“I just want to be alone for a while.”
At some point or another, we all tell ourselves this. This usually happens after a flurry of failed relationships that seem to merge into one another until your entire adult life blurs into a series of men (and some women), and you cannot remember the last time you were actually ever alone.
I said this out loud to my friend while inwardly nursing a fervent hope that it would turn out like that one episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ where the group tells Ted that because he says he is done with relationships, the relationship that he has been waiting for will now come. But after this did not happen, I proceeded to watch only romantic comedies. And this led to several ‘epiphanies’;
- From ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’, I realised that I need to stop struggling to find love because one day, I will fall in love with my best friend and live happily ever after… comfortably forgetting that that arrangement has never worked for me because I don’t believe in falling in love after years of proximity; I cannot wish passion like that into existence. The love I feel for my friends is almost familial and I could never imagine inserting the wild card that is romance into the situation and causing awkwardness that can never be recovered from.
- From ‘The Holiday’, I found out about the ‘meet cute’; a movie moment where true lovers meet but probably don’t even realise that they are each other’s true love. Because of this, I became convinced that it would happen on a train, or on a plane, or perhaps in the rain. Needless to say, I had turned my search for love into a magical fantasy in which my happy-ever-after was not only ridiculous, but also beyond impossible.
- From *insert every Jane Austen book turned into a movie here*, I learnt that I had to endure years of torture and unrequited feelings before I could be in love with someone in a meaningful way. I was too happy. I needed to get sad to realise that love had been there all along. I just had to endure it all to finally deserve it. This led me to think that maybe the guy who was most horrible to me might just be ‘the one’. Luckily, I quickly realised the error of my ways and let sleeping dogs lie by not attempting to contact him.
As is evident, I needed to rein in my binge-watching of Hollywood-made love and start to live my own experiences. I had to remind myself that the scenes I was basing my future love life on where shot in rooms teeming with rolling cameras, blinding lights and actors who had learnt to speak their lines with the conviction that what they were depicting was an everyday reality.
I realised that for an ‘epiphany’ to have true and resounding meaning, it had to be a singular spontaneous event. Having a new one every few minutes just wasn’t helping my cause at all.
Things I could do solo
And so rather than spend any more time rueing my lack of love, I decided to make a mental list of all the things I couldn’t do when I was in relationships that I could or should now do. And it went like this;
- Wear that bright-red lipstick that my one ex used to say looked ‘slutty’ on me.
- Wear only heels because I was done dating short men who feel insecure when their woman is taller than them… like that other ex of mine.
- Find financial freedom because, by this point, I had realised that I was reaching – or had already passed – my ‘sell by date’ and might never be able to do the things I thought I would do within the safety net of a marriage; like have kids, travel the world, buy a house.
- Write that book I have always wanted to write in spite of that other ex of mine who hated my writing.
- Try new things, meet new people and spend more time with girls. (This is important because I am notoriously not good with girls and have mostly male friends).
But now that there was no one to blame for my underachievement, I was not at all prepared for the realisation that I hadn’t done any of these things on my list simply because I had never really wanted to try. I have never wanted to bet on myself. And I had needed those relationships to excuse me to myself for not pursuing my goals; it had been easier to blame my delayed progress on the men who had been in the way of it as I fulfilled the girlfriend role.
In this spirit, I took to finding my truth – what makes me happy, moves me and inspires me. This was the beginning of the journey to finding the me that existed before the serial dating. I took up writing again and started a consulting business; after all, I had all this free time now I could use to do all the things I wanted without having to consider others in my timetable. Being single seemed to be the answer to all my troubles.
I am woman, hear me roar!
Or so I thought.
Lonely, not alone…
Everything was sunshine and roses until my December leave came around. With the world slowly shutting down for the holidays, consulting gigs were very hard to come by. I was on leave from work for what seemed like forever, but what in reality was only three weeks. I had more free hours in the day than I knew what to do with and this is where my analytical self came to the fore.
It started to dawn on me just how alone I was.
I started to see that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely; and I was the latter. Being alone wasn’t actually my choice at all. I had made a series of poor decisions about who I dated and this, in turn, had made me so wary of relationships that I was just too scared to try anymore.
And so while I was initially alone because I thought it was what I wanted and what made me happy, I was now desperately lonely and teetering on the verge of a manic low.
I didn’t want to be alone at all.
I had behaved as if I didn’t miss cuddles, pretended not to need someone to fix the light bulb that I couldn’t reach, as well as fix other things around my house that I don’t know how to fix. But saying it was my choice to be alone let me get away with being less than honest.
I feel there are many of us who might need to inject a little truth into our lives and who might benefit from knowing there are others out there in the same boat. After all, if you can’t be honest with yourself, who can you be honest with?
Being alone is not for everyone. But then again, it could just be me. There are probably millions of single people out there on their ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ journey who are truly alone for all the right reasons, and many who will toast Valentine’s Day celebrating themselves with no self-conscious need for a partner.
Good for them. But life alone is just not for me.
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