For the first eighteen years of my life I shared a room with my sister, S. Two more dissimilar people have not shared such close quarters, and for so long. I have vivid memories of placing duct tape on the hard wood floor to keep her off my side of the room, throwing her clothes at her face with the intent to inflict harm, and 'shh-ing' her for what seemed like hours on end when I was trying to read a book in bed. I remember watching episodes of Family Ties and bubbling with jealousy because even though the Keatons had a big family too, Jennifer and Mallory got their own rooms. No fair.
I think this, along with the ten-person suite that served as my dorm experience, prepared me for a life in which I appreciate my solidarity. When I know I am going to be alone on a Saturday afternoon, I might plan to go to Target and shop without judgement. When it's a Tuesday or Wednesday night, I might rent an independant film and make a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. If it's a Friday night, I usually cuddle up with Ann Curry and Dateline NBC. Any time I feel like I am missing out on what is often referred to as 'real life', I think back to my days creating forts under my Dad's piano to get some privacy and thank God for the peace and quiet.
L and I have been together for over six years now, and he has traveled extensively during that time. When we were overseas, my appreciation of being alone came in handy. If it wasn't for my alone time, I would not have made some of the friends that I did. I would not have gotten a qi pao made. Sure, I might have avoided that trip to the zoo that scarred me for life, but in the end it was the experience, seperate from L, that made me feel like the adventure was not just his and not just ours-- it was mine.
With our economy swirling down a giant toilet bowl of despair, L has not traveled at all in the last few months. And while the dutiful new wife in me feels like my line should be 'and I'm so happy to have him with me, every minute, so we can gaze into each other's eyes and burst into spontaneous love songs,' the woman in her thirties in me knows that is not the reality. Nor would I want it to be. The truth is that while it's great to have L to snuggle with every night and kiss goodbye every morning, the independant woman (yeah, woman) that I am has missed being able to watch Antiques Roadshow, uninterrupted.
When L left last Saturday for his first business trip in four months, I made a mental list: 1. Make that new Real Simple mac and cheese recipe on the cover of this month's issue. 2. Work out every day. 3. Clean out the coat closet. 4. Buy roses 5. Spend at least one afternoon in the library. 6. Eat at least one package of chili cheese Fritos.
I have done none of these things. But, of course, it's not the items on my list that are important. It's the list itself; the idea that a woman in her thirties makes a place in her life for prioritizations all her own. Tonight, my last night of 'alone time' before L comes back, I feel the responsiblities of my job and the uncertainty of the future weighing on me. I think the best thing I can do with my freedom is close my eyes, crawl under the piano, and listen to the silence.