Didn’t happen. On my own, I would watch TV or movies until late, then she would call me, and we would talk until at least as late as we do when together. So here it is midnight or later, and I would then finish my movie, or go brush my teeth, and then, knowing that I really should be going to sleep, decide it was a perfect time to read. So, on my own, and with no kids to put down, chores to do, or wife to entertain, I actually, on average, went to bed later than when we are together. Crazy.
(3) Eating- When you work full time, and you are lucky enough to have your spouse shop/cook for you, you do not complain. And I don’t complain. And she does a great job. Does she make the exact choices I would make if it was me? No. But that’s fine. All in all, it’s a great arrangement. But living on my own, I was kind of looking forward to maybe getting into some more exotic choices. More personal choices. Maybe even more healthy choices. This lasted for exactly one trip to the grocery store. I loaded up on lean white meats and fresh vegetables and protein bars. And felt very good about myself. But then I got bored, and lazy, and started buying stuff on impulse. The next thing you know, the fresh vegetables had been replaced with Doritos, the protein bars replaced with Snickers, and in lieu of lean white meats, I was eating as many cheeseburgers as I could get my hands on (and don’t even get me started on how much Mountain Dew I had in my fridge…). Suffice it to say, it’s a good thing my wife does shop/cook for me; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fit through the door.
(4) Working out- This was the biggest and most surprising one. When I’m at home, I never feel like I get to work out as long or as intensely or as uninterrupted as I would like. So more than maybe anything else, I was looking forward to really hitting it hard and getting ripped in those six weeks. Now granted, I was working some long hours and spending a lot of would-be downtime getting familiar with the city and house-hunting etc. But I had time to work out. And I did work out. Some. I went and lifted weights. Played some basketball. Even went running a couple of times. But there were a lot of times where I could have worked out, but just didn’t. I don’t know what happened. When I’m at home, if I’m feeling tired or whatever, but have some time to exercise, I push through and do it, no matter what. I’m not sure if it was an accountability thing or what was going on, but I punked out big time. Between that and the “man-diet,” things were getting pretty ugly there for a time.
(5) Writing- Well, this is my first post since before that six-week period. So obviously that didn’t turn out as it should have either.
So what have I learned? Well, I think I’ve learned that a lot of the grass-is-always-greener, would have/could have/ should have stuff we all tell ourselves is just crap. And procrastination is for punks. And blaming not getting to do what you want to do on your situation or your family or other people is a bunch of junk too. There is never a convenient time to write. There is never enough time to read. None of us are ever going to get enough sleep. Life is too short not to eat the at least occasional cheeseburger. But, and Dunce One talks about this a lot, if there is something you want to do, you need to overcome any obstacles or hesitations and just do it. It won’t be convenient. It won’t be easy. Sometimes it won’t even be fun. And there will ALWAYS be distractions, no matter what. But if you want it bad enough, set your sights, make it a priority, and you can accomplish anything.