My name is Jennifer, I’m 32 years old, and I have never been alone. I have been consistently dating for the last 17 years, with no break longer than 2 months between relationships. And even THAT was because my boyfriend at the time DIED.
We can go round and round about the many reasons WHY I do this. I may be a relationship addict, I may be co-dependent, I may just hate myself so much that the idea of spending time in a room alone with me sounds like a fantastic new form of torture. But I digress, the reasons are irrelevant to the project at hand. Let’s focus on the catalyst for beginning the project. On the long and winding road that led me to this point, let us take a look at just the final crushing blow to my lifelong pattern of relationship-cidal self-destruction.
Intertwining amidst the many relationships I’ve had, dating all the way back to that tender budding age of 15, was one man. My connection with Ben was immediate, intense, and unmistakably special. No matter where our lives have taken us – other states, marriages, kids, highs, very lows – a thread has always tied us to one another. My eight year relationship with my then husband led us both to believe that we were at an end for good. I was a faithful wife to Rich, and we were in love. When my divorce happened, Ben was living with another woman. Our ships kept passing in the night. Finally, a little over a year ago, our relationships at the time both unraveled simultaneously. Finally, we had our chance to try again. Without going too on and on about the whole thing, the relationship felt epic, I was deliriously happy. The underlying problem was always there though: Ben (for reasons I will not elaborate here, as they are not mine to elaborate upon) was even more commitment-phobic than the average man. This isn’t to say he wasn’t faithful, or loyal, or loving, because he was. But you take a divorced mother of two (my kids are 9 and 6) and set her up with a guy that has thus far had a “no single moms” rule, and you’ll run into problems. He wasn’t big on responsibility, commitment, or settling down. But it was ME, you know? He was going to try, because it was ME. And try he did. He really put his back into it. He did the zoo, he helped us decorate the Christmas tree, he watched TV with my daughter in his lap, he was ON. BOARD. Which is probably why I got comfortable. And that level of comfort is probably why I got antsy. I didn’t want marriage (good Lord no, I’m not sure I ever want to get married again. Been there, done that, and all I got was this lousy bankruptcy), I wanted him to move in. After dating for roughly a year, I started applying pressure about shacking up. I was giving him another year, is what my statements added up to. He could have another year of freedom, and then it was time to leave his bachelor pad (it was a really nice bachelor pad too) and come be step-daddy and we should probably start talking about having a baby too and what kind of car should I buy and should we get a dog?
As you can clearly see, I assumed “I don’t want to get married” equated to “I’m not demanding a commitment from you” and I let the rest fly. When he said he wasn’t sure, my insecurities kicked in, followed quickly by that sickening need to pull him closer, hold him tighter, where are you going don’t leave me LOVE MEEEEE. I’m not positive so don’t quote me here, but I’m pretty sure it was SEXY AS HELL. So imagine how shocked I was when he left me. After 17 years of waiting, after a year of being the happiest I have ever known myself to be capable of, it was over. (Well, I mean… “over”. It’s us. We don’t really do “over”.)
I have thus far proved myself incapable of being alone. I never learned how to do it, and now it is like a terrible wasteland that haunts me in my dreams. Being incapable of being alone meant that when Ben needed space, I couldn’t give it to him. I literally wasn’t able to. I could leave the room, I could leave the house, but I couldn’t leave alone the idea that we needed to shack up and fast. Living alone seemed alien and lonely to me, and I wanted him to hurry up and fill the void whether he was ready to or not. Ben loved me very much, I believe he still does, but he couldn’t match the pace I was setting for him and he refused to be dragged by my frantic horse through the dirt so I could get there. If I had been okay with who I am on my own, Ben wouldn’t have gotten the pressure I placed on him, and I don’t think he would have left. Ben has been the great love of my life, and facing the loss of him leaves me realizing just how out of hand this whole thing has become.
Now whether Ben comes back, or I find Mr. Right somewhere else, or I live the rest of my life alone is beside the point. I absolutely cannot be happy if I don’t find a way to be happy on my own. To be comfortable in my OWN life, and my OWN skin. I don’t know who I am when I am standing anymore, because I have spent the last 17 years leaning. I am not even my own woman anymore, I am just a Frankenstein of the corpses of my relationships; I am the bits and pieces of what was left along the way. Today someone offered to set me up with a great guy. I turned them down quite bluntly and said I didn’t want to date. They said “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” I said, “I’m a fucking mess right now and I don’t want to meet Mr. Right because I don’t have a damn thing to offer him at the moment.” That probably sounds very sensible to you, but that is incredibly uncharacteristic of me. I tend to find a back-up plan as soon as I feel my current guy edging out. By the time he’s out the door, I’ve been chatting up someone else on the regular for weeks. I’m telling you, my baggage is SEAMLESS.
For the last month I have been grieving Ben. It’s hard to get out of bed, it’s hard to go to work, it’s hard to focus on my kids. Hell, it’s hard to just eat. I know part of that is because I loved Ben so much, and I miss him so much, and because it is normal to grieve losing something that means such a great deal to you. But I also know that a big part of that is because I am having such a hard time being ALONE. Now, I’m a pretty girl. I’m thin, blonde, blue eyed, I have a high wattage smile and an ass that won’t quit. Having such easy access to men is one of the reasons I have such a hard time staying single – the wolf is always at the door. So I have to make a very purposeful, calculated effort to be single. Thus far, when a handsome man turns on the charm and asks me out I have followed the addiction to whatever end. I don’t want to do that anymore. I need to be alone for a while. The only problem is I have no idea HOW. I have no comprehension of finding happiness in being alone.
To me, alone equates to one thing, to one word that is perhaps the most confidence shattering, heart breaking word I know: Lonely.
God, just typing that made my palms sweat.
I have been asking myself since the split, simply begging myself really, for 6 months. Please, just 6 months. To try yourself on for size. To feel out who you are when you’re not living for someone else. To see what you’re capable of. 6 months.
The loneliness closing in has done nothing but make that feel absolutely unrealistic. “6 MONTHS?! OF THIS? Are you batshit?! Where’s okcupid, let’s knock this shit off and get real.” Today, I was hit by a bit of inspiration that I’m guessing many of you (how cute that I say “you” as if I think anyone will actually read this blog) have seen before: How To Be Alone.
And thus the project was born. The goal is to reach a point where I am okay being alone. Where I can do those things that I love and want to do without having to have companionship, where I am the only companion I need. Where I need not turn my head to speak the words of something’s beauty or charm, but simply know them and be at peace in knowing them. The project is to be willing to embark upon life without the help or hindrance of any other. The project is about baby steps out of my comfort zone and into something that is essential to my being happy. The project is to be able to know who I am, so when the day comes that I offer that to someone, I know the importance and value of what I’m offering.
I have written a list of things I am going to do on my own. Some are from that video, small things, like going to a coffee shop or the library, and that is where I’ll begin. But I’ll get more daring; the point is to push myself to do without another those things that I have taught myself people shouldn’t do alone. I hope to give myself some purpose, some distraction from my grief, something constructive to do with my time (because thus far I have found that no matter how many glasses of wine I race to the bottom of, no answers are to be found there) and most of all, hopefully, to learn that although I am alone that does not have to mean that I am Lonely.
This blog will be a chronicle of that journey. Godspeed, stupid messed up heart.