What I Want
Just over eight years ago—eight years and thirteen days ago, to be precise—I started making a series of photographs that would eventually become my first book. The photographs and the accompanying text are about intimacy and love and the expression of love via acts of service. "Before I lived with you I never made the bed," I said. "But you like the bed to be made, and so I do. Every day."
I stopped making the bed on June 30th this year, a week after my 42nd birthday, two days after my 18th wedding anniversary. By then we weren't living together anymore, trading back and forth week-by-week between a studio apartment and the house where our kids waited for us. I only made the bed for her, I reasoned. It made sense to stop once we weren't sharing a bed anymore.
The other day while I was out grocery shopping, my daughter texted me to ask if she could bring a snack into the TV room or if she had to eat it at the table. And for a brief moment, I had no idea how to answer her. So many of my daily decisions had come to revolve around what her mom would want, or what would keep her mom from getting angry. Now that the house was mine and only mine, I was faced with the fact that I didn't know what I wanted.
I told my daughter that she could eat her snack in the TV room if she brought a plate with her and cleaned up after herself. It felt a little strange for a few minutes. But it worked out fine.
For more than half my life, I've lived for someone else. Suddenly having the main guiding force in my life gone isn't just confusing, it's intimidating. More than that, it's making me reckon with the idea that I'm not nearly as grown up as I thought I was. Adulthood is defined by the balance of freedom and accountability. You're free to make your own choices, but you're accountable for the consequences of those choices. If my choices are driven by a need to please someone else, that's codependency. If they're driven by a fear of making someone else mad, that's anxiety. If they're driven by an opposition to some perceived authority or rule, that's just adolescence. The question is: what do I want? The answer, so far, is that I'm not sure. But I know that I'll only really find out if I spend some time on my own.
I started making the bed again.
When I want to.