The long weekend started with a chicken pox scare at home. Aadyaa, who had been slightly unwell the past few days, woke up with lesions all over her face and arms. In the few hours between detecting the lesions and visiting the doc, the thoughts that scared me most, besides her suffering of course, was the complete loss of freedom I would face in the following weeks. The thought of being housebound, not having my own physical and mental space and not being able to pursue my regular routine was truly scary.
Turned out the lesions were not anything infectious, but today has driven home to me that my personal space is perhaps what I value most in my life. And this is true for a lot of people I know. For me, I need my space to think and analyze, to be creative, to work, to read, to sing, to dance, to be me. I need my space to feel like my life is meaningful. Even though I am a mother, I find it hard to derive the sole meaning of my life from being a mother to my children. And that is true for all the relationships in my life. Critically important as they may be, I find I am only able to nurture the relationships in my life if they allow me the space to be me.
Is this craving for personal space something that has become more common in a more individualistic, urbanizing, competitive world? If so, does it mean the depletion of family values and relationships? Or is it possible to balance the two- maintain your personal space while still letting the love flow all around
I realized today that, inadvertently, I have been teaching my children to find, carve and give personal space even as I encourage them to build relationships with their peers, sibling and elders. I find myself telling Udai to leave Aadyaa alone when she is involved in a role play with herself that clearly excludes the rest of us. Or telling Aadyaa not to yell for Udai’s attention when he is immersed in a book.
I really find it hard to stomach what many family-oriented (read obsessed) people (especially older relatives) expect of children. That they must always put family, sibling or parent before the self (in many irksome instance, I find this does not extend to playmate). I find the one thing Indian children (and adults) are particularly bad at is being able to say ‘no’. Now, to be able to do that, the individual needs to be able to make a clear choice and then be able to express it without any feeling of guilt. Of course, it is important to empathize when someone needs you, to be able to share and experience the joys of family and teamwork, but is it not equally important to be able to say ‘I need to be alone’ or ‘I would like to do this by myself’?
Finding and maintaining this balance and being able to communicate, without aggression or negativity, the need for personal space, has become a mission in my life over the past few years. At the cost of being labeled self-centered, at the cost of alienating some who won’t understand, this pursuit remains important to my sanity, growth and analytical capability; and hence central to the quality of my relationships, my productivity and my life.