Monday, November 21, 2011

The Last Good Hiding Place

This past weekend, I spent an evening with several of my closest friends and (this is the weird part), their children.  I know!  Crazy.

One of the funniest things happened at the end of the night, when Bethany tried to sneak off into the bathroom by herself, for just two minutes.  It took about 10 second for her son to barge through the door to "Hey!  I'm in here!"  We all laughed (obviously, it was hysterical), but it also made me realize that the one thing we have to learn to let go of, as we get older and open our lives to spouses and children, is privacy. 

This realization did not just come to me last night.  I have been noticing a significant lack of personal space for many years now.  The more and more of myself that I share with Matt, simply through cohabitation, the fewer and fewer private spaces I have left.  (I am speaking metaphorically here, relax!)  For a while, I thought that it was just us; we have been together forever so I figured that we just had a weird relationship that precluded personal space.  But a few months ago we came up to VT (this seems to be the place where I have revelations about things) and Brooke asked us, "So, how long were you two together before you were able to read each others minds?"

And Matt and I just laughed.

Because we CAN and do read each others minds sometimes.  It is FREAKY.  I will be in the car thinking about something, in the privacy of my own mind, and he will say that exact same thing out loud.  AHH!  Get out of my head!!

I think that when you live with someone, and especially when you have children, there is a reasonable expectation that physical space will cease to be personal.  No room in the house, no location on the planet, will ever truly be yours alone; that other person can and will invade (that is sometimes exactly what it feels like--and invasion) that space.  However, there IS an expectation that the space inside your own body, especially the intangible "space" that is human cognition, will remain private.

For as much as we may sometimes think that we want to be able to read minds, the truth is that true telepathy would be uncomfortable and would probably make us insane.  Not only would you constantly be bombarded with other people's thoughts coming at you, those people would be able to read your thoughts.  Sitting on the T in the morning, commuting to work, you could no longer think about your fellow commuters--they would know exactly what you were thinking.  And you would know exactly what they were thinking about you.  It is more than creepy, it feels invasive and horrific.  Our minds, our thoughts, are the one thing that we can keep to ourselves when we choose to do so.

But once you have spent enough of your life with someone, that changes.  Your mind stops being a private place, and suddenly it is a shared space.  It does feel invasive and uncomfortable.  Yes, sometimes it is great.  You are out somewhere and see something: you want to make a snarky comment but fear being overhear.  You can use your ESP to share a joke without risk.  But, it is not a selective power; there is no way to turn it off later.  So an hour later you are riding home in silence and the other person makes a comment that mirrors your thoughts.  And it is weird.

This is for me, perhaps, a weird and uncomfortable thing because I like my privacy.  (Oh the irony of the blog about privacy is not lost on me, don't worry.)  Of course, if you have met me you know that I love to talk.  But I also like the illusion that I have control over when and what ideas I share with someone.  Sometimes, I do need to spend time alone, to have some personal space; it is not always possible to be physically alone when you live with someone.  So you turn to the one last hiding place you have: your mind.

And the other person is there.


Thinking the same thoughts at the same time.

Of course, this never works the way that it should: I think "pizza" and he says "chinese food."  I have yet to successfully compel him, using my mind, to fold laundry or vacuum spontaneously.  (For the record, verbal commands are pretty hit-or-miss too, so...)  But ever so often, I will think that I am alone in my mind only to find that I am not!

Once upon a time, I believed in privacy.  I believed that I had hiding places left in this world.  But hiding places are only as good as the barriers you build up around them.  Those barriers collapse as soon as you choose to share your life with another human being.  You cannot simultaneously maintain the walls and the relationship, and so you must choose which to let dissipate.  If you chose the relationship, that is your loss.  Yes, you will always have privacy, but at a terrible cost.  If you chose to let the walls fall away, you are acknowledging that there is genuine value in allowing others into your hiding places.  As uncomfortable as it may be to squeeze in there together, it does ensure that you can never hide for too long in that place--you cannot get lost in the dark there.  You have someone who knows where you are hiding, who can come in and drag you out of your hiding place, and bring you back out into the world. 

Although, as important as that is, it is still very nice to at least have two minutes, every now and again, with some privacy!!

1 comment:

  1. Hopefully, once you get the tub cleaned, Matt will know you want to be alone in there with a book or with nothing. You won't have to tell him. He'll be in your mind and he'll know. You need privacy. And it will be good.


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