I hate relationships.
It’s a terribly unfeminine trait, I know. But I do. I hate them, I always have. I hate the confusion of them, the work of them, the upkeep. I feel calmer and more at peace with myself when I am not responsible to or for anyone. When the first and final opinion is my own, that is where I am the most comfortable.
So I hate relationships. But I love people. I love all kinds of people. I love people both near and far, those I will love for a lifetime and those I will love for a season. Friends I have known before and those I know now; family both dear to me and those nearly estranged; and my husband and daughter, for whom I have a fierce and constant love, a love bigger than myself.
But it is brutal and hard this loving thing. These relationships can be exhausting.
When I was single and childless, when I was able to intersperse my life with literal days in a row of reclusive, alone time, my entire life functioned better. I would spend two or three days on the couch, for as many hours in a row as I wanted to. I don’t answer the phone. I didn’t eat well, or I did, depending on what I wanted. I didn’t clean unless I really wanted to. I didn’t worry about what I was wearing or what I looked like or what anyone thought. I was not depressed or feeling down during these times, I was hibernating. I was turning my brain off for a reset, a necessary shut down. I used to schedule these retreats. Every six weeks or so, sometimes not for months if life was running without much stress, I would let people know I was disappearing and I would. A few days would go by, usually no more than three, and I would emerge feeling strong and ready to face the world again.
I credit these times of hibernation as my method to controlling my mood disorder. There was something freeing in locking myself inside the house and just *being*. Just being me. Exactly who I felt I was for every moment of every day for as many days as I needed, with little attention paid to how often who I was seemed to change or without worrying about what someone else was thinking about the me of the moment.
It practically goes without saying that those days don’t happen anymore. They stopped when my husband and I moved in together. Days in a row without conversation or human interaction of any kind were replaced with a few guilt-ridden hours on the couch when, really, “shouldn’t I be getting something ready for dinner or tidying up the kitchen instead?” And then more guilt because it wasn’t that I didn’t want to see him per se, I just didn’t want to see *anyone*. Our daughter was born and time alone, any time alone, became a longed for impossibility and, every so often, there was a couple of stolen hours hunched over a computer in a café, with people everywhere. Suddenly what had been luxurious three day retreats in the privacy of my own living room became replaced with…nothing that even resembled my tried and true method of self-balance. And always, when there was the opportunity for time alone, silent time where my head turned off and the TV turned on, there was the also the need to prioritize one thing over the other. Turn my head off and hibernate or spend the evening with my husband? Take a few stolen hours at a café with my computer or have lunch with a good (and neglected) friend?
Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and my daughter. I adore my little family of three. I wouldn’t trade them for a hundred long weekends of time alone in hibernation.
But…It’s exhausting, these relationships. The constant back and forth in my head is relentless and unending and the loss of my intermittent three days of hibernation is felt. It’s felt in the difficulty I have in staying balanced and focused; it’s felt in the hardship that is controlling every widening moods and emotions. Those missing mini-vacations are remembered sometimes when I take the mood stabilizing medication I was able to avoid for much of my life, and I wonder what if…?
What if I was still able to disappear for days at a time? What if no one needed anything from me and, if they did, it wasn’t very important? What if I had followed a different path? Would I still be on this medication?
At the end of the day, I suppose, it doesn’t matter. Last night my daughter slept in a bed separate from me for the first time in her 21 months of life. This afternoon when she took her nap I laid with her despite my to-do list because my body was desperate to memorize the curve of her against me while she slept. The times when I send my husband and daughter away for a few hours so I can just… be… I end up missing them long before they return. There is no more days of hibernation because there is no more life as “just me”. It is me and them, together; nothing else feels right.
So, yes, I hate relationships, despicable things of effort and requirement and endless need. But I love people. I love my people. And when I focus on them, and on that, the work of it all fades behind the absolute joy and fulfillment in it. Well, usually.