I can see the glow of the sun rising in the distance. It is that quiet moment just before the woods start waking up. I’m eight feet off the ground, in an eight feet by four feet covered wooden box. There is a window on my left, one on my right, and one straight ahead. I can see my breath as I exhale. Even though it is thirty degrees, I’m not cold. The heater at my feet is making things toasty, included the pop-tart sitting on top of it. I have two thermoses of coffee in the corner. I shouldn’t have to move until it is time for my lunch nap.
I’m four days into my seven-day break from civilization. It’s just me and my thoughts. Not many thoughts are actually running through my head. My mind is clear, and my body is relaxed. The only communication with the outside world is an occasional text message from my fellow woodsman in the area. The sun has now been up for an hour. My phone vibrates. It’s the first text from my brother, who is about five hundred yards east of me.
You seeing anything?
It’s the customary text this time every morning. Not replying is acceptable if you have no news worth sharing. It’s too much trouble to take off the gloves to type a message. I take a bite of my toasty pop-tart, take a sip of coffee, and go back to staring out the window. About fifteen minutes later, my phone buzzes again. Before I can finish my cup of coffee, it buzzes yet again. I begrudgingly set my cup down and reach for my phone.
Where are the paint supplies? I want to paint the kitchen?
I think I’m going to use the sponge technique.
Wait, what? We didn’t discuss painting the kitchen. What is the sponge technique?
I haven’t used my brain in days. No wheels are turning in my head. I am unable to comprehend the words I’m reading. My phone buzzes again.
If you don’t tell me where the supplies are, I’m just going to buy new ones.
Lack of comprehension leads to panic. I start typing a response, but no letters show up on the screen. It takes me a few seconds to realize my gloves are still on.
At that moment, tranquility had been destroyed.
Allow me to explain the justification for my panic. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea I have an issue with my wife making changes to our home. In fact, she is better at that type of thing than I am. She certainly did not marry me for my handyman skills. Probably not for my looks, either. I think it had to do with my sense of humor and her lack of options.
When it comes to using your hands, I’m a bit limited when you get beyond the keyboard or working on bicycles. The only exception to this rule is painting. I can paint both interior and exterior. That’s how I made extra money in high school and college. When my wife wanted to paint something without me, I think my feelings were more hurt than anything. I felt maybe she was taking away the one thing I could contribute to our home. Well, I would be lying if I said my low-level OCD had nothing to do with it. I am known for wanting things to be done a certain way. I do have to give her credit for planning it while I was away. I am also thankful she didn’t decide to text me on day one of my vacation.
Let’s circle back to tranquility. I’m fortunate that my wife believes in alone time and encourages me to get away for my annual week in the wilderness. A week without technology and without the need to use brainpower is my idea of a good vacation. Sometimes, I just need to stop thinking for a while.
It’s not all about me. My wife enjoys a few days without me being a thorn in her side. She has things she wants to do that need no interference from me. I swear she is pushing me out the door sometimes. We don’t talk on the phone for the first two days and instead opt for text messages. Around four days in, she will start asking when I will be coming home. Around day five, I start considering going home early. We are fortunate that we still miss each other’s company after just a few days.
I firmly believe people need equal alone time and more extended time apart. Before you entered a relationship, you were an individual. You had your own routine, your own goals, and your own life. Being in a relationship or living in the same house as someone is no reason to abandon everything you were when single. Of course, you need to consider your significant other when making decisions and include them when making important decisions about your life.
Don’t overlook that part about equal time. Every now and then, stop and take a look back at the last few months. Are you and your significant other getting a fair share of downtime?
I recently read an interview with Dolly Parton. Much of the interview was centered on how she and her husband have stayed together for over fifty years. Her answer was great.
“We’re not in each other’s faces all the time. I think there’s a lot to be said about having some sensible separation because you can’t be with somebody 24/7, 365 and not want to smack their face now and then.” – Dolly Parton
I recently returned from my time in the wilderness. I was happy to be home and see my wife and all of our fuzz buckets. They were all packed into the bed, waiting for me to finish my nightly routine. My mind wandered as I stood at the sink brushing my teeth and blankly staring at the walls. What a great life I have…wait a minute.
“Hey. Did you paint my bathroom?”
All I heard was a laugh.