For a while this has been a recurring thought in my mind:
if I could be alone for a day what would I do? Where would I go? Would I spend the whole day in bed?
So I decided to toy with the idea and plan a quick escape while at the same time gain as much as I could from the experience. The occasion came some weeks ago with the annual Mumsnet Blogfest being held at the King’s Place in London. I flew out for the event (possibly unlike anyone else who attended that day) leaving behind my work and home in exchange for being single for a day (or a day and a half to be more precise).
My plan had to be constructed with some thought not only for my own benefit but for everyone else involved. I had to plan for the whole of my family in an effort to capture some quality me time and be granted access to the more industrious world of blogging.
Truth is I’d never imagined prior to the trip it would all go so smoothly. I’d arranged for my daughter to stay at my parents’ and for my husband to keep our 3-year-old son. There was very little chance my husband would survive the sole guardianship of both our children. With his OCD tendencies, striving for perfection in the home and spending much of his time conjuring up and picking out potential hazards our kids might encounter, there was a real possibility his mental state might suffer.
As I dropped the kids off at nursery a few hours prior to my departure it suddenly hit me that I was unloading the last of my precious cargo and that my hands would be freed for the next 30 or so hours. I returned home and hurriedly packed hand luggage that would travel with me to London and from then on the whole journey had “easy” written all over it.
Forgetting for the moment any emotional ties my attention now turned to more practical matters such as arriving at the airport in time, remembering my passport and boarding pass and quickly grabbing that last minute magazine to occupy an hour’s worth of flight time. There was little else I had to think of, only myself and my trusty, compact, suitcase.
I woke early on the morning of the Blogfest with little sensation other than the warm, thick duvet over my face. Instead of the kids jumping over my head and occasionally thumping me in the face with a foot or an elbow there was absolute tranquility, nothing holding me down or pressing against me and very little obstruction apart from a side table to allow me to pull myself out of bed. I switched on the radio and made myself a cup of breakfast tea that was spread out on a tray inches away from where I’d been lying. All I had to do now was have my tea, get dressed, do my hair, brush my teeth, walk out the door: easy.
A thought suddenly occurred to me as I was getting ready that morning:
What if I was really single at the age of 32 and living in London? What would my life be like?
I guessed that I’d have friends, a job, possibly a career and a gym membership I’d actually use. However when I’d return home there’d be something missing, not to mention the interchanging feelings of restlessness and loneliness that I’d make my life time’s ambition to fill.
Upon reflection there was no way I could or ever would return to my old life, the life of a singleton… but I decided to live it for a day, fulfilling instead the “what if” question that had passed through my mind ever since settling down almost five years ago.
I’d been anticipating Blogfest months before the actual event, watching past youtube videos and wondering whether it would be the right decision to fly over for such a short time. Would it be worth the guilt of rewarding myself with a trip while my family stayed behind?
Meeting with fellow bloggers, I expected, would be entertaining. I thought I might meet some clones of myself: people more willing to befriend strangers and who were perhaps themselves hiding behind alter egos.
Other than that, I had no idea what I’d gain from the experience, yet as I entered the venue and was greeted by a Blogfest staff, who handed me a programme and a digital name tag, and pointed me in the right direction, it became clear that I would be in the hands of an exceptionally organised team of people.
The day comprised various break out sessions attended mainly by women and a handful of men. In large halls we all sat staring at the panelists seated on sofas discussing topics from Internet trolls to the importance of women in the media. It ended with the controversial “Can you be a mummy blogger and still be a feminist” which almost sparked a riot, but was salvaged in the nick of time by comedian Jo Brand who managed somewhat ironically, to turn the bitterness into sweet with her trademark feminist charm.
In one particular session I braved my own stage fright and asked a question to the panelists in front of around 200 fellow bloggers and writers. There was a part of me that needed to confront my fear of being heard and judged in the flesh. Thankfully there was no obvious criticism against what I’d just said, no looks of contempt or confusion on any of the listeners’ faces, at least not any I could see in a dark room. Still my entire body shook from adrenalin for some time after the session had ended.
So the day went ahead as planned. I’d conversed with a few dozen influential women, many of whom appeared modest in their contribution to blogging yet were each inspirational in their own way and as the tea and cake kept on coming, followed by cocktails and gin and tonics our environment became more and more inviting, our inhibitions virtually lost to false familiarity.
Finally I returned to the hotel feeling like I’d rediscovered my old self, that part of me – would you agree? – that remains dormant until we are one day greeted with that rare opportunity to be alone and to exercise our minds freely before again returning to our more sobering reality.