Alone time

I just survived one of the busiest weeks of my life. It didn’t compete with when I wrote my thesis because the thesis had an end…and after this week, I wasn’t allowed to fall asleep for 17 hours straight.

Why not? I have a child. And a job.

I was at the Automattic Grand Meetup. It’s one of the best weeks of the year. Every person in the company who has any way of making it attends, and it’s the one time a year we all see each other in person. We work from our own cities and homes the rest of the year.

We collaborate on projects and generate tons of new tools, share information, learn new codes or principles for customer service and people relations. These sets of knowledge come home with us and enrich how we handle our day to day jobs.

The face time is awesome in this setting, as it allows for a break from normal production pressure to focus on collaboration and relationships. The experience wouldn’t be as rich if we shared an office together every other day of the year. One person’s music would be too loud. Another person would want the air conditioning to be too cold. On and on. Little things that come down to preferences would irritate the mother out of all of us because they get in the way of our daily productivity.

This year’s Grand Meetup was busier than last year. Many others said the same thing, but for me the business happened because I brought a 4 month old with me. I don’t think I need to explain further.

By the time I got home last night, I seriously considered giving up on nursing and switching to formula. It takes a lot of trial for an herbalist to ever consider formula feeding a baby, and jumping between seeing my child and having as much time as possible with my team members, I reached that limit.

As we drove home last night, I began to have some dark thoughts. I used to land at the airport and look forward to being home. Last night, after 14 hours of traveling with an infant, I dreaded it. Chores awaited. Maintaining a level of performance awaited, juggling work while nurturing a baby. I knew the house would smell bad because we have a cat and I don’t expect anyone to change out the litter box or open windows while we’re gone. I faced going to daycare in the morning and being treated like a mom who keeps track of dates and paperwork – my least favorite role right now.

I wanted to curl into a ball in the middle of a remote forest and not speak to anyone for three days.

I told myself, “These are the thoughts you have when you’re exhausted.”

Then, we got home, and the house looked different. A friend had stopped by through the week when we were gone and organized our home, beautifying our setup, putting up pictures, and making a special box for important pieces of paper that I’m so prone to lose.

I almost cried.

I went to bed, woke up and took my son to day care, came back and went to bed again. After eventually opening my eyes and knocking out some work, I’m taking some alone time.

Breathe.

My son and cat are snoozing on the bed next to me, giving me a chance to return to my first love, writing, uninterrupted.

Being alone is like taking off sunglasses. Filters of exhaustion and a busy brain dull-out the colors of life, no matter how brilliant they are. As soon as we take them off (read: sleep and spend time alone), they get richer because of the chance to appreciate them. Writing enhances it even further for me, helping me reflect on good moments and crystalize them before they get lost in the blurry world of memory.

The past week was a beautiful one. I watched a glacier from afar and dipped my feet into the icy, green lake  it left behind as it receded up the mountains. It was also a fun one. I spent time working on an entirely new project – a blicki (a blog and a wiki), which allowed me to watch developers and designers function in their element. I saw a new perspective of what happens at our company on the daily, and I got to appreciate the talent and drive these people have to take an idea that doesn’t exist and make it exist.

And now, being home, I realize I do love my home. It needs a good scrub, and it’ll feel better once I finish mudding and painting the patch of drywall behind the couch. But we’ve also slowly turned an ugly duckling of a unit into an airy, pretty space with an abundant yard. It’s a different space than when I moved in. I’m choosing to be proud of it, instead of focusing on the problems.

I’m amazed at what sleep, a cup of coffee, and an hour without expectations can do to rejuvenate my soul.

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