How to be Single: Get Your Shit Together

There is a woman on my vision board.

She is a size two, a minimalist with a mostly black wardrobe and a few pops of color. Blue, tan and coral. She wakes up at 5:30 every morning, setting her bare feet on the ground to begin her morning gratitude meditation. Grabbing her journal from the tidy vanity without moving her feet from the floor, she jots down three pages of free thought in 10 minutes. Arising with a clear mind and a thankful outlook, she sets her sights on the day ahead.

Room temperature lemon water is her drink of choice, but not until routine oil-pulling while doing her warm-up stretches. After 45 minutes of exercise with her favorite instructor, she takes a few swigs of green juice and heads for the shower.

Rose water, serums and crème is applied; hair is pulled into a sleek chignon. Sliding into a curve-skimming sheath and ballet flats (her uniform of choice), she heads out into the city.

On time.

Of course.

Her favorite commute routine is the application of eyeliner, because it always draws stares and reminds her hands still hold their youthful precision. She heads into the office, where making people look good with her words gives her purpose. Coffee, fruit and almonds fuel her morning, light meats and vegetables her afternoon.

Depending on the evening you will find her in her kitchen, at the theater or commanding a steakhouse bar table. For easy evenings at home Italian is her favorite, as a simple pasta dish is the easiest to modify for one person.

Because, of course, she lives alone.

An enclave deliberately small enough to discourage extended company, filled with the tiniest amount of things that bring her joy. She has a long-term love a distance away, a worldly man appreciative of what America can offer an ambitious immigrant but un-enamored with the fairy-tale of “America the Great”. They regularly meet over wine at chosen locales, with banter and tales of dating misadventures filling their eve till they fill of themselves. They part, breathless and grateful their distance allows the extended illusion.

She is enviable. She is witty, and fit, and undeniably sexy. She is me.

If I ever get my shit together.

She wakes with me at 6:45 am and asks me why I’ve wasted over an hour of productivity. She stands over my words, wondering why I choose to hand them over to the internet instead of making them my source of income. She examines my waistline, frowning at its current expansion.

She hates my lived-in apartment.

She stares at the blank pages of my journal and asks me what morning will I begin. She sees the doughnut on my desk and wags her finger at the absence of green juice and almonds. She interrupts my moments of joy to remind me that I’d likely be even happier.

If I got my shit together.

For years I have chased her, convinced she was the reason I did not get that job, could not keep that man, would not get as far as I wanted to. I, who loved too hard and lived too messily, paled in comparison. I was never enough.

Somewhere on this odd journey of self-discovery, while learning to love the ache of solitude I looked around at the glorious chaos that was my life and realized this was it. She is me, and I am me. And if I was going to get on with my life, I was going to have to accept the messy, broken bits that came along with it.

I am the woman that loves to apply eyeliner on the train..for the three weeks every year that I care about makeup. My mornings have structure some days, and some days they don’t. I’m never, ever going to entirely give up doughnuts. My minimalism manifests itself everywhere except my wardrobe (okay, and my kitchen. I have far too many fun appliances-but I use them all!). My “brings me joy” meter may be slightly off (as I observe the clutter atop my table). A broken heart never killed me. And by best life is now.

I am never going to have it together 100% of the time. And while she is a lovely thing to aspire to, she is not a source of failure or the reason a person would not stay in my life. Learning to love the messy bits, and finding a tribe that does the same, has brought me more joy than any regimen ever has. This is it. This is me. And right now, I am enough.

Ok, my pores could be smaller…

How to be Single: The Myth of Self-Care

Confession: I don’t believe in “self-care”.

In fact, I think it’s a load of bullshit. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you how I got here.

There was a point in my life where I became sick of sex. This was highly inconvenient, as at the time I was involved in a relationship with a man that was born of an electric sexual connection. Sex was our glue, and when we didn’t have it, our cracks would show. But I tried like hell to make it work because I had not yet discovered the revelation called “affairs”, and at some point I was the only one trying.

And I was EXHAUSTED.

I had work. I had my side hustle. I came home and made dinner. Sex was not therapeutic. Sex was not release. Sex just felt like another chore, another person I had to become after a day full of being a worker, a counselor and a pretend housewife. One more person that wanted a piece of me. One more thing I had to do before I could see my pillow. One more thing blocking me from sleep.

What was missing?

HELP, dammit. I had no damn help.

Not one person in my life was meeting me halfway, or picking up the slack, or allowing me a moment to breathe before they requested something from me. None of the things I did were “for” me. Not even the horizontal polka. No one acknowledged that the hours in a day were not infinite and my energy was not an inexhaustible resource. My clients were my responsibility, my man was my responsibility, and I was my responsibility. And there simply were not enough hours in the day to accomplish all three.

That’s all I see when I look at conversations about “self-care”.

Not one damn thing about it sounds attractive to me. If they’re not advertising it as a way to be more efficient in servitude (“put your oxygen mask on first! You’re no good to others if you don’t take care of YOU!”), they’re heaping pressure to either make it instagrammable (no, seriously…search #SelfCare) or shaming for not engaging (“self-care checks”, anyone?). And not ONE person has yet to explain how I’m supposed to find the hours in the day for this magical “self-care” if no one else in my life is volunteering to do all the things I’m not going to get to in order to fit it in.

And who benefits?

Everyone but you.

Everyone who has been let off the hook to be supportive, to take care of themselves, to not rely on you to be everything while you are made to feel guilty for asking for crumbs (because self-care, like self-esteem, is of yo damn self, so don’t ask me for shit). Don’t believe me? Ask yourself when’s the last time you engaged in “self-care” for the sake of SELF and didn’t have to recite a mini pep-talk to get out of the guilt of doing it. Ask yourself the last time you didn’t have to reframe taking time away from others to make it sound better. Ask yourself what your “self-care” even looks like, and if you’ve chided yourself for it not being able to fit in a 1×1 picture box.

Fuck “self-care”. You ever notice there are few popular sites that recommend “self-care tips” to men outside from “get regular check-ups and try to cry every once in a while”? It’s because they call it doing you, and it is not something to apologize for. And “me” is what I do. If I’m the “only” person responsible for “taking care of me”, that time will be subtracted from everyone else. Not stolen, not borrowed, not owed, but consciously taken. Whatever you needed from me you will attend to, by yourself. Not “it will have to wait”… I’m not doing it. I’m not assigning myself delayed double-duty to “allow” the time for self-care just so I can be re-invigorated to the task of taking care of someone else.

Nothing I engage in for the sake of self-enrichment or self-preservation fits within the advertised realm of “self-care”. My self-care looks like turning down events because I’m tired. It’s considering whiskey a food group. It’s telling a man “sorry, I’m not attracted to you” instead of wasting precious minutes concocting a long, padded let-down. It’s turning down that second date. It’s selling a blouse on Poshmark so I can afford to pay for a cleaning service. It’s using “no” with a full-stop at the end. It’s turning off my phone on Saturday night and daring to not be instantly accessible. It’s answering a text at a convenient time for me instead of the convenient time for you. It’s posting a thirst trap because I was feeling myself that day, or posting myself looking a mess cause I was feeling myself that day, too. It’s everything they told me that makes a woman a selfish asshole. And I apologize for nothing.

Fuck “self-care”. That shit was a scam, anyway.

How to Be Single: DEMOLISH

I was supposed to be a wife.

I’m supposed to have a teenage daughter getting on my nerves right now.

I was supposed to be a partner.

I was supposed to laugh at the people who hadn’t figured out the key to this life thing was two people, showing up.

I was supposed to be celebrating my 10th anniversary in Rio, surrounded by the revelry of international sport.

I am not supposed to be here. Not alone.

My stages of grief seemed eternal. The hamster wheel of what was, how it should be, what it isn’t, how I am here. I mourned the loss of what was. I grieved what would not be. Tears with the patience of a hungry infant spilled clumsily into my daily activities, pockets of grief expelling themselves at the most inconvenient of moments.

Then The Dream Died. And I stopped.

I stopped. I stopped trying to make up for lost time. I stopped trying to catch up to where I would have been had my Dream not been deferred. I stopped fucking lying to myself about the source of my giving nature. I stopped identifying myself by my relationship status. I stopped believing myself a temporarily displaced wife. I stopped wondering if every man I met and liked would be the one to relieve me of my displacement. I stopped conducting myself as their temp-wife in preparation. I stopped believing everyone else was more deserving of my exquisitely transcendental love than I was. I stopped. I stopped. I did not let The Dream die. I killed her.

I don’t know when it happened. The day I killed The Dream. If I did, I’d have a fucking anniversary party.

Somewhere amidst the clouds of bereavement my soul sat up and said “this. This here. This is it. This is your life. Now get on with it.” And I saw the sun, and I took a breath, and the air was mine. I was no longer on borrowed time. My life is my own. And the possibilities endless.

****This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a Twenties Unscripted 10-Day Writing Challenge. This particular word stood out. Don’t ask me if I’m gonna get to the rest of it.

#WYAOApril

How to Be Single: Give Your Energy to Women

Let’s face it; the majority of women’s lives have been cultivated around the idea that we “exist” to make men’s lives easier.

In some capacity, whether large or small you may do it, too. It may be adding “women’s touches” to the home of your male friend or relative. Or it could be identifying ways to streamline your boyfriend’s “busy” schedule so he can spend more time with you. Perhaps you introduce the man you just started dating to new foods, or take your male bestie to his first pedicure. You saw that “thing” he (didn’t even know he) needed in a store window and bought it without hesitation. It is nurture, it is concern; it is mindfulness and thoughtfulness. And most importantly, it is the ability to make such effort look “easy”.

So easy, in fact, that our lives look exasperatingly difficult in comparison. He believes himself to not be a picky eater because he’s never noticed the two of you mainly eat at restaurants where he would not have to “pick”; meanwhile our mental gymnastics to decide on an establishment that would feature things we both like has been a long-standing joke. Crammed with details and minutiae, our lives look difficult simply because there is no one present in our lives to make it “look’ easy-that’s our job.

And personally nowhere was that more apparent than in my dating life; the minute it was decided that I “liked” a guy I immediately found myself invested in his well-being, setting out to make myself “useful”. Becoming familiar with his daily process and how I could make them more efficient; finding ways to add “value”.

This realization came from the need to take a deeper inventory of how I spent my time and energy. As a single woman I was baffled as to why I was always still so tired; apart from having to tackle the adult-ing stuff alone with less time and less help, I seemed to walk in a constant state of burnout. I withdrew from meeting people as interactions were increasingly draining. Dating was laborious; I was not built for the roller-coaster of endorphin rushes and let-downs. And as I noted where I chose to place my focus it became clear that I simply had no energy or concern allotted for myself.

The act of thoughtfulness requires energy. The daily process of being mindful; being cognizant of a person’s process, their movements, spotting “needs” that could be met, all take effort. The worry when they are not present, the absorption of their problems, all take energy. And yet we are often conditioned to do this with so many people- men in particular- that we encounter, that we reserve energy on purpose. It is no mistake that women, often socialized to do this for friends, lovers and bosses, are overwhelmingly considered for support positions in the workforce. It is a learned skill mistaken for an aptitude naturally created by DNA.  And this thing, this thing I took pride in, placed my worth in-was draining me of vitality. Of life.

The refocusing of my concern was nothing short of revolutionary-even as I battled the guilt that came from intentionally not caring. But despite my guilt and fear, no one’s world crumbled from my lack of effort. To be honest, I doubt many people noticed I stopped volunteering my efforts.  And while at first, people did bristle at “no” being added to my vocabulary, they eventually went back to however they conducted their lives without my assistance-which again, didn’t make anyone’s world crumble. And while my dating calendar isn’t as full as it used to be, it is largely free of the energy-vampires I used to attract, that gravitated to my need to show my worth in service.

It is new territory, believing myself “enough” separate from my aptitude in “service”. It takes time to drown out the din of voices that say you’ll be “forever alone” because you didn’t offer to cook for a man immediately after you met. It takes time to believe yourself “worth the effort” if you do not immediately rush to make yourself useful.  But as I released the need to take every new person on, I noticed my energy improving. As I took back time I used to think on how I could add to everyone’s life simply because they were in my proximity I gave more thought to how my own life could improve. And as I gained energy back I found a newer resolve to give some of it back to the women in my life. Whether it was lending an ear, or sharing a meal, or putting in a good word, forwarding a contact, promoting someone’s work, it was a support and thoughtfulness often reserved to prove wife-ability I actively chose to reinvest in the women around me. And it has proven renewing and edifying in a way I did not receive when I simply poured energy out to prove my worth.

To be clear, I am not saying I stopped doing anything at all for the men in my life. And I’m definitely not saying I actively chose to instead over-extend myself for women. I am saying that I shut down my habit of immediately pouring effort to new connections out of fear that if I did not, they would see no reason to continue being in my life. And I then took that energy to invest in myself and the people who chose to not only stick around, but invest in me, support me, check for me. I let go of the thought that my assistance was needed to make a person’s life better-that’s quite an egotistic thought when you sit with it anyway-and allowed people to live their lives. I met people where they were-or left them where they were. And as people seasonally enter and depart, I found I was more accepting of their place in my story and forced less. What’s for me is for me, and people meant to be here do not require my essence as sacrifice.

I do realize for some this is no revolutionary conclusion, and believe me, I envy the selfish. I guess everyone is just figuring this life thing out as we go. Here’s to the journey.

Single. Lonely. Alive. The Right to Feel.

I do not feel the need to sugarcoat this with the obligatory preface, “let the record show; I am happy with my life.”

Today, I am Lonely.

And my loneliness is worthy of a standalone statement.

It is a unique and delicious loneliness; one born of reaching the thick of a journey you are meant to be on, one you must travel alone. It is a loneliness no “good morning” text, affair, partnership or the occasional bed company can fix; a hole whose emptiness serves a purpose, its presence necessary to make room for the fullness of actualized self. Where you find yourself alone by choice, yet lonely by circumstance; you are exactly where you need to be, yet unable to articulate this fact in a way that can be understood.

“Happiness” is exhausting.

There is a daily face you must don as an un-partnered woman, the weight of which I did not fully experience until the sharp sting of being ripped from partnership subsided and the scab fell away to reveal a person I had to learn anew. As I navigated the unchartered territory of establishing myself as an adjective-less woman known by nothing other than my name I was faced with intense pressure to appear at all times happy with my station; lest my unhappiness be linked to the absence of something “bigger than myself”. For of course as women it is believed that anything that ails us can be cured with a new “title”,  a person to belong to, and adjective to validate your existence.

It is then I realize once again why un-partnered women are so eager to enter into relationships. There is an allowance of a fuller range of emotion when neither your happiness or sadness is not immediately attributed to the absence of a person to “take care of”. Your depression legitimized when the presence of an “other half” could not cure it.

And I think back to the multitude of times I have denied myself the sweet agony of a full range of emotion. Denying their existence until I choked from the weight, or drowned in numbness till the world turned gray. How I developed methods over the years to delay emotion until the proper time and place to fall apart; rituals to then bring the disjointed feelings to surface. The obsession with making my life appear “full”, consumed with hobbies fueled by fear instead of passion.

“Happiness” is exhausting.

And of all places I find comfort in the memory that I was not always happy as a partnered woman; the nights staring at the ceiling, discontent where sleep should be. Nights I repeated over and over that when you are in this for life it is possible to experience an entire bad year; when this mantra would not comfort me and I lay waiting for exhaustion to grant me a sliver of peace. It is not lost on me that even trapped I felt freer than I do now. Free to allow despondence to engulf me with the faith that this, too shall pass; that the tide of despair would eventually melt back into the sea and a new day, a new way to feel would emerge. Empowered by the knowledge that neither happiness nor despair are permanent. The freedom to experience seasons and let them pass.

“Happiness” is exhausting. And there is freedom in this admission.

Today I am lonely.

Tomorrow I may not be.

 

A Return to Love

“My Dear,

You thrive in Love because you are waiting for permission to consider yourself worthy of taking up space on this Earth. You don’t believe yourself deserving of the Love, the Kindness, the Intent you so freely give to others? Stop waiting for permission to begin. YOU ARE HERE. You are Love. You are what you have been waiting for.

 

With Love,

The Universe

P.S. No, really. Get up. Off the mat. Go.”

Friday Faves: 2.26.16

 

As I continue what has so far been a futile attempt at a semblance of work-life balance, a few good reads..

(yes, I will update)

Table for One: Pulling Up a Chair for Solo Diners

Why hasn’t this been done before? Why is this new? In my head restaurants have been accommodating traveling businessmen for decades, right? Perhaps this is more a nod to the casual solo diner, with more time on their hands and whose reason for eating is pure enjoyment. It still strikes me as odd that this took so long to happen, but I’m certainly taking advantage of it!

Single women are now the most potent political force in America

Ok, so I’ll warn you now… if you’ve read the last few of my #FridayFaves women-centered links and then read this…you may stay single for a while. I take nooooo responsibility 🙂

A Composer and His Wife: Creativity Through Kink

But wait! There’s hope! Yet another sweet look at how great life can be when you have the audacity to define it for yourself. Look what Love did.