Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Settled at Solo

Sometimes I wonder.  I wonder if my year of essential singledom has changed me without my fully realizing it.  I wonder if I have become so settled in being solo that I am subconsciously making little efforts to sabotage any potential relationship that comes my way.

I fought singlehood so hard for so long.  I didn't go on a date with anyone until my freshman year of college, and my first real relationship wasn't until the summer following the close of that freshman year.  I stayed in that relationship for 10+ years.  Then I split from my husband and within a very short period of flailing I settled into a new one.  Suddenly, another year passed.  That relationship ended, and within 2 months I was in another one.  Bam, almost 2 more years involved with someone, this time living together for 16 of those months. 

When that relationship ended last spring, I started to flail a little bit again.  I was an expert at it.  I knew the choreography by heart, but that time I was aware of it.  I watched myself, as if from the outside, and saw where it would lead.  I saw the failure that would come from not taking the proper time to heal.  I saw the aftermath of such a mistake...I would get stuck again.  I vowed to do things differently.  I wouldn't date anyone right away.  I wouldn't reach out to all the easy marks of my past for attention and flattery in my time of weakness.  I wouldn't operate out of loneliness and need.

I've screwed up a lot this last year.  A lot.  I've made countless questionable decisions.  I've behaved out of character many times.  I've felt exhilaration from these choices, and I've felt laden with guilt from them, too.  I've questioned who I really am.  What I really stand for.  What my values are.  Where my lines are drawn.  I've surprised myself with some of the lines I've crossed, and I've learned that I am a hell of a lot more complex, intricate and strong person than I ever realized.

Sometimes I am very, very weak.  I behave in ways that embarrass me later.  I've learned the magnetic pull of acting on impulses that I know will hurt me later, or drag me backward.  Sometimes I still act on them, all that knowledge not withstanding.  I've seen myself rationalize lousy or simply inadequate behavior on the part of others to ignore the sharp truth of the matter.  To explain why I was doing what  I was doing with the people I was doing it with.  I've lied to myself.  I've omitted truths when speaking with others.  I've spilled my secrets to certain people and felt great waves of relief.  I've also received impenetrable walls of judgment.  I could understand both.

Sometimes I am very, very strong.  I stand up for myself more than I used to.  I draw lines when before I just shrugged and let someone else decide.  I've worked hard to not punish myself for making reckless choices sometimes, to not let my self-worth be determined by individual acts or words or choices.  I've learned to function solely on my own.  To take care of myself when I'm sick.  To go through indescribably hard life transitions with no one to support me in the most acute moments of sadness or difficulty.  I've learned that sometimes people are unreliable and selfish and hurtful--me included. 

I've soldiered through intense periods of anger.  Consuming lethargy and sadness.  Nerve wracking anxiety.  Loneliness like the heaviest blanket in the world.  I've come out on the other side of all of them.  I harbor fewer delusions about the nature of the people around me.  I see their faults and weaknesses as clearly as I see my own, and I've tried to learn to treat them the same way....awareness, acknowledgement, and room for acceptance and forgiveness.  It requires entirely too much energy to constantly carry around the hurt someone has issued to me.  I want to lighten the load of my emotional baggage.

Through all of this evolution over the course of the last year, I've grown.  I feel more in touch with the world around me, and I feel emotionally stronger and more self-aware.  I did this primarily on my own.  I forged this bond with all of these tiny little voices and feelings inside of me.  We battled, we negotiated, we made some kind of peace.  All right inside of me.

So now I come through the other end of the tunnel, or at least partway through this maze.  I am in a new place and I finally begin to wonder if the time is right to open my heart again to the possibility of a real relationship.  I let myself get excited.  Hopeful.  I feel anticipation and butterflies and happiness.  I smile like an idiot, spend too much time figuring out what to wear for dates, I ponder words that have been said, glances that have been shared, kisses that have passed.  I feel like I really am moving forward.

But then there is a bump in the road.  A tiny pebble even, and it stops me still.  The butterflies freeze in place, then droop away off to the side listlessly.  Joy deflates a little bit.  Skepticism creeps in.  Doubt.  Insecurity.

I consider my bed, how comfortable I've gotten sleeping in it alone.  How I can lay wherever I want across its expanse, turn the thermostat to the temperature I want, clean when I want to clean.  I buy groceries for me and I don't have to worry about anyone else telling me they like a different shape of pasta, or a spicier sauce.  I never have to compromise in my personal space.

This is when I worry that I've become too settled in solo.  Something clicks inside of me and things shift.  I feel distant from the magic of the butterflies.  I forget so quickly.  I think dispassionately that yeah, it's nice to have physical proximity to someone, but that proximity is heavy with expectation.  I begin to think of someone else having a right to my time.  Being close enough to make me feel guilty or bad or less than for an impulsive/selfish/unexpected/out of character decision. 

I think that kissing is nice, and sleeping next to someone is lovely.  But then I think about how awful it is to sleep next to someone who you are not sleep compatible with.  Someone who wants it cold in the room when you like it warmer. Someone who needs a certain kind of pillow and is a pain if they don't have it.  Someone who likes to sleep as if they are alone even when someone else is in the bed with them.  When I have someone in my bed I like knowing that I can curl up against them. 

I think that it would be awesome to have someone to take my the second in a pair of concert tickets.  To go see movies with.  To have my automatic plus 1.  But then I think of how sometimes I just really like having no accountability to anyone.  That I like flirting at happy hours or parties or whatever else. 

If I think too hard about any of this, the idea of a relationship begins to seem claustrophobic.  I can feel my world shrinking, and it makes me balk.  I've worked so hard to make my world bigger.  To get out of my own tiny bubble that I always fall into in relationships.  I don't want to be stuck in there again. 

I don't know if I know how to do the in between.  I want someone to kiss.  To be happy to see me.  To miss me when I'm gone.  To make me feel better when I'm sick.  To be my partner in things both boring and fun, happy and sad.  But.  I just don't know if I know how to do it anymore.  I feel so intensely out of practice, and I feel like something has broken or splintered inside of me.  I wonder if I somehow threw my relationship joint out of whack.  Something is off.

I keep hoping that when the right situation comes along things will click back into place.  And yet I wonder.  I do.

I'm not writing anything off.  I'm not even putting the kiss of death on the particular situation that sparked this.  I have no idea what will happen with that or with anything.  I am tired of over thinking, and I can think of no better way to take a break from myself than my impending vacation.  I need time to clear my head, to have fun and laugh and get out of DC.  Perhaps some of the fog will lift and I'll see things more clearly.

No matter what happens I know I am okay.  I know that even if something is broken right now, it can be fixed.  I am constantly changing, and that means that even in the most uncertain of moments, I know things can get better.  I can get better, smarter, braver, anything.

Hear me roar...even if the sound sometimes is underwhelming, never underestimate the fight that still lurks inside.  :-)


  1. Came across your blog and I can relate in many ways. (I'm also in DC but very very sick of it) I was single for 4 years - at first unintentionally and then it became deliberate about 6 months in. I learned so so so much about myself from it and wish more females would take some time to be single. The loneliness can suck sometimes but I was just so grateful to not be stuck in a shitty relationship anymore. Other people also became really transparent to me because I was becoming more transparent to myself. I wish you the best of luck and, as everyone says, you'll find someone when you least expect it and I hope he's awesome. :) Really like your blog.

  2. Thank you! Welcome, I'm glad you found your way to my blog. :) You are so spot on about how much you learn about yourself while being legitimately single. This last year has been the single most enlightening year of my life because of that. It is pretty liberating to realize I would rather be alone than settle for something good enough but not great again. I deserve better, and until it comes along, I will just continue taking care of myself. :)