“A Space of our Own,” column for March 1, 2016

Today I stood in a room about the size of outhouse, trying to decide by what miracle I might turn it into an office. Wait. I’ll start at the start. Long ago, when I was 7, I had a revelation. It was simple: I liked to be with people. Some more than others. But at times, I just wanted to be alone.

In the crackerbox house I shared with my family, there was not one space to call my own. And so I spent much of my youth sitting in an apple tree, spitting seeds on the wind.

For a loner like me, that tree was a godsend. I spent hours climbing its limbs, daydreaming or cloud watching, telling stories to passing cows or being content just to be. You’d be surprised what you can do alone in a tree.

When I was 12, we moved to a house where I finally had my own room. At times I missed the tree. Some days I still do. But I liked the comforts of plumbing and heating (and falling asleep without falling off a limb) far too much to go back.

Through all the angst of my teen years, that room was my sanctuary. After I left home for college, I seldom had a moment to myself. But I was usually too busy having fun to care.

When I married and became a mother, I again took refuge in a tree _ or rather, in a rocker by an upstairs window that looked out into the canopy of an oak. I spent years at that window rocking my firstborn, then his sister, and finally their baby brother. I was never truly alone. But it gave me such a sense of solace and peace, looking out at that tree and lulling my babies to sleep with just the sound of my happy beating heart.

In years to come, through all my children’s teenage angst, my only solitude was sitting alone in a car waiting to pick them up or staying up late at night waiting for them to come home. I used those times to think and dream, to hope and pray. Loners manage as best we can.

Then my children grew up and we lost their dad to cancer. And I found myself alone more often than I ever dreamed possible. Somehow I never felt lonely. My family and friends were just a phone call away. I didn’t have to be alone unless I chose to be. Also, my youngest had moved out and left his cat. We didn’t talk much, that cat and I, but at times, she slept on my neck.

Those months of solitude taught me several lessons.

First, you don’t need to be in the same room with someone to feel their presence and their love.

Second, if you like yourself, being alone is good company.

And finally, cats and loners are a lot alike.

Years later, when I remarried, it wasn’t from loneliness. It was because I met someone I wanted to be with, who understood my occasional need to be alone.

Soon after we married, his job changed and we moved to Las Vegas. The tree outside my window was now a palm, but it worked fine for daydreaming. When the Editor left for work, I’d stay home alone to think and dream, hope and pray, or maybe write a column. Talk about a marriage made in heaven.

Then last summer, the Editor retired. Suddenly I was never alone. Neither was he.

We both need our own space _ his, to play music; mine, for whatever.

So I decided to take the room where the previous owners had kept a cat box for their cat. It has a cat door. And a window with a view of a mesquite tree.

The Retiree is taking a slightly larger space across the hall. Today, we moved into my space a desk, a chair, a printer and a bunch of photos. It won’t hold much more. Except me.

Loners don’t need a big room. We just need a little space and a lot of understanding from someone who knows us well, and loves us anyway.

I’m keeping the cat door. You never know. We might get a cat.

Comments

  1. Katie Anderson says:

    Do you remember reading Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad stories to your kids, or now to grandchildren? They speak to life lessons and feelings and challenges almost as skillfully as you do. If you haven’t already, you may enjoy sharing his story “Alone” in Days with Frog and Toad with your favorite little ones. And, I’ll share “A Space of Our Own” with my favorite retiree.
    Katie
    ps. Great seeing you and hearing you speak at the CPY luncheon!

  2. Pam S says:

    Boy, did I miss your writing while you were ‘gone’! So wonderful to read your beautiful, intelligent sanity in the midst of today’s insane world. You give me hope & laughter and always smiles as well as peace. You are a rare blessing, Sharon – a writer we can all enjoy.

  3. Sue Mouck says:

    Welcome back, I really missed you.

  4. shashi says:

    Thank you Sharon . we love the way you beat the lonely moments even for all readers like me and I look for a little place to read quietly your column and message hidden, to forget about whole world and think about what we have . Love .

  5. Patricia Shaffer says:

    I read your column out loud to my husband this morning. I did that without reading it myself beforehand, knowing that it would be enjoyable to him also. I told him you write about life…We are fairly newly retired, and so experiencing some of he same feelings as you. Now he understands why I NEVER miss the newspaper on Tuesday! Sending love your way, and a big THANK YOU for continuing these columns!

    NEBRASKA GIRL

  6. Kate Sciacca says:

    Ah yes, our own space… With 8 kids that was tough to come by… The “water closet” worked quite well, when I could get the better half out so I could go in ?. Now, after 40 years of that better half walking out the door in the morning to head for work and not returning ’til dinner, he is working at home…. Ahh… Longing for the good old days with just 8 kids ?.

  7. Jody S. says:

    I have a tree, too! Well, there are several I can see out my window from my Momma’s Chair, but there is one my eyes are always drawn to. I’ve often thought that if we move from here, that is what I’ll miss the most because it’s been there with me through so many babies.

    One of my former co-workers had his “man cave” in a broom closet off his back porch 🙂

    Enjoy your outhouse!

  8. Cecile says:

    So great to be reading your work again. Love the way your write… the reader senses you know a lot about life and that in many ways we are all very much alike. I lost my own husband to cancer 4 and 1/2 years ago after 55 years of marriage and even though I have a busy life and lots of family and many long term friends, still there’s an ever present feeling of missing the most important person in my life. Not really loneliness but just haven’t gotten used the house being empty. Thank you for your writings that give us reason to sort out our own feelings in a comforting way like talking to a best friend.

  9. Joyce Bock says:

    NO! Get a dog!

  10. Shirley says:

    Always look forward to readiñg your columns!!!

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