This week I’ve been thinking a lot about shared space, and what it means to me. I’ve also been thinking that if maybe I just write about a new topic it will help move forward the other ones I’ve been trying to write for weeks now to no avail. Alas, writer’s block is a terrible awful thing and I’m quite over it. But I’ve had a lot of time to think lately as, for the first time since we started living together, BF and I are both sick, which has left me reflecting on what it means to share space with another person, and myself.
My first memories are of sharing a space with a sibling. My younger sister and I shared a room growing up. We are quite close in age (only 14 months apart), and we shared a room for as long as I can remember. Of course, when my brother came along he got his own room (because boys and girls can’t be in the same room), and so most places we lived had three bedrooms – one for my parents, one for my brother, and one for my sister and me. Oh, there was the house where they had my uncle put a sheet of dry wall to “create” separate rooms for my sister and I (but without doors), but it wasn’t until we moved into the last house I shared with my family, a week before my 14th birthday, that we finally we’re in a place with 4 bedrooms and I had a room all to myself (best birthday present EVER).
From that point on I lived a life that dreams were made of. Sure, I shared living space with my family – dinners at the kitchen table, watching TV in the living room, one bathroom for five people – but I finally had a space all to my own, my own bedroom. It was my refuge, my safe space. As time went on it became that more and more – I bought my own TV, eventually got my own computer … and by the time my 20s rolled around I spent all my home time basically in my room.
Except … there was that year where I had no space. Wasband (before he was Wasband) had moved in as we were trying to figure out our life plan, and he spent more and more time in my room. It got to the point where I no longer had my own space, and I felt that I no space to claim as my own anywhere in the world. After spending my youth craving definite alone space it was hard to watch someone have their own private space and claim mine. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself and it almost drove us apart. Go back to one of my first entries to read the story of how he left (not by choice) and I got my space back with a hefty emotional toll. After he left that bedroom was mine for another 8 months, but it was never truly mine again. It was never the same, and I no longer wanted it.
Thankfully not long after Emotional Hell 2009 I moved a significant distance away to start anew in Windsor. This time moving into an apartment where not just the bedroom was my own, but every room was mine and mine alone. I could arrange and re-arrange furniture as I pleased. I could make the temperature as hot or cold inside as I wanted. I could fill the fridge and cupboards with foods that I liked and never have to worry about someone else eating it. I could be naked any and all times I wanted, in any room I wanted! Oh yes, having my own space was going to be SWEET.
And yet … there are things you don’t realize you miss until they’re not there. The comforting sounds of other people. Having someone around to tell your day to, to joke with, to share things with. Mom’s cooking. I filled in those voids as best as I could. Most days were good, some days were bad, but I adjusted and found a new normal. I enjoyed being able to make any food I wanted, watched whatever I wanted at the highest volumes, to fill the space with all my things. And I got to a point where it was all routine. I didn’t focus on what I was missing, or anything else I thought I might want; I figured out my own space and I was content with it.
The worst time I spent in this space was after my separation from Wasband. I had established myself as a fairly solitary introverted person. I didn’t go out much, I don’t like large crowds or parties, and Wasband was my constant companion, even with the distance between us. I had lost the person I had talked to almost every day for 14 years, and that is a huge change to swallow. As previously stated I threw myself hard into my work as a distraction, but there was no escaping my space … and suddenly I had a lot of it. For a long time my apartment felt eerily silent at all hours of the day, no matter what noises I had around me. I knew the space was still mine, but there was a fundamental shift that I couldn’t quite work through. Like the last time he had suddenly left my life there was an overwhelming sense that I no longer belonged here. Except this time he wasn’t coming back, and this time there was no where else I could really go. Throughout the divorce process my mother mentioned, on more than one occasion, the idea of me coming back home. Back to the GTA and I could stay in their apartment until I got back on my feet. And while a lot of my push-back reasons were that I didn’t want to go back to a big city, with it’s noise and traffic and commutes (and I wasn’t lying), it was the idea of losing all my space that really had me plant my feet more firmly in Windsor. This was my space, that I had made entirely my own, regardless of what I was going through at the time. And the idea of going back, not just to a huge city or sharing space with my family, but that I would lose all personal space to do it … it was overwhelming. And it took a long time to be able to put that into words, to explain what space means to me and how important it is.
If you’re a follower of this blog (and/or my life) you know I met BF a month after my divorce was final. Quite quickly I had no problem allowing him into my apartment, but he stayed in the living room mostly. In fact, he was allowed anywhere except my bedroom – a place I consider my most sacred space. I surprised myself the first time I let him in there – the words were out of my mouth before I realized what I had said. But having him in my space felt right in a way I couldn’t quite place. Soon he was staying over more and more frequently until he was practically living at my apartment, and thus the official discussion happened. It’s quite hard to believe that it’s almost been a year, and while I notice I still have some moments of “my space” in my head they are becoming less and less frequent. Still it is hard to separate my years in this place alone from the short time I’ve shared it with him (and Owl), and I look forward to finding a space that’s ours later this year.
As I said the idea of space has been on my mind since BF brought home a sickness that has stopped us both in our tracks (though my job requires me to power through as best as I can) and I thought last night how it was fortunate that we’ve lived together for this long without this happening yet, and how I forgot that this can be thing since I’ve been on my own/hiding in my own space for so long. And as I thought about space in relation to my own experiences I found myself noticing it in other places to – when I shared with a friend a post regarding No Diet Day on May 6th, and she commented that she didn’t always feel like she had a space in ED conversations; when I noticed weight loss talk in a online knitting gaming competition and I found myself wondering if I had the right to speak up against it in such a public space; when I think about the societal messages on how women should be small and not take up too much space – I find that space doesn’t necessarily mean the physical places I am, but the mental arena I hold too.
While my physical space (both the place I’m in and the size of my body) may change and fluctuate, that I am in charge of my mental space, of what comes in and stays and what I can acknowledge and let go of. That while my entire childhood I coveted my own space, while I’ve spent years obsessing over the space I take up, the realization that I’ve had my own space in my mind to do with as I please and this is what I spent most of my mental space on … quite frankly, it left me speechless. And while you’re probably saying “Of Course J, how could not know this?” the fact is I did know this, as you know this, but how often do we actually stop and thinking about the space in our mind and how we fill it? While you might know that you are spending endless hours thinking of one thing or obsessing over another how often do you stop and wonder about how else to fill that space? Or consider how much of your brain-space you are spending on it? Or the fact that just like moving you have the ability to leave that mental space and move into a healthier-for-you one? I know that I have been preoccupied with food and weight and disorders for a long time, but how utterly simple and wonderful to realize that maybe I could just get up and mentally move away from it every once in awhile? It takes up the space I allow it to and sometimes it might just be as simple as saying Not Today and moving to a new mental space. In the haze of sickness this made sense, and it was freeing.
I am by no means saying I am magically cured of my disorder and my obsessive thinking patterns. I absolutely want to continue talking about my experiences, and talking out loud about thought processes like the one I had last night. Sometimes while you know something to be true – like you don’t need to sit and listen to diet talk, that you can ignore weight loss discussions, that your ED voice is a liar – you can still feel trapped in the space, letting the words invade your mind and take over. But when you come to that realization – however it comes – that you are 100% in control of what comes and goes and stays in your brain-space, suddenly your space feels a bit roomier, feels a bit cozier and inviting, feels like you can walk out of one mental room and into a brighter one. That isn’t to say you’ll always be able to, but it’s nice to feel like you have more control of your space.