Except for a brief few weeks in Ljubljana a couple of years ago, I have never lived by myself. I’ve always had a roommate or a boyfriend or a husband or children sharing my space. Living alone is new for me.
My apartment in the UK is perfect. Each room is beautifully painted and meticulously cared for. The owners are furniture makers, artists, and each room is visually pleasing, as well as functional. It’s simple–the smallest place I have ever lived–but extremely conducive for WORK.
When I walk through the front door, I stand on a 3’x3′ piece of hardwood floor. A step to the left is the kitchen, a step to the right is the living room, one step ahead is the bathroom and one step behind is the bedroom. There is a balance to this arrangement and I have come to see that each room represents a different part of my mind needed to get work done.
1. Living Room: I have to use my intellect for business (bills, money, logistics, etc) and for the critical commentary/scholarly component of my research project. These are the hardest aspects of work (and life) for me, so this part of my mind is represented by the living room. There is no television, just piles of books placed in an orderly fashion around the room. It is a spot to be cordial and welcoming, but not overly sentimental or affectionate–it has boundaries, a room that feels definite when you enter and when you leave. (I never sit on the couch in my pajamas–too intimate~)
2. Kitchen: I have to use my ability to be emotionally open for my blog and for the personal essays and memoir type material I’ve been writing. For me, being able to access memory is symbolized by the kitchen. It’s the heart of me. The sun shines in the kitchen. It’s full of plants and dog bowls and knives and wine. It’s alive. It’s honest, tangible. I can get to it. I know how to cook, to bake, to feed the dog. Kitchen is my connection to the real world, the hard core facts of me. It’s a place of doing-ness.
3. Bathroom: I’m taking a surrealist approach to the creative work of my PhD, which includes writing poems and lyric essays by surrendering to the unconscious. I have delegated the bathroom for this because water is a source of inspiration for me and I have a lot of dream like images when in the bath or shower. Also the shower is a place where physical change is undergone, almost like a reinvention of self, which is a thru-line of thought in the Surrealist movement.
4. Bedroom: The place where I rest, dream, meditate, listen to music, etc–soul work. I try not to clutter the bedroom with lots of books or papers and it is the cleanest room in my apartment, because I have to take care of myself before I can do anything else. For the five years after my husband died, I averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night, but since leaving Vermont, I’ve been sleeping for 9. I am finally able to deeply rest.
“The whole of the mind must lie wide open……There must be freedom and there must be peace.” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own