I am back to writing on my laptop in the formal junk room this room. After reclaiming my study from the guinea pigs and writing about the experience in light of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Alan and I spent yesterday afternoon clearing it. The builder will begin work on the floors there today.
One of the stories that I finished, edited, posted on my brief sojourn in my study was a Medium Article, Megxit. I was sixteen when Diana Spencer married Prince Charles. I was thirty-four, the mother of four, in my final year at Texas A&M, and my marriage to the preacher was on its final legs when a news briefing interrupted the show I was watching. Diana, Princess of Wales, had been in a car accident. We were in the middle of a move, but one thing that I demanded was the television be functional before the move. This song and the little redhead bowed and walking behind his Mummy’s casket are vivid memories.
As one mother to another, I believe that wherever she is, she is incredibly proud of her son who married for love, has stood by his wife, and is doing all he can to raise a well-adjusted child. Yet speculation and allegations continue to haunt this couple and especially Meghan.
These two things may seem random and disconnected but they share a common thread – Privacy.
Woolf’s whole assertion with A Room of One’s Own is that women lacked the solitude, the privacy necessary to seriously pursue writing. And obviously, there can be no doubt that Megxit at its core is an issue of privacy. (Tied in ribbons of race, class, and Americana.)
Privacy is, in fact, one of those funny words that not only have different meanings in the US and UK but actually is pronounced differently. Pri-vuh-see in the UK and prai-vuh-see in the US.
When I moved here and began to work in the UK, one of the biggest adjustments was the open-plan office. In the US, your workspace is a symbol of success. From open-plan, to small cubby-hole, to the corner office mirrors the corporate ladder. Not so in the UK. Two of the three places where I worked were open-plan offices with the Executive Director sitting in the same room as the administrative assistant. That along with differing views on standards of transparency and reporting in the charity sector ended my decade long career and tainted my belief in it.
As an introvert, I need vast quantities of alone time. My capacity to ‘people’ is limited and seems to be more so as I age.
This weekend has tested that. Saturday was Old Lady Quilting Club. After a year of going with my friend, I am finally beginning to be accepted. As much as a loud, opinionated American can be anyway. That may sound odd. How can an introvert be the epitome of the loud, obnoxious American? Because it is the comfortable mask that I wear. It is easier for me to fit their prejudices of who and what I am than to let them see the real me.
Even with my close friends or on my blogs where I appear to have no boundaries, where I say and do whatever the f*ck I want, that is another layer of self-protection. I am testing people, pushing them away. My friends have heard me say it a dozen times, ‘If they don’t like it, then they can let the knob hit them where the good goddess split them.’ In other words, there’s the door, don’t let the knob hit you on your way out. That is even easier on my blogs, where I know this will be seen by maybe a dozen people.
But as Prince Harry spoke about recently the biggest dilemma for me is the conflict between privacy and service. Yesterday was not our F4 (Friends, Food, Fun & Filosophy). I have had to drop that down to just once a month for that very reason. So, I planned a quiet day with just the three of us; a time to recover from Old Lady Quilting Club (not its real name by the way).
Then I got a phone call from an old home education acquaintance. I had not seen her or her four children in about two years. They were in town, could they stopover? Of course, I replied. After all, when I began F4, the premise was those Sunday afternoons growing up in Drayton, South Carolina when old friends and family would just drop by unannounced. Brits are too polite for that. So when one calls to ask about a surprise visit, I would be a hypocrite to say no.
It was a pleasant visit. The children, especially the youngest, have matured and developed. And I got the chance to feed people, something that my Southern self always loves. It was the kind of subtle service and community that I grew up with. But it tired that introvert, especially sandwiched between Old Lady Quilting Club on Saturday and photography class today.
How much more so a young couple with a new baby trying to do the right thing, to make a difference in this world, to uphold their personal values of service? Combine that with a thousand-year-old culture of sexism, racism, and classism that people want to pretend does not exist anymore but in the case Meghan clearly does and it is a toxic mix. The more they try to break away from it the nastier things become for them, it seems.
Where do they go? Where CAN they go that is safe to rest and recover from more ‘peopling’ than this girl could ever manage? What ‘room of their own’ can they possibly find?
Do I regret saying yes to my acquaintance? Does Harry or even Meghan regret putting themselves on display to raise awareness about important issues such as HIV, hunger, and the challenges of returning military men and women?
No, I don’t. And Harry seemed to say that they don’t either. Nonetheless, people do need privacy, no matter how you pronounce the word. They, especially introverts, but all people need a safe refuge to which they can retreat, to spend time alone or together, to read or as Woolf asserted to write.
I don’t mind sitting on the couch in the formal junk room, staring at a lovely sunrise as I share my innermost thoughts with both of you, whoever you may be. The house is quiet. Alan and PanKwake are both still asleep.
Yes, I have a sink full of dishes from yesterday and cookies to bake for today, but I have it a lot better than some…stuck in open-plan offices in jobs they hate, or extended families that try to control and mold your lives well into adulthood, or those poor few stuck in a gilded-cage unable to fly free or sing a happy tune.
Again, this is one of those matters where I don’t have easy answers. Do we all have the right to live our lives? To do as we want? To be happy and free of other people’s expectations of us? Absolutely! As long as that does not harm anyone else. But how do we do that? And just as importantly, how do we balance our needs with the needs of others? Sometimes, yes, Harry and Meghan, we do trade our precious privacy for service. But the decision on when, where, and how much should be ours alone to make. I hope they can find the balance that works for them, as his mother never could.
As for me? And our @HomeCrazzyHome? Do I have the balance right? I’m not sure. Especially with this wedding looming so close at hand. One thing that Meghan and I share in common though are partners who love and protect us…when we need, even as they support and respect our choices as women. I know that even when things are not perfect, when I get the balance wrong, I can count on Alan to be there for me. I like to hope that she has the same.