A Room of my Own
by Patsy Sun
I live alone.
I don’t really live alone. Every other week I live with my 3 year old son. (On alternate weeks he goes with his papa.) We can afford to do it this way because we grow our own food, live simply and neither of us has a straight job. A few days each week we all spend together. Half the time I live in the city in a room in the basement of a student cooperative amongst a lot of people I am not very close with. I’m not even a student. The other half I live in the woods in a log cabin I helped build, with trees and a river and little birds and animals I am very close to. I say “I live alone” because that is what I’m struggling with. It’s new to me and alternately exciting and scary.
Getting the room was something did for myself. It is mine, no one elses. Getting the room was very hard. For a year and a half we all lived in the cabin. After living with Bob for nearly 8 years in communes it was really fun at first. We had never before lived as a family. The 3 bears, the mama, the papa, and the little baby in their cabin in the woods. We have always lived doing things together and enjoyed our work. At night we’d sit around the fire reading to each other or plying guitar and autoharp. A few days each week we’d hitchhike to the city to see friends, work at the food co-op or on the underground newspaper. We grew our own food; cut our wood. Watched the seasons change. Our life was simple and holy and sane. Only after awhile we started going crazy. More and more there were tensions, fights, emotional outbursts and guilt about Kiya having no kids to play with.
And then some how I got this idea of a room of my own in town. It’s the first room of my own I’ve had for 8 years. Once I began to fantasize about the idea there was no turning back. I felt I had to have physical and emotional space. It was not just the pressure of the last year living so closely without day to day relationships with other people, but the whole 8 years of accommodation to US, to Our Life Together, which in my case meant so often doing what he wanted because I didn’t really know what I wanted. Getting the room was something I wanted. It was full of implications. For me it meant not just a place of my own, but a life of my own. Bob was both threatened and supportive. I was torn but determined. I felt I was “destroying the family” cutting off my only source of love and security, hurting my dearest friend, giving birth to myself and committing suicide all at the same time.
Now four months later none of what I feared has happened. Our alternate week child care system with planned family days is providing us both with precious time to be responsible only for ourselves as well as time to really tune in to little Kiya and each other when we’re together, in a new and more intense way. Kiya has not flipped out but seems to handle the situation with the kind of cool that only a kid has. Bob is no longer threatened but digging his new independence. Though there is still a lot of shit between us that I don’t understand, we’re working on it and sometimes we feel close and more excited about each other than we have for years. Most important, slowly, very slowly I am finding new sources of emotional security and nourishment.
The hard part is something I didn’t really anticipate, the loneliness. The people I am really close to, except for Bob, are all 1000 miles away in New Mexico, Kentucky, Connecticut, India, Alaska, and California. I had never spent much time alone; family, school, college, communes. I had always set things up so that I was well supplied with companions, if not friends. Consequently I find myself now, very shy and uptight and unskilled at getting it on it a regular social way. Most of the people I work with on projects don’t know I’m shy. I appear confident and friendly. If I don’t reach out, it must be assumed I choose not to, my life must already be full. A lot of people don’t know of the change in my relationship with Bob. I go home to my room alone, or out to the country. It’s strange, in the woods I can be alone, but I’m somehow filled up. In the city I fill myself up, fill my time writing, meditating, drawing, organizing myself, relishing those solitary things that for years I’ve not had enough time for. I work amongst people, I live around people, but it’s not uncommon to pass several days without a meaningful personal conversation. That’s when I begin to get scared. I lose my confidence to meet my own needs. I begin to withdraw more and more into myself. I withdraw and then I hit bottom. The panic comes in the city. I begin to think of the future. It’s not that the present is so intolerable, but I begin to think… “What am I going to do? I can’t go forever like this. I’m too lonely, I’ve got to do something! Go to my friends in Kentucky. Find people somehow around here that I want to live with. Make up my mind to e alone for a long time…”
I touch bottom in the country. I touch bottom and what I find there is me, and the god in me and everything is fine and I understand that this struggle is necessary and good, that I have grown and am growing; that this is something I have never had to do before and that even my pain is a kind of gift that is strengthening me. I remember then, an old Chippewa Indian saying. “Sometimes I go around pitying myself and all the time I am being carried on great wings across the sky.”