My birthday was on Friday and I received my gift several weeks ago. I told my husband that I wanted a new bookshelf. When we moved into this house six years ago, he said “That’s it — no more bookshelves.” Meaning that I needed to make do with what I had, also implying that I would need to make decisions about what books to keep when new books come in.

And I did fairly well. It may have also involved sneaking books into unexpected places and calling them “decor” but it never rose to the level of needing another shelf. Until a few months ago, when we finished putting an addition on our house. As a result, a lot of furniture moved around and I stopped using a desk that had two very nice shelves. Those books had no home. Coupled with the fact that I had been bursting at the seams for awhile and running out of places to shove books, it had become a problem.

So I asked for a bookshelf for my birthday. I told him that I would swap out a very small shelf in our master bedroom — give it to the 10-year-old, whose own collection is growing — and put a larger shelf there. I found one on Wayfair and my husband even helped me assemble it as part of my “gift.”

When my actual birthday rolled around, my husband asked “What do you want to do for your birthday?” Gift already received, he probably figured that I would choose a restaurant for us to go to as a family.

I told him: “I want to check into a hotel. By myself. From check-in one day, to check-out the next day. Peace and quiet.”

I was talking to a friend recently who is temporarily living in a different state than her husband, due to work. She was headed home to see him, and I commiserated. When my husband and I were first married, we lived in different states for six months, and only saw each other every other weekend. My friend asked when the last time I was apart from my husband. Well, every year I have a work conference that takes me away for about 3 days. Last time I was truly away, completely by myself? It had been far too long.

When my 10-year-old was a toddler, I remember my mom coming to visit and she helped my husband while I went to a hotel for a night. That is probably the last time I had a whole day completely to myself. And unlike work travel, which is during the week and has the kids in school during the day, I was asking him to wrangle the kids on the weekend, at home.

After agreeing, he said “Aren’t you going to miss us?” I replied “Why are you trying to ruin this? Just be happy for me.” I told him that I would reciprocate for his birthday.

And so yesterday afternoon, I packed an overnight bag, my laptop, my iPad (so I could watch Netflix while doing something else on my laptop), a book, and a bottle of wine. I chose the same hotel that I stayed at all of those years ago, just a 15 minute drive from home. Proximity wasn’t the issue, as I could mentally take a break just with the change of scenery.

The hotel shares a parking lot with a sandwich shop and a Starbucks, so that I was my dinner last night and breakfast this morning, walking to both. I arrived right at the check-in time of 3:00 PM and don’t intend to leave until check-out at noon.

What did I do with all of this uninterrupted time? First I took a shower. I brought a face mask that had been given to me as a gift and that requires setting for 20 minutes on the skin, so I had never used it. Poured myself a glass of sauvignon blanc (and I had brought my own wine mug). But other than that, I was incredibly boring.

I propped up my iPad and watched episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Then I tackled my gmail account. For work, I am pretty diligent about “Inbox Zero” (or close to it) where I keep only emails in my inbox that I still need to do something with, or am waiting for someone else to response (usually hovering around 50). Everything else goes somewhere. My personal gmail inbox? Had close to 5,000 emails. Promotions, notifications of bank statements, emails from family members — you name it, and it was still in the inbox. I spent hours doing mass searches for things that I knew I could get rid of. It sounds like a silly way to spend my time, but it was one of those things where I felt like “If I just can get a handle on this, it’ll be so much better.”

And then this morning, I went through my normal ritual of reading some newsletters I like (such as Brain Pickings) and now I’m going to organize my work notes. I take notes in every meeting, and it helps me to remember things. But while handwritten notes are said to be better for understanding, I can’t search later. I usually take a bit of time each week to transcribe my notes from the previous week’s meetings, then ripping the page out of my notebook once I was done and tossing it, but I had fallen behind. Same type of thing: I knew that a few hours alone of focus would make me feel so much better.

There you have it. I spend my alone time getting caught up on life. But it is amazing what I could get done without the kids around needing me to look at some picture they drew, or my work phone ringing, or even my cat hopping up into my lap wanting attention.

I’m pretty sure that this will need to be an annual event.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store