It is a strange, wonderful, lonely experience to come home to an empty house.
After the wife and house went on to live their new stories with a different set of characters, I have lived with others, metaphorically sleeping on someone else's couch for the last three or four years. Great strides were made, and setbacks were had in the meantime, but it never really felt like I had truly found my feet and started life anew.
I moved into my own place at the start of the summer. Beyond the last few years of living under someone else's roof, I had not lived alone for fifteen or twenty years. On the one hand, I longed to set up my own camp, cook in my own kitchen, have the mess or cleanliness be mine, but I also wondered what it would be like to be left entirely to my own devices. Though people may not actually put expectations on you, their presence nonetheless acts as a monitoring or filtering device. What would it be like with no one to consider or watch over.
I have found that now living alone, the battle against slipping into bad habits is more difficult. I'll have that larger helping of food, a second beer, or call chips and humus a meal with no one else around. Maybe I veg out to a marathon of Pysch episodes instead of shutting it off after an hour and reading a book. Since alone time is mine to be had, there is less of a push to go out and say go for a walk or hide out in a coffee shop where writing seems more likely.
I have actually been doing some writing, though nothing has appeared here in quite some time. I started the NaNoWriMo challenge on November 1st, and it felt like if I were to be writing, I needed to focus on that. Well, I am not going to make it to 50,000 words, so I feel safe to "waste" a few words here. I am only about half way at this point, but I will press on even as the deadline goes whishing by me this Saturday. The point of the exercise was to get me back in the habit and mindset, and I will call it at least half successful. The habit is still spotty, but the light in my eyes is flickering more regularly.
I have always been pretty comfortable on my own, but I have become less so in the past few years, and I think that is a good thing. I am glad to finally get started again with a place I can call my own, but I do miss the random conversations that come from living with others. It is funny how someone you haven't seen in a few weeks will ask you how you've been, and what's been going on, and you can come up blank. All the details fade into the background that is your daily life. But a daily conversation with someone at home, and you share the little tidbits that may not seem important a day later, but made for a good story that night.
And of course I still miss Sierra. She wasn't much of a conversationalist, but she was a wonderful presence and beacon of love. I went for a bike ride last Sunday, and I swear every whitish yellow lab was out for a walk. Each one made me smile, and reminded me of what a special thing it is to have a dog in your life. There will never be another Sierra, but there will be another dog someday. I don't know that I am ready just yet, but since my apartment doesn't allow them, the decision is at least delayed until next summer. Cats are allowed here, and I will admit that thought has crossed my mind.
Summer was pretty busy with big biking events, the annual family trip to eastern Washington, a hiking adventure and the run around Chicago. For the first few months it felt like I was hardly home (that is my excuse for still having unpacked boxes stashed in the den). Work filled up some weekends through September and October as well, so for several months it felt like I was just home to sleep, shower and change.
Now things have slowed dramatically, and life has been pretty quiet this past month. The days are shorter and the freezing temperatures have kept me indoors, looking at the growing list of projects that were left for another day. The silence of the house is more noticeable without all the activity of summer, and the cold seems to creep in and it can be hard to shake the chill.
I am happy to say the quiet house and calendar has encouraged me out in a different way now, and I have kept up on the group bike rides the past few weekends - new places, and new faces. And the holidays are on the horizon, and the weekends will fill up with all that is wonderful in family and friends. Then it is on to another tax season in the new year, and the weekends will be filled with a different sort of craziness.
I relish the peace, but look forward to a little noise now and then.