Security and control

There I was; sitting feet up on a sofa in my sunny, family room yesterday afternoon; cup of coffee by my side; searching the internet for some pertinent information that I needed for a piece of writing that I was working on; when a group of window cleaners appeared unexpectedly in my back garden. From feeling relaxed and engrossed in my work I moved to a state of moderate anxiety. My space had been invaded.

If I did not pay someone else to clean our windows then the job would never get done. When I lived on my own this was how I chose to live, but my husband notices dirt on windows and it bothers him. Thus I must put up with the monthly visits from the window enhancement specialists, even though their presence makes me feel uncomfortable. They are friendly and efficient in their work so give me no reason for concern, but I still dislike their visits. When I hear them approach with their clanking ladders and buckets I feel the urge to pull down the blinds and hide until they are gone. In the event I fight this foolishness and embark on some useful activity. My house is now cleaner inside than it would have been had they not made an appearance yesterday afternoon.

My privacy is very important to me. I can only truly relax when I know that I am alone and unobserved. I would not wish to live a life of complete solitude as I value the company of my family and friends, but I am only at complete ease when on my own. I sometimes think that I would make rather a good hermit.

When in the company of other people there is an expectation that one will behave in a certain way. Parents are encouraged to teach their children by example so must try to behave appropriately. Friends will be interested in certain aspects of one’s life but probably not the minutiae of every passing thought, so a mental filter is required to produce conversation that it is hoped will be of interest. Only the closest of family members will be happy to listen to the random, free range discourse that can be emitted from a head stuffed full of thoughts on and opinions about everything that has been read or seen in a given period of time. I am never as satisfied with the verbal conversations that I have as with the internal discussions that precede them. The spoken word is rarely my friend.

Growing up in Belfast it was common practice for my regular companions and I to call at each other’s houses unannounced. Whether the visit was planned or spontaneous there seemed no need to forewarn. Perhaps this harked back to the days before all houses had telephones, but popping in for a quick visit was an expected occurrence. When I moved to England I was vexed that I found it so hard to make new friends. I could easily arrange to go out and socialise with a number of people, but nobody ever called round to visit me at home. In the early days of my new life I would surprise my new acquaintances by appearing on their doorsteps; they always seemed a little put out when this happened so I soon abandoned the habit. It would seem that I have now conformed to the established reserve of my adopted countrymen, and have probably taken it even further as the years have passed by. It is rare indeed for me to call on anyone without forewarning them of my intention; an unexpected call at my door causes uneasiness more often than the eager anticipation that I would once have felt.

I suspect that the reason for this change in my behaviour is my need to feel in control of my life. So much of what I do is dictated by the needs of my significant others. I have freely chosen to share what I am with them, but find the cost can sometimes be difficult to bear. I need to guard a space and time for myself if I am to find the inner contentment that allows me to be a better person for all. I need to feel the security of self acceptance; to be allowed some measure of choice in how I live and how I spend my time. Too often it feels as though others are making decisions for me with which I am uncomfortable.

My best days are still those that I spend enjoying life with my family and friends. The memories that provide the highlights when I look back on what I have done are the events that I embarked upon with others of my choosing. However, just as we need to feel well rested before we may fully enjoy an activity, so must I give myself time alone before I can fully appreciate the benefits of company. I also find, more and more as I get older, that I can relax only with those that I have freely chosen to spend time with. For me, having that control can make the difference between anxiety and eager anticipation of an event. I need to be granted the freedom to live my own life as I choose.

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Free to be me