Martorella: Finding myself

I escaped from my family for a long weekend and whew, I’m exhausted. I’m not going to tell my husband that though. Somehow I don’t think he will sympathize.

It started with an industry conference. A perfectly legit reason to get away, although I wasn’t officially sent via my work, so it was on my dollar. The fact that it was being held in one of my favorite cities and once my home, Washington D.C., didn’t hurt. And, oh yes, it was the peak of cherry blossom season.

Of course, the prep work involved was extensive, at least to get my family ready. Spending days ahead making sure the house was picked up, giving them a base of clean dishes and laundry, leaving detailed schedules/phone numbers/playdates, lists of favorite snacks/activities/friends. And loving notes stating things like “Be kind to each other,” “Be patient with each other,” and “If you cannot find something, do not text me. Really look for it. Like open drawers, and move pillows, and stuff.”

I’m sure that triggered all the happy memories while I was gone.

My own prep involved hastily packing myself up 30 minutes before my train, but I only had to pack three outfits and my purse held items only for myself. No snacks, drinks, activity books, iPads. Just one water bottle, a book, and my phone. It has been a rough few months, and I was happy just to have a 4-hour train ride to myself.

The biggest benefit of being away was that I got to do everything on my own, but my over-excitement meant I filled in every free moment with an event or get-together. I arrived at 7 p.m., crossed the train station to the Metro, and minutes later I reached my destination. No cars, no cabs, no sibling fighting in the back seat. My sister met me at the top of the Metro escalator, which was a new experience. Who can say they have been met in a new city at the top of an escalator? We then proceeded to attend a poetry reading. Yes, everyone, I attended a poetry reading, one that did not involve a children’s librarian (no offense to the fabulous staff we have at our own library) or an elementary school class visit. I ate dinner late and ordered what I wanted. I cut up only my own food and nobody else ate off my plate. I put myself to sleep with no “bedtime” duties beforehand. I slept with no interruptions. I caught up with old friends and family at each meal, with uninterrupted conversations. I laughed and cried, reminisced and commiserated.

I did have to attend the conference (though I thought about spending my days wandering the National Mall as a tourist instead), so a late wakeup was not in the cards, but I did get to take a long, meandering walk to the conference venue each day, stopping for pictures, coffee, and snacks when I wanted, concerned only with my own tired legs and nobody else’s. I listened to experts in my field and was able to focus on and process this information instead of simultaneously planning drop offs and pickups and to do lists and shopping runs. I think I actually learned something.

When my husband and daughter picked me up at the train station on Sunday afternoon, I was ready to be back. Their smiles welcomed me in, and it was nice to have been missed. Overall, the family did great in my absence. I can’t complain. The mess was no more than an average weekend, they had the usual ups and downs but covered every duty, and they made it to every scheduled event in proper attire.

Within an hour after my return home, I was right back in the swing of family life. Running the washer, breaking up the sibling bickering, cooking dinner, and preparing for the school and work week.

This Monday morning, I felt energized. Though I was physically exhausted from a jam-packed weekend — and a lot of city walking — my mind was well-rested.

It’s not always easy or enjoyable caring, planning, thinking for four people all the time. Every so often, it’s important to reset, and find the one person you once were.
Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at [email protected]