I was standing in a circle of friends recently talking and laughing about any number of things. At some point in the conversation, someone mentioned watching sports on television, and one friend replied, "I wouldn't know; we don't have a television."
The conversation went on from there without even a pause, except in my own mind. She and her husband have several children, and whether or not the decision about television is for the young ones, I'm not sure. But the comment called to mind a commitment I made years ago that if I ever had children, I would sell my television.
Since I don't have children, my own television still sits prominently in the living room.
Another friend who parents her children alone has implemented wonderful boundaries in their family regarding sweets and "screen time" and bed times and reading the Bible together. Each time I am at their home, it's not perfect but it's predictable. As the adult, the rules for herself are a little different, but still, she benefits from the structure she puts in place for her boys.
And I do this too often, thinking, "if I had a family . . ." and I fill in the blanks with all kinds of wonderful disciplines and habits we would do together. Meals at the same time each evening at the table; Bible reading together in the morning; 15 minutes of chores - all working together quickly each evening to keep our living space inviting.
Then, I grab a salad and eat in front of the television 20 minutes before bed, leaving the dishes to crust over til morning, because, after all, I live alone.
This is one of the difficult parts of living alone. When I am home, it's just me here. No one to take care of me, no one for me to take care of, no accountability. The habits that might embarrass me in front of others become a way of life in these four walls.
Recently, another friend and I were talking about a decision she made for her young son. He is no longer allowed to watch Dancing with the Stars because of the risque clothing and sensual dancing. It's mostly harmless, but to a boy nearing his tween years, probably not. Then, she said she wondered whether she should even be watching it.
"If I wasn't willing to let him watch it," she said, "then I decided I shouldn't either."
She has me thinking.
Living alone does not mean I live a life of reckless abandon. I have close friends who observe far too much of my life and care far too much about me to let me go off the deep end. But for the time I spend at home, I wonder if I should dust off all of those wonderful shepherding tools my young self idealized for a family and start applying a few of those to my family of one.
Now, where to start?
(At least Dancing with the Stars is over for the season.)
Last week, I wrote about Living Alone as a Cultural Act for The High Calling. I didn't think that one piece told the whole story, however. Today at The High Calling, Lore Ferguson is talking about Sleeping Alone. Her article, plus this one, plus the one from last week only begin to paint a picture of the complexities of living alone.