Some days are just like every other day. You wake. You go about your routine. You look at the clock and the time ticks by, sometimes quickly, sometimes painfully slowly, but the day carries on and before you know it you are brushing your teeth and preparing to climb in to bed and do it all again tomorrow.
Yesterday was an odd one. I did things I don’t normally do. Some of those things were very small but when I stepped back from the day and sized it up they all added up. And this morning, I feel different.
I sat down yesterday morning with a newspaper. I did not open my laptop and have coffee. I sat down with the paper. A real, live newspaper. I fear Chapel Hill News is suffering if they are delivering their paper for free to neighboring towns. I can’t count on this paper sticking around in printed form if they have resorted to giving it away but I will enjoy it while it lasts. A newspaper and a cup of coffee. That was unusual.
Later in the morning I met a new friend and her son and we walked and talked. I was late. I am never late. I cancel if I am going to be late. I was late. That is unlike me. And I did not take a single picture. I did not check my phone. Also not typical behavior. We walked and talked.
She mentioned the paralyzing freedom of having every day be so full of options. I’d not considered that fully before. The lack of structure that can be present in the life of the mother who chooses to stay at home – it can have an almost crippling presence. “But you can do whatever you want,” a friend might note. Not really. Somedays I do not do a damn thing that is “what I want.” And yet daily I am overcome with gratitude. I am all at once living the life that I have chosen, that I am deeply grateful for, and not actually very free at all some days.
Later in the evening I did another thing I rarely do.
I stopped and had two beers at a local bar in town. “Have a seat,” said a gentleman as he slid over and offered me a bar stool. It had been so long I almost said “Oh, no, no.” I couldn’t possibly sit down. I didn’t have that kind of time. I would just stand, drink a beer, and hightail it home before Lucy woke up or MQD called or … or what? I turned in to a pumpkin?
I slid in to a barstool and I felt my shoulders get lower. I felt my back get longer. I was relaxed, in my element. It had been too long. A man introduced himself, “I am Jerry, by the way.”
I smiled. “The ByTheWays, I know a lot of your people, a friendly bunch you are. I meet a ByTheWay almost everywhere I go.” He paused. And then he smiled. I apologized for my flip remark. “I spent a decade behind the bar and I have a canned response to everything, I am sorry. I haven’t been out in so damn long that that is all that’s coming to me now. Forgive me?”
We chatted about kids and our quaint little downtown. The fellow to my left interrupted me, eventually. “What are you now? Just a housewife?” I felt myself stand up straighter. “Yep. And it is fucking awesome.” I could see that he was disappointed. I think he’d been trying to rile me up and I didn’t bite. I threw him a bone. “You? What are you? Just an asshole? A prick? What name do you prefer?” He seemed pleased with himself, he’d gotten under my skin.
I smiled again and let him down easy. “I’m sorry… but you have got to be kidding me. “Just a housewife?” Come on, man, it is the 21st century. Cut the little woman some slack.” I turned to Mr. ByTheWay and said “It was really nice to meet you.” I turned back to my right and said “And you, watch your mouth,” flashing him a million dollar smile.
I joined my girlfriends outside and laughed some more. We talked about our kids. It was easy. It was awkward for me to realize that I actually enjoyed sitting at a table with a bunch of women having easy conversation just as much if not more than the jocular and sometimes acidic back and forth of strangers at a bar. While outside a friend mentioned a tattoo I’ve had for years. A devil-woman, nursing her baby. I got it ages ago to symbolize the union between the hell-raiser I had been and the mother I was becoming. A timely reminder that I do not have to choose. The comfort I feel at a table of women does not negate the entertainment of a seat at the bar.
It is good to do the things that we do not usually do. Read the newspaper. Turn your phone off. Go ahead and be late. Stop for a beer.
This morning I went outside to water the flowers and said “C’mon, Goose, we need to hurry up.” Hurry. Towards what? The next task? I stopped. I poured some water on her feet and she laughed. I took a picture of the snapdragons quickly and then I put my phone inside. We sat on the deck. I don’t know for how long.
If I am quiet in the coming weeks, do not be worried. I am going back to school. I have enrolled in a self-taught, self-guided and intensive course on the Art of Relaxing. Wish me luck.