Saturday, April 9, 2011

Shape Shifting

As well as being shy, I am also somewhat of an introvert. As such, I chose to live alone as soon as I could afford it, preferring the risk of loneliness to the risk of being overwhelmed by human contact. I also functioned best without a full-time partner. I didn't want anyone there ALL THE TIME and I couldn’t imagine ever finding someone I liked enough to want that. Essentially I have always required a pretty large amount of ‘alone time’ to function well.

But I have discovered something incredible. Time with my husband now seems to count as alone time. I am still an introvert, I still need regular and extended breaks from humanity, but time at home, with him, seems to give me the same restoration that alone time did before. I only need a break from him and actual alone-alone time a few times a year, the rest of the time my mind counts being with him AS being alone. As I once read in a Monica Dickens novel, being with the perfect person is like “being alone without the loneliness”, and it seems she was right.

But this sweet observation aside, this all raises an interesting point in my quest for independence. If becoming part of this couple has changed me so much - actually shifted my inner sense of what 'being alone with me' feels like - then how independent can I really be? It is like my mind has shape-shifted to accommodate this other person, and they are now part of who I am. I can never again be just me: ‘me’ now includes ‘he’.

And what does this say about what having children is going to do to me?! Is there any point trying to define exactly who I am before I have them, when they are going to change who that is anyway? Or is it even more vital that I have a strong sense of self before such a change takes place? Perhaps if I am not strong enough, they will take over my entire mind, like a parasite that eats the host alive. I begin to sense that this whole project is in part from an intuitive sense that this is the case; that in order to survive and flourish for my own sake and for theirs, I must have a very hardy character which can accommodate ‘they’ within 'me', and continue to nurture all parts of the amalgamated mind that I will then have to live with.

So my determination to be independent continues, but I now carry with it the realisation that I cannot achieve this by holding my mind in a cage, or by forming a perfect, unalterable version of me to work with. Rather I must build up my character like a muscle, so that it is strong enough – and flexible enough – to grow with life’s changes and avoid annihilation.