Sundays.

Quintessential LA One Bedroom

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.

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9 thoughts on “Sundays.

  1. Your Sunday sounded awesome to me! But I can see what you’re saying. I often find myself wishing for a day alone and then when I get it I feel uninspired or hollow by the end of it. And so I guess it’s good that I hardly ever get it. I feel better at the end of days where I have a lot to do and my GF is around making me do things. Before I started reading your blog I was always scared of having a kid because I know I will not be able to do the things I do now, but since you seem to have lived my dream life before you had your kid, and now seem to be having an even better life, maybe I will be okay, too.

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    1. I was terrified of having children – my pregnancy was basically nine months of fear – precisely because I knew all of my time to myself would disappear (well, I was afraid of a lot of other things, too, but maybe that will be for another post). But then the child arrived and suddenly I was asking, “What on earth did I do with myself before this tiny person entered my life?” Getting older sort of helped me cope, too – hangovers get rapidly and exponentially worse the further into my thirties I go, so while I still long for alone time, all that other fun stuff is not nearly as tempting anymore…

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  2. It’s almost spooky reading this as I relate to all of it. I often look back on those lazy, hazy, boozy, druggy weekends I used to have, longing for all that TIME. It seems that as a parent that is something you never have enough of – time. Especially time for yourself, by yourself. But I have come to the same conclusion as you did – life wasn’t really all that fulfilling. What did I have to show of my life at the end of the week – a sore head and a hangover. Kids give you purpose, they give you Spidey vision to see your priorities clearly. Though they do also give you grey hairs and make you want to scream at times but on the balance it’s worth it. I am glad I am not the only one sometimes looking back though.

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  3. “They give you Spidey vision to see your priorities clearly” – this is so spot on! From the moment my daughter was born, everything superfluous in my life just fell away. So many things that I thought mattered turned out to be nothing more than window dressing. This may actually be my favorite thing about becoming a parent (aside from the actual child, that is) – the stripping away all of the bullshit in life. So while the child complicates my life tremendously, my clarity of vision and ability to instantly determine “matters” or “definitely does not matter” are what allow me to thrive despite the new challenges. Without this I don’t know that I would be surviving motherhood at all!
    Even so, I think it’s inevitable that we look back on our old lives every now and then with a wistful sigh… I may understand now that it was empty and lonely, but it was also quite often a LOT of fun. 🙂

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  4. I am on the other end of the coin. I have raised my son, spent 20 years doing it and now I need to figure out what I did when I was alone before. When I had time to do things for myself…what were those things I liked? Ohhh wait, they are not the same things anymore because 20 years has passed and everything has changed. Now I need to rediscover myself as an adult…tougher than you think.

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    1. Wow, it’s so hard to think that I’ll ever get to that place! Rediscovering yourself all over again in adulthood sounds tough, yes, but also wonderful.
      I do have moments, every now and then, when my daughter is off with her grandmother, my husband is gone, my work for the day is done, and for about a minute and half I just sit on the couch asking myself what it is exactly I’m supposed to be doing. Am I supposed to call someone? Leave the house? Watch tv? Figure out where on earth I left off on the novel I had been writing a few years ago? And then just like that it’s gone, I’ll remember a dozen or so things that I had forgotten to do and everything is back to normal again. My daughter will return, my husband will call, my boss will text, and the kitchen will overflow with steam from a couple of buckets worth of homemade baby purees. I’m afraid I’m already beginning to forget those things I liked, which is a big part of why I started this blog.

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  5. This was beautiful. I think all moms can relate, especially when you’re in the thick of babyhood. It feels like it will be this way forever, but believe it or not, it does get easier, more manageable. Three seems to be the magic age. Things get easier, smoother, less rushed when they turn three.

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    1. Ooh good, what a relief! As my daughter begins the (what I thought would be slow) transition into toddlerhood I’ve been awfully worried that things would only get more difficult. I hear so much about terrible tantrums and terrible toddlers, it’s wonderful to hear that it will actually get easier at some point… Maybe by then I’ll get my sabbatical approved, too – that might help smooth things out a little too 🙂

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