Many years ago, I read Virgina Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Since I’ve always wanted to be a writer, the book spoke to me. It may actually have been one of the reasons that I’ve always planned to live in a tiny cabin in the woods and write.
That may have been where it all started…
These days, as a woman “of a certain age” (which is just polite society code for over the hill) I’ve realized that there are parts of myself that I can’t share on a daily basis. Things I won’t share with those who are closest to me. Sure, I might journal them, I might blog them, I might consider them wistfully and turn them around and around in my own head — but I won’t sit down and share them verbally with another human being.
Likewise, although I’d like to consider myself a giving person, there are certain things that I won’t share physically. I have “my” things that I might loan, but I don’t share. It goes beyond the basics, like my toothbrush and my personal care items. It goes into physical space.
It has taken me years to realize I need a room of my own. I need a place that’s not “public” that’s not shared. I need a door that only I open. One that requires a polite knock from anyone else, and not just a knock and then auto-entry. I knew I needed it, but I didn’t allow myself to have it because I was responsible to others and for others and to carve out a space of my own seemed, somehow, wrong. Good mommies/wives/women don’t want to hide themselves away. I’m not sure why I believe this, at what point I embraced this, but I did.
Why A Room?
I need a place where I’m “off-call” to the rest of the world — off call from everything. I need a neat, well-lit version of a man cave. My mental health, my creative self, my very sanity requires it. I need a place where things stay exactly how I leave them. A place where I only have to clean up after myself — not a man, not kids, not animals. No one. Just me.
It took me a long time to realize that I needed it and to take it. When you are a single mom, you don’t have any space of your own. There is no privacy at all. Hell, you can’t even go to the bathroom without someone needing something — RIGHT THIS SECOND! It’s true.
The Pursuit of a Room
Because I didn’t HAVE a room, I prided myself on the fact that I was mobile. The fact that I could work from ANYWHERE. I spent years honing my craft and my “tools” to make them (and me) more and more mobile. I loved the fact that I could pack up and go and take my work with me.
The History of My Personal Space
For many years, after I launched my business, my office was in one corner of my bedroom — which the kids had to go through to get to the bathroom. Yeah, seriously.
Then my office was in the laundry nook and later in corner of the living room, when I lived at the lake. Then, briefly, I had an Airstream that I converted into an office — and I was THRILLED with it. Things in my personal life happened, and I had to move from the lake and, eventually, I sold the Airstream, since I had no place to park it and it had become another “albatros” that was perfect in my ideal world — a world in which I would have used it to travel and write — but was not feasible in my real life — and I couldn’t bear to see it sit fallow.
Then, my office was the room at the top of the stairs in a rental house. The “walk through” for the kids to get to their bedrooms.
Then my office was in an efficiency apartment I shared with my daughter. (My “office” was also the living room and my bedroom.)
Then, I moved again, and I had no office at all. My “office” was my laptop in a padded bag. So, I created my own “space” by working in my car when I couldn’t bear to work in the middle of the family chaos and by visiting the local library and setting up my workspace there. (I was very territorial about my vehicle at that point. I didn’t want anyone else to drive it. It was mine. I’ve not really gotten over that, although I’m improving.)
Using the library as an office felt very “metropolitan” to me. I liked being in a private corner with all the bustle around me. It was full of activity, but none of those people were asking me to do things for them. No one interrupted me. I plugged in my earphones, put on my writing and working music, and created an auditory private area in the middle of it all. That was all well and wonderful until I had to pee — at which point, I had to unplug and pack up everything to go to the bathroom. (You can’t leave everything out in a public space and expect it to be unmolested while you are gone, can you?”)
Back to the Farm
Later, I moved back to the farm and my office was the media room – an open area, again at the top of the steps — the area we walked through to get to my bedroom and my daughter’s room. There is no door.
When I didn’t have any kids at home anymore, I thought that I’d have the whole house to myself. I thought the cabin would be my sanctuary. And it was… for a time. During that brief period of time I wrote a book, and I was really pleased with myself for doing so. I felt like I could conquer the world!
Then I partnered up and opened up a business in town and moved back to the middle of the city. The demands were so great that I got back to the cabin less and less.
It depresses me to go there now. It looks more like a storage unit than a home. It looks like work I need to do, not a place of creativity and respite. It’s no longer my haven. Now, it has become just one more thing I have to worry about, one more thing I have to handle. It’s just another duty. It’s no longer my sanctuary. It makes me sad.
The Status of My Room Today
In town, I no longer have a room of my own. I had an office at work, one that was just mine, it was something I required after our short bout of sharing an office in another location, but we had to change things around so that we could have a “war-room” to work on websites together. Working together when working on websites is so much more efficient than yelling back and forth between rooms. Unfortunately, in the whole building, only my office was suited to do that.
So now, I don’t have an office again. Now, someone else comes in and leaves their stuff everywhere. The babies (of the fur and feather variety) are always trotting in and out, making messes, leaving toys, crewing up things and leaving me with the debris to clean up. Their water and food bowls keep magically appearing in here (and they inevitably get overturned a couple times a week — which means I have to stop working and clean it up).
They make noise, then need attention, they need fed, they need me to stop what I’m working on and take them outside to potty. I’m on call. Constantly. It’s like having kids again while I’m trying to work.
It seems like a small thing. It seems so petty. My resentment of interruptions makes me dislike myself, which doesn’t help. The lack of a room of my own means that I can’t do anything without either an actual interruption or the expectation of one, which keeps my stomach in a knot or the edgy-feeling threat of a knot.
Tiny Houses and My Room
I think that my fascination with tiny houses, vardos, Airstreams, van adventuring isn’t so much the desire for life in a small space, but more the desire to have a space that’s just mine with all the essentials. I like tiny houses because they require things to be minimal (meaning I spend less of my life cleaning and caring for “stuff”) and organized (because in tiny houses everything MUST have a place).
And it’s not that I wouldn’t want to share that space with an adult that would pick up after themselves and respect my need to not be interrupted when I’m writing. There’s less that needs to be tended in a small house, less constant demand on my time and creative resources. It “fits” me, my personality, my needs.
So now, rather than being creative, I’m constantly consumed (in any spare moments I have) with contemplating tiny living, researching better ways to live more simply, and finding dedicated living spaces that make me say “ohhhhh” in my mind, I’m going to try something new. I’m not sure what that is going to be, but I anticipate it will mean going back to the cabin.
Back to the Farm?
That will mean commuting again and I hate commuting, but at least there will be solitude. I need my cup of solitude to be running over for a bit. I’m sure, once my battery is refilled, I’ll desire it less. I know that it’s lonely — I’ve done it. But right now, as I face the fact that I’ve hit a landmark birthday, it seems that I’m running out of time — literally — to be the creative soul that I want to be, that I believe I need to be. I see my life whizzing by at an alarming rate.
I’m not creative, I’m not producing beyond the stuff I do for our clients and the LOADS of volunteer work we do as an extension of the business. I don’t spend quality time with the people I love the most — and I miss them! When I talk, it’s ALWAYS about business, and even I’m sick of hearing it. Surely my life has more facets.
So I’ve made a big decision.
I’m eliminating all the “volunteer” work that I am doing now. That will give me more time to be a creative again. It will give me time to do something OTHER than work on other people’s dreams all the time. I will be able to work more on making MINE come true. I love our clients, I love the work that I do. I want to continue to do it, and I will…
But the free work that I’ve buried myself with that doesn’t pay the bills is work that I’m choosing (by default) over my own work. It’s time to realize that my time is limited on this earth and to prioritize things a little better. There’s nothing like a birthday to shake you up about such things.
It’s not easy to realize that I’ve replaced raising kids with volunteering as an “excuse” for why I can’t do what I’ve always said that I wanted to do. A self-made, self-sabotaging, lack-of-deciding decision that is blocking my own way. I did this to me. No one else. Just me.
Getting Past the Fear
I don’t know if it’s fear of failure or fear of trying that’s in play and has been in play all these years, but surely I’m old enough now to handle it. Right? The worst thing that will happen is that I decided it’s NOT what I really want. Maybe I’m scared that if I try writing with my whole heart, I’ll discover that it’s not really my dream at all. Then I’ll have to admit that it never was and that all this time I was just fooling myself. That, perhaps, I am a fool.
I’ll have to admit that my crazy hours, the working every day, the constant stress, was all my own fault, a crisis of my own making that has stripped me of my peace of mind and, to a great degree, my health and happiness. And now… I can admit that, if I need to.
I’m strong enough now.
On the positive side, I also want to learn to paint and travel and I’d like to garden and do some other things to the cabin to make me a little more self-sufficient and closer to off-grid. If writing isn’t my “dream” pursuit — I still have lots of other exciting things to explore.
It’s just time to find out what’s next!