This change in my life is perhaps no more apparent at any other time than on Sundays. I think of my Sundays now, of playing with the baby, of keeping her (and me) in pajamas until after breakfast, of long mornings and short afternoons. I think of my long Sunday run and my short walk into town, maybe to the park with the stroller or maybe to the local diner. I think about ending the weekend by listening to From The Top with the baby and imagining what my daughter might be like when she is as old as the kids on the show and lugging her own big cello around school.
And then I think about what my Sundays used to be, before the baby, before the husband, when my mornings were short and my afternoons long, back when it was just me and my big black cat in my prototypical LA one bedroom apartment. Sunday mornings meant sleeping in, waking up to French press coffee and a bloody mary (or two) made from scratch. Nibbling my way through the big Sunday paper and the big Sunday crossword, not looking at a clock until almost midday. Sundays meant absolute peace and quiet.
In the afternoon I might take a cue from the cat and sleep off my morning cocktails in a pool of sunlight in the corner windows of my bedroom. After the nap I might venture briefly out into the world, depending on how successfully I avoided my friends throughout the rest of the weekend, or how comfortably my solitude was sitting with me on that particular day. Staying in might mean reading, writing, lounging in yoga clothes with a joint instead of lunch and then cooking something slow and complicated for dinner. Going out would most certainly mean gossip and a beer garden.
No matter how I spent the afternoon, Bailando por un sueño was my nonnegotiable Sunday night ritual. I now understand that this was the Mexican version of Dancing with the Stars, but at the time I didn’t understand that anyone on the show was a celebrity (I had only recently discovered that my TV antenna could bring in Spanish language stations, so was not yet up to date on Latin American soap stars). The show was amazing. One contestant was dancing to fulfill his dream of bringing clean running water to his village, another was dancing to cure his brother’s blindness through complicated laser surgery, and yet another was dancing to send her mother to a five star cancer treatment facility. A tear jerker from the opening sequence through to the closing credits. Over the course of the three hour show I would drink wine, cook dinner, eat dinner, curl onto the sofa to smoke a spliff, drink more wine, put on my pajamas, smoke another spliff. When it was over I would climb into bed and, if I was still coherent, drink a bit of whiskey, smoke another spliff, and read a bit of one novel or another.
Writing about this now in my newly hatched tone of honesty, that old life of mine doesn’t sound nearly as sexy as it does in the bits and pieces of a memoir I have been writing my way into for the last few years. Yoga pants, for example, are not very Hemingway-esque, and all of the spliff smoke makes me feel sad when not described in spare, single clause sentences.
When I’m writing real prose (as opposed to my easy peasy just get it out there blog prose, of course), I always fall back on a stripped down, minimalist style that blots out any sign of sentiment, so as I look back over the stories and memories I’ve written about this time in my life I fill in the emotional blanks by imagining all of this aloneness to have been luxurious, joyful even. I fantasize about having just one last weekend like the ones I used to live – wild Friday nights, Saturday cleaning sprees to cure my hangovers, beautiful long and quiet Sundays – but I wonder if maybe I’m remembering it wrong. I wonder if maybe I don’t fall back on that particular style of writing because the sparseness of the language both mirrors and masks the loneliness that underpinned my life at that time.
The truth is, I was miserable a lot of the time. I might even venture that I was miserable most of the time – or most of the time that I did not have a drink, spliff, or cigarette close at hand. This is why those Sundays were so wonderful; I was numbing myself in advance for a workweek that would leave me feeling depleted and alone.
I have so little time to myself nowadays – ten minutes a day in the shower (if I am lucky), a few hours a week for my runs (again, if I am lucky), maybe twenty minutes at lunch if I close the door to my fishbowl office – and any time in which I am alone is scheduled down to the second with to do lists as long as Infinite Jest. I can see why those years of solitude would seem in retrospect a working mother’s dream come true, but I worry that there is danger in longing too much for those days – if not danger that I will revive some of my old behaviors, then danger that I will somehow foster them in my daughter.
These days I’m tired, I’m stressed, I’m busy ALL OF THE TIME, I’m almost never alone, and I’m most certainly never alone with time to just relax (I’ve had to renew my last Roberto Bolano book three times from the library, and it’s not even 200 pages long!). But when I do get a quiet nano-second to think, I understand that I’m gratified in a way I never understood was possible. My life is hard – so hard that some days, more often than not, I think I’m going to lose my mind – but loneliness is no longer a word in my vocabulary. And every Sunday night, no matter what else has been going on in my head or in my life, I stop what I’m doing, hold my daughter close, and turn on the radio. And that one hour of my week makes every other hour worth it. I’m not numbing myself in preparation for the drudgery of the week ahead, I’m saturating my soul with joy that will sustain me through an exhausting but fulfilling life. I might change my tune when my daughter keeps me up at night with her teething, or cries through our entire Monday morning commute, but right now the sun is out, my calendar is clear, and my daughter is warming up for tonight’s show on her little baby piano. Right now what I’ve given up feels like nothing in comparison to what I’ve gained.