For those who don’t live alone: What if you did?

Wow — we had a whirlwind trip to the Lake of the Ozarks this week which dominated our time but was very profitable. (For those reading this who have registered for the Lake of the Ozarks, you will be getting an e-mail from me very soon about housing, which should be good news.) It really does look as though it will be a fantastic Feast of Tabernacles site this year, and being there to check things out and solidify some plans was very exciting for us — almost like experiencing a tiny bit of the Feast a little early in your head.

And with that trip, my e-mail Inbox is backed up like nobody’s business — that and my task list which has stacked up a bit, too. So this blog post today will be very brief, but I amid all of the actually important news (and, no, we did not feel the earthquake in Missouri) I came across an interesting little article today that has gotten me to thinking.

It was in the New York Times: “One Is the Quirkiest Number: The Freedom, and Perils, of Living Alone” (2/22/2012).

The article points out that those who live completely alone tend to manifest behaviors that they otherwise never would with, say, a wife, child, or roommate and which can be rather odd.

According to the article: “What emerges over time, for those who live alone, is an at-home self that is markedly different — in ways big and small — from the self they present to the world. We all have private selves, of course, but people who live alone spend a good deal more time exploring them.”

I found it interesting, because my family and I have had many an occasion to spend time apart, such as marathon 1-2 week study sessions for my actuarial exams while she and the kids visited her family in Waco. What I found about myself is that there was an easing of various self-imposed restrictions — particular in my eating habits. Not necessarily so much in what I ate — though I definitely ate out more — but in how I ate.  (Think: fewer plates, more eating-over-the-sink.)  But, still, nothing like the “Day of Chad” time mentioned in the article. But as the years have gone by, the “all alone” me is becoming more like the “with the rest of the family” me, which I see as a very good sign. Still, those days always reminded me of Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that [this] man should be alone,” and I always felt that I was a better me when she was home — the me I preferred to be. That has always been something I liked about our marriage; I did not find someone around whom I could “be myself” but, rather, someone who inspired me to be my better self (and, I note, the self I wouldn’t have been smart enough to decide to be without her presence and influence in the first place).

Hopefully over the years in our marriage (coming up on twenty in July!) more of that me has become the permanent, not-dependent-on-the-presence-of-others me. I think so, though I also know that there is still a good ways to go, yet. Still, I haven’t eaten over the sink in a while. 🙂

Of course, some of you out there live alone and have for some time, while some of you have been on both sides of the fence. If you read the article in the New York Times, feel free to come back and comment below on your own experience or thoughts.

8 thoughts on “For those who don’t live alone: What if you did?

  1. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Good insights especially in connection with your marriage. “Better self” would be a good way to put it because quite often what happens is that when we’re in public, we rest on our mostly-conscious mental processes (which indeed are more positive by nature with or without conversion) and when we’re in private, we often reverse to our mostly-unconscious mental processes (which are more negative by nature). May I present a chart by Dr. Linda Berens which illustrates the point?

    In counseling I discovered that in public I tend to act like the “core” ENFP I am and in private like a rather dark INFJ – emphasizing the top four and the bottom four “cognitive processes” respectively. Note that the top four are more positive than negative and the bottom four are more negative than positive, in each personality type illustrated (the typology is based on how we take in information and then decide what to do with that information, in what preferred order and in what preferred roles). Most interesting modeling. (And yet those who make those models tend to insist that human beings can be self-sufficient. And I’m the Queen of Romania.)

  2. Norbert

    The topic reminds me of a question, why do you do what you do? In my view, peer pressure in general effects people. Take it away and the larger part of pressure a person will face is oneself.

    After reading that article, it does make me wonder about what to make of the premise, “What emerges over time, for those who live alone, is an at-home self that is markedly different — in ways big and small — from the self they present to the world.” What should a person make of those people? When they arrive at a diner party and offer to help make the salad, they then proceed to take a shower in order wash the vegetables?

    On a more serious note about “What if you did?” Is it possible to extend what Paul writes in Phil 4:11-13 to those who do live alone?

  3. I notice that when my wife fixes dinner, she places the warm food from the oven on separate plates (for me and her) and then heads for the table where she prepares her dinner mat, utensils, and the like. Meanwhile, I am typically on my way to the kitchen sink, where I fully intend to eat like a wild animal, before bowing to my higher brain functions and following suit from my wife’s more pleasant cues. Funny that the scripture that rushes into my head is “it is not good that [this] man should be alone” (Id.). Perhaps women can live alone (maybe even with several cats). But what was observed in the beginning stands true today: man should not be alone. It’s fodder for all sorts of unseemly behavior. I only wonder what Adam had to do to bring God’s attention to that fact.

  4. Anne Barrett

    I have been a widow for 3 years now. This is the first time I have ever lived alone! And yes, my quirkier side is definitely coming to the forefront … I do talk to my cats, eat at weird times and eat whatever is handy. I am getting better at that though … once a week, I prepare a family sized meal and freeze it in individual servings.
    I have discovered strengths within myself too … I have done significant electrical work on my home; climbed the roof to break ice dams; taken over the maintenance schedule on my car. And that “magic” gas tank that never was on empty … well, I learned how to pump my own gas without gagging!!
    Worst part of being a widow is that those you thought were forever friends tend to forget you. It is no wonder that God has put in his word many reminders to remember the widow … I just wish more people would take that admonishment to heart.

  5. My wife may read this, but I think I’ve since grown enough to relate this story… Several years ago, when she would go out of town on trips to visit family while I had to work, I would have a little mini celebration in my head for my soon-coming “freedom”. If she was gone on a three-day trip, it would generally go like this: Day 1) Revert back to wild animal. Man party, junk food, sports or video game marathon and stay up too late. Day 2) Learn a little from Day 1. Plan on less recklessness with more composure and self-control. Wind up reliving Day 1 again. Day 3) Shame and misery for the degree to which I’d regressed as a human being. Hug wife when she came home and promise not to be so dumb next time… Until, that is, the next 3-day trip came along.

    Like you said, Mr. Smith, I sure hope I’ve matured since then. 🙂

  6. I thought I was bad. That article takes the glamour out of living alone. Eating peanut butter at 2am like that just is not ready for a fire alarm. Some of those quirks look more like the breakdown of the protons and neutrons in the nuclear family. I’ve thought that living alone makes a man appreciate woman’s work, er, house work. No one else is there to do it. Keeping up with the chores and home etiquette make for a more pleasant experience. I still remember how I liked my booth at A.C., Big Sandy looked that one time I cleaned it good. It was so much more luxurious being clean and orderly.

  7. Texasborn

    Mr. Smith, your comment about eating over the sink reminded me of a question posed on the radio recently: What is the most annoying thing that husbands do that bothers three out of four wives? Answer: Leaving dirty dishes in the sink!(Saying to himself, “Oh, well, I’ll get to it later after the football game is over before the wife gets back from shopping, visiting her girl friends, etc., etc.”) Did that urge ever hit you while a bachelor or during your long absences from your family? (When a person is single, it is easy to fall into the habit putting off doing things that do not have a strict time limit. You don’t have a wife handy to remind you–in a friendly, non-nagging manner–of the importance of doing “decently and in order” the trivial, but still important, things in a well-organized household of a one-person status! I have been guilty of such procrastination!

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