Disrupted alone

I’ve mentioned before that I’m in that odd stage of life as a single parent where I mostly live alone, and yet I don‘t. Or rather, the grief and joy of learning to live alone and getting comfortable with it, learning how comfortable and lovely it is,  is tested and reset a few times every year as kiddo comes home for college breaks and leaves again when school resumes.

For so much of the year, I have one set of towels in the bathroom, one person’s sets of shoes on the organizer by the door, one toothbrush in the holder, one person’s preferences in meal planning and the grocery list. And how disruptive it seems at first to add a second person’s towels, groceries, toothbrush and so on. But then how incredibly stark and ALONE my single towel and toothbrush look again after she goes to school. 

Photo by Raghavendra V. Konkathi on Unsplash
Image of red and beige toothbrush on white background

It’s easier and faster to adjust to each time she goes. But it’s so bizarre how impactful it is having another person, their things, their rhythms in the house is. And just how empty the house seems when they’re gone again. I wonder if that will ever get easier? Or less in-my-face noticeable in the first place? Maybe once she’s really “moved out” with a year-round place of her own and is actually only visiting me. (The thought of that is just… nope, no. hard pass. I’m not quite ready to think about that seriously yet.)

In my new house, there’s a lot less space than before I moved across the country. I’ve definitely downsized a bit. But I still prioritized choosing a place where she could have her own room – that is hers not just to store things but to decorate, so that she feels at home when she’s here. I’m guessing that for the next handful of years, that may be as much as three non-consecutive months and as little as 3-4 non-consecutive weeks. Which is all part of how it works, right? It’s what I’ve planned. It’s what I wanted to be able to give her when she’s not at school–not just a place to visit but her “home” for as long as she wants to see it that way. And if I’m being very honest, for as much as I really like living alone, I’m not sure that I’m quite ready to not have a space I can go into to be reminded of her essence when I do miss her – dripping out of every book, knick knack, candle and poster she doesn’t have room to take with her right now. 

Image of open doorway with white bookcase, lamp with colored fixtures
and side table filled with hair clips, alarm clock, candles and kitsch

Because I intended it to be “her” space, when kiddo went back to college at the end of last summer, it took me a month or so to feel fine about freely putting things into her room for storage that aren’t hers. If it’s a measure of “easier grieving and acceptance”, I put things back into her room the day she left this time 🙂 Not all the things that I inevitably will, but that particular mental block that my things can’t be stored in her unoccupied room seems to be passed. 

I’m in that disrupted state again – or rather, recovering from that disrupted state. The towels and toothbrush look lonely for a few weeks. There’s a bit of a wistfulness when I put my shoes into the organizer and there’s plenty of room. I expect I’ll perk up a bit in another week when I see there’s no kiddo detritus to remove from the table, or the hallway before I clean. Small things after all. Small, unimportant things that help me get my rhythm back. And to enjoy my solitude.

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