I recently (and by recently I mean right at this very minute) traveled all by myself. I said goodbye to my 5 children (2 cried, 1 was stoic, 2 are just waiting for the guilt presents on my return) and to my wonderful, inexplicably patient husband and got on an airplane. In fact, I am still on the airplane as I write.
There is this almost existential phenomenon that happens when one travels all alone. First of all, there is silence. Not actual silence, I don’t want to discount the crying babies and the loud talkers and the people who keep the volume up way too loud on their headphones, but there is Mom Silence. I am not preparing a snack for anyone, I am not studying with my 10 year-old for a test that I will not be taking (though by the amount of time and effort I’ve logged in studying, I would certainly ace it, I like to believe), I am not signing any parent permission slips, sending kids off to piano lessons. I am sort of just sitting around. I watch some TV, flip through a magazine or two, eat a bad airplane meal but sort of just remain confused by the silence around me.
I also notice that perhaps I’ve forgotten how to be by myself. When it turns out I’m sitting next to a 6 year old boy (!) whose mom is the flight attendant (!), instead of panicking, I sort of enjoy asking him what game he’s playing on his DS, what drink he’d like. I find I’m a little emotional turning his jacket the right way for him. I think some habits may die-hard. Also, I am confident in the knowledge that if he throws up, he isn’t my kid.
I thought I’d use my travel time well. I’ve got some thinking to do, some lists that need writing, some bigger picture plans that need to be planned but my mind is no longer hard-wired to work that way. It seems I can only exist through multi-tasking. I may actually need to be talking on the phone, sitting in front of the computer, doing a craft project and fixing dinner in order to get a coherent thought out.
Don’t get me wrong. I think I may enjoy existing in this vacuum of thoughtlessness for a little while, where I sort of float seamlessly from moment to moment unproductively. But the plane lands soon and I’ve got some Star Wars Lego to buy so it may be time to snap out of my reverie and start writing some lists.