family growth

Space and the Avoidance of Specific Discomforts

Space is a funny word for me as it’s a bit of a two-edged sword. On one hand, spaciousness is one of the more delicious feelings that occurs for us in our human experience. There is such an ease and acceptance to be found in spaciousness. On the other hand, I seem to have a strong requirement for space in my life, and at times it feels (although I know in truth this is not the case) that my very survival depends upon having space.

I’ve lived alone for most of my adult life, and the more I objectively look at it, the more I think that part of that equation for me has to do with my attachment to having space in my life. I simply like solitude and feed off of that much like others feed off of activity or contact. That is not to say that I don’t value and appreciate contact and company, as I very clearly do as can be recognized by the value that I put on friendships and family. But I also appreciate my space, my solitude, my quiet.

I often still fantasize about having a partner and a family, yet the thing that I think would challenge me the most in that kind of setting is how I would react to not having enough of my own space. After so many years of being able to come and go as I please, of having relative quietness of mind and serenity of surroundings, of being able to do what I want, whenever I want, I wonder how well I could truly handle that, even with the new-found joys that I’m sure would provide a great counterbalance.

Just spending the past couple of weeks with Lidia has pushed me to needing some space, and I’m forced to look at that as an issue for me. For all of us, we each have our own ways of structuring our lives so that we don’t really have to feel our own specific discomforts. The extreme example of that would be when children of the Depression or survivors of war/famine sometimes hoard food items and other supplies later in their lives. There may not be an objective need to stockpile food, but having it allows one the psychological comfort of not having to feel the fear, even if unfounded, of ever again having to do without. So for me, it seems that in constructing my life to have so much freedom and spaciousness, I get to avoid the feelings of impingement and constriction. Others of you may find your lives to be just the opposite, that anxiety arises from too much space, so you fill your lives with people and activities so as to never have to feel that anxiety. Like I say, we all have our “specific discomforts” and we structure our lives to avoid having to feel them. Another discomfort of mine, and one for many people I’ve noticed, has to do with money. Growing up in an environment where a lack of sufficient money was a regular source of anxiety, I worked hard in my life to structure my life in such a way as to not have to feel the anxiety of lack. I also live fairly frugally and even rent my house out as an extra source of income so as to help to keep all those uncomfortable feelings of lack at bay. What is your ‘specific discomfort” and how have you structured your life to avoid having to feel it? I’d be curious to hear.

Getting back to the “space” issue, there is also a connection for me, I believe, around having a separate identity. Somehow, I start to feel that the more I am with another person, the more I lose my own identity. This feeling definitely has its discomfort associated with it for me. It can be too easy at times for me to merge into the needs and desires of another person, and then react by needing to separate and garner my own space. By invoking some space, I feel like I am actually able to reconstitute into myself again. Perhaps many men create workshops in their garage space so that they can have their own space that is just theirs, separate from the communal space of the household, a place to reconstitute back into the man that they know themselves to be. My poker group, I think is a good example, for it is clearly a man’s night out, and women are not allowed to join the game. There are even penalties for answering a phone call from a spouse/partner, or so I’m told since it’s never needed to be invoked.

I’m a peculiar mix: loving community, valuing deep and lasting friendships, deeply appreciating meaningful contact, yet also savoring and actually craving/requiring solitude and my own space. I’m glad to be writing about this here as it feels liberating to allow it to breathe a bit in the light of day.

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