I’ve avoided posting anything from the Globe Facts and Arguments page until now, I think, but yesterday’s essay is just too dreary and sad to ignore.
The author is a Globe copy editor who has taken a dream job — which, amazingly, given the generally subpar morale of the Globe newsroom, appears to be her current position — in Toronto while her husband and children continue to live elsewhere. There’s a vague hint toward the end of a happy reunion to come, but otherwise, anyone beginning to read the piece halfway through might reasonably assume her family has died, the tone is that elegiac:
If I didn’t work out and go to bed exhausted, I’d cry myself to sleep. If I met up with old and new friends after work, I’d return to my apartment to a crushing wave of guilt, as though I’d cheated on my family by having fun without them. And then I’d cry myself to sleep.
Is it really surprising that this cheerless bundle of joy hasn’t managed to connect with the neighbours in her apartment building?
This is the first time this 36-year-old woman has ever lived on her own, having gone directly from university to a house — sorry, home –with her husband. I don’t doubt that leaving your children for five days a week is a hard choice leading to feelings of guilt and loss. But the author is so conflicted about her choice that’s she’s exacerbating her own situation:
I won’t buy furniture, because that feels like a selfish luxury lavished on top of mortgage and rent. I have a chair, an exercise ball, a lamp, a sleeping bag and a pillow.
If this was all that greeted me when I came home at night, I might cry myself to sleep, too. Isn’t there a difference between “selfish luxury” and “living like an adult professional”? Does anyone have any furniture in the basement we might drop off at the Globe building for Ms. MacWhirter? I volunteer my old TV, which will allow her to do more than watch CSI while doing squats in the building gym.
As one 36-year-old woman living on her own to another, some tips:
1. Buy some furniture, for God’s sake. At least a bed or futon frame, which will allow you to read at night and escape your constant misery.
2. Get a library card and check out some books. You know how when your kids were small you felt like you had no time to read? Well, now you do. Make the most of it.
3. Get a radio, or start listening to the radio through your computer (if you’ve permitted yourself such a luxury). Having voices in the background can make you feel less alone.
4. Take a photo of yourself in the apartment. This is, as your essay makes clear, your first ever foray into independence. I understand this doesn’t fit your idea of what you should be doing in your life — you mention that you’re not sure this is as worthy as the other things you were proud enough to take photos of, like your first home and your first car — but it’s part of your life. The life you’re you’re actually living, that is, rather than the airbrushed version you’d prefer to preserve.
5. It’s all part of growing up. Having gone straight from school to husband to children, you haven’t had a chance to become an adult female with a personality independent of your roles in relation to the rest of your family. Someday — as an empty-nester, widow, divorcee, what have you — you might find you need one.