- Don’t feel sorry for yourself.
- Make time for yourself because, if you don’t, you will get resentful.
- They’re only this young and adorable for so long: savor it as much as you can.
- Dogs are better substitute cuddling buddies than cats but cats are more fun to kiss (on the forehead people – on the forehead!!!)
- If you listen to too many other people’s opinions about anything (e. g., parenting, relationships, love, sex, dating, career, money), you will never know what works for you (and…I guess that means you shouldn’t listen to me, either?). But if you don’t listen to anyone, you will become an arrogant prick. So find someplace in-between and go for it.
- Get off your gadgets and talk. It is the best medicine for any/all misunderstandings.
- If that doesn’t work, then go be alone with nature. That will heal you, too.
- And if that still doesn’t work, then go read the newspaper and realize that the world has a lot more to deal with than you really do.
- And if that doesn’t work, well… I don’t know but watching stand-up comedy usually helps me recalibrate my brain (before going back to parenting, or simply adulting).
- Above all, spend enough time alone to get your priorities straight. I just sat in a car driving up and down the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California, and I learned a lot. I learned that I’ve been chasing this dream of a two-parent family for too long. I’ve learned that it’s distracted me from being a whole parent. And I’ve learned that I want to be all there for my children. Not halfway or ¾ of the way but all the way. Finding a significant other is not a waste of time but it’s a secondary deal for me now. I’d rather be there for myself and my kids first. If/when the right person comes along, ideally, they will also know how to be there for themselves first. And if/when we ever connect it will be because we enhance each other’s lives rather than fill a void. I don’t want to live in a void. Been there, done that. I’m ready to be happy just as I am.
Loneliness versus Aloneness
I’ve been obsessed with remembering my childhood from the age of 7 – 10. I think it’s because I was the most content at that age. I hadn’t yet gone through puberty, that time when suddenly everyone else’s voice is louder than your own. Once that happened, my equilibrium was thrown off.
Back then, my sister and I would play with these two brothers down the street, W and K. But we only played with them if we needed an occasional diversion. It wasn’t a requirement. We also had two friends who were girls – D and F – each one (respectively) about the same age as my sister and I – and we would see them, too, but even less often. Maybe once every few months.
But somehow I was still content. Content enough with my family, my room, our animals, our house, my imagination, the grass, the clouds, time. I don’t know how I filled my time but somehow (without gadgets except Saturday morning cartoons when chores were done) I was fine. No after school soccer practice, no constantly revolving stream of extra-curricular activities. Nope. Pretty much nothing except my imagination, a few people, and nature.
And I want that feeling back.
Of course, I can’t totally get it back. I have a house now, kids, a job, bills, but I think it’s possible to get closer to that feeling.
Loneliness is a word with a lot of shame, but the problem is if you can never admit that you’re lonely (just like if you can never admit you’re an alcoholic), it’s hard to change. So I’m admitting it. For the past – I don’t know… 25 years? – I’ve been lonely at least some of the time. Not all the time, but sometimes, and I haven’t always filled that void with the healthiest of options. And the reason I can say this is… I know I’m not the only one. Ok maybe some people have all their shit together 120% of the time, but the reality is we’re all human and that feeling happens sometimes. So what do you do with it? Eat too much? End one relationship and begin another the same day? Become a people pleasing workaholic?
Loneliness is akin to boredom. If you’re bored, you want someone to play with (whether you’re 9 or 49). But the truth is, if you’re bored then you’re probably also kinda boring. You want some new gadget or person to amuse you. Maybe it’s a new boyfriend, maybe it’s switching jobs, or the town that you live in. Sure I can get a new job, a new town, or a new spouse, but can I try out new parts of me? Can I learn Spanish? Can I go square dancing? Can I start delivery pizzas and run into my students who will look shocked when I show up at their house? Can I start talking to strangers in checkout lanes at the grocery store? Can I do a social experiment where I eavesdrop on people in Walmart not because I’m a creeper but because it’s fun to watch people when they don’t think you’re paying attention?
When I was about 25, I was living in Denver and I decided that the reason I wanted to be in a relationship was because I was “bored being alone.” I told myself: “I already know myself really well and the only way to grow as a person is to be in a relationship.” What a crock of shit. Ok, maybe you do grow as a person in a relationship, but seriously. What I’ve learned since then is that if you are going into a relationship because you’re bored, then eventually you’ll get bored again once the novelty wears off. So you might as well learn how to not get bored on your own. Boredom leads to loneliness, but curiosity about you and your world turns loneliness into contented aloneness.
[Disclaimer: I know I go on and on and on about the same shit but… well… I guess you don’t have to read it. So, I guess I shouldn’t feel bad. But believe me, the reason I write is to figure things out and I don’t always figure things out the first time. It takes practice and practice and more practice for me to change my so-called bad habits of thought or action. So forgive me for my repetitiveness but maybe just maybe this is helping somebody else.]
I HATE being alone just a little bit less each day. Yes, I said it. The dreaded topic of loneliness, being alone, solitude, being single, that relationship status that so many proudly claim to be (but secretly harbor thoughts that there’s something wrong with them because society keeps reminding you in so many covert and overt ways that there is). Well, I’m going to be honest with ya and myself. Sometimes it does suck and sometimes, more and more so, I downright enjoy it.
But I’m becoming bi-curious (‘bi’ referring to being curious about solitude and togetherness) about the moments when the aloneness turns into loneliness. Usually it’s late at night or when I’m tired or doing something boring like making the same goddam drive to the neighboring town because I have a ½ hour commute. Why? Why? Why do I dislike it at those times? Sometimes I dislike being alone because being with someone who doesn’t understand me feels more lonely than just being alone.
Sometimes I feel lonely when the person cleaning my teeth starts asking me endless and boring questions about my job and family. Questions just to fill the time. Questions that lead to more questions that are all trite and blah. Their innocuous questions remind me of the gulf between me and other people… people who ‘get’ me but don’t happen to be around at that moment.
It’s at times like these that I know I need to write in order to turn things around. I need to dig my way into the problem to understand it. I’m done with the idea that there is a quick and easy fix to things. But I want to understand.
And the only thing that makes sense to me is that there is a voice inside us that, if we listen to it too much, makes us feel separate and different from other people. The fact is that the dental hygienist is just as bored as me with the prospect of cleaning my teeth for the umpteenth time and she is just trying to kill the blandness. Or the massage therapist who also fills the void with blasé questions when I would rather just lie down and enjoy the pressure of my muscles being ripped apart by her fingers. I love that kind of pain. But I can’t feel it if she’s yapping away at me while I lie there. Still, not to be rude, I answer the questions in the hopes that I can steal away a moment or two when she stops asking and I stop answering and I can just ‘be’ in the moment of bliss with my body.
We’re not so separate from each other. I guess that is the thought that I don’t dwell on enough. If I dwelled on it more, then I probably would never feel lonely. In fact, I’d probably want to run away and be a hermit in the woods more. There are days when I deal with so many people that all I want to do is hide. Just walk alone on a beach for miles. Just listen to the wind in the trees and think and not hear a human voice for days. Thank god I want that sometimes. Whenever I feel lonely and want to get back to just feeling my aloneness, then I should do that. Remember those days that drain the living life out of me. When I need time to myself to just think straight. To hear my own voice inside. Because that’s what happens eventually. Everyone else’s voice clamors so loudly in my head that I forget what I think or feel.
So the next time I start feeling the panic and dread of being lonely, I just need to hear the voices of the world banging around in my head. I want to love the voices, cherish the voices, but too much time around the voices and I just want to flee. Shhhh voices shhhhhh. Go to sleep, take a nap for awhile, but let me be. Thank you, voices. 😊
i want to be a bird.
not right this second.
i don’t want to die.
but i wish i could fly.
i don’t want to hang glide, or para sail, or skydive.
i just want to be a bird.
nothing comes quite close.
nothing like the feel of the air under your wings,
making lazy circles on warm gusts of wind.
no map to follow, just your own whims.
nothing i know comes close.
except my favorite pen, paper and my mind.
my favorite pen has a clicker at the end that feels good.
a nubby end that i have to push hard on to release.
the body of the pen is sturdy with a rubbery grip.
and the tip is sublime, like a fine cabernet wine.
paper can be almost anything, lined or not.
it’s my mind that matters more than a jot.
clear, clean, empty and serene.
a void, a hole through which my pen explores.
it’s the nearest thing to heaven.
a bird, a pen, and me.
“Love – by which I mean attachments to things outside the control of our will.” Martha Nussbaum
Whether it’s love of coffee or chocolate or people. I love traveling. I love to laugh. I love people. I love being alone. I love writing. I love being goofy. I love having no plans.
I can’t travel as much as I’d like to. Not enough money or time. Too many responsibilities. So the corner store has to be my moment of excitement each day.
If I could laugh all the time I would, but sometimes you have to be serious. Which fucking sucks.
I love people but sometimes I lose too much of me. And one of these days I’m probably not going to find my way back to me if I’m not careful.
I love being alone. I could be alone for long stretches of time. I could be alone so much that I virtually don’t need anyone or anything but then I might forget the joys and new ideas that come with hanging out. Plus being around people reminds you to bathe more often.
I love writing. I love it so much that I’d rather write sometimes than talk. But then I’d be missing out on the wonders of touch, eyes that dance, holding hands, hugs, and smiles, and feeling close. And it’s hard to spoon with a pen.
I love being goofy. But then I’ll be goofy at times when I need to take people seriously and they need tenderness, not distance. And you don’t necessarily want to be TOO good at being goofy. Or you might end up alone ALL the time. And I’ve already figured out why THAT’S not totally the best plan.
I love having no plans. But then I might end up poor and destitute and homeless someday so it’s good to have a plan.
There are two regular parts of the day that I can write. In the morning after the kids go to school, and late at night when everyone is quiet, doing homework, or in bed. It’s tricky because at both times I really should be doing more responsible things like grading papers or getting ready to teach. And I DO do those things. But at the same time, this overwhelming urge to write creative things, naughty things, silly and philosophical things takes over and I can’t be responsible anymore! No more! No more!
But I have to be…. So my compromise is that I time myself. Right now I’m letting myself spooge all over the page for ten minutes.
I have two favorite places to sit. In the kitchen at the table or on the ground next to the heater in the living room. I like the kitchen because it’s expansive and I don’t have to sit on the floor. Sitting on the floor isn’t SO bad. I sit on pillows and prop the laptop up on a small settee. But it’s kind of cramped down there. So in a way I prefer the open space of the kitchen.
I love the quiet. Just my thoughts tiptoeing around in my brain and my fingers relaying them into words on the screen and then…quiet. Finally, peace. No more interruptions, pleadings, beggings, grievances, disputes to settle, last minute trips to the store, whining cats or dogs, nada. Just me and my thoughts.
I remember things. Like living near Aztec, New Mexico and discovering Natalie Goldberg for the first time and eating New Mexican food that was so hot that it felt like flaming turds were flying outta me in the middle of the night. When I was a kid (I know: I’m always rattling on about ‘being a kid’), I used to do this all the time. I liked to recount things. My day, my week, the year. I was always sifting through, remembering, organizing memories. Now my life is so busy that there barely are moments when I can finally catch my breath and make some kind of meaning out of it all. It’s just “run run run til your daddy takes your t-bird away.’
It’s the quiet. The breathing. Just realizing that time can move very slowly or very fast depending on how awake and aware you are. Sometimes I look at the clock at 6:30pm and think, ‘What the hell are we going to do all evening?’ And then next thing I know it’s 9:42pm and I’m barely squeezing by anticipating another late night where I vow to go to bed by 11pm but end up still puttering around by 12:30am. What have I been doing all this time? God knows.
When you realize that the world is your oyster and it’s up to you whether you sautee it with garlic, white wine, and butter, or eat it raw with a little homemade cocktail sauce, then your mind moves at a different pace. Time is irrelevant. You don’t check your watch very much at all. But it’s when you feel oppressed by the endless To-Do list imposed by yourself ON yourself and which you’ve convinced yourself was foisted on you by outside forces that you begin to feel sucked in by the quicksand of Time.
I’m running out of time. Nope, I’m OUT of time. I have to stop and go be responsible now. Shit.
I’ve been pretty angry lately. Not so much anymore but lately. Anger is a good thing though. It can clear your mind….and your life… pretty quickly.
Augusten Burroughs taught me this with his book This is how.. It has a very long title. I’m not going to repeat it all now but, believe me, it’s an amazing book.
Of course I’ve felt other things, too. I’ve been happy, grateful, silly. I can feel lots of things but anger is kind of an unusual for me. I don’t usually like to go there, but more and more as I get older, I’m less afraid of going there.
When I was younger, I was very afraid of getting angry. I was always worried about losing people. Losing friends, jobs. I did lose a job once to anger. I stormed out of a coffeeshop because I felt like the owner didn’t give a shit about the women in the coffeeshop who worked there even though it was a feminist coffeeshop. But it doesn’t matter. I learned from it. I learned that it’s ok to get angry. Just go home and breathe first before you decide to write that resignation letter.
I’ve learned that you can get angry and even while you’re still angry you can make sure you’re not saying things that you will regret later.
And I’ve learned not to deal with other situations that make me angry when I’m already dealing with a situation that is getting me angry. Sometimes I’m tempted to handle other people and scenarios that fuel the anger just because I’m already in the darkened mood and I think, ‘Why the hell not? Let’s kill two birds with one stone while i’m at it.’ But somehow, my rational mind takes over and keeps me from getting angry in two directions at once.
And I’ve learned to walk away from people who make me angry if it’s going nowhere.
I may walk away for a moment, an hour, or forever, but it’s good to walk away.
I am waiting for someone
Who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about doing things the right way
But who also knows what it means
To be there, unselfishly, for something larger than themselves.
I am waiting for someone
Who is concerned about more than money
More than fame
More than networking
More than namedropping
More than buttkissing
More than being cool
More than being anal retentive
More than being jealous
More than being controlling
More than serving themselves first.
Who prizes creativity over compliance.
Who values solitude over toxic relationships.
Who needs laughter more than dwelling.
And who craves random abandon over premeditated perfection.
‘The joy of being alone’….I have NEVER in my life been able to say that and mean it. I mean really mean it. I might have had my moments, but to actually believe it for an extended period of time? Yup. I am finally there.
I’ve been reading about writers like Hemingway and Cheever and the necessity of being alone for creativity to unfold. And so far, all I hear from them is that it’s a blessing and a curse. Well, I’ve mostly felt the curse part of solitude. Now I’m feeling the blessing part, too.
Here is what I know about myself. I tend to focus on helping other people. I’m pretty good at it, in fact. That’s why I’m a teacher. The problem with being a teacher, though, is you forget to help yourself. You put everyone else first. And that gets sucky. You get so good at reading other people, that you forget to read yourself. You get so good at sensing what other people need or want, that you can’t remember what?…. huh?….. what was I saying?
I had this student once who talked about how she could never just sit still. How she always had to stay busy. It was almost impossible for her to lay down and rest, even when she was sick. That’s how I am. But it’s not because I can’t sit down and chill. It’s because I feel like if I do, then the world is going to end. Bills need to be paid, dishes need to be done, cats need shots, the roof needs to be fixed, dogs need to be walked. There is an endless list of stuff always whirring around in my head so it takes tremendous fortitude for me to say ‘fuck it’ and just sit down and chill and to accept the mayhem that surrounds me.
Now, in 2017, I’m finally getting it. I finally understand why. I can’t sit still and not stay busy because I haven’t – in the past – liked to remember that I’m alone. At least if I’m doing things all the time (usually for other people, directly or indirectly), then I don’t have to think about the fact that I’m alone. Doing things becomes my way of staying connected. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it’s a thing. Like if I’m running around because I’m going to make a nice dinner for my family, then that’s nice. Or if I’m running around because the dog’s nails need to be trimmed to be happy, then that’s nice, too. But the part that is not nice is that I’m not running around enough for me.
So in 2017 that’s my resolution. If I’m going to run around, I’m doing it for moi more. And it may remind me that I’m alone but so be it. I’ll remember myself as a kid being happy on my own and hopefully that will be enough. I’ll remember that being content and being alone is an example that I can set my family. That nobody has to be there to complete you. That you are complete unto yourself. Because if you go through life thinking someone else is going to complete you, then you are fucked from the start.