Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Living Alone

Tonight I had a long, wonderful Skype date with my former housemates, Grant and Jenn. We talked about everything, from recent trips to Colorado to recipes for shrimp and grits. I felt joyfully broken-hearted as we talked face to face for the first time in two months. I miss them.

Near the end of our talk, Jenn asked, "How does it feel to be living alone again?" I've been pondering this question ever since I moved. Coming to Alabama has been very different from the move I made to Texas six years ago. In one of my first-ever blog entries, I wrote about the deep and bewildering loneliness of living alone for the first time (you can read that entry here). I felt that living alone took all the fun out of being introvert: solitude became a tedious glut, rather than a precious and refreshing draught.

My experience this time has been far less dramatic (or traumatic) for many reasons. I'm stepping into a job I already love instead of an uncertain and harrowing course of study; I have old friends who already live here and have made new friends quickly, especially at work; I spent several months preparing my heart for this move; and my time in Waco ended with celebration and blessing and intentional goodbyes.

Nevertheless, I am still adjusting to living alone again.  Some aspects of a one-person household are satisfying:

* I like having complete and total control of things, like the kind of soap in the kitchen, and whether or not we wear shoes in the house (we don't).
* Over the last year, I have been rediscovering the beauty of silence, and having two small rooms to myself allows me to find silence often.
* If I don't feel inclined to talk to anyone (especially after a long day of pretending to be an extrovert), I can be quiet without worrying that I seem rude.
* I can work on gifts without having to hide them from people who will one day receive them.

On the other hand, there are many things I miss about living with others:

* Talking about how our days went over a shared meal
* In-house hugs
* Spontaneous trips to the grocery store or park "just because"
* Daily exercise in "submit[ting] to one another out of reverence for Christ"
* Reading aloud together (though I'm working on that here)
* Overhearing their favorite music while they wash dishes or study
* Regular meals (I had forgotten how bad I am at feeding myself. Tonight I had almonds for supper).

I'm thankful that during this move, I have been peaceful enough to step back and consider both the gains and losses that come from living alone. I'm neither miserable nor lonely, although I do often feel like I'm putting my foot down on a step that has vanished.

When I think about the future, I look forward to living arrangements that would allow me to live with other people again. I am praying that God will give me a vision for what kind of life that might be -- a rambling old house with rooms I can rent to international students? A small cottage that is on the same block as friends?

At the same time, I know that physical proximity does not guarantee a rich communal life. I've seen roommates grow apart, rather than together, while they inhabited the same space. I also know that I can share a deep life with my friends even as I live in solitude. I've been here just over month, and already I've stayed up late watching movies with Adele;  I've taught Doug's boys to crochet; I've felt one of Steve and Grace's little girls fall asleep in my arms.

In many ways, living alone is analogous to being single (and no surprise, since the two often go together): I may need to be more intentional in the ways I live my life for and with other people, but I also have the chance to ponder, question, and pursue what others may take for granted.

Have you ever lived alone? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to living alone? 

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