Alone, Part 2
A boy I once dated got married recently. Our relationship, if that’s the right word for it, started on Election Night 2016, and ended on Inauguration Day, which isn’t really relevant, but I found it to be significant at the time.
I crash-landed into him during one of the darkest periods of my life, although he had no awareness of that fact until the end. He saved me in a lot of ways, without knowing it, by reminding me that I was lovable and capable of love, that I wouldn’t be alone forever, and that my fate, my happiness, were not determined by any one person other than myself. He pulled me out of the bubble of a toxic relationship and freed a part of my mind that had been buried for years. He was exactly what I needed at that moment.
When we ended, I was - there’s no other word for it - crazed. Worn down and brittle from years of emotional turmoil, the worst parts of myself were on full display. The last time I talked to him, it was a one-sided conversation. I spent hours writing exactly what I wanted to say on a piece of paper, and then ended up leaving a message on his voicemail, reading my script with a shaky voice while sitting in my running car, pulled halfway into my garage, making ridiculous declarations that I’m not even sure I fully meant. I cried for a long time after I hung up. I never heard from him again.
I look back on that moment now, and, other than a twinge of embarrassment, the feeling it most evokes is relief. That girl - that exhausted, desperate, broken girl - doesn’t exist any more. I think about how much can change in one year, two years. How I went from a shell of myself to a functional human being in a relatively short-but-felt-like-eons period of time.
I was lonely the other night, and another night a couple weeks before that (why does loneliness alway come at night?). This doesn’t happen to me very often; I’m still reveling in the fact that I have finally, against all odds, learned to be alone and to like it. The level of gratitude I feel for this phase of life is hard to put into words. I’ve talked about being alone before, and I still feel the same way. I have decorated my inner house, and my solitude is sweetness. As a friend of mine who Gets It recently said about his own solo years (paraphrasing here), “I knew that there was no one’s company I could enjoy more than that of myself”. I think about the chaos that I’ve experienced in past relationships, and I feel safe in the knowledge that the only chaos I have to contend with is the calamity within my own mind (and let’s be real, that mess is more than enough to consume most of my waking hours). I am independent. I can take care of myself. In the words of Lorelai Gilmore, “I am kayak, hear me roar”.
But something has shifted in me. This phase of life has been just that: a phase. I always knew it would be. I don’t know quite what the shift means, but I do know that lately, I have been examining my deep comfort with aloneness, and sussing out which parts of it are made of true happiness, and which parts actually contain speckles of fear - of rejection, of having to sacrifice and compromise, of showing my naked body to someone new. There is a lot to be afraid of, and many of my fears have been proven to be legitimate. I will not lie: this has made me cynical. I do not necessarily trust forevers, or (gasp) the institution of marriage. I’m not entirely sure humans are biologically intended to be monogamous for eighty years. I have become a qualified commitmentphobe.
BUT. But. I do believe in love. I have been in it, and it has given me some of the happiest moments of my life. I believe in intimacy and companionship. Those are the things I miss the most right now, as loneliness pricks at me while the days get shorter. And here’s the thing about that word, loneliness. When I say it, peoples’ faces tilt downwards with pity and sadness. It’s hard to think of it as anything but negative. I get it, because that’s how I used to feel. But this time around, I’m grateful for it, because it means that I am in transition. I’m excited about it, because it means I’m healing. I get to feel it, but not let it define me. I get to observe what it means, pick it apart, and then do something about it when I’m ready.
And that’s the most important part: when I’m ready. People have lots of opinions on when that should happen, and what it should look like. Singledom makes people uncomfortable. It is something to be fixed, especially when it has been someone’s (my) state of existence for two years and counting. I have a lot of thoughts about this. It’s easy to get thrown off track and forget what I actually want in the midst of others’ wanting for me. But then I remember my joy, and my growth, and all of the other voices fall away. I get to define the terms of my future relationships. I get to choose when to start them and how to exist within them, and I get to choose to leave when things become unhealthy, instead of lingering for years. I get to choose if I want to believe in forever. I’m not sure I’d have the bandwidth to make those choices had I not walked the path that led me here, with all its boys and lessons learned, and then taken a break to hone the art of aloneness.
I have gotten so good at just being in whatever state my heart is telling me to be in, not resisting where I’m at despite where other people are telling me I should be. And this is where I am right now. Loving the alone, but slowly opening up to something more.