Antonia (author of Taking Out the Trash) was twenty-four when she married the first time and twenty-eight when she divorced. She was married again for two years in her early thirties. Now, at thirty-nine, she’s mastered the art of living alone. Here’s Antonia:
[contemplate1] I was never spoiled, but my father worked very hard and my sisters and I, we each got a car on our sixteenth birthdays, we each were sent to college, no questions asked, but I was oblivious. My world was this cute little bubble. My father once said to me about ten months after I got my license and my car,
“Let me ask you a question: have you ever figured out how you just drive around and never visit a gas station?”
“Hmmm, no I never realized. It is always full,” I said.
“I’m just wondering how after 10 months you thought you were running on the first tank of gas?” he asked.
I didn’t realize he would just gas up my car for me.
I didn’t have any traumatic things happen to me. I got my first house with my husband and I started crying because our furnace broke. I didn’t know how to deal with anything.
I just started living alone starting three years ago. In between my divorces I had a roommate to help me with my bills and then after my second marriage, I had to live with my parents till my house was sold. So three years ago was the first time in my whole life that I ever lived alone.
I bought a condo, I moved in, and about a week later I sat down on my couch and I literally had a meltdown. I was scared, I was afraid to be alone, I didn’t know what to do, my whole life flashed before my eyes, all the terrible choices I made, how did I get here?
I had to just spend a lot of time alone which was when I figured all of this out and was when I started writing. I really turned it around, from the glass is half empty to the glass if half full, and,
“Wow I did get here, I am a survivor!”
But it’s a comedy of errors. Picture a thirty-seven-year old girl, at Sunday dinner, we always have to have macaroni on Sundays at my parents’ house and I asked,
“Do you think it’s weird that every time I run my dishwasher it smells like burnt toast?”
and everyone’s like “yes, it’s going to set fire, you need a new one!”
I just didn’t know what to do. My father was so nervous. Or I would have half the light bulbs not changed, and I’d just go “I guess I have to change the light bulbs, huh?” It was very funny.
Then I just started to become very independent, and now I don’t even know if I could live with somebody, I’m so independent.
I couldn’t resist including Antonia’s story about her father gassing up her car – that really made me chuckle. It reminded me of when I first moved to the U.S. I bought a stackable washer/dryer for my condo but the dryer never really worked probably. I’d never had a dryer before and just couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know anyone well enough to ask to help without feeling like an idiot so each week, I would just hang my laundry in the spare bedroom to dry. It was literally years later when I was renting out the condo, that my husband discovered the loft insulation covered the dryer vent which meant that as soon as the dryer reached a certain temperature it shut off the heat. To think all that time, there really was nothing wrong with the dryer!
Having spent several spells living on my own, including a couple of years after college and then again for a couple of years after I moved to the U.S, I was surprised to talk to women who have never lived on their own, especially women who are younger than me. I think it was just something I’d taken as a given that everyone does. Jolene had never lived before her divorce and didn’t like sleeping alone in her house. Carolyn was twenty-seven when her marriage ended and she found herself living alone for the first time in her life.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not you’ve lived alone before, being alone after marriage is an adjustment and incidents like Antonia’s dishwasher are inevitable. That’s the practical side of single living – nobody was born knowing how to manage a household. It’s something that everyone has to learn and there is only one way to learn … by doing it. It helps to have a handyman to call for emergencies or jobs you don’t want to learn but you’ll be surprised how quickly you adapt.
There is also the emotional side of living alone, just getting used to being alone. That’s part of the learning to love yourself that Antonia shared earlier. And yes, that can feel very uncomfortable. I know at first, even the realization that I was going to be alone in my house without the kids made me feel anxious. But like the practical tasks, there is only one way to learn how to be on your own – you just have to do it. And for me, it’s been well worth learning.
… ooh, writing about Antonia, has just reminded me .. I need to take my trash out tonight 🙂
Photo credit: tidefan