Thursday, March 08, 2007

Solitude Deficit

I think I'm figuring out at least part of what is going on. After one whole year at this job and in this life reality, I'm running a serious solitude deficit.

My first five years in ministry I was single. Though my job as a Youth Pastor was insanely busy, when I got home, I was alone. I fretted about this a lot, worried that this would be a permanent condition, that I would never have a family of my own to come home to--but underneath all that fretting, was the deep relief of diving into the clear, cool pool of quiet that waited for me inside the doors of my apartment.

Then there were three and a half years of first-stage marriage. This was an adjustment, but two adults living together are not always in each other's faces and my husband's job took him on the road fairly often. I still had the apartment to myself on a semi-regular basis, plus I was commuting twenty minutes to my job, so I had that solo car time to decompress.

The infant/ toddler years were crazy, of course. But the sleep deficit so dominated my consciousness, that the solitude deficit didn't even register much.

During the six and a half years that I was working part time in a small church, my work hours were mostly alone time. There was no one in the office but me. The phone did not ring off the hook. There weren't that many "walk-ins". I had to be focused and productive during the hours of the day my kids were at pre-school, but much of that time I was by myself.

But now---the church is a bee hive of activity. There is a constant parade of church members and other staff popping their heads through my office door to discuss stuff. There is a steady stream of phone calls and e-mails all day. About 4:30 I break from this to begin my portion of the family kid schlepping duties: soccer, piano lessons, play rehearsal, aikido practice. Then the mad rush to produce and/or consume dinner after which I'm either headed back to church for meetings, or playing designated homework parent. When the evening's activities are finally over and the kids are tucked in and sleeping, my husband sidles up to me and lets me know in subtle and not so subtle ways that it's "his turn".

I think this would be exhausting even for an extrovert, but as an introvert I feel like I'm going nuts. I'm getting grouchy with colleagues and family. Sex feels like just another invasion of my personal space. The blogosphere, which I've experienced mostly as a source of support and comfort is beginning to feel like just another group of folks who expect my presense and attention.

Anyone been in this spot? What did you do about it?


reverendmother said...

I wish I had some words of wisdom. I do know that writing (and blogging) is one of the ways I personally decompress and make sense of my life during my solitary times. Still, I have experienced some of what you're feeling with the blogosphere. I have cut way down on my reading and commenting. I know that the more you comment, the more comments you get in return, but I'm just not able to be in that space right now.

You are several years "ahead" of me in terms of the family/career trajectory, so I've appreciated reading what you're thinking. Thanks for the window into your life, but I hope you don't feel obligated to offer it. We all have enough obligations in our work and family lives without our solitary time being about have-to as well. I know some people have an "I read your blog so you need to read mine" thing and I think that can make blogging something that drains us rather than energizes us.

Tough questions!

And for someone who has no words of wisdom I certainly like to hear myself talk. :-/

Preacher Mom said...

I understand a lot of what you are saying. I am in a small church, so I normally don't have a lot of drop-in traffic most weeks. Other weeks I feel like that's all there is. I am a single mother, which means I am not expected to share 'adult' time with a spouse. Of course, it does mean that I am always the one shuffling kids, supervising homework, giving baths, etc.

I sit on the fence with the introvert/extrovert thing. On my extrovert days, this is all great - give me more - I am so energized by this! On my introvert days, I want to crawl under a rock and tell the world to leave me the hell alone.

You can follow these trends by noting my posting pattern on my blog. Extrovert - lots of posts, lots of comments made. Introvert - few posts and very few comments. Because of this I may not have as many regular readers as some, but that wasn't really my goal to begin with. The ones I count as "blog friends" will hang in there in the dry spells. And that's what counts.

Anitra said...

holding public office used to do that to me but I did have a 45 minute drive to and from home + a local studio where I could crash out when necessary. To be sure, I still could come home in a serious bitch cuz of repressed rage at my "esteemed" collegues...

my internship supervising pastor goes surfing. the congregation understands that feeds him and when the season is on, he may be late into the office some mornings. He also writes his sermons off site.

This morning I'm about to head out on a one day retreat for a small, informal women clergy support group. We declared it retreat day and are bringing food, crafts, meditations (or medications..) to share and we'll see what shows up.

I hope you find your space - its one of those "when the air masks drops down" moments - if you don't take care of yourself its hard to take care of others....

Listing Straight said...

Oh my goodness yes- that has been by far the toughest part for me in this move to a staff church- there is NEVER quiet time.

I find that I only rarely listen to the radio in the car- that's just about the only silent time I have anymore.

And other than that, I don't have any big answers. I am learning to close my office door from time to time-

ppb said...


cheesehead said...

I don't have any wisdom either. I do have some good news: the kid thing will slow down. Eventually one of the little buggers will move out, and the whole atmosphere will shift. Sex will be fun again.

In the meantime, jettison what doesn't work. If that is blogging, take a break. We'll be here when you come back, unless we are on break, too.

Are there workable ways to set some boundaries at church? Can you build "solitude hours" into your schedule--just block them out on your calendar, tell the office staff you are not available between noon and two on Thursdays, for example (unless the church is on fire or somebody dies). It seems to me that this kind of time is very necessary, especially when the church load is great.

(Yeah, I'm full of assvice--maybe you've tried these things before.)

Mary Beth said...

Ditto what they said. If you write, we'll read you. If you aren't up to it, no prob. We'll be here later (that's NOT a threat!) :)

I exercise weekdays at 5:45 a.m. & it's amazing what a difference that time just for me makes. And, there's no other time in the day when I could or would make that happen. FWIW.


more cows than people said...


Preacher Mom said...

I ran across another blog that might be of interest to you: Interesting.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Just take care of yourself. The rest can wait.


Susie said...

i'm not really introverted, and I don't have kids, so I really have no words of wisdom at all. But i do know another woman in my area who is very introverted and needs good quiet time - one of the things she does is take a yoga class during the day, on a morning when she is consistently at church in the evenings, to avoid just feeling guilty about having the time during the day. If you like doing that kind of thing - going to the gym or whatever, it seems to work for her.

Other than that: I'm sorry. I hope something is able to give very very soon.

Omar Cruz said...
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Omar Cruz said...
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juniper68 said...

I just read a book that quotes (I think) florence nightengale talking about why women should not get married and this is the reason. She says that women who want to have unclaimed time either have to get up an hour before everyone else or go to bed an hour later. Dont know if this is appealing or possible to you, but obviously it's something that women have been dealing with for a long time. On the other hand, wasn't it Wesley's mother who had 17 children but who still locked herself in the prayer closet for an hour every day? Of course, she had The Help....

I have also been grouchy from this for the last couple of weeks, so I've been researching. Not sure what women in the actual 21st century do, though.

Laura C said...

As another borderline introvert preacher whose kids aren't into the hectic after school activities yet, all I'm hoping is that you will keep me posted as to what you do. My husband does let me go for my own run or walk in the morning, and that has become my time of solitude.

I used to do centering prayer and a Rodney Yee yoga tape in the mornings, but it doesn't go so well with a 3 year old. ("Mommy, look at this," as he jumps on my stomach during reclined cobbler pose...)

Don't know if it helps to know that you are not alone and that we're all hoping you find your down time... on behalf of the blogosphere (pretty presumptuous, eh?) this should not be another thing to tax your introversion!

Norma said...

I wasn't a pastor, or even in a helping profession (except I did have to field calls from people whose pets had died)*, but here's what I tell women: "You can have it all, just not all at the same time." You used to have peace, quiet and alone time, and you will again. Just not now.

*retired from the veterinary library in 2000