I have a room of my own in my head. Like Virginia Woolf said, in her diary, just before her book “A room of one’s own” came out,
"These October days are to me a little strained and surrounded with silence. What I mean by this last word I don’t quite know, since I have never stopped “seeing” people… No, it’s not physical silence; it’s some inner loneliness. "the impulse to create begins - often terribly and fearfully - in a tunnel of silence."
In the tunnel of silence Virginia talks about how she touches on her reality, a world more real than often the outer world, a world where ‘is-ness’, surfaces and needs help to be expressed. This world is the source of her creative work.
As Virginia says: “and when I wake early I say to myself Fight, fight. If I could catch the feeling, I would; the feeling of the singing of the real world, as one is driven by loneliness and silence from the habitable world…”
I often wake early and a thought, words from an inner world where things get created, a library of thought, arises and wakes me up to the reality of things.
This morning that thought was “I have a room of my own in my head”. This room separates me from the people I’m with. This room is a reality I can’t share and need for myself, a source of inspiration in the literal sense of the word. Where I breathe IN, fill up with a new view on reality, however small sometimes. I need that room even though it has caused me agony, given me an existential experience of loneliness that no intimacy can shatter. A loneliness I have had to learn to face, a loneliness I now seek to be able to create. A loneliness that scared me when I was young, that pushed me to find other people, places to belong. And I did find them, but the room was still with me. As a stranger living in a foreign land I used my foreignness as reason for the existence of the room, for the feeling of separateness. Now I know better, the room is my own, no matter where I am.
Forty-three years after I left my country of origin I brought my daily circle of American friends to the land I came from, my original reality. Some asked what it was like to have friends from my American world enter my original world. I experienced what I experienced as a child. I experienced the comfort of lots of people who accept and love me all around and yet the feeling of separateness was there also. I can be with my siblings, I can be with my American friends, it doesn't matter who I’m with, I feel the separateness, want it even, to be able to travel the worlds of deeper knowing. To touch reality. I don’t have to escape these people, I don’t have to go to far countries to belong. I always was the child who sat in the corner reading a book, near the rest of the family playing cards together. The book was more ‘reality’ for me then than the circle I belonged to. Living alone let me discover that I can belong. Living among people let me discover my belonging has a chamber, a bubble of my own in it.
As Virginia Woolf pointed out, original thoughts surface as the source of reality in a room of one’s own contrasts with the reality of living. I need both to find those thoughts, thoughts that color my actions, drive me forward in life. As a human I need the connection with other humans, the deep belonging. As a human I also need the separateness to infuse life with new thought, new inspiration to live creatively. By bringing past and present worlds together I discovered that a world - a room - of my own isn’t a sign of separateness. A room of my own leads me to, as the Buddhists call it, “the sound of one hand clapping”, a deeper, more intimate understanding of the reality of things.