I don't remember who it was who said having kids was like installing a permanent bowling alley in your head, but they were right.
I've spent the last 11 and a bit years very closely looking after my kids, including homeschooling them. They're all in school now, but it's only been two months or so and I'm still adjusting to having a few hours every day when nobody is spilling anything or asking me something. But now I face a different kind of ordeal.
Extended* time alone.
On Wednesday afternoon I left Ottawa for Aberdeen, Scotland. I'm here for a karate tournament. And what's weird is that I'm here by myself. No kids. Nobody. Just me.
I have not traveled alone since I was pregnant with Eldest, in 2006. And since I was pregnant I wasn't entirely alone either. Alone alone? I don't remember... I probably went somewhere in 2005 (I don't tend to stand still, much), so let's put it at 13 years. I have traveled a lot with my kids, mind you. On business trips and "fun" trips. They followed along on filming trips. They came to conferences as babies. They go on long drives routinely.
All this traveling with kids stuff has sharpened my organizational skills something fierce. And now, all of a sudden, I'm alone in my running shoes, with only two small bags to look after.**
I won't lie to you: I have been looking forward to this trip for months. The idea of being alone for almost five days was like a giant piece of salted caramel dark chocolate weighing zero calories.
But here's the thing: I'm so disoriented by the peace and quiet that I almost literally don't know what to do with myself... other than catching up on sleep. I went sightseeing, I bought a book to read with my Guinness and haggis, I got lost taking the wrong bus back to my hotel and enjoyed a fine conversation with the helpful driver, I've been in four or five different cities in less than 24 hours, and I'm taking it easy and just enjoying the peace and quiet and I'm getting so much stuff done I'm dizzy.
Dizzy in a good way, I think. But still. I feel like I've been on a treadmill for 11 years and it just got suddenly shut off and my legs don't want to stop moving.
I shall go to the beach and say hello to the North Sea today, and that should help clear my mind.
*Extended in the context of my life means: "More than two hours".
**One great advantage of bags over children is they never need to pee in the customs queue. But they never say stuff like that in parenting guides.