I've been reading lately. For pleasure. Can you imagine? I never thought this day would come. Sam takes a nap, and I catch up on reading. I've been reading about walking, mothering, and solitude, and lately my life seems woven together by these themes.
When people extoll the virtues of walking, they almost always describe walking as a solitary experience, one during which people can be alone with their thoughts or have an individual experience with the environment. It's not often I hear people discuss the merits of walking with someone, in conversation or in quiet, experiencing the walk together. It seems almost contradictory, as if you cannot truly appreciate the value of walking when you do it with multiple people. People think of it as "I'm enjoying the time with this other person," instead of "Walking with someone brings us closer together, and being close with someone brings out the good in me."
We've been walking a lot lately, visiting the local nature trails that aren't too difficult for our little walker. It's certainly not the same experience as when I didn't have a child and I'd take walks. I can't get lost in my own thoughts because I have to pay attention to what my son is doing and look out for possible dangers. But, if I am truly patient, I can enjoy watching him stop and inspect all that's new and interesting to him, and I can tell him about the trees, streams, hills, and bridges we encounter. He points and says, "Bo?" or "Ah doo" or "Ah po?" and I try to figure out what he means. Walks give all three of us a chance to practice our communication.
Whether walking or not, we've had a ton of together time over the past month. At times, tensions flare, but even in those conflicts I see evidence that we're working through them. We keep coming back. We keep trying. We keep showing up. Warts and all.
When I used to think about becoming a mother, one of the aspects of motherhood that always scared me was the lack of solitude. I've always liked my alone time. It's common to hear moms talk about "me time," and yes, I need me time--more than I normally get--but what's surprising about my own experience with motherhood is that I'm growing so much more during my together time with my husband and son. Although I recognize my own talents and skills outside of being a mom, I think motherhood is the most interesting part of who I am right now.
Years ago, if I heard a woman say what I just wrote, I would have felt sorry for her, as if she were really missing out or she wasn't a complete person if she didn't have career plans. When I think about how my walks, as an example, have changed, I don't think I've lost anything by giving up some of my solitude. I've gained patience, thoughtfulness, and even physical strength from carrying Sam along the way.
Solitude is a wonderful break from taking care of others, but I think too often we celebrate solitude as the only way that a person can get in touch with the self. The practice of being with and serving others with deliberate caring requires immense energy but rewards you with wisdom.