I am planning to move to Austin.
And in these months of preparation the plan has changed from what I thought I would be.
I think that’s called life.
A friend asked to live with me. I was planning on living alone.
I like alone, and I’m very good at it.
Alone, I know where to hang my prints, I know what color to paint the walls. Alone I call all the design shots, and as I learn more about myself; I like that.
Alone I go to bed at 10pm- the best bedtime for hormone flow and circadian rhythms. I moved away from New York to live on a farm with my parents, miles and miles away from a social life, dates, and compelling nighttime outings in general. Frankly, I love getting ready for bed by 9pm even on a Saturday night. Even if I break my own rules by staying up till 11 - crazy! - I’m still lightyears ahead of where I would be were I still in New York. The inner joy of this perverse bedtime is that of knowing I have a treasure chest available to me. Good health instead of rubies. And when I don’t have the regular sequence of putting myself properly to bed (when out, say, for birthday dinners or concerts, whatever) it feels like I’m scattering those rubies and losing them in the sand.
My parents are creatures of habit. Even in retirement they live by an ingrained schedule (dinner at 7, cocktails at 5. Mom asleep by 9, dad after his shows, around 10:30.)
New York was the perfect place to eschew all routine. I loved NOT having one. Living in the moment! Savoring life!! (Imagine that in all caps and quotations where you think appropriate.)
Out to all hours or working all hours was more attractive than coming home to cook dinner for myself at 7pm, starting to get ready for bed at 9, and lights out at 10. While I salivate for this now, I can’t imagine it having been my life then. Though I understand that New York may have been less of a factor than age. Going back to visit friends now — all in our late 30s and most with kids — winding down by 9 is a preferred schedule for many. It’s the secret health hack that seems impossible - go to sleep by 10pm every night. This was actually a discussion at Goldman Sachs. Coworkers, a friend of mine included, were talking about health and getting sick. The guy in the group least prone to falling ill piped up to say that he went to bed at ten, and that was the long and short of his secret health routine (that rivals a flu shot in efficacy).
It just doesn’t seem to square with the city that never sleeps.
But I can attest from all my explorations that sometimes the city was sleepier than I was. This is a town of villages after all, and some of them are filled with more families than others. Shopkeepers have no need to stay open all hours just to fulfill my vision of what Manhattan should be. (Neon! Cabs! Sharing stories with the bartender at 3am on a Wednesday.)
Let’s take a moment to also note that writers are a lot that succeeds most with schedule. Perhaps not in the evening…we want the scribes of our generation OUT, LIVING (see, caps. And you could even throw some quotations on that). Remember Hemingway! Fitzgerald!
...Oh, but Fitzgerald would have benefitted from an earlier bedtime and a more consistent morning writing routine. As do I.
And so here on our little non-working farm, I have my morning time (while the retirees still asleep) uninterrupted.
Not always do I use it, but it’s there for me. It’s nearly always preceded by a perfectly boring evening the night before. The most tumult comes from my work and travel schedule and oft insomnia.
And even with all the resources, I don’t always sit down to write when I have the time. Like a petulant child, “I don’t wanna” can easily sway me away. …Maybe morning news is more attractive, or a walk outside. (Let’s be honest, it’s more often the morning TV. Lazy!)
Now I look ahead to living on my own again.
Oh sweet Jesus, yes. Can I get an Amen for some dates?
And yet, a friend wants to live with me. On my own, I am the master of my domaine. And while it sounds like this is all about my aesthetic choices in the apartment, I’m coming to find that it’s not really an issue of aesthetics.
I woke up, quite literally, with the realization ringing in my head that my central concern is of the mechanics of caring for myself while living amid the social calling of city life. Restaurants and bars beckon. Opportunities to meet up. Thankfully my Austin friends are of the low key sort. I don’t anticipate a crush of invitations to be slated with a start time of 10pm (which, in my early 30s, seemed absolutely reasonable in Manhattan, even if it required a disco nap and green tea to rally.)
Those days are no more. I am a different person, yet a human susceptible to the call of activity.
To avoid this, in social situations I’m put at the more “low key” vacation rental with the group of friends, or the “quite room”, much like the newborns in these group vacation rentals. Not to feel like the “sick girl” but sometimes I have to impose these boundaries so that I do not actually become the sick girl. This is a choice I make, and I don’t mind it. Again, it’s a treasure chest I have, and it’s up to me if I want to scatter the riches to the winds or keep them safe until absolutely needed.
And by having a roommate, I realize that I will be imposing the machinations of my health routine on someone else. Even if they have a similar schedule for their own health or work habits, I realize that I approach this with so much concern, so much thought for my well being. Frankly, it’s a bit exhausting to consider EVERYTHING in relation to how it will effect my health, both now and down the line. But I do.
Do I really want someone around while I evolve and figure out my health needs in a new way? Because just by having them there, that’s another factor to contend with. It’s so much easier on my own. …so I tell myself.
So I’ve always told myself.
When faced with the need for self-care, I’ve always retreated into myself. Eschewing the boyfriend and now trying to eschew the friend.
But is this the best?
My living space has to be sacred for me. Those soon-to-be painted walls are quite literally the boundaries that will protect me when living in a city again.
I’ve pet sat for much of this time (because, really how else could a 35, 36, 37, 38, 39-yr-old live with her parents for nearly 4 years) and even when doing so in big cities, much of the time I am alone. With dogs, of course. But not calling on friends, not going out in any sense other than to exercise or run errands. Just me taking care of me. And dogs, of course.
Single aloneness if my default, but I’m willing to admit that it’s not the only answer, or even the best answer.
Just because I like to take care of my health on my own doesn’t mean I’m perfect at it when alone.
And the help of another person — someone who knows me and supports me — could that be a benefit? Oh yes.
I'd not considered that what I might lose in control over my environment (which is truly the thesis of this contemplation), I may gain in outside perspective and ideas. Because I don’t know it all.
But I certainly have fears concerning quite a bit.