Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Cat Homecoming.

I’m picking up the cats today.

I’m thrilled because I’m creepily obsessed with those little monsters, but I’m also sort of moved because they are the last part of my life to come back together. The last time I walked through my front door to be warmly greeted by Shakespeare and Eliot I was working at my old job, living in my old apartment, leading my old life. The two little cats were an unfortunate casualty to the vertigo that swept me up over the last several months; but I’ve regained my balance and perhaps have a solid enough foundation to put the books back on the shelves, restand the picture frames and carefully pick up the pieces of shattered coffee mugs from the kitchen floor.

The cats coming home just means that its really home, that I’m really here, that its real. I think they’ll like the new place as much as I do – the big, busy-street-facing windows that throw light (both real and manufactured) all over, radiator-warm places to sleep, and plenty of stuff to mess with. In these short months I’ve learned what its like to be a non-cat owner and my house has become un-cat proofed. A tube of chap stick sits harmlessly on the coffee table, plastic bags gather quietly near the kitchen trashcan, my scarves hang unsuspectingly from my coat rack.

Things will change when the cats come home, but mostly they’ll just go back to the way they should be.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

On Living the Solo Life

The last time I lived in a space that was not shared was a time so distant that it feels unreal in my mind, like the memory of a hilarious misunderstanding that may have been a part of my post-college experience, or, perhaps, just a really vivid episode of Friends.

The basic motions of day to day living are hard to remember on my own, I find. How much coffee to make, how many times to hit the snooze button, remembering to drop off my Netflix on my way to the train, checking to see that I don’t have last nights makeup remaining on my face.

A person normally certain at home, I find I have lost that aspect of myself living alone. Without a companion, I ruminate daily on the possibility of a break-in, a forgotten coffee-pot on-switch, a cat caught dangerously among boxes. In the past, the reassurance of a roommate or a live-in partner somehow has made me feel more sure of myself, more confident. It also provides that convenience “just in case” back up system for all my errors – if forget to close the window or blow out a candle, there is a good chance the other resident of my home will remember. I just seem to feel stronger when someone is there telling me it is true.

Living alone has plenty of benefits—which are also hard to cope with in their own way. I like listening to whatever music I want at whatever volume with no need for consensus. I like watching all the slow and sad biopics that no one else finds interesting. I like drinking a glass of white wine before bed. I like the quiet within my walls, especially compared to the cacophony of the intersection outside my window. (I like that when I am making no noise, there is none.)

Having your own space is a privilege that is not enjoyed in all places or by all cultures. Even here, in the US, in Chicago, some people don’t support a woman living alone in a city, but I am lucky that it isn’t forbidden and that I have the financial ability to do so. It is a way to change the way you see yourself.

It is hard to imagine, from where I contemplate, the commitment of two people to share a space for the rest of time. Not just a bed, but a kitchen, a bathroom, a sofa. To share a day, a year, the life of a possible child. To divide ones life into two for sharing. Committed people who share a space may enjoy the added benefit of space-sharing – a confidence that the home won’t burn to the ground while they work – but the decision is expensive.

We often think of selflessness in terms of service, giving, anonymous donations, but the literal use of the word – to be selfless, to not be concerned with matters of self – marriage/commitment is just that. An agreement to think of another person as often as you think of yourself – to share your life, to choose a shared existence over one dedicated to personal priorities. To give up a place where the noise you make is the only noise in the room. This seems generous to me.

I think I am learning to be selfish, learning to not share, and learning how many scoops of coffee are enough for just one person. It is as long of a process as the road to selflessness, breaking all those sharing habits, but it is necessary when you find yourself living the solo life.