Andy is a man of many caves. He has the office at our house. It's a dark and creepy place, a labyrinth. The light from the almost hidden window casts mysterious shadows on stacks of paper, boxes- large and small- and cords. Lots and lots of cords. The door to this cave always stays shut. I'm afraid to go in. I'm afraid to look in. Andy disappears in the cave, from time to time. I've considered tying a rope around his waist, and providing him with a headlamp and a bottle of water before he goes in. I don't know what goes on in that cave and I don't want to know.
Andy's next cave is the garage. When we moved in, it was a lovely, large, 2-bay with a loft above. Now, it is a vortex. The Great UpState Garbage Patch. One must certainly bring their spelunking gear with them when entering our garage. Good hiking boots are a necessity. Also, bring a headlamp, a walking stick, and maybe some mace. I'm pretty sure things that don't have legs move in our garage. Things that should long have left our possession have made a home in our garage. Andy has everything a man needs in his garage cave: a bar, a kegerator, a 1990's 3 disc CD player, and an air hockey table. He also has bags of soda cans, at least a dozen old doors, and 2 boxes of plastic cups collected on a trip to Vegas. He's never lonely because he just needs to head up to the loft where thousands of dead flies can keep him company. Like Oscar the Grouch, when Andy enters the garage cave, be is in garbage-land bliss.
Andy's next cave, the ultimate man cave, is the bathroom. We have two at our house, the lucky boy. I keep this cave clean for him and supply him with the necessities to make this cave the best it can be- toilet paper, towels, soap, Nat Geo and Consumer Reports magazines, and smelly candles. When Andy goes into the bathroom, nobody follows. What he's doing in there, I don't ask. We have a don't ask, don't tell policy when it comes to Andy's time in the bathroom, which is a minimum of twice a day.
Not all of Andy's caves are so confining. Our yard is his wide open cave. Our yard, with the lawn mower, that is. The lawn mower is dangerous and loud. When Andy mows the lawn nobody can talk to him or bother him. The wife, the children, and the dog, must stay clear. There's a 10 foot radius around Andy and his moving cave. He puts on his headphones and gets lost in thought as he pushes it to the tunes of Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez.
Andy's last cave transcends time and space. It is ever present and available to him. He can retreat to this cave at a moment's notice. Andy's most powerful, and most frequently used, cave is his mind. One moment he is talking to me, perhaps about his plans for the week. The next moment my voice trills while I remind him that being away from home for 4/5 bedtimes is unacceptable and I can almost see him open the door to his mind cave, sneak in, and shut the door. I think I can hear the creak of the hinge over my own shouting. This cave is a secret to all others. I do not know its contents. I do not know how many papers are stacked in this cave. I have no idea if this cave is stocked with the necessary life supplies like beer and a lawn mower. Is this cave also the place where flies go to multiply and die? I do know that no hungry pets, angry wives, or annoying children are in this cave. This cave is not for co-workers or in-laws. This cave is an introverts paradise, a place for loners to find sanity among the insanity that surrounds them. I do wish he'd take his head lamp and rope when he hides in the depths of his mind cave. When he goes there I worry that he'll never return.
In the past, I never had a cave but after watching, and studying, Andy, I'm learning to develop my own caves. My first cave is the treadmill. It's in a quiet corner at the back of our house. I let the hum of the motor and the latest Netflix show block out all worries. The warning of being cut by the running mat keeps all children and pets a good distance from me. When I am on the treadmill, I am on a deserted island. I am in a meditative state. I'm at peace.
Like Andy, my next cave is the great outdoors. I take my feet to the trail or the pavement. Work is not in this cave. Problems can't make their way to this cave. Children must keep out. Husbands are not allowed. I retreat by running; running away, some may say. Don't worry. I always come back. I have tools for this cave. As a matter of fact, I do wear a headlamp, sometimes, when I go to this cave. It can be a cold, harsh place, or hotter than hell but I take comfort that I am there alone. Solitude outweighs the dangers of this cave.
Finally, I have found a cave in the depths of my mind. It's a very secret place, and unlike Andy, I don't think a single soul knows when I have escaped to this very best of all caves. Say I'm at the mall food court and the girls are hitting one another. One of them has already broken the necklace I fought not to buy but I wasted ten dollars on anyway. One drops their drink on the floor. What's a mom to do? I could get angry. I could cry. Or, I can quietly and covertly go to my mind cave. Right there, right in front of everyone, I do my best to scurry into the mind cave. I have a cup of coffee waiting for me there and a personal masseuse. It's clean there. Everything is in its place and there is a place for everything. All of the shoes are lined up. Then, just as stealthily, I come out of my cave, wipe up the drink, separate the children, throw the necklace in the trash and smile, a secret, I-was-just-in my-cave smile, as the children shriek and we hussle through the mall and into the parking lot.
Maybe I'm not lucky enough to have a physical room, a cave to call my own. I have a been a good student, however. I've learned the ways of Andy. I've taken note and I've created my own retreat spaces, both physical and mental. Life is full of chaos and noise. We all deserve a cave, whether it's a bathroom or basement or a tiny spot in the back of your head. What matters is that, at some point, we come back out.