Dancing on the edge

The last 5 days have felt like dancing on the edge of a pothole.

There is a really great poem called Autobiography in Five Chapters in which life is described in 5 beautifully short chapters of the process of learning to make changes. From falling into a pothole, learning to get out, learning to avoid the pothole and then, finally, learning to take a different route.

I love this poem because so often depression feels like falling into a pothole for me. Last week, the pothole opened in front of me and I have been dancing on the edge  of it ever since.  I keep trying to figure out what causes the pothole to appear. I know that depression and loneliness are doing their own little dance around the edge, intertwined in their downward spiral that often takes me with it.

I try to pull them apart, to separate their co-dependence. To convince my heart that the depression will pass no matter how much it hurts right now and that loneliness is not proof that I am unworthy of being loved.

And then I try and do my own dance of healing. Staying away from numbing comforts that sideline me in my own life (hello internet!), reaching out for support, writing about it, getting out for a walk, eating well. Trying to be gentle on myself and reminding myself that I am not a failure as I do each of these things imperfectly.

Trying to take the word “just” and “should” out of my vocabulary. Cracked.com had a great article recently on the 5 most useless pieces of advice ever given. Number 5 was adding the word “just” to your advice. You know, “you just need to snap out of it” or “you just need to eat less and get more exercise”.  If it was that simple, trust me, I would have done it by now!

I know that this will pass. And, that like a dance, it is complicated and dynamic and changing. It is a chance to understand myself better.  A chance to figure out how to adjust my sails in the wind.

As I dance around the edge of the pothole, I know that this time I didn’t fall into its depths. And, if I do, I know I can get out.

Maybe someday, I will know how to walk down a different street.

aliceinwonderland

IKEA Round 2

When Single Girl last battled the mighty IKEA in the Case of the Two Side Tables, the score was a very close IKEA 1.0, Single Girl 1.5. Proud to report that in Round 2, The Mystery of the Six Drawers, Single Girl soundly defeated IKEA with a score of 6-0.

There is something about putting together IKEA furniture by myself that triggers my grumpy single girl bitching (aka whining). And while I’m sure that lots of couplehood people have stood alone and hex-ringed IKEA in frustration, I miss having some shared misery as I stand by myself  in the suddenly vast and quiet space of my apartment surrounded by numerous confusing parts with their slots and precisely drilled holes and their right-side wrong-side left-side right-side challenges.

Problem is, the two side-tables I conquered look so great and there is this matching dresser that would look much better with my bedroom decor. So, if I want to be grown up and have “bedroom decor” on my budget, I figure I’d better just suck it up.

Step One, the bag of parts.

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Seriously, look at this bag of parts!! I’m sure fewer parts were used in the moon landing. Feeling the need for support, I posted the picture to Facebook.

Now, I don’t want to cast aspersions on my Facebook friends but the three most common comments were “wow, that’s a lot of drugs for one person”, “what’s with the big bag of cigarette butts” and “oooh, I LOVE putting together IKEA furniture”. Two somewhat reasonable responses and one clearly crazy one.

Step Two, mix a gin and tonic.

Step Three, check instructions.

I greatly admire the people who create the instructional diagrams for IKEA. Explaining how to assemble furniture using only pictures and no writing is a truly admirable skill. But, the first thing that becomes clear to me is that not even the gurus at IKEA believe that you should assemble furniture by yourself. Check out this sad single guy, and then how happy he is to have a friend.

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Ikea_friend

Bravely, I decide the hell with IKEA and their anti-single instructions, I am doing this by myself. Even if, as the later instructions show, it might lead to me attempting suicide by trying to crush myself under the dresser.

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Step Four, mix another gin and tonic.

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I’d make this a longer story but things got a bit fuzzy after that.

I’d like to say that I was filled with profound insight as I assembled my dresser. I’d like to say that. But the only things I really learned were as follows –

  • some yoga stretches come in handy when working with carefully balanced parts by yourself
  • finish all the bending over before dinner and not after you’ve filled up on butter chicken
  • good music and a few gin and tonics help take the pity out of the party
  • when you start using the screwdriver backwards, you’ve had enough gin and tonic

It took me four hours and I got a blister on my hand from the screwdriver but I did it. Sure, there were a few leftover parts but I didn’t do any of the steps wrong, requiring an undo and redo, AND I managed not to strip any screws. I count that as a giant victory.

Single Girl 6. IKEA 0.

Self-esteem, priceless.

Single=failure=crazy

I am going to try to explore a tough question for which I’m not sure I have a good answer.

Recently I had tea with a fellow spiritual quester who is also single. I was talking about how powerful a step it was for me to recognize that I felt like a failure for being single and then to work to break that connection between my heart and that voice.

She asked me “how did you do that?” and then “can you please write about it?”

I don’t know that I have the answer; in fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t. But, because she is an amazing woman, I will try to at least share some thoughts.

First, I came to this realization through the work of Brene Brown. Respect duly given. In her book on shame, there is an exercise where you write down 5 things you want to be seen as (success) and 5 things you don’t want to be seen as (failure). When I wrote “single” I realized that there was a direct link that went single=failure=shame=unworthy of love. When I had the realization, it was like a thunderclap. A boom in my heart. I remember thinking, “holy crap, that’s crazy!” Cause when you say it out loud, it IS crazy.

So the question is “who is that quiet voice in the darkness that whispers this nasty little refrain?”. Where does that insidious soul-crushing message originate and how does it worm its way inside me/us?

And, maybe more importantly, how do we silence that voice. Stand up and in a loud voice and declare “you are wrong”. Or maybe say in a quiet but firm voice of certainty – you are wrong. Gently take that part of us that listens to that message and draw it away, moving away from judgement and towards love and compassion.

These are the things that have helped me.

1. I stopped watching romantic comedies. The story lines of romantic comedies are complete crap. I am not “fine without a man until I realize how much I need him”. I am not “not okay but then lose the guy because of it only to become okay and then have him realize he loves me”. And, I seriously doubt I will ever find myself chased down in an airport by someone declaring their undying love. Cause in this day and age, that would just set off security and likely end me up on the no-fly list. Romantic comedies do not make me feel good. And there is nothing funny about that.

2. I stopped listening to advice from others. I cannot even begin to tell you the advice I get from other people on how to cure my disease of singleness. Go out and be more social. Don’t be so social. Actively search by dating on-line. Stop looking. Be more open. Don’t be needy and desperate. As well-meaninged as all this advice is – and I believe it comes from people who genuinely care and want for me to be happy – it inevitably left me feeling like somehow being single was not only bad but it was completely my “fault”. Magnify that through my filter of “single is failure” and it’s no wonder it became a big jumble of everything I was doing wrong. Again, kudos to Brene Brown. Every night in my journal I write “I am enough” And, I rewrite it as many times as I need to until my heart knows it’s true. Today, I am enough exactly as am. Right now.

3. I don’t make assumptions about people’s marriages/relationships. The crappy myth of “happily ever after” espoused in romantic comedies and everywhere else in our culture is just as damaging to couplehood as to singles. Relationships are hard work. I see the commitment and time that my coupled friends put into their relationships. I have seen “perfect” long-term relationships end suddenly. I have seen unhappily married people stay in relationships for a variety of reasons. Couplehood has its ups and downs. Just like singlehood. Walking our path in life is a complex journey with all its varied relationships. And comparing myself to anyone else is a zero sum game.

4. I am mindful of the things I like about being single. There are lots of great things about being single. My schedule is pretty much my own. I get the whole bathroom to myself. I can listen to whatever music I want as loud as I want. The computer is always free. My work colleagues (both men with small kids) joke that they live their lives vicariously through me. Sometimes, when they ask what I did on the weekend I just say “whatever I wanted”. And smile.

5. I recognize my choices. There is a tendency, in the dark hours of loneliness, to feel like no one wants me. That single means unwanted. Single means rejected. In public. Even the last kid picked for team sports was still picked. A good friend of mine who is also single once said to me, “I am okay with being single. I just don’t want other people to think of me as single.” So true. And, the weird thing is that I never look at other single people and think they are unwanted. But I sure feel like that’s what people think about me. And that’s my little voice inside doing that. But, the truth is that there are opportunities and offers that I have turned down for a variety of reasons. I am not single because I am a failure. I am single because I am not currently choosing to be in a relationship. End of story.

6. Singleness is a sell job. Our consumer culture is based on the premise that we are all unhappy but that there is a product we can buy to give us that happiness. Whiter teeth, skinnier bodies, shinier hair, cleaner homes, faster cars, more stuff. If being single makes me a sad failure, there are hundreds of products out there that can fix that if I just try a little harder and spend a little more money. Aren’t I worth it? About 18 months ago, I shut off my cable. I watch very little TV and almost no advertising (although it is around me in lots of other ways). I am much a happier and I’ve saved money.

So, there we go. I’m not sure if that answers the question. It’s a hard thing to write about. Partly because I feel like writing or talking about being single is either perceived as an attack on couplehood or as me saying that I have “given up” on love and am settling in for a long and bitter spinsterhood. Neither of which is true.

What is true is that I will not accept the message that being single is a sad state of failure. Life, and relationships, are way more complicated than that. I am enough exactly as I am.

And my heart is thankful that it no longer has to listen to that crazy voice that says otherwise.

florida

Quirkyalone

I think I may be a quirkyalone.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I needed a new word for single. A few days later, the Universe in the form of Amazon shipped me a book by Sasha Cagen called, “Quirkyalone; a Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics“.

Now, clearly I had ordered this book at some time in the distant past. Distant enough that I’d forgotten about it. Fortunately, Amazon has a better filing system than my brain and the book had emerged off of the backorder pile and found it’s way to my mailbox.

Cagen says, “Quirkyalones are people who enjoy being single (but are not opposed to being in a relationship) and prefer being single to dating for the sake of being in a relationship. Fundamentally, quirkyalone isn’t so much about being alone as it is about connection: with yourself and others. It’s about liberating yourself from the expected road maps to discover your own. It’s about developing comfort with aloneness and recognizing that comfort is crucial to being with someone else.”

At first, I thought “aha!”, I am a quirkyalone. This newish, emergent me fits the description to a “q”. I am self-reflective, I believe that life can be prosperous and great with or without a mate, I create and maintain chosen families as friends, I’d rather be alone than be in a relationship where I have to hold back an essential part of myself, I’m not opposed to dating but prefer not to date for social convention and I’ve had a glimpse of a great love relationship and am open to the possibility of finding a similar experience. Hallmarks of a quirkyalone, according to Cohen.

Oh, and my talent for deconstructing love songs is definitely equal only to my vulnerability to them!

But, as I kept reading about quirkyaloneness, and the related quirkytogether and quirckyslut, I started to think “but, wait, isn’t everyone like this?” And, then, more dangerously, “Wait, shouldn’t everyone be like this?”

Doesn’t everyone like long walks by themselves? Sit on the beach and reflect? Prefer being alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong reasons? Go the movies alone? Enjoy an evening at home alone? Fit the description above?

As usual, it was my chosen sister S. who grounded me and brought me back to reality. No, everyone is not like that. Really, I said? Yes, she said. Which is totally okay. Agreed.

I think that the reason I headed off down that line of thinking is that the description of quirkyalone just seems like a healthier version of me. A version where I celebrate solitude rather than struggle with loneliness. Where I set free the creativity of my quirkiness, rather than stifle it with the expectations of this culture. Where I am proud of the “I am” rather than shameful of the “I should be”.

I supposed next time I’m asked if I’m single, I could say “I’m a quirkyalone”. But that seems a bit, well, overly-quirky. I think I’ll just say “yes” and let it go at that.

I’m think I’m a quirkyalone. And I am just fine with that.

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