uncommon expression

Going Solo

I can’t believe I’m here all alone. And I’m happy.

It’s 8:21AM on a Monday morning. I’m in a cozy studio house nestled in a quiet neighborhood. Outside, it’s completely quiet, aside from the sun coaxing the dew from their glistening leaves. The fence enclosing the yard off the patio side of the house plays the steady role of tightrope for a nimble, bushy-tailed squirrel.

Am I describing the modern-day, suburban Snow White tale? No, I’m sitting on a couch inside a rented guesthouse for my self-prescribed wellness retreat. No crystals or essential oils or sage smudging here. I’m not even doing yoga. I’m just trying to be a proponent for my own well-being, for once. I needed a break from what I thought I knew was my reality—a reality over which I felt I had no control. As of right now, I still feel that way, but being in a place that’s not my own, by myself, makes me think the law of transitivity could work.

For example, I made my own coffee today, undisturbed by noises or someone watching me or the fear that my mom would wake up and come into the kitchen. Or even look or speak to me.

Two things: Firstly, I don’t hate my mom; in fact, I love her, as everyone should not only love their mom, but also my mom specifically. Secondly, I have social anxiety. At the end of last year, I was diagnosed with moderate to severe social anxiety disorder, as well as a cocktail of situational depression and persistent depressive disorder.

One more thing: Both my mother’s mother and my father—her husband—died within the same two and a half-month span last year. And she came back here to the US after all of that without plans. In a really robust nutshell of stress, shock, and depression all around, and without a foreseeable next course of action, she is staying in my house with me. And my husband.

Okay, one more thing. I’m married. My husband and I are renting a 1940s duplex with a master bedroom and an adjacent office, so the office and the bedroom share a wall. The office is where my mom has been staying. If you’re a well-Americanized American and have lived on your own since 18, staying with your parents is complicated. If you’re a well-Americanized second-generation Asian American and your parents are staying with you AND you’re married, you go to therapy. So I am.

And when you’re concurrently diagnosed with social anxiety and depression and feel as if you have no control over your own surroundings or relationships and are too afraid to live within your own home, you bolt. You go on your own wellness retreat. You go away on a solo trip.

I love my family, and I love my home…but I need space, control, and quiet. I need to be at peace both with and within myself. So, that’s why I’m here. This trip isn’t going to release me from the reality of my home situation. It’s not going to give me the immense courage I need to confront my mom about her plans, to speak openly with my husband about our relationship with my mom there, allow me to work from home without my own office alone, or encourage me to confront the complicated bundle of feelings regarding my late father.

However, for now, it’s me breathing in and out. I hear my own movements and no one else’s. I can function within my own contexts. I’m here drinking coffee I brewed and watching two squirrels now pop around the yard. Right now, I’m okay.

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