I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young—alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross–roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to–night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so—I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals—and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting–room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky. too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would he impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while. -A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
I am no longer sleeping on the left side of the bed.
We moved this week to a beautiful house in the country with big, old pine trees. Like the ones I grew up playing in. It’s my forever home. It’s home. Finally home.
There is room to spread out in this house. We still spend a lot of time together but when we want to be alone, there are lots of lovely spots to go to. I sit in the screened in porch and watch the deer and the chipmunks and sometimes a fox. And my bedroom has a sitting room that I have made a little cozy gym. I have my own bathroom. For the first time in my life. I take long relaxing baths now. And I spread out in my bed and take up space. The luxury of space.
My heart has felt the words of Virginia Wolf for so many years. A room of one’s own. When I am overwhelmed by all the needs I am asked to meet everyday I find myself saying, can I just have ten minutes to myself, can I just have one inch that is mine alone. And now, now I have an acre. And a room. A screened in porch. A whole big bed. That is full. Of me alone.
I used to be afraid to be alone. It terrified me. I felt like I was falling into a darkness so deep and wide, with no bottom. That I would just fall forever. Afraid of hitting bottom but more afraid of never doing so. Its the fall that is intolerable. It’s a terrible thing to be afraid to be alone. You keep company with wolves because being eaten seems a better fate than being alone.
I used to be afraid to be selfish. To not be omniavailable (yes I just made up a word) to my kids, my attendings, my patients, my family, my friends. But that’s no good. Ten minutes to myself, sometimes hours or days to myself, is a beautiful thing that makes me a better mother doctor friend. And space. Space that is just my own. Whether it be my tree house in Jamaica or the back room of my office in Grove City or my Mini or my queen size bed.
I wish I could give this to my female patients instead of medication. Space to themselves instead of tiny falling down houses with 6 or 7 people on top of each other. Time. Without kids or work or toxic family. But a lot of them would be terrified by it. We are raised to be this way. To stay small and not take up room. To give ourselves away. Inch by inch, moment by moment. Chipping away the boundaries. To be terrified of our own freedom, afraid to declare our time and space and bodies and thoughts and feelings and wants and needs our own.
And words. To claim our words, our voice, our writing, our ideas, our cadence, our beauty.
There was a time in my life I read Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac and dreamed of all the life that lay outside my little town in the country. All I had ahead of me. The life I would live. Of revolution and gorgeous poetry and art and fascinating people slightly mad but mainly genius burning brightly, so bright.
I have lived intensely and now I am ready to be content, back in the country. Back to my own bed in my own room as it was then. Time to myself, to read and savor and enjoy. My kids are the ones heading out into the world. Beyond the pine trees and the covered porch and sometimes a fox. While I spread out in my bed in the quiet of my room and write you these words of my very own. Send them out into the world and hope they land where they’re meant to. Here in a room of my own.