Like most people, I had never lived alone. I grew up in a family of five, I’d moved to a college, then share-houses. The lowest number of people I’d lived with was one other person, but now, here I was, standing in front of a garage, with the keys to my own (rental) place. 1 ‘bedroom’, 1 all-of-the-other-rooms, 1 bathroom and, strangely enough, a foyer. It was pink-ish on the outside, dirty cream on the in and was now full of a whole lotta stuff I’d accumulated over ten years living out of home.
And I’d be living there alone.
Under the weirdly sloping ceiling, at the back of the block, with something running around in the roof and a few spiders in the corners.
And it was great!
I’d been pretty terrified of living alone – even though I’m not an extrovert and relish time by myself (like, by relish I mean, can-only-survive-when-I-have), I was still worried that my frequent melancholic impulses to not leave the house at all would exacerbate the loneliness and isolation my messed up brain has convinced me are my natural state. Yes, it’s the Bridget-Jones-die-alone-eaten-by-Alsatians bit. And the idea of becoming violently ill where no one will notice is a little disquieting.
And, for the record, I did black out once on my bathroom floor, and woke up sweating and gasping for air with no idea how long I’d been out of it. I was late for work that day! But of course, my answer to “how’re you?” was still, “fine” (I’m a liar like the rest of you). But, I survived, and no dogs of Alpine descent broke into the house to consume me.
In the end, fear of living alone was worse than the act itself. Yes it meant I had to put myself out there more and ask people to come over/meet up/allow me into their homes, but mostly people are quite nice, and take me up on that offer. So, even though I felt like a total loser occasionally because my phone was full of texts from me to other people saying, “hey, you free to catch up/hang out” and them being like, “hey, sorry I hadn’t replied”, I felt like I had plenty of company.
And the reality of life means I SAY EXACTLY THE SAME THING TO PEOPLE ALL THE TIME! (I’m a demon for read-the-text-but-don’t-reply-that-second-cos-I-need-to-ponder-then-get-distracted). Cos life is very full, and I have a lot of relationships to sustain and a pretty low level of energy for that a lot of the time, because even though I desperately love the many friends God has put in my path and the total or semi-strangers also needing help/love/a chat, there are a lot of you and only one of me, and I’m fairly crap at sustaining depth of relationship with more than four other people at once.
So, for me, living alone was great. I need rest to be able to keep giving, and rest doesn’t happen unless I’m able to relax, in my own space, and just stare at the wall for a while if I need to. I had to seek company when I wanted/needed it, and it’s occasionally difficult or scary to find yourself sick and alone, but I had a comfortable retreat which fit my shape, even though I needed to get out and stretch that shape occasionally because the place was SMALL!!
Yes the shack got messy and yes, the day I had ‘fake family’ around for Christmas lunch, we barely fit, and the oven broke and we had to de-camp to my friend’s house and the bread had over-proofed by that point into a weird oozy mess, and yes I could open the fridge while seated at the dining table and yes I had to climb a rickety ladder to get into a bed that left me with approximately 1 foot of headroom, but it was blissful! And even I, in the midst of unemployment, semi-employment, study and other madness could afford at least that small piece of paradise for which I am extremely thankful.
So, in a few weeks, when I move into a flat on my own again after a summer living with my mum, I am really going to enjoy it! It’ll be lovely to be able to host people there, dance in the lounge room, cry where no one can see me and eat Chocolate Bavarian for dinner just occasionally because again, no one can see me. I’m looking forward to the bliss of my own space, which, even in the most comfortable of share house relationships, never quite feels totally relaxed. When you’re with your family or by yourself however, you can really let your hair down, be your less gracious self and shout at your mother to get out of the way of the television because Monty Don is on, only to have her wiggle her butt at you provocatively and make herself more of a nuisance.
Living alone doesn’t have to be lonely, but it can mean having a place to re-charge your batteries (both literal and metaphorical, huh, iPhones these days!), a place to hang those crab-curtains you really like and not argue (passively or otherwise) about the TV schedule for the Friday night.