a room of my own
February 19, 2009, 16:01
Filed under: A room of my own | Tags: , , ,

I’m beginning to like the idea that I can come here and write whatever I want. It’s not the same as my journal even if it is kind of like a journal. It doesn’t feel safe like a journal. I think that is why I like it. It feels dangerous like having sex in a public place. Not that I’m in the habit of having sex in public places but when I was younger and crazier and crazy in love I did make love a few times indiscreetly in public places and it was very exciting in a terrified of being caught kind of way like the time on a beach beneath a blanket in broad daylight…! It’s about taboo and the thrill of breaking taboo but today it is hard to imagine anything other than something despicable that would qualify as breaking taboo. That’s sad because it means that the thrill is gone.

Womb with a view

Womb with a view

As I have written before, I spend almost all of my time in one room. It’s a room in a friend’s apartment that I rent and this room is my entire world. When I saw the film Into Great Silence I thought that my life is even more hermetic than these Carthusian monks. At least they bump into one another occasionally. I bump into no one and no one brings me my food. But what a paradise the Grande Chartreuse must be. It’s about solitude. The only way someone could spend as much time alone in one room as I do is if they love solitude a lot. Solitude is my oxygen, my one place where I feel safe and whole and centered in a kind of inviolable truth.

But that’s not to say that solitude is easy. Not at all. It is very lonely. There are days like today when I wake up feeling that I want to call everyone I know (which wouldn’t take too long!) There are times when I really need to feel the nearness of an other, to look into an other’s eyes, to feel the sound of their voice against my skin. It doesn’t really matter what they say. That is why sometimes I miss being in a relationship, to know that there is this one other person whom you can depend upon in the same way we depend upon the sun rising, someone who is intimately grafted onto the skin of my life. But then when I think of an other person being there all the time I panic. Not the pee in my underwear kind of panic but more a breathless panic, a gasping for air. I’ve tried to be in a relationship but it didn’t work. My need for solitude always got in the way and the other person always took it personally. All my life others have taken my need for solitude personally, as if it had to do with not wanting to be with them. If only they understood how profoundly you can love someone within solitude. But people don’t trust this. They think solitude has nothing to do with relationship. They want to be together all the time, to never let the beloved out of their sight, even when they are off somewhere else they never let the beloved out of their sight. “How can you love me from behind a closed door,” they moan. It’s not true. If only I could have shown them how perfectly I loved them from the other side of that door.

My favorite poet Rilke once wrote:

We are only just now beginning to look upon the relation of one individual person to a second individual objectively and without prejudice, and our attempts to live such associations have no model before them. And yet in the changes brought about by time there is already a good deal that would help our timorous novitiate.

The girl and the woman, in their new, their own unfolding, will but in passing be imitators of masculine professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions it will become apparent that women were only going through the profusion and the vicissitude of those (often ridiculous) disguises in order to cleanse their own most characteristic nature of the distorting influences of the other sex. Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately, more fruitfully and more confidently, must surely have become fundamentally riper people, more human people, than easygoing man, who is not pulled down below the surface of life by the weight of any fruit of his body, and who, presumptuous and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, borne its full time in suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she will have stripped off the conventions of mere femininity in the mutations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching today will be surprised and struck by it. Some day (and for this, particularly in the northern countries, reliable signs are already speaking and shining), some day there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify merely an opposite of the masculine, but something in itself, something that makes one think, not of any complement and limit, but only of life and existence: the feminine human being.

This advance will (at first much against the will of the outstripped men) change the love-experience, which is now full of error, will alter it from the ground up, reshape it into a relation that is meant to be of one human being to another, no longer of man to woman. And this more human love (that will fulfill itself, infinitely considerate and gentle, and kind and clear in binding and releasing) will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, Seventh letter: Rome, May 14th, 1904

Imagine! He wrote that over a hundred years ago and though I feel what he wrote about women was prophetically right on (to be seen by Rilke must have felt like being undressed in public) I don’t see much indication that relationships between men and women (or men & men or women & women for that matter) have changed all that much. Consider what he wrote towards the end: “…the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.” Any time I say that to someone their eyes roll and they say something ridiculous like ‘That’s not love!’ What most people think of as love, the love of preference in every Hollywood film, is more of a pathological co-dependence than anything to do with genuine love. I prefer to be alone, to suffer loneliness for the sake of a solitude I can’t live without and perhaps in a few more generations we might get it right.

womb-of-my-own-2I suppose that’s why I spend so much time in a room alone: I work in my room, I meditate in my room, I sleep in my room, I read in my room, I have sex with myself in my room, I write in my journal in my room, I do yoga in my room, I stare for hours out of the window in my room and now I am blogging in my room. I really like being in my room.

It’s a simple room as far as rooms go. The room is L shaped––I write, work, blog and stare out the window in the ascender and I meditate, do yoga, have sex and sleep in the arm. There is one window at the apex of the L that looks into a small yellow brick courtyard (my own yellow brick road!) It is so small that when I look across into my neighbor’s window I can see what they are eating for dinner. We’re friends so we wave at one another and sometimes they share their food with me. Because I am on the top floor I can also see a small patch of sky in the upper third of the window so I can tell if the sky is blue or overcast. Today it is blue. I have 2 desks: one is for writing by hand and the other has a computer where I write with a keyboard. (That’s where I am now.) There is a telephone beside the computer but it rarely rings. When it does it is usually from somebody living in Mumbai trying to sell me a new telephone plan. I don’t mind. I always ask them about the weather where they are. Above the desk are 2 shelves with lots of things on them like a photo of elephants, a woman’s face I carved in soap stone and a book called Souffles that a good friend gave me which has a photograph of a landscape somewhere in the Middle East and a thought by an Islamic poet for every day of the year. Beside this desk are 2 bookshelves full of books. I have a lot more books than these but they couldn’t fit in this room so they are in storage in a friend’s basement. I miss them very much. In the bedroom side of the room are 2 dressers and a single bed, definitely too small for 2 solitudes to border one another but large enough for my own 2 solitudes. Straddling the two spaces is a reading chair. I’m an ambidextrous reader: someone who can read both in the daytime and the nighttime. Sometimes I imagine the room is bigger when I’m passing from the work area to the bedroom area, a space of a few feet, by saying to myself: ‘Now I am walking into my bedroom.’ It makes a difference.

I know that my room seems small to many of my friends because we are so use to having lots of space. Most of my friends have a room to sleep in, a room to work in and a room to live in so when they see that I do all three in the same room they wonder how I can possibly do it. I don’t know how I do it but there are times when I don’t leave this room for days and I don’t realize that I haven’t left my room for days. I think that is because the space inside of me is so enormous. I haven’t counted but I suspect that I have at least a hundred rooms inside of me. Think of all the money I’m saving by needing only one room to fit all those rooms. If I were the Queen of Sheba I would build a room for every room inside of me. But since I am only me, I make due with one room, this womb of my own.


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