Okay, I’m back!
And where was I? Well, right here, but … well, I should explain.
Last week and the one before, school was out in our local district. I’ve mentioned before that the schools hereabouts operate on a schedule that could best be described as “screwy.” Well, this is one example of that: a two-week vacation smack at the beginning of autumn, when most school districts have barely gotten going on their year.
What that meant at Chez Anselmeau is that for sixteen days straight (including the bookending weekends), the four of us were all together for the most part. The Supermodel, Charlotte, Sean and I have gotten to spend a great deal more time with each other – working on more projects, sharing more meals, and having more conversations and more adventures than is normally possible when my wife is off teaching and my kids are off learning.
They went back to school on Monday. It’s Thursday, and I’m finally beginning to recover from all that togetherness.
I know there are a lot of people – maybe most people – for whom interacting with others is what makes life most worth living. They’re the ones who sing “people … who need people … are the luckiest people in the woooooorld!” without a trace of irony. They’re never happier than in the middle of a crowd, when they’ve got three discussions going at once and are texting someone at the same time. Being and connecting with other people is what fills their tank up; they thrive on it, and they can’t imagine living without it.
Now, plot a line on a piece of standard-sized printer paper. At one end of the line, indicate those people with a dot. About an inch from the other end, make another dot. That’s me.
It’s not that I don’t like people; I’m a curmudgeon at times, but I’m not that bad. There are people I regularly converse with for hours at a time, some of whom I’ve known since the ‘80s. I have about 150 Facebook friends. I love my wife and children deeply and dearly, and did enjoy the chance to break out of the usual mold with them – exercising with Sean, or taking Charlotte to the zoo up in Lodi – as long as I had the ability to keep up.
But where, for the people I described above, relationships are what fill up their tank, for me it’s what usually empties it. In accounting terms, they’re an expenditure for me – what I need to stock up energy to take care of, rather than what gives me energy.
Me, I’m more of an introvert — what fills my tank tends to be on the private, cerebral side. Reading books. Creative projects. The occasional movie. Getting things done. The journey is nice, and if I can spend it with good people, so much the better, but deep down it’s the destination that counts for me. And I’ve always been this way; I guess I was born with it (though I’m open to other theories).
So suddenly going from having the house to myself, five days a week and four to six hours a day, to zero and zero, was a bit rough.
Then there’s the issue of how I do best when staying on a schedule – a schedule that goes right out the window come vacation time, due not only to the larger crowd in the home but also the demands of that crowd and all the activities (like visiting family out-of-town) that can only be done during vacation time. There was no practical way to set up an alternate daily schedule, since it was always in need to revision on short notice – and a routine that isn’t routine is no routine at all. So I lost my mental scaffolding in addition to my physical solitude.
And all that is on top of the stressors in my life that have come in the last couple of years, most of which are ongoing – the stressors for whom the best medicine I’ve found are … yeah, solitude and a regular schedule. Arrrrrgh.
So by last weekend, my tank was empty. I could floor the pedal all I wanted, but I was running on fumes.
When I hit Sunday night, right before the return of school for Charlotte and Sean and work for Nina, I was wound so tight that I literally could not sleep. Couldn’t even get my eyes closed. I ended up pulling my first all-nighter in years, simply because my body and brain gave me no choice. Then I got everyone off to their destinations Monday morning, came home around 8:30, and collapsed into bed for a two-and-a-half hour nap. Only now am I starting to get a hold again of my regular weekday schedule – and my regular sleep schedule, for that matter.
And my writing, ‘cause it’s very hard to write when things are unstable in the rest of my life. Last week, I finally started putting together some low-pressure prose (read: fanfic) and this week, I’m getting the blog back on its feet for you, dear reader. Once I get back to exercising and housecleaning, I’ll be all good.
But this is a problem that needs solving. I need to prepare for the next time this happens, because I don’t want to be a giant crackling ball of tension around my family and friends. Maybe I need to shift my sleep schedule on the next vacation, building in more hours early in the morning (and sleep earlier) or late at night (and sleep later). Maybe I should lock in some time away from the house – even if that just means camping out at the local college library with that Ben Bova novel that I can’t find anywhere else. If gas prices drop, I could just go for a drive. Whatever. But when you have weaknesses – and yeah, I consider this a weakness – you have to deal with them. Or they come back and bite you in the butt.
I don’t want to be bitten.
And the school district takes an entire week off for Thanksgiving …