Being alone is not easy. I don’t know anyone who would tell you otherwise (other than maybe someone who has never been alone?). Perhaps some moments are more difficult than others. But in general, it’s just not easy. Yet in seven months I’ll be living in Amsterdam…alone. Although this would never frighten me, it would normally raise some flags of worry. Moving to a city where I know no one and where I don’t speak the national language is setting the stage for a pretty lonely situation.
First I should clarify what I mean by “alone.” I’m not referring to a life of complete solitude. Family and friends matter a ton, and I have the benefit of both. Amazing friends and an incredibly loving and supportive (though small) family. Living in Brooklyn has even brought the benefit of living closer to family than I have in a long time. And that has certainly made a difference in my happiness factor. What I’m talking about when I say I’m “alone” is defined by the time of day when I get home and there’s no one looking forward to seeing me (my cat, of course – but no human), no one to ask about my day, no missed calls, and no one there to make things even slightly easier. That feeling actually lasts all day. Of course I enjoy socializing and doing whatever I want to do without having to check-in with anyone. But I can’t deny that it would be nice to know someone cared enough to ask me to check-in. And when extraordinary circumstances arise, like sickness, moving, or trips to the airport, being alone becomes most apparent and even hurtful. I love to travel and appreciate every opportunity I have to get on a plane to somewhere else. But when I drive myself to the airport, park in long term parking, and have only my car to greet me when I return, that’s just awful. I have actually returned home from really incredible vacations, picked up my luggage, taken the shuttle to the parking lot, and cried in my car before focusing on paying and driving myself home. Been gone for over a week, had a great time, dragging heavy bags to a dusty car, tears streaming down my face, and no one there to give a shit. That’s what I mean by being alone.
Being alone got old for me way back in 2003. And I’ve been fighting it, resisting it, and denying it ever since. So why in the world am I now embracing this potentially exponentially lonely situation without hesitation? Well, I think I finally get it. Or rather, I think I’m finally okay with it.
Not only have I recently stopped fighting the lonely bug by searching for a relationship, but I’ve actually felt just fine alone. I know, it sounds like I’ve been reading the self-help books about embracing the power within myself and rejecting the notions that happiness comes from external sources. And while that may be the case, it’s not really about any of that. It’s more about time and breathing. You know how sometimes you’re in a stressful or uncomfortable situation, whether it’s an interrogation by the FBI or some really serious stomach crunches, and you realize a few minutes into it you haven’t really been breathing? That’s essentially what I had been doing for the past few years. So anxious about solving this “problem” of being single and alone, never realizing I had been denying myself some basic, personal happiness…like air and peace of mind. After I had my heart broken (again) late last year, I decided to take a step out of the struggle and ignore the pains of being alone. It was an incredibly painful time that brought me to this, and I didn’t quite know what I was hoping for. And initially it was all talk: “I just want to be single for a while.” I was mostly trying to convince myself that it actually was okay that I wasn’t in a relationship. And also trying to avoid the questions of who I was looking for, and how I was looking for him. And even worse, the looks of pity and dry statements of false encouragement, like “don’t worry – you’ll find someone.” I used to entertain these conversations. But now that I’m not trying to find someone, they just make me cringe.
So it took some time to grow into the role of being happy and single. And now, after that time has passed, I have actually stumbled into genuine peace of mind. I no longer catch myself counting rings on fingers on the subway (am I the only one who does that?). I don’t want to talk or think about boys all the time – though I’m happy to talk about the ones in my friends’ lives. And I’m no longer offended by the sound of most songs (even some Tracy Chapman songs had begun to grate on my nerves). It just seems to come up less and less. Folks have graciously removed all or most curiosity about my love life from their thoughts. And who knows what kind of pity they may hold for me in their hearts? I just sincerely appreciate their silence on the subject. I have been allowed to experience being alone without having to constantly explain myself and justify my (lack of) actions.
But the true test of my satisfaction with just -me- came earlier this week when I got really sick. The kind of sick that even made my face hurt. The kind of sick that made me irritated with my typical homeopathic remedies and yearn for the real drugs. The kind of sick that typically would make me sick of not having someone to take care of me. But only after two days into crazy sickness did the thought of someone else being there for me even cross my mind. I had been irritated by having to make myself food, clean dishes, and all of that. And of course it would have been nice to have someone swoop in and solve all of those problems. But I never had that, “oh whyyyyyy meeeee???” moment. So there actually is a place in my brain that allows me to function through a ‘better-suited for a couple’ situation without obsessing over it. Incredible. Moving to Amsterdam will likely force me to face tons of situations like this. My newly found skills certainly will come in handy.
So that’s where I am right now. But not where I plan to be forever. In the meantime, at least I’m living on the bright side of whatever they call this place…a queendom of one?