I just read a post by my friend Amy Palko — her husband and three children are about to head off to Australia for six weeks while she stays at home in Scotland working; Amy now faces six weeks of living alone… for the first time in her life. I just tweeted her that it would be “six weeks of awesome” and that living alone is the best thing I have ever done (with an emphatic EVER repeated at the end.) And it’s true. I wouldn’t have chosen to live alone; up until that fateful day in 2005 I’d either been living with family, boyfriends or flatmates. Back then I thought that to be alone would also mean you were lonely, despite knowing it was perfectly possible to be lonely within a relationship. I know that much of my fear was down to abandonment in my childhood, something that never got healed and played itself out again and again as I clung on to relationships that were long past their sell-by date. I had never lived alone; I’d never actually been alone. It was simply unthinkable.
And then, suddenly, there I was, completely on my own.
Somewhere around the beginning of the second year after his death, I was filling my fridge with food for the week, and noticed that everything on the shelves was stuff I liked to eat. Hummous and veggies, and little anchovies in olive oil. There was my favourite yoghurt, and Jarlsberg cheese, and the wine I relied on too much in those days. Every single thing in that fridge was just for me. Hell, even the fridge was mine — I’d bought it in a sale when I moved into the flat. He’d never seen that fridge, yet mingled in with the sadness was a growing sense of freedom and independence that I had never experienced before. The more I nested in that flat, the more me I became.
Five years later and I don’t think much about my fridge anymore. It holds my food and Polaroid film, a small but essential piece of a home I have built around me. One of my greatest pleasures is coming home, locking the door behind me and sinking in my own comfortable space, just me and my sofa, my big bed calling to me as I type a last email into my laptop. The wedding blanket I bought in Marrakesh sparkles in the morning light; a side table rescued from the tip now holds my favourite books. Everything in my home feels like an extension of me, yet even when i go away, i carry that same feeling inside me — that sense of being grounded in my own space, and it helps me navigate the world as a single person.
When Sas came to visit a few weeks ago she walked through the door and let out a sigh: “It smells like your home,” she said, a trace of incense still lingering in the air. And it does, and I love that it does. And yes, one day I hope to be telling you all how hard it is to mix my beloved books with someone else’s, that his guitar or his running shoes or whatever it is that’s important to him are now sitting on my wedding blanket and I’m finding it hard to let go and let someone in, but that I’m trying really hard, because I know it will be worth it.
I look forward to that day very much; but for now I’ll relish the space and freedom I have, because I’ve worked so hard to appreciate it as much as I do.
Have you ever lived on your own? Did you/do you love it?
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Ps. If you’d like to listen to Monday’s call you can now download it over at Fabeku’s place — it was such fun we’re planning to do it again :)