By Shannon Craig
Let me set the stage for you.
I stumble onto my front porch and search desperately for my keys. The porch light has gone out and the responsibility falls on me to change it. I choose to save the electricity and leave it out. Lazy? Perhaps. I prefer thrifty. Walking through the front door, it is quiet, save for the jingling of the cat’s bell, and dark. I make my rounds, closing my shades and lowering my blinds before I ever turn a light on.
I take off my shoes and my clothes, replacing my day wear with a pair of over-sized men’s house slippers and a flannel shirt with too many holes to be considered appropriate in public. I turn on NPR in the dark and I stand in front of my open refrigerator door, scanning the empty shelves.
After narrowly escaping what could have been a few nasty falls over free-range books and paper, I reach the lamp in my bedroom and my small home is faintly illuminated.
For the last 3.75 years, this evening ritual has fallen under the umbrella category of ‘Single Behavior,’ or things that I would never do around another living person. But it recently came to my attention that I’m not being fair to myself, that my ‘single behavior’ may be exactly what I need to share with someone else in order for them to know exactly who I am.
Speaking with other people my age, I have realized that not many feel comfortable living alone or doing things by themselves. It’s understandable and I can certainly see how singularity wouldn’t be for everyone. But I always wonder how those people can live with others comfortably without knowing exactly who they are when they are alone.
My first experience living alone came in the summer of 2009. I lived in Tehachapi, Calif., a small town in the high desert about 40 minutes from Palmdale. I was working at an engine shop for 10 hours a day alone in a hangar, and at night I would ride my bicycle back to my empty home. At first it was rather lonely, I would realize by 8 p.m. that I hadn’t spoken a single word all day or seen more than eight people. For 1,000 miles in every direction I didn’t know a single person. It was on my birthday that I came home and realized that there was no one there to make me a cake or take me to dinner, so I decided to do it myself.
I sat at a bar alone and asked for a drink that tasted like cake (it’s called a Pineapple Upside-Down shot) and I ate a few hot wings. I went to see “Oklahoma!” at the movie theater and that night I drunkenly rode my bicycle home and came to appreciate my alone time.
My relationship with myself has become more expansive than hot wings and shots as time has passed. I guess one could say things have gotten pretty serious, and it’s because I have now seen myself at my personal best and my personal worst that I feel I would be comfortable allowing another person into my routine. It may sound weird, but I’ve practiced living with another person by living with myself. Just as every successful experiment has a reliable and tested control to compare to the unknown factors, I have learned who I am well enough to test myself against someone I don’t understand.
My ‘single behavior,’ though slightly embarrassing and ridiculous in nature and practice, has come to represent who I am at the very core of my personality. And if I choose to test it against another person, mark my words, they will know me as well as I do.
So I will continue reading health articles from “Reader’s Digest” out loud, sorting Skittles by color and only eating the green ones, singing the Indiana Jones theme when I feel pressured or stressed out.
Or sitting at my typewriter until three in the morning, trying to figure out exactly which keys to hit in order to write my column.