If a door closes in the forest, does anybody hear?

ImageI joke a lot about my life in the cubicle. I joke so that I don’t cry. Cubicle life is harmful. Literally. If I were to spend more time on this post, I’d document that statement with numerous references. Lacking such, if one chooses to do a brief search of the Web on the topic of developing and nurturing creative environments, being more efficient at work, the troubles with 24-hour connection to work, to computers, to people… well, you’d quickly find credible sources to back up my statement that spending 8+ hours each day in a  3-walled space sucks away your life, your soul, your entire being. Bit by bit.

But this aside, in my joking about the cube earlier this week, I had an “Ah Hah!” moment (actually it was more like a “Holy smokes!” moment) when I realized that in my life I do not have a single door. Not one. I have no door on my office at work and while there are doors on my bedroom, bathroom, other rooms in my home, like my office space, my home is a space that I share with others. I share my workplace with my colleagues and I share my home with my partner and our pets. Shared spaces.

I do have space in my home that’s deemed “mine” – a room with my books, drafting table, desk, and other assorted tools for creativity, and recently Lynn and I began rearranging the guest bedroom so that it can be a place for the sewing machine, computer, musical instruments and such. We have a wonderful home, overflowing with good space, literally and metaphorically. Still, within all of that good space, there is no space that is mine in the sense that I can go there, close the door behind me, and be alone with myself.

The same holds true at work. If I really need to have focused thought – to read an article or write a report or even just think thoughtfully about a problem or project – I have to leave my cubicle and find a quiet place, perhaps one of the study carrels upstairs, to do so. And even then, there is no door. These are not my spaces, but simply quiet public spaces.

Is this such a bad thing, this not having a room of one’s own? Virginia Woolf made the saying popular in her collection of writings and lectures, A Room of One’s Own:

“Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one’s own.”
But as I had my realization this past week, I challenged Ms. Woolf by saying, “People need a room of one’s own… with a door.” After all, isn’t it the door that makes the room? The door is what gives the privacy. It’s the door that gives the permission for the space to really become one’s own. It closes out the rest of the world so that we’re able to make the space our’s alone and thus, allow us to be ourselves alone. And fully. In the sense of fullness in solitude.
I’m grateful for all of the spaces in my life that are safe and conducive to good thought and creativity. It is most true that I loathe my cubicle, but I am thankful for the bulletin board and the whiteboard and the desk; all things that allow me to make the open space something of my own. Still, it is not good for work. There’s no denying that. 
And I’m grateful for my car and for occasional trips that last longer than 10 minutes; trips that allow me to close the door on the world and be alone. It’s not the same as a room, but it’s close. I told someone recently that I do not talk on my phone in my car. This is not because it’s unsafe, nor because I rarely talk to anyone on the phone, anywhere. But I followed up by saying, “My car is my space. It is my time alone. If I find the chance to be alone in my car, I don’t want any intrusions.”
A room of one’s own with a door. This is what I look for. I think it’s what we could al use. And I don’t think we’ve a dog’s chance of writing any poetry – or being truly healthy – without one.

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