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Posts Tagged ‘being single’

At the end of last week’s piece on being single, I said I’d tell you my least favorite part of being single this week. I added that in later on after I was done writing the piece. I didn’t want to sound smug, or like I was dismissing the difficulties of being single. Because while I have had many positive things come out of being single, it also brings its challenges and can be something of a roller coaster. In a society that values coupledom so highly, the benefits of being single come with a price tag.

I could talk about stability, perhaps, or partnership. I could talk about not having to think about who you’re going to invite to that wedding next month. I could talk about my feelings about dating and how much I sometimes really dislike it.

But what I’m going to talk about is intimacy. The intimacy of sharing a history together. The intimacy of trust. The intimacy of proximity and regular contact. The intimacy of being known, of folding back the layers one by one until you’ve allowed another person to see as deeply inside yourself as anyone else will ever see.

Yes, sometimes I’m a really sappy romantic.

Here’s something I wrote to a friend a few years ago, when newly single:

“And while I’m having all these ideas and thoughts and out doing things and meeting people and working on my book, there’s no longer one person who basically knows all of it, who hears all my stories and my opinions and what I’m thinking about and everything. Except me, of course.”

And this continues to be true today. It’s not that I don’t have people with whom I am close, or that I can’t find someone with whom to talk about any subject of my choosing. But the comprehensiveness is not there, and the regularity is not there. You might, for example, know all about my recent thoughts about writing but since we’ve never talked about the past, you have no idea where I’ve come from. Maybe we’ll communicate several times this week, and maybe we won’t communicate much at all. Who can tell? This is often the nature of friendship, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s just…not the same.

So yes, I miss the easy intimacy of not having to fill someone in on the details of events that happened two weeks ago, or two months ago, or two years ago. I miss no longer having to navigate through so many vast expanses of unknowns when relating to another person. I miss the kind of comfort and honesty that only comes with familiarity and trust. I miss knowing someone so well, and I miss being so well known.

This also further elucidates why I think asking questions is so important. How else can you move toward this kind of understanding? A friend of mine told me she was speaking to a potential date on the phone soon after she’d read this post, and when he didn’t ask her any questions, her desire to meet him plummeted. After awhile it’s hard not to notice this kind of thing because the relationship that results from it is inherently somewhat static. Intimacy doesn’t spontaneously arise from a date every Saturday night, or even from a physical relationship. It must be built, with care and interest and over time. And not everyone is interested in building it.

There are nights when I feel lonely. It’s always nighttime, usually late. The apartment is quiet and mostly dark. Nala is sprawled out in deep sleep on her maroon pillow in the music room. Sometimes this is peaceful and relaxing, but other times, I feel a little sad. I want to talk about what happened today. I want to curl up and watch TNG with someone. I want to share a smile that means, “Look, here we are together, and isn’t that wonderful?”

Late at night....

Late at night….

But happiness, they say, comes from within. And so I remind myself, even though I don’t have everything I want (and who does?), my life is pretty damned good. And that is enough.

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On Being Single

By now we’ve talked about several aspects of dating here on the blog, but I want to talk about something different.

I want to talk about being single.

This period of my life marks the longest time I’ve been single since…well, probably college. I’m also probably the happiest I’ve been in my adult life. I see a lot of portrayals of being single in the media that dwell on the negative aspects (which do exist, of course), and I also know a lot of people personally who are fairly unhappy about being single. But that’s not the only facet of the experience.

A portrait of the artist as a single person.

A portrait of the artist as a single person.

What I like the best about being single is the space. And I’m not talking about the space in my closet (although that’s pretty great too), but of the space to live. I love being me, being Amy, and not being in reference to anyone else. It is during this time of being single, more than any other time that came before it, that I’ve been able to truly get to know myself.

When I was first single after my longest relationship, I spent a huge number of hours simply sitting, in the same chair I’m typing in right now. I was devastated, of course, and I would just sit there in the living room, the ridiculously fancy living room with the domed ceiling and the rich hardwood floor, and I’d stare off into space, or at the perfect white columns in the foyer, or at the iron curlicues of the bannister. Everything was changing, in chaos, soon this wouldn’t be my home anymore, but at the same time, I could breathe. I could really breathe. And I could sit there with myself and exist in a certain kind of peace.

And so I sat there. A lot. Sometimes crying, sometimes meditating, but mostly just sitting. Nala lay in her bed beside me, the refrigerator hummed stoically, and I didn’t have to think about anyone else. No one else would be judging me for sitting there, no one else would be worrying about me sitting there, no one would interrupt the pristine silence, and I had the time and space to begin to piece myself back together.

It was an awful time, but it was also a beautiful time.

And that is what being single is like for me. I do what I want when I want. Plenty of people are happy to give me their advice and opinions if I want them, but I don’t have to check with anyone before I make decisions. I don’t have to apologize for what I want, or what I eat, or even often when I make mistakes, because the mistakes I make often only affect me, and I’m totally okay with myself making mistakes. And if I suddenly decide I want to start dancing a whole bunch, it’s so simple to make the shift.

I used to be afraid to be alone, but now I’m mostly not. Surrounded with friends as I am, I have never been less alone in my life. And that has given me the space to learn what it’s like to be myself without restraint, without pleasing, without compromising to the point that I’m squeezing up in a small corner of what my life could be.

I’m not saying that all relationships don’t allow this kind of space. But I do think for those of us who never got to have this space, it can be easy for us to fall into relationships that are like what we have known before. And so this time to get to know what a spacious life feels like has been invaluable to me.

Our culture tells us we need a romantic relationship to be happy. But really, we need to learn to be happy on our own terms, relationship or no relationship. A relationship will never be enough to fill whatever void lives inside of us; we can learn to fill that void ourselves, or we can make our peace with that void, but no one else can truly touch it, only plaster themselves over the top of it like a cheap Band-Aid.

I decided earlier this year to make my life as amazing as possible, and it worked better than I thought it would, to be honest. So now here is what I look for when I date: I look for someone who will make my life even more amazing than it already is.

It’s not a low bar, but I think it’s a good bar. And it’s only because I’m comfortable being single that I’m able to have it.

So what is my least favorite part of being single? I’ll tell you all about it next week.

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