I wish I could be more certain of how natural it is to live on your own through your twenties. I’m an unusually solitary person anyways, but the uninterrupted lengths of time I go without being near my family, or without making meaningful contact with friends, makes me wonder if this striving to be independent isn’t a little unsettling to some natural instinct for family and community.
I got a sumptuous massage from a friend today, and realized that I go untouched for weeks most of the time. It’s not a sexual thing at all, but maybe just an intimacy thing. I wonder if I’d be as sensitive to all the things that cause me anxiety if I gave myself more regular opportunities to feel close to others.
I love my apartment to death; I’ve nicknamed it Antares after a beloved star, and for how far away from the world it can make me feel on a good day. But sometimes I wonder how strange it would look to someone from a different country, time, or culture, to see me living in it alone every night, reading, writing, Netflixing, and then waking up alone again in the morning. That itself doesn’t bother me; what bothers me is the possible effect it might be having on my temperament that I’m not even consciously aware of.
I mean, if this was natural, then why would a girl raised in an atheist, culturally blank home, a girl who’s a serial shiksa (or would be if I had the guts and no conscience), why else would I find so much peace in listening to the Sabbath Prayer from Fiddler on the Roof? On repeat. I lie in bed and listen to this track again and again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZZj-Od7Ot0
Now, I had a desperate hunger for ethnicity and a cultural identity long before I lived on my own; even in sixth grade I would latch onto ethnicities and learn about them, finding comfort in pretending I had an identifiable background. But Sabbath Prayer hits me deeper than that familiar longing for culture. This track hits me in the family bone, in the part of me that wants to be cared about. It’s a part I keep rigidly under control, and gratify on my walks, pretending that the stars and wind care about me, that they want to protect me. I rely on being independent, yet within that I know there’s a delight in the feeling of existing under a mighty aegis.
I’ve never been blessed; I’m not really sure what that word means, but I see parents blessing their children in other cultures, rabbis blessing babies. I like the idea of someone well-wishing me in some small ritual. it doesn’t have to be a big deal. I don’t need to believe that this blessing confers the protection of the gods upon me. But I feel sort of achey and empty when I think of the simple act of one human openly wishing another well, in some way just slightly more ceremonious than “have a good night!”
The idea of someone touching my head, closing their eyes, and immersing momentarily in care and affection in the hopes that their feelings will follow me as a little charm of luck; I probably wouldn’t be able to handle that, actually. I’d love it so much I’d plunk down and sob, and their charm wouldn’t be following me anywhere until I stopped hiccuping. Their baffled blessing would float awkwardly above my head, going “Ummm… I think I just made things worse.”
I very, very rarely think about things like family or emotional support. My thoughts are much more frequently caught up in the ecstasy of revenge and redemption, in blazing wild, fiery paths through ice, in the strength of a black hole wrenching a galaxy in motion. It takes one massage from one friend to remind me how necessary closeness and caring is. I never, ever think of myself as a person who needs to be cared for. I think I actively define myself in opposition to that. But I really wish I could experiment with this; I wonder… if I was in a position to receive regular tokens of love and concern from family and friends, to get a small hug from my mother before I went off to read by myself for a few ours, I wonder how I would be different.
I wonder if the sound of someone’s loud TV in the next apartment over would still make me nauseous with anxiety. I wonder if my heart would still shrink in slick, withered worry about whether the noise will ever stop. Will I be able to write? Sleep? Think? I wonder if I lived close to an emotional support system rather than isolating myself the way a properly independent twenty-four year old does in our culture, would I get so defensive in public on the streets? I turn into a little motoring fortress in public, whipping around slow walkers, glaring at smokers– to be honest, I was like that when I lived with my family, but then, my family was not a support system in high school, not at all.
I’m jealous of the friends I know who have a strong cultural, familial, even religious background that gives them the opportunity and framework to feel close to their parents and siblings. But it’s probably not that simple at all. Maybe culture and religion themselves do nothing to hold people together, but the way they’re practiced does. Can’t get into that, because I have practically no experience, and also, it’s 5:30 a.m. and my analytic skills are diminishing along with my rhetorical dexterity.