So the question came this week. What’s it like to live on your own? The answer popped straight out without thought or consideration. Lonely, but doable. I don’t mean this in a sad way, it’s just the reality for me, and I know this is not the case for everyone.
Just so we are clear, no, I do not want a room mate. There are positives to living alone, it’s my space, I can have things just as I like them. I can put something somewhere and find it next time I look for it, Mum and the great remote fiasco aside. There is no compromise on what to watch when the TV goes on, or indeed, no one watching it when I want silence. There’s no concern about being appropriately dressed, or someone else being in the bathroom when I need it. Food stays in the refrigerator or pantry (who knew??). And if I can’t be bothered completing a task now, it will wait until later, small apartment tidiness not withstanding. I can do what I want, choose my own schedule and worry only for my own needs.
But here’s the rub, I am not an isolationist, sure I have my moments, but I need the company of others. No man is an island. It occurred to me on my first solo trip in 2013, three and a half weeks of traipsing Europe alone before being joined by the family. for the last 10 days. I arranged to meet people in various locations before I left, but the vast majority of my time was spent alone. The thing that struck me then was that the experiences I had were unable to be shared properly. The retelling of them is not the same as living them and often the nuances fail between your lips and someone else’s ears. Sharing an experience, even if it is mundane, elevates it.
So, an experience shared is greater than the sum of its solo parts. But why? It cements it in a way that a solo experience doesn’t. It moves from being mine to ours and that it goes from just my opinion of it to a compounded one, even though those views may widely differ. It’s that confluence that makes it greater. Its significance is multiplied rather than added.
So is it a body that I’m missing? No. It’s the intimacy. I don’t mean to imply that I am desperate for a partner, far from it, I am in no rush to find someone. It’s just one of those things that’s missing, like the charger cord for the cordless vacuum cleaner, the vacuum is here but the rug still needs cleaning. Just as I’m getting over the small bits I can’t get off the rug, I’m getting used to being on my own, although I must admit, I just ordered another charge cord, there is only so much you can tolerate on a navy rug.
So what do I mean by intimacy? It’s not about sex, but rather a connection with another. Having someone who will understand when you come home exhausted, or share your jubilance if you’ve had a great day.. Someone who will lie about how terrible dinner is, or at least laugh about it as they order a pizza. Someone who will surprise you with something because they knew you would like it, even if its something trivial. It’s someone to share your joy and wipe away the tears. Someone who can communicate with you without words. That person who just gets you. That person who is all that for you too. That person who will share your life and bear witness to it, as you bear witness to theirs.
This intimacy is built through time, both quality and quantity. I have it with my kids, although they are grown and living their own lives, Deanna in Queensland on an extended holiday before returning to uni, and John working towards his goals, so I feel the lack of intimacy keenly at the moment. Although blessedly I have been seeing a little more of him lately and she will be returning to Melbourne soon. There are friends, and always extended family, people that will fly from interstate or invite you in for a cup of tea when they think you need support. People who will manage to fit you into their hectic schedules even though they have no spare time, because they care. There has been much messaging and many phone calls from family and friends, both near and far, this has been wonderfully therapeutic and gratefully received. Dear ones without whom I would find it difficult.
Inevitably, I find myself with more time to think, the ponder meter has gone through the roof, I have been taxing my family and friends with these thoughts and they have been blessedly supportive. Apologies to Anna who is receiving the brunt of them and Dan who has to hear them due to proximity. I share an intimacy with my nearest and dearest and whilst it does not replace having someone here, it goes a long way to making this solo living doable.