Remember the scene in Reality Bites when Troy, Vicki, and Sammy are hanging out watching One Day at a Time? Troy says, “If I could bottle the sexual tension between Bonnie Franklin and a Schneider, I could solve the energy crisis.” A bogarted can, a whole pot of poinsettias, and a gas station dinner later, the energy crisis still lingers. Well, if I could bottle the zing-buzz-thrill of having a fundamental need met, then I could give Bonnie Franklin and Schneider a run for their money. And I’m not even talking about sex.
I’m talking about having some time by myself.
I need alone time. Maybe it’s having grown up in a big Irishy-Jewishy family where if your mouth isn’t stuffed with homemade goodies, it’s yapping on and on about something, rendering quiet time something of a precious commodity. Maybe it’s genetic, because my mother tells me that when I was little, if she found herself with some alone time, she would unplug the fridge so that not even the whirring of the motor would interrupt her reverie. Or maybe it’s just that I am a pretty engaged person and I give a lot of myself especially socially. Whatever the reason, for me, time alone is exceedingly important in keeping the crazies away.
So, a couple of weekends ago when my husband recognized the crazies starting to party in my eyes, he asked, “What do you need?” I’m not sure he even got to the end of the question when I said, “I want to go to the movies. Alone.” (One of the really spectacular things about my marriage is that all it takes is “I need” and that need is met. I really lucked out in the husband department.) I got to spend some time alone and as soon as I settled into that dark (and nearly empty – SCORE!) theater, I could feel the crazies retreating back to their lair.
My mother always told me that the first step toward getting something is wanting it. Sometimes, in the hurricane force winds of parental chaos, it’s hard to discern what it is we really want. Sometimes, in the destructive riptide of parental guilt, it’s hard to admit that we have wants at all or that those wants are actually needs. To deny a basic need, whatever it may be, is to ignore our very self, the one being on this earth that we are 100% responsible for. As I detailed in The Oxygen Mask Theory, putting ourselves first, while sometimes a challenge, is the greatest tool we have in building a good parenting model. Let us release ourselves from the quagmire of guilt and unrealistic expectations and give ourselves the chance to recharge, renew, restock the cupboards of our strength with whatever it takes to do so. Let us be grateful for pedicures, shopping trips, a cocktail with the girls, bike rides, naps, weekends away, the chance to read – oh sweet Jesus – a book that is not about giving any kind of animal a snack, and just being completely alone. They are the conduits to sanity. Let us not consider them anything less.
Perhaps most importantly, let us also release our husbands, wives, partners, and support systems from the hangman’s noose of silent expectations. Let’s don’t expect anyone to be mind readers. To think, “If my husband really knows and loves me, he would just offer [what I want/need] without my having to ask for it” is to strike him out without letting him have an at-bat. Let’s live out loud, shall we? Let us ask of ourselves before we ask of others. Let us know ourselves better, listen to ourselves more carefully, fulfill ourselves more frequently, indulge ourselves less guiltily, and accept ourselves, our needs, and our wants more readily.
And let us always remember that sometimes all it takes is “a couple smokes, a cup of coffee, and a little conversation. You and me and five bucks.”