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My Dearest Family, Fuck Off, With Love

Recently my husband and I had a big ol' fight about the fact that he exists at the same time that I exist, in the same home, and how I annoying I find that.


Basically, one day I had the house to myself to write (working on my second novel) and I got a ton done and it was blissful. The next day, I was sharing this, and apparently I was a little bit too exuberant about it, because when he said, casually, "You know, I could go into the office more if it's really that important to you," I think I did the Tom Cruise couch jump thing. So then he felt compelled to add that it really shouldn't be that big of a deal when he's here at home working because he's just doing his thing in the corner of the house, coming in occasionally for bio breaks, and generally leaving me alone...right? He was hurt, I could tell, and we're working on this new thing in our marriage where we don't hurt each other on purpose (yes, it's as hard as it sound), so I explored where I was coming from and why this was such a big thing to me.

Here's what I figured out: whether or not he intends it or realizes it, or has anything to do with it- when he's home, I'm aware of his presence, connected to him by a string, and just sort of waiting for him to pull that string and need me. He might require my attention at any time, he might be having an emotion or struggle that I then feel compelled to help him with, he might be making tea in the kitchen I just destroyed by making my lunch and haven't gone back to clean yet and I feel guilty that I got caught being a slob. The possibility that there will be some need of me or judgement of me makes the general quietude of us coexisting VERY LOUD.

What I realize is this string theory (ooh, I like that. I should copy-write it before someone takes it for something weird and nerdy) applies to all people around me. I think this is the curse of empathy? Woman/mom-hood? My personality type? I don't know. But just as some people can't concentrate if there is music or TV in the background or the feng shui is off in the space they're in, I can't concentrate if there is anyone around to whom I might possibly owe something. And it's getting worse as I get older, has gotten worse since being home so much during COVID, and is 1000x worse when I'm trying to write with creativity. At this point, I can focus at coffee shops full of strangers (with white noise on headphones so I can't eavesdrop) because I have myself convinced that it's a very low likelihood that someone will choke or cry and need assistance from me...but when I'm around anyone I even remotely know, I'm expecting to be needed and I struggle.

So, here's what I'm learning, since it's unreasonable for me to not get anything done while there are humans in my home, as there are always humans in my home, and I don't always want to leave for the library/coffee shop, I need to drop my end of the string. I need to work on feeling needed less and they need to need me less. I need to learn how to be OK with lovingly telling my people to fuck off. I need to prioritize my time alone as much as I prioritize their needs/perceived needs. The more I establish clear boundaries that feel solid and consistent around me, the less adversarial and surprising it will be for my people and the less overused and resentful of my time loss I will feel.

I need to protect my peace and space so that the strings are nearly invisible to me and the people around me know they can't just casually tug on them to retrieve my attention. I need to be clear about when I am to be left alone. I can't be guilty about it. It's just something that I need to do. We all have the shared goal of me finishing this book and this is what I need to do that, so it's gonna feel a little rude and weird for a while, but it's necessary.


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