I walked home in the unseasonably warm temperatures tonight, trudging across the common ground between my building and Adam’s in a one piece pajama suit and my tennis shoes. I’d had laundry to do; we’d had dinner and watched The Magicians together. It’s a weekly ritual – the washer and dryer are at his place, as is cable TV and the dog. But I always come home to the Treehouse, because I can’t sleep with the dog – even tho sometimes I do, here at my place, when I can talk Adam into bringing him over and staying the night.
We have settled into a routine. Monday night is school and then I’m out at V’s; Tuesday we sometimes do dinner at my place or go out, but Adam usually goes home afterwards so that I can study; Wednesday is as outlined above. Sometimes he comes back over with me, with or without the dog. Thursday I’m at V’s again, and Friday night is Adam’s and my “date” night: we usually go out to dinner and then maybe come home to watch TV, or we’ll go to a movie or on some other outing, and he stays the night with me. Saturday morning and day is my free time, spent with the daughter or with friends, or running errands, hiking or bike riding. Saturday night is V’s and my weekend night together, occasionally a “date” night, but more often we do something (a play party, say) as a group with his wife and her OSO or others – it’s a toss-up whether or not Adam joins us. Sunday is a toss-up as well, sometimes I’ll stay out at V’s and work in their garden, or do homework if I am still struggling with it, sometimes I’ll take a bike ride or wil meet Ad for brunch and a walkabout; or I spend it cleaning house, shopping and cooking for the week. Adam stays with me about half the time on Sundays.
My life looks so full on paper. And it is! So why does it feel so empty sometimes? How can I feel this way one day, and so lonely and bereft another? Why is my little studio my refuge one night, and an abandoned island, drifting alone in the sea, another?
I think this is what’s called “solo poly.” I choose to live alone, even though I could live with Adam. I love Adam, but I enjoy my time with him more when we don’t share living space. It’s not that we don’t get along when we live together – we do, and very well – but…hmm. It’s hard to verbalize. He is my best and longest-known friend, and I love him, but I’m not in love with him. It’s like living with a best-friend-with-occasional-benefits. Not a bad thing, but I value my freedoms, my alone time, my way of living too much to give it up to live with my best friend. I can have those things – and be those things to him, give him those things – without giving up these other things that I value so much. I don’t know that this will always be the case, and given the ultimatum to not be with him at all or to live with him again, I don’t know what I’d choose. Let’s hope it never comes to that. For now, the benefits to living alone are too many. I cherish this space and the peace I find here.
I find it so odd at times, remembering those early days after W’s death, when I couldn’t bear to be alone, couldn’t tolerate silence – such a marked difference from before, when I worked and lived in silence quite happily for hours at a time. No TV, no music, just me and whatever was occupying me at the time. But for awhile after he died, silence was the enemy, because in it there were only dark thoughts and memories echoing inside me, scraping me raw with their jagged reverberations. But now…now the silence is a balm, a liquid I float in, letting it encapsulate and protect me. When did that happen?
That is not always the case, however. There are times, like tonight, when the still and quiet are oppressive, and lay heavy on me, threatening suffocation. When loneliness wraps around me, coiling like a noose around my neck, and I lay on my bed and stare at the walls, trying to swallow past it, trying not to look at my phone every other second, willing it to light up with a text message. It’s then that resent V, at home with his family. That I wonder what that would be like to have that, a home, a life, to share with someone, and the “other love” in my life just an extra. An addendum to an already complete life.
A whole relationship+, as opposed to two half relationships.
I keep reminding myself that this is what I asked for. But then I think about what I had, and what I lost, and I wonder: am I asking for too little?
And yet…when I am not there, in that moment, I also ask myself this: do I want to give up what I do enjoy about living on my own for living with someone else? How do I balance those two desires – for solitude, for agency over my own life, my own time – and the the need for companionship, for attention, for a shared life?
I just reread that last sentence and now I wonder, does not living with someone equate to not sharing a life? Can lives be shared without sharing living spaces?
If I look at it honestly, I believe it is not necessarily having someone with me in those moments that I want. It is attention. As I muse on this, and muse on my feelings the other night, as well as other times, I realize I really didn’t want someone else in my space, their physical presence. (Well okay, I might have welcomed the warmth and comfort of one of them, but it wasn’t really what I wanted.) I wanted to be acknowledged, I wanted to know V was thinking about me, I wanted to know that he wanted to be with me, or at least to communicate with me. The times when I feel this most sharply is when he is otherwise occupied, doing what he needs and wants to do: being with his family, with his wife, or occupying himself some other way. It’s his attention I want – but, because of the nature of our relationship, can’t have. Shouldn’t have. As much as we share, we still only share half a life. The other half belongs to his marriage (as it should.)
I am reading a book called The Happiness Trap right now, a self-help book based on the principles of a mindfulness behavioral therapy called ACT – Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. I’m not big on self-help books, but the tenets of ACT really struck a chord with me, and so I’ve been poking along at it, piece by piece. Rather than teaching you how to change the way you think (“think positively”) it teaches you how to accept the good with the bad, to experience both in a healthy way, but without seeking to control them: to simply let them be what they are and then move on, reducing or eliminating their power over you. I have already started using some of the techniques discussed, and they have been helpful. Perhaps as I go further into the book I will find healthy ways of coping with the unpleasant aspects of being alone, so that I can keep the good parts.
Or perhaps I will decide that I, too, want a whole relationship, and not two halves.