When I raised my children, after a particularly horrendous divorce, I decided I wanted to raise them alone. Sure it was never easy, try paying for summer camps and braces when you are living on one income. On top of that there was the school trips, many of them overseas, as well as clothing, and not to mention food. A lot of food. A lot of trips to the grocery store for snacks, school lunch items, and things that just do not find their way into my cart today.
Now my children are adults. Almost. Okay one of them is and it is not the dog. The youngest one at 20 is still at home but she has moved into another stage of life. She goes to work and school and generally does her own thing. Except of course for the need for food, a roof over her head and the electricity and hydro to keep running so that she might access her computer and not to eat in the dark.
The question I often have with my friends is can someone who is so used to living alone and listening to the rhythms of their own life ever give it up? I refer to us people who have been single for a long time….like decades. Or fifteen years. Or even ten years. I wake up in the middle of the night, walk around, turn on lights, turn on the television, make a bowl of cereal sometimes for dinner because I ate a heavy lunch and often eat the kind of food that does not appeal to others. Such as soy milk, mainly vegetarian, and very little meat if any.
The days of baking trays and trays of cookies to feed teenagers is over me and I am happy about moving on. I like the space that is gradually clearing in my head and in my life. But, being in an adult relationship, inevitably there comes the question; your place or mine? My friends and I talk about this a lot. Autonomy or self government versus dependence on another. There are varying opinions, a few have said, no way, I like my space, my privacy, my ability to come and go as I please no questions asked and others are of a different mind. They want someone to share the daily rituals of life with and to be there when their self-government is in crisis. I however, am somewhere in the middle. I want complete self – government and someone to do fun things with, in a way that our friends often cannot. This implies a certain intimacy with another that often does not come with friendship alone.
When I was young I used to think that Simone De Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre had the perfect life, he in his apartment on one floor of their hotel and she on another. Each free to have the autonomy of their separate lives and yet always meet in the evening for meals, discussion and then after if they chose to do so go their own way. Now that I am older, (and have read a lot more of de Beauvoir’s work) I wonder if she was truly happy in the arrangement. No, she did not want a typical bourgeois life but one wonders how happy she was with Sartre’s affairs. The thing is of course, we can never know fully what goes on between two people. Especially two people in an intimate relationship. Unless of course you are lying under their bed each night listening. That of course the essence of sharing, the closeness, intimacy and the way our mind and body grow to need another. Which is why break ups are often so devastating. Sure we wanted rid of him or her, but the daily rituals, the phone calls, the things we did for each other stop, leaving a gap in our lives.
Really though, my question is whether or not a person who has lived autonomously making their own decisions, having their own space and so on can ever fully give it up after a certain amount of time has passed. And, if we do are we doing it happily or grudgingly? I know this though, if my dog doesn’t like you forget it. Plus do you mind sleeping every night with a giant chihuahua who spreads across the bed as though it is his own? Or that I spend more time with the dog than most humans because he does not bug me and ask for things like getting him dinner, or ask me to change the channel.
Just my thoughts for today, because as we all know humans can be inflexible and stuck in our ways. I know for sure I am not ever kicking the chihuahua out of bed.
Cheeseburger for one anyone?