The thing that has surprised me the most about living on my own is how I have gravitated, so naturally, into a routine. It wasn’t intentional. And it wasn’t expected. I’ve always thought of myself as someone free-wheeling, maybe even reckless, yet here I am, repeating patterns day after day.
In the past, this may have made me feel dreadful, especially if I was in a job that I hated. This time it’s different because the routine does not speak of mundanity. Instead, it speaks of joy – of time by myself, of working so smoothly, so unrestrained, on things that I love. And there’s meaning underpinning all of the repetition. The meaning of life? Not quite. But the meaning of me.
There’s safety in this; something incredibly comfortable. I do think it comes with age. I’m not sure that twenty-year-old me could have put up with it. She would probably have rebelled; exploded with rage, perhaps, and then she’d have gone out drinking. Fifty-year-old me is a different character. She’s much happier in a quiet space, doesn’t drink much and, with maturity and distance, she sees all her tendencies in blocks, like scrolling through a roll of old film, a different trait in each frame. Oh, she’ll say, that’s right, I do need to indulge my need for social activity. Noted. I’ll do that next week.
Then a big question comes in over me, like a cloud: What happens when I go home? When I finish up out here in the country and head back to normality, will I maintain it? Will the introspection remain? Or will it dissolve into that entity made up of family and friendship, the place called home?
Another thing that is happening is that I am living and breathing mindfulness – it is so much easier to practice when you live on your own. It is also easier to train myself not to worry about the future. This means that I can tell myself to think about going home when I go home. For now, I’m here, in this place. It is not without challenges. But they are reduced because there are fewer relationships to navigate, and fewer interactions to participate in. This is why monks go to mountaintops and writers go on retreats. To turn down the noise and to revel in quiet.
Even if just for a bit.