This past weekend, I had 48 hours in my own house without my wife and kids. It’s true. You’ve had this fantasy yourself, so I will let you take a minute to daydream before jumping into the next few paragraphs.
Ready? OK, here goes.
One facet of middle age is all the facets. You become a part of many other things, sort of an anti-20’s. Then you are largely on your own with limitless options for what to do with your time. You can be spontaneous. Should you hit multiple parties on a Saturday night? Binge watch a TV series? Do a short volunteer stint? Sleep in? Make a last-minute decision for Friday night without having to plan ahead? Finally catch up on that stack of bills with no one tapping you on the shoulder? Sounds like the weekend I just had. And it was spectacular. While never having boundaries is its own kind of prison, shedding them is a release.
It was also a couple of days where I had space to step back from my Sandwich Generation self and ponder. Pondering is luxurious. I considered the weekend as an opportunity to be true to my actual self, whoever he is. The best context I could dream up was an internal monologue about which communities I really want to be part of. This is how I ended up at my synagogue on Sunday morning to fulfill a long-overdue volunteer obligation, and crashed an elementary school class party even though I’ve been elementary schooler free for 5 months. Halfway through it, a friend texted me and demanded that I show up. I’d had no plans to come — but absent the usual constraints, his was an invitation I was happy to accept. Plus, I haven’t spontaneously hit a second party on a Saturday night since the Clinton administration.
I also lingered over a leisurely lunch with my father – at Legal’s of course – without really having to watch the time. We sat a table with me on his left so that I could get at his better ear, and then he recounted his new TV watching regimen (warning: heavy on Fox News). Some habits die hard though; after 60 minutes I forgot to avoid getting anxious about getting home. This is the weekend I should have spent more time asking him the name of the woman whose picture he showed me. “She likes me,” he told me. I hope there’s a blog post coming about that one shortly.
Finally, I spent most of Sunday afternoon standing over the stove and various cutting boards, pre-cooking a lot of dinners for the week. I had forgotten how relaxing and centering this is for me, even when I do it without a beer in my hand. As I did this, and the clock ticked down to Nova and the kids coming back from their dance convention — by the way, this is a real thing — I considered that this is something I could do even with the various sandwich demands on my time.
And then the brief daydream was over. The other night I was back to helping with late night homework, feeling guilty watching Nova juggle babysitters and weekend plans while I worked through plans for my next (disruptive) work trip to Israel, and skimmed past personal email again without answering it. For the 3rd day in a row, I didn’t follow up as new tasks piled up on top of my list.
I wish I could say that the effects linger. Somehow they don’t. Like you, I am back to daydreaming about it.