Tag Archives: enjoying yourself

Being Alone And Dealing

I’m weird, one of my best times for getting inspired to write is during housecleaning. I think it’s a procrastination thing. I wasn’t planning on posting, but I checked my comments and one made me think. Then I started doing the dishes, and snap, crackle, pop, a memory kicked in, and next thing you know, I sat on down and got crackin’.
It’s not until you’re single and you’re all right with it that you finally realize just how much of society is centered around fitting in and joining the club — getting married, getting laid, getting validated. Society pats us on the back when we find ‘someone’ and if we’re single, we’re told to look at ourselves and find what’s wrong with us, not what’s wrong with them.
Maybe, just maybe, we’re fine. Maybe, just maybe, they’re not good enough for us. Maybe, just maybe, we’re holding out for something better.
I’ve come to learn the hard way that being comfortable with being single is one of the biggest challenges we can face. It’s so easy to run into the arms of someone “who’ll do” instead of toughing it out alone. It’s so easy to stay the course of least resistance in a relationship that doesn’t deserve your commitment. Getting laid is a breeze, if you set your sights low enough.
We’re scared of being alone. I remember my mother breaking down in tears several months before her death, before she even got sick, when she accidentally got stinking drunk (the first time I’d ever seen her drink more than a glass or two of wine) on my birthday and was throwing up and was horribly hung over the next day. I took care of her, cleaned up after her, washed her vomit-stained comforter, and anything that needed doing. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m not scared anymore… I’ve been so scared that no one would look after me when I got old and sick, and now I know I don’t need to worry about that.”
I think we all ultimately know that fear. God knows I’ve been intimate with it.
We’re a tribal society, despite how uncivil we can sometimes be to each other. It’s our heritage, our legacy. We’re in it together… so being alone is something seemingly incongruous to human nature. But we need to know we’re able to handle it, and so few of us ever really try to learn if we can.
We sometimes fail to see how much society conditions us to need the approval of others – from report cards as kids, job reviews as adults, and every fucking time we use our debit cards, it’s all about getting approval. When you’re single and alone, who’s there to give it to you? Who’s there to tell you in the night that everything’s going to be all right?
You. Just you. Me. We’re self-contained, but everything about our society tells us we’re not. It’s a struggle. It’s hard. Never underestimate the difficulty of going it alone, but also, never ever underestimate the wonder of making it work. There is nothing more rewarding than that night when you realize there’s no one in the world that could make you feel better than you feel right then, right there.
Loneliness will always find you, though, but it will always leave you, too. It’s like a tide. It ebbs, it flows, and you just need to find the rhythm.

Stuck In Single: The Weekend Blues?

I’m a sucker for makeover shows. I’m addicted to TLC’s What Not To Wear. In fact, I’d say it’s played a major part in why I’ve lost 30 lbs, and why I will continue to take another 35 or so off. It’s why I wear makeup religiously again, something I got out of the habit of when life turned to shit at age 25. It’s why I’ve gotten hip and cute and usually find myself winking or smiling at myself when I pass a mirror (a conscious thing).
Self-esteem was something I just never had. I never really liked myself and always considered myself an ugly duckling and uncool. I played the role of cool chick with cool attitude when I was out of high school and in early college, and always hung with the older, cooler crowd, but deep down inside, I felt I was a poseur.
There are days, still, when I’m left feeling like a poseur. I’m genuinely shocked when I get emails and comments from people praising my writing, for example. I can’t fathom what folks see in it – some days. And other days, I feel like I’m really all that. It’s a constant struggle, loving oneself, but it’s a fight worth fighting.
I get asked from time to time how one copes with being single. I’ll tell you, I’ve got experience in that. When my life went to hell in a handbasket at age 25, with the demise of a longtime relationship, the death of my mother, and other fun events, the last thing I was interested in was my image. The next last thing I cared about was a relationship. I knew myself well enough to know that getting into a relationship would be a death knell for me. It would, inevitably, go bad. (I mean, let’s face it – the average relationship is 90% likely to die within four years, and we all know relationships seldom go gently into thy good night.) And when it went bad, I would blame myself, hate myself, and go into a blind rage at He Who Caused It – and I knew it’d all be displaced anger I felt over all the other shit that was going on, and I knew it’d mean I wasn’t dealing with what needed to be dealt with.
So, I stayed single. For five years. I won’t even tell you what happened with sex – the occasional fling, which didn’t do much to help the self-esteem issue and instead left me hating myself even more. I learned that having sex for fun is one thing, but having sex to fill emotional needs that aren’t really being met, that’s just destructive. So I stopped getting laid, too, and got my shit together first.
I had a serious car accident and was lucky – the insurance company paid for me to have a personal trainer. Her name was Christine and wherever she is now, she played a major role in teaching me to learn to love myself and appreciate my health. I was fat, I was depressed, I was angry, and I had little to be thankful for, I thought, but I pushed myself despite the world of physical pain I was living in. She was incredible, she encouraged me so much and told me I was kicking ASS on her healthy, normal clients. And I remembered something about myself – I was a determined, strong person. I can do this, I thought.
And I did. I lost about 50 lbs over the next year or so, and have sort of stagnated for awhile, but never really gained anything back. Now, I’m losing weight again and plan to drop more – without depriving myself of those things I love, like red wine and chocolate and all those delectable good things that add richness to my life. I’d rather bust my ass physically than lose the good things, y’know? (Remember, I’m a big proponent of the all-sex diet. I’m not adverse to a good workout, and hey… I’m determined. 😉
But it wasn’t just the working out that helped me change. It was realizing that I would eventually spend the rest of my life with someone, but here, now, I was alone, and the more I talked to those who were “spending their life” with the person they loved, the more I heard “I wish I could be single again, just for awhile. I’d do it differently…”
And I vowed to live my single life better. I could dine out alone with a good book and love the experience. I’d occasionally hop on my bike, kill myself for a hardcore ride around the city, stop at a seaside café, and enjoy the moment. On Saturday nights stuck home alone, I’d have a long, lingering, oily bath and some nice red wine and make myself an incredible grilled steak meal with all the fixings. I’d enjoy the silence. And sometimes I’d write about myself and all the things from my past and present that limited my enjoyment of life until then, and the dreams I had for my future.
Slowly, surely – and this process is ongoing, so don’t kid yourself about it being an overnight process because it takes years – I have come to love myself. Most of the time. Like I say, there are times I don’t feel right. Times I feel like a poseur with writing. Times I feel out of my league. But I plow through. I try to find something positive to hang onto on those days and that’s all I know I can do.
In the last couple years, I’ve had one “sort of” relationship that detonated because the guy had more baggage than a Samsonite shop, but I’ve been on an endless parade of dates with an endless assortment of men. And none of them have been worth my time beyond that first date. No matter what I’ve learned about what I want from love, I know I love myself too much to bother getting involved with someone who’s not going to be all the things I need him to be.
I’m having a rare, rare second date tomorrow night, and I’m optimistic, but I’ll keep my mouth shut about that beyond saying this, he’s a nice guy and he’s different from most of the guys I’ve been seeing ‘cos there’s an intellectual connection that just works. (So, possibly proof here that nice guys don’t always finish last. Take note.)
But if it doesn’t work out, you know what? Not the end of the world. That’s just the way life goes. In the end, I’ve got myself, and that’s a pretty good consolation prize.
So, here’s the deal. If you’re stuck at home alone, sans relationship, with that “Why can’t I find anyone?” woe-is-me mindset this weekend, stop it. Have a quality drink, a nice meal, wear whatever the hell you want, close the blinds, and have some nice time alone. Take a latenight walk with your iPOD, have a long hot bath, call someone you’ve not spoken to in ages, write a bit in your journal. But stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Being single is the freedom to be who you want to be, any time you want. And don’t forget it. Relationships, when they’re good, they’re great. When they’re not, well, honey, you don’t need that shit. You got you. Enjoy it.

A Ramble: Valentine's Day

This day, the 15th, is one of my least favourite days of the year for private reasons. I fucking hate it. So, I got to thinking last night as I smoked a joint and continued to write, and this is the rambling ode I had about being single on Valentine’s day, and I dedicate it to all those who rolled out of bed alone today and didn’t feel badly about it.
I’m at home on Valentine’s night. There’s a Dr. Phil show on, about how to “love smart.” It’s a primetime special. Ever noticed how the matchmaker sites go onto full boil around this time of year? Notice the fix-up services advertising more these days? It’s like the world conspires to tell you you’re a loser if a) you’re single or b) your lover doesn’t spend enough on you or c) your lover doesn’t put out.
I’m reveling in my singleness this evening. I made garlic bread. With extra garlic. And spaghetti with meat sauce, something the wise would never eat in front of a date. I’m wearing my cut-off shorts and a fleecy sweater. I’m having an awesome night of relaxing, writing, cooking, watching a little telly, and reading. And deep down inside there’s this niggling of “But they think you need a boyfriend. Do ya, honey?”
I know I had a moment of weakness last week, that’s what I do know. I seized a moment with someone and let things go further than they should have, but for that night, regardless of what the future did or didn’t hold, companionship sounded like a good idea. There are people you know you can trust, even if you can’t imagine really being with them for the long haul. And there are weak moments.
Ultimately, though, I do love being single. I admit, I am alone. I’m not lonely, though. Not usually. (Weakness, it happens.) And I resent Valentine’s Day (and the media and society) for seeming to think my lack of desire for a real, true relationship is anything less than healthy. I want a relationship, but I want the right relationship. Anything less than simpatico is just not worth my time, grief, or efforts. The right man, he gets it all. I’ll drop anything for the right guy, you know. I’m just a diehard romantic. But I scrutinize with the best of them, and I just want the right combination.
Otherwise, I’ll keep my Sundays for reading the paper in my boxers and a t-shirt. I’ll get up when I want, sleep where I want, eat what I want, and do what I want. I won’t have to check to see if “our schedule” is clear, I won’t have to worry about any of that. Like I say, when it’s right, it’s worth it, but when it’s not absolutely right, it’s infringing on my space.
That makes me very male in some ways, I think. I’m not sure why more men feel that way than women, but perhaps it comes down to how comfortable they are alone. It’s interesting, I’ve seen an increase in the media, people bringing up something I’ve long believed: One of the worst things you can say to a lover is what they said in Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.”
If you cannot be complete on your own, you are not a whole person. If you do not have a sense of self, you have nothing. If you cannot love yourself, who else can? These are clichés, and for good reason. They’re as true as they can be.
If you don’t know yourself when you fall in love with someone, you’re going to have the very, very rude experience of cluing the fuck in to who you are somewhere down the line, and that person you’ve committed yourself to is going to find out that they no longer fit the bill. Who you love must complement who you are, not complete it. We’re foolish when it comes to love, we put the cart before the horse.
I long ago discovered that my “fuctedness,” as one pal would say, needed solitude. Every time I got into a relationship, I lost more and more of who I was. I became this person who needed to have that approval from “them” in order to have that sense of self. Now, I couldn’t care less. I know that the right people, the ones I want around me, they dig me. The ones who don’t dig me, don’t get me, and won’t have me, and that’s just fine. Don’t fight it, man. Go with the flow.
But when you really learn to dig yourself, you don’t need anyone anymore. You see people for what they are: Icing on a fuckin’ fab cake, baby.
See, the difference between those of us who enjoy being single and those who do not is pretty simple. Those of us who enjoy it, we’re optimistic about love. We figure, hey, if the time’s ever right, if the cosmos ever aligns, then maybe we’ll come out of that with something/one we just can’t get enough of. Until then, we’re alone, and we’re going to enjoy it, ‘cos when that love comes, aloneness goes. And it’s more than aloneness. It’s solitude, quietude. There are some things you will never, ever experience if you don’t command your time alone. Some of the most profound experiences of my life have come to me in moments spent completely isolated from the world.
I moved to the Yukon for one year when I was 21, and it was a profound experience all the way around. Before then, I was a popular gal and always had plans, always was out. I moved there and discovered the true art of being alone and loving it, and it changed my life. I remember a night right around summer solstice. It was daylight then from three in the morning until two in the morning, just an hour of dusk in between… fucking sublime. Sigh. You could sit and watch the sunset followed by the sunrise in the time it took to slowly nurse a single beer. I was having one of these profound days – a day in between nights at the bar, preceding a long weekend away, where we’d be camping at the foot of Mount McKinley and Mount Logan, the continent’s highest peaks. I remember thinking, “I’ve got it pretty fucking good. This will be one of the best times in my life, and I will never, ever forget these experiences. But tonight I got to slow it down and keep it all to me.”
I packed up a few things… a joint, a couple of beers, some Robert Service poetry, and a sweater. I drove the car out of the city (of 15,000) into the nearby country, Miles’ Canyon, the Yukon’s mini version of the Grand, through which the Yukon river carved a wide and tumultuous path. I did a hike out to the edge of the canyon and found an isolated spot above the river where I sat leaning against an alpine fir and facing northward, where I could see the sun dead ahead, just slightly left of the magnetic north. It was midnight and the sunset wasn’t far off. The mountains lay before me to the north (and to the south and east and west) and the land was all reds and browns and greens and yellows with this beautiful deep blue sky. The light, as that incredible northern light is, was absolutely preternatural. There’s something angelic and sweet about the late eveningg summer’s light up there that bathes the world in buttery goodness. I did what I often do, I just sat there and watched how the light changed and shadows shifted on the landscape. There’s something profound about sitting there literally watching time pass by.
So all I did was sit there, consider my life, my place, the potential in my future, who I was and who I would become. To this day, that moment stands in my top twenty, if not my top ten, in my life experiences – and still, stacked up against international trips, true rites of passage, it holds its own, my friends. I was with no one. Nothing really happened. It was quietude in its finest. Not a human voice. Not a plane. Not a vehicle. Nothing electronic. No wires. Nothing. Just me, the gods, and the earth. And it was fucking incredible.
And when you’re afraid of aloneness, you miss out on moments like that. Moments when you sit around and connect with nature on your own time. A guy once said to me, Cities are built for distraction. Meaning, they’re there to help us forget all the things we wish for, that we’ll never have. So too are the wrong relationships, Valentine’s day be damned.
When you spend more time alone, when you get really honest with yourself about what you ought to be valuing, you gain this inner contentment about what it is you’ve got, and you often develop clarity about what it is you need, and how to attain it. These are things, qualities, that many of my fellow (wo)men need to find.
I wouldn’t say that being single leaves me in a state of nirvana, but I’m in a place that I really dig, and it’s because I’ve come to feel that I’d rather be alone than in a relationship where I’m not fully… I don’t know, what, plugged in? I’m charged, he’s charged, it’s all good? I mean, I’m damned good company, most times, so I’d really have to value a guy to keep him around, is what I’m saying. Life’s just too fucking short.
So, yeah, Valentine’s day. I digressed a lot there. Love’s hard enough without cheapening it with commercialism. If you want romance, celebrate it always. If you want love, keep it year round, not because a calendar tells you it’s that time again. And love ain’t about what you can buy, people. These expensive gifts… really. When did generosity become about the almighty dollar? When did it stop being a thing of spirit, of gesture? I just honestly find that buying into this Valentine’s day bullshit really helps to make people forget what relationships ought to be about. The little things: The qualities shared, the words said, the actions done. Not the things bought. Not the fancy places we go.
But the very best thing about being a content, whole person in the search of love, is that when you find someone who really does deserve a shot at fitting that bill, it’s so incredibly rewarding to just drink them in. They’re not fulfilling you, they’re just nurturing all that is good about you. Then, it feels like a gift, like something you should cherish. Something you want to cherish. Not a job, not an obligation. And isn’t that how things ought to be?