i have always assumed that people know what i am referring to in my blog name, but perhaps this is an oversight on my part! as the issue of ‘space’, both physical and emotional, has been on my mind lately, i thought it might be a good time to explain the signifance of the blog title, and the significance of that piece of writing in my thinking.
i first read viriginia woolf’s essay ‘a room of one’s one’ when i first went to uni back in 1987.
it has stayed in my mind ever since: the idea that a woman needs “500 a year and a lock on the door” for intellectual freedom seemed so obvious, and so simple, but of course its not. intellectual freedom, personal freedom, depends on space to live, to think, to be, to feel. for all women, this is often hard enough. for women born as the eldest daughter in a dysfunctional family, ruled by a control freak mother who was the child of alcoholics, it can get downright tricky!
i didnt get my own bedroom until i went to high school. i begged and pleaded for mum to turn her sewing room into a third bedroom, and i didnt care that i didnt have a proper door, and could hear late conversations at the dining table. i just wanted my own space. when we moved up to the country, i was thrilled to find a room that was attached to the end of one of the sleepouts and had its own door out into the paddock. i could climb from my window onto the sleepout roof and i remember sitting up there in the dark country nights tuning my little wireless into sydney radio stations more than 600kms away. i treasured and relished that space, and some of my worst childhood memories are of it being violated in some way, either my sister refusing to leave me alone, or my mother finding my diary under the mattress. for most of my early life, i felt hemmed in by the needs, demands and expectations of others, so that my whole life path was set for me in that way.
i feel the pull of these expectations still at times. its hard work being the older sister. there is always that expectation that you will deal with your own stuff by yourself and be there for everyone else. thats how it always was, and it has almost become self-fulfilling now, so that i am independent sometimes to my own detriment. a part of me doesnt mind though. when i separated from my 14 year relationship, and moved to my own little house, i thought i was going to die of loneliness. but actually, i didnt. i was sad, sure, and cried myself to sleep some nights, but i actually really enjoyed just being on my own. for the first time in 40 years i was responsible only for myself, for my own feelings, for what i did with my time, what i ate, when i showered, no compromise. it was blissful.
i have been thinking about this idea of personal space because now i am sharing a house with T again and it is sometimes hard to not slip into those old ways of being. over the weekend we moved some of his stuff out of storage and into this house and so it feels a little less like mine, although it is very comfortable, and i leave as much knitting lying around as possible just in case anyone forgets whats really important!
along with the office, these are now shared spaces:
( i never really did play well with others!) but there is enough of me in them for them to still feel like my rooms. i am careful to keep boundaries around myself, and make time for myself, and at night i sleep in my own bed, all by myself, and am starting to move over into the middle, reclaiming some space there as well!
but i still struggle with people in my emotional space. if these things mean anything, i am an INFP and a scorpio. i dont know whether being an introvert was natural, or i was ‘made’ that way, but it affects me today by making it hard for me to open up, to feel as though my needs are important, and it makes it hard in relationships. this is sometimes made worse by the ‘scorpio part of me’ that is distrustful and doesnt make friends easily. i dont do groups well either, so dog sports and communal knitting have been a challenge. dog sports are the worst, the good people are few and far between (some of them are about as well socialised as their feral dogs) and none of them i really call my friends, although our new team is much more pleasant.
communal knitting is something else, so many different personalities, so much ‘sound and fury’, and so many people i might not normally have met. but out of the cacaphony i have found a small group of like minds, who continually teach me things about knitting, life and myself. i see them often and talk to some of them nearly every day, usually on email, or twitter, or on their blogs. and thats why i blog, and thats why its ‘a room of my own’, because when all the noise has died down and all the laughing and the chatter and the gossip is over, and the teacups washed and dried and put away, i can retire to my room and pull out my workbasket, (or open up Firefox!), stare out the window and share my room with all of yours.
Over 80 years ago Virginia wrote about our rooms, and I will leave the last note to her:
“One goes into the room – but the resources of the English language would be much put to the stretch…before a woman could say what happens when she goes into a room. The rooms differ so completely; they are calm or thunderous; open on to the sea, or, on the contrary, give on to a prison yard; are hung with washing; or alive with opals and silks; are hard as horsehair or soft as feathers – one has only to go into any room in any street for the whole of that extremely complex force of femininity to fly in one’s face. How should it be otherwise? For women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics…And one must conclude that it would be a thousand pities if it were hindered or wasted, for it was won by centuries of the most drastic discipline, and there is nothing to take its place.”1
k xx1. Virginia Woolf (1928/1945) “A Room of One’s Own” Penguin, Harmondsworth. pp 86-87.