Things fall apart: ‘Bra off/ pyjamas on people’ are essential when you live alone
In the last year, Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she is exploring the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.
Taking the decision to end a marriage is the earthquake. After that there are the endless, unthought of until they happen, small changes. The consequences and realities you only realise as they occur were actually part of that decision. The aftershocks.
Living on your own is a big one. Of course you realise this will be a part of it, when your marriage ends. But you realise it in the abstract.
The reality is different. At a work dinner a few months before we told people we had separated, I sat next to a woman I know lives alone. “How is it?” I asked her quietly, explaining that this wasn’t idle curiosity, nosiness, on my part. I was about to do it. “It’s generally ok, good actually” she said. “But be prepared, it takes some getting used to.”
When you go from married to living alone, recreating your way of doing things isn’t a choice.
I don’t, in fact, live alone. I live with my four-year-old daughter, a person who smiles in delight at the sight of me each morning, throws open her arms and shouts “mommy.” It tempers any downside hugely.
So it’s adult time I’m living alone in really.
Finding balance is the thing.
You don’t want to plan your time to within an inch of its life out of fear of finding yourself idle on the couch one night, alone. But while you don’t want to be out, or doing, every night, neither do you want to sit on the couch on your own evening after evening.
So you need to build a little network, a tribe, of people whose presence in your house is as easy as if it were just the people who technically actually live there. My bra off/pyjamas on people, as I think of them in my head. And you need to build in habitual social routines with each of these people.
The Work Wife and I do a regular movie night. “Oh, we’re having a slumber party” she says on arrival at the sight of me the first time. I am wearing my new pyjamas. Because she is a bra off/pyjamas on type of guest. You will need these if you are to acclimatise to living on your own.
The father and brother’s weekly roast at ours is built into the meal shopping plan. Our neighbour’s child comes for playdates and stays on for dinner. Sometimes when they play I tell myself to stop doing and just sit on the couch and read a book. Magic. The Mother puts Herself to bed and stays for tea and Scott & Bailey. The ex comes for dinner, bath and bedtime, for pancake weekend breakfasts. The Brother for movie nights. All, in their own way, bra off/ pyjamas on guests.
Ready to catch you
It takes awhile, but you will need to get comfortable having downtime, doing nothing, pottering. I watch a friend’s Instagram story of her and her husband and their kids hanging on a Saturday morning. Just in their house, hanging. It takes awhile, but you find a new version of that.
Then you will need the things that catch you from spiralling on the nights when you are alone, when you don’t feel like doing anything. Some nights, alone time is perfection. Some nights, Poirot, or a home manicure, the house to myself, is all I want.
On other nights, you will need things ready to catch you. A Kindle full of books ready. Several WhatsApp conversations on the go. Podcasts.
And then there are the big, non-routine, shake it up, things you need to do. To jolt yourself into this new life. To jolt your home into it.
I decide to hold a dinner party, something we used to do lots of. To be easy on myself, I invite the oldest friends I have; most of these girls I have known since primary school. They have known in varying degrees that things were not right for longer than most, and so there will be no big, awkward, draining, moment of having to deal with the shock of it all. And they are practical, realistic types who don’t pretend all is always fine in their own worlds. And they are funny. Crying with laughter funny. Which is what I, and my house, need.
Unexpectedly, beforehand I am nervous, as if going on a date. I tidy the house from top to bottom, change the music, rearrange the lighting, switch my earrings several times.
And then they arrive, hands full of wine bottles, cheese, flowers. Shoes are off, feet are up on couches, and we do laugh, until we scream and cry with the laughter.
I thought I might have a wobble as they left at the end of the night. Herself is having a slumber party at my parents, so I am totally alone. But I do not. I think of tomorrow morning’s lie-in, of the success of that night, and I smile to myself.