I’m one of those people who needs a certain amount of “down” time. You know, time at home by one’s self? I need a little of that, even if it’s just staying up a little after everyone’s asleep. Once we got married, it took Alissa a bit of time to make peace with that little element of my personality, but make peace she did. Over the decade since our wedding, we’ve developed patterns and behaviors which accomodate my needs in that area and it’s worked out fine.
One such behavior has to do with tax season. You see, I did taxes in 2006 and 2007 before moving from Marysville to Everett, so I know the pattern of the season. There’s a buildup through January to a peak around February 1, when the office tends to be packed with folks bringing in their W-2’s. Those are the people with simple returns and expecting a refund. Volumes drop through late February and March before kicking up again in April. Those are folks with more complex returns and who expect to owe money to the IRS. (Hint: If you think you may owe and are concerned about how much that might be, get your taxes done early and find out if and how much you have to pay. You don’t have to pay the IRS when you file your return. The money’s still not due until April 18 (this year).)
Anyway, that first peak tends to be pretty grueling. Just to give you an idea, in the two weeks ending on Friday, 2/4 I worked 47 hours at the tax office. That’s on top of my regular full time job. Now, I know that’s perfectly normal for some folks. Between the workaholics and those who have to work multiple low wage jobs to make ends meet, it’s probably far too common. But Alissa and I are both blessed with jobs that generally fit into the 9 to 5 box. If I have to work late, it tends to be to catch up after a sick or vacation day.
Anyway, since I don’t work Sunday’s, coming home from that Saturday shift during peak is akin to getting home on Friday night after a hectic week. You don’t really want to do anything. You don’t want any responsibilities. You just want your needs met. Truth be told, it’s pretty selfish state of mind for someone whose spouse has been working just as hard to keep the house up and to keep two small children properly cared for. We all have such moments, and they manifest differently for each of us because we each have different needs.
For me, that need becomes downtime. And so, to accomodate that need, Alissa goes to see her parents during one of those peak weekends. It gives her and the kids a change of pace, and it gives me some downtime. Last night it manifested in watching a movie that does a good job of exploring the “ticking bomb” argument for interrogating terror suspects.
Of course, the movie ended. As I got up, turned out the lights and made my way to bed, the house felt very lonely. Typically, there’s sound from the heater. (I had it off. It’s not that cold, and I tend to be a blanket guy.) There may be sounds from dishwasher and dryer, but those weren’t on. There even should have been sounds from the outside world, but it was a pretty quiet night in suburbia.
But there have been plenty of nights when we haven’t had anyappliances running and the neighborhood has been quiet. But the silence of my absent family was deafening. It’s not like the kids snore or anything, so it’s not like there’s a missing sound that normally carries through the whole house to announce their absence, but I could definitely feel that they weren’t there, and it felt lonely. Of course, the difference between sharing a bed with another person and having it all to yourself is pretty stark and noticable, but there have been nights when a cough or cold has caused Alissa to take advantage of our recliner’s more vertical position, so it’s not like I’ve never had occasion to sleep alone since we got married. Still, the difference between having Alissa in the living room and not having her in the house at all was quite striking.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It was nice to have a down night. It was nice to have the covers just the way I like them without competing with someone else’s preference. It was heavenly to sleep as long as I wanted to rather than as late as the kids would allow. Still, I’m kind of missing my family this morning.
I still need downtime, but maybe I don’t need that much anymore.