How I found solitude below the hustle and bustle of my busy family life

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"How I found solitude" by Christina Antus (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2017), CC0 Public Domain

Last week I moved down to the basement bedroom.

I was on day three of what would be a nine-day respiratory virus that produced a high fever and what doctors call a “non-productive” cough — that means your cough isn’t bringing anything up except for air and an explosion of germs. The cough is mostly just there for the sole purpose of keeping everyone in your home up at night.

In addition to my useless cough, my airways were inflamed. This produced an odd humming noise when I was lying down and sleeping. It woke me up, woke my husband up, bothered the cat, and scared my children when they came wandering into our room at 3:00 AM looking for a bed to squat in until it was time to get up for school. One morning around 2:00 AM, my daughter came into our room about the same time I let out one of those hums. It scared her so much she screamed as she ran to my husband, who was, until that moment, sound asleep. He also screamed. I woke up to both of them looking at each other and screaming.

So, yeah, I was self-conscious about sleeping.

I worried I’d keep us both up, so, I would lay there wishing I could sleep but knowing it wasn’t going to happen anyway because I was coughing non-productively and humming.

I also knew that I wouldn’t get better if I didn’t sleep.

I knew that my husband would go insane if he didn’t sleep.

I knew that our kids would need therapy if they wandered into the room one more time and heard me hum. So I sadly decided to move down into the basement bedroom.

I sulked about leaving my own bed as I dragged my blanket and pillow downstairs like my kids do when we kick them out of our bed because they woke us up by repeatedly kicking us in the ear. I felt like I had the plague and had been sent off to the lowest point of the house to be quarantined.

“Where are you going?” my husband asked.

“To bed,” I said. “I guess.”

I looked at him with sad eyes.

I waited for a response.

Nothing.

Finally, he said, “You don’t have to sleep down there.”

But, he said it like I tell him, “You don’t have to give the kids a bath.”

I don’t ever mean that when I say it. It’s a rhetorical statement. So I knew he didn’t mean what he was saying either.

He wanted to sleep.

I wanted to sleep.

I made the bed in the basement. It was a queen bed with the mattress I had had when I was in my own apartment long before I had a husband and kids and before I had a humming problem — back when I lived alone and could cough non-productively as much as I wanted, and no one was around to bother. Those were the days when I lived in the Pacific Northwest and could waste my weekend away with a blanket and a book while the rain softly fell on the rooftop.

I settled in; I had forgotten how comfortable the mattress was. My old down comforter was also down there, and as I climbed in, I slid over to the middle of the bed and fluffed my pillow. The old sheets were soft and cool on my skin. It was so quiet, just like it used to be in my old apartment. That same apartment where, sometimes, the silence was deafening, and the solitude gave way to wondering when I’d finally meet someone and get married.

That was a lifetime ago.

It’s funny how time changes you and how raising kids can transform you. Since becoming a mom, I have longed for those quiet weekends and that same solitude on more than one occasion. “Enjoy your ‘you time,'” a friend had told me. “It’ll be gone all too quickly.”

Back then, when I was on my own, time felt slow. Today, time goes too fast. Despite not having a moment to myself, I often go days before realizing it has been weeks since my last quiet 15 minutes. I’ve longed for that time on plenty of occasions. Who knew that a small part of that old life I missed and yearned for in the throws of teething toddlers was right below the hustle and bustle of my busy family life all along.

When I woke up the next morning I didn’t want to get out of bed.

Ever.

A bed to myself + silence + uninterrupted sleep = amazing.

It turned out that this basement bedroom deal wasn’t so bad after all.

Gone was the tiny sliver of mattress I had to myself because my bed had suddenly become a sleepy-time circus of small children. No one was waking me up at 4:00 AM because they mistakenly identified a fuzzy piece of fleece on their pillow for a spider. No one was coming to look for me in the dead of night because I was sleeping in a dark basement. My snoring husband wasn’t an issue because I couldn’t hear him a full floor below. Not because of insulation — because I slept so good in that bed.

I decided that I wanted to sleep in the basement forever.

I slept down there every evening. Suddenly, I didn’t want to get better. I wanted the cough to stay forever, or maybe develop some kind of snoring disorder so I’d have a reason to stay in that room.

I slept there until it was evident I was no longer sick and then I kept sleeping there some more.

One evening I stood with my husband in the kitchen and watched him eat a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. When we were dating, I would have done this with a heavy sigh and a drunk smile on my face as I gazed at his dreamy jawline while he chewed. But after nine years of marriage, I watched him and wondered what in his childhood prompted him always to think it was fine to leave the milk out even though he had no intention of pouring any more.

“Well,” I said, “I’m going downstairs to bed.”

Then I rushed out of the room before he could respond.

I slept down there for almost a full week after I was better. I finally did move back up to my own bed. A 3:22 AM wind convinced me by way of blowing through the basement window well and creeping me out.

It’s really dark down there.

I still have a “non-productive” cough, going on two weeks now, but it’s going away. I don’t think I’ve been humming though. As of last night, I haven’t woken up to anyone screaming.

Yet.


Copyright 2018 Christina Antus

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About Author

Christina Antus is a part-time writer and a full-time mom living with her husband and cute, noisy kids. When she's not writing, she's running, reading, folding forever-piles of laundry, and probably burning dinner.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Indeed having children transforms a person in a unique way. I hope the “non-productive” cough will not return anymore through the intercession our Our Lady.

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