“You gotta have friends…”
I’ve been single for 10 years. My partner died in 2003 and since then it’s been me and my various cats. I learned, through that relationship, that I value my space and privacy. I think that for most of us there is a need to be apart from people – at least for a period of time.
But I’ve come to realise that I miss having someone to talk to. I miss company and companionship. I miss relationship. At 51, I still want to find “him”, but sometimes that seems an uphill battle, and I have no misconceptions about picket fences and station wagons with the wood on the side. Those things don’t really exist. But the connection with a partner is real – good, bad and indifferent.
I’m a self-admitted hermit. I don’t go out at night. I go to bed early. I have developed patterns in my life over the past years, some of which are a part of a comfortable little world of my own creation. I mostly work from home, which is isolating, as much as some think there’s a kind of glamour to making one’s own hours and wearing your P.J.s all day long. It’s not nearly so glamorous.
Living alone has benefits. I can avoid housework with ease and have found a little febreeze and a bottle of wine are about as much cleaning as I choose to do. I can leave my piles of clothes and papers wherever I want to and I can spend “quality time” with various porn sites without worrying about being quiet.
But the drawbacks are there as well. I get lonely and bored, I don’t have a large circle of friends and I don’t spend hours on the phone – although I’d like to sometimes. Just hearing a voice connects me to people. And I suffer from the idea that I’m a burden when I call people, that somehow I’m interrupting their lives. I can sit in my head a lot and worry; I can get depressed and feel even more withdrawn from the world. And connecting on Facebook is not really connecting. Typing messages in a little box and waiting for a reply can never replace sitting beside someone and seeing their face, watching their smile or hearing their voice.
There’s the practical aspect as well: money. Living alone means one income to support the whole of the house, and when various rates for various services continue to increase, one income is insufficient. More and more I hear about people who are barely making ends meet – selling whatever they can to pay bills, or borrowing money to make it to the end of the month.
What to do...what to do?
I don’t think that living with HIV is much a part of this. I believe that this is simply the human condition. Everyone wants to be connected in some way to others while struggling with the need for privacy and silent space. Where people living with HIV may experience greater levels of depression, living with someone won’t cure that. Living alone may exacerbate it, but company doesn’t make it go away.
I’ve decided that I need to take a roommate. Mostly for the financial reasons, but also because I find more and more that I simply shut the world out when I don’t have another person to share with: to eat meals with, discuss the day’s events and news, to feel less alone. I know it’ll be a juggling act – how to be with someone and find privacy as well, but it’s not an insurmountable task, and I’m trying to see it as an adventure of sorts. An adventure with no map…
But all things considered in the end I think you gotta have friends…