Do you live alone? If you do, do you like it? Do you live alone by choice, or by circumstance, like divorce, ageing, death of a loved one, empty nest syndrome, flight from an oppressive situation, employment (e.g. fly-in fly-out jobs)? Or any other of the many reasons life separates us from each other?
I live alone by choice, have done so for years, since I left my 20-year-old son to make his own way in life, and I think about my choice most days. It is both comfortable and uncomfortable. My days are very quiet, as I’m not a club-joiner, I have only a few close friends and because I’ve moved around so much, most of them live elsewhere. My family are all grown up, though I live near two of my daughters and see them and their families every week; and I don’t have a steady fella. I have had, including two marriages, a couple of long-term relationships that have transformed into friendships, and some more experimental and ephemeral ones. I don’t go out to work any more, and work from home, writing and editing, and so I”m quite solitary. Some would say I”m reclusive. Yet I’m very sociable and get on easily with most people, on a superficial level, but only let a few in close. Perhaps it goes back to childhood, when I was a country girl, living in the outback of NSW, with only my parents and older siblings for company. I didn’t go to school until I was 13, and so I learned to keep my own company and populate my world with imaginary companions. When I went to boarding school I found it very strange to be among children my own age; I was used to being talked to like an adult, and I had shared much sorrow and hardship with my mother after my father left us, so I was serious; I had to learn how to laugh and play. But I always felt separate, different, even though I had close friends. Perhaps it’s because I’m an Aquarian. Whatever the reasons, and I’m sure there are many, this is how my life is now, and though it could change, I don’t actively seek to change it.
Today, after I came home from shopping in the funky town I live in, I walked from the hallway to the kitchen, then to the bathroom, then to my study, and I thought, if I lived here for years, I would wear tracks in the carpet, for I follow a certain beat, and use some spots of the small house much more than others. I don’t fill up the space like a snail in its shell, I haven’t really grown into it; I haven’t even unpacked most of my ornaments and pictures, as I’m not sure how long I will be in this house. I have moved so much, I’ve forgotten how to settle. Nothing feels permanent. Once or twice, since childhood, I’ve become very attached to a place, and leaving it has been painful, so now, I keep myself separate, even from the house I live in. It’s as if I lived in an igloo, expecting it to melt in the summertime, expecting to have to move to find more ice and build another one.
But it doesn’t feel cold or lonely. Though I think if it were really an igloo and I didn’t have internet, DVDs, TV (for those evening hours when I don’t feel like reading), books, a daily walk to the shops, family visits, a beautiful environment, it would indeed feel Arctic. I sometimes wonder how I would cope with solitary confinement, or life on a desert island, or the sort of isolation my mother endured for so many years, when she had only the wireless, a few books and her own thoughts, leavened by occasional trips to town, when her children were away at boarding school and her husband had gone. I think she was made of stronger stuff than I am. She was brought up to be stoic, to endure, to work hard, to put duty and service to others first.
I am softer, less stoical, much more dependent on change and stimulation from outside myself.
Yet, living alone is not lonely. I had a quick google before I started to write this, and I found statements like:
“Living alone is coming out of the closet as more and more Americans find themselves….alone. You can tell the person who lives alone in the supermarket checkout line. They’re the ones with a six pack of beer, a roll of toilet paper, and 27 tv dinners. People live alone for a lot of reasons, mostly depressing. Divorce or a broken romance are the primary reasons. Serious inability to share space is another. Some people are cohabitationally challenged.”
Or: “Society, for the most part, prefers us to be together. That’s the way we’ve been arranged for ages. Apparently it is the only we can fulfil the Australian dream, our parent’s dreams and our personal dreams of happily-ever-after.”
Well, dreams aside, we have reality, and reality need not be depressing, disappointing pr dysfunctional. I go to the supermarket about once a fortnight for a few items I can’t get in the small independent shops. I get most of my fresh stuff from the farmer’s market. I love cooking and I don’t eat TV dinners; I drink wine, not beer. The only space I find it hard to share is my bed, as I am a light sleeper, and all the men I’ve shared my bed with have snored. I love my bed, it is my haven. It doesn’t feel lonely.
Do you fear being alone? Do you prefer it? If you live alone, what are your days like? Would you like them to be different?