Tag Archives: joy

There’s More to Life Than Love & Being ‘Together’

10 Aug

"revive" by nikki mcclure

Six months ago I sat on bent knees in a swirly chair in the closet of my new bedroom, which was nearly bare.  I spun the office chair around and around, holding my beat up old shell phone against my ear with my clavicle.  “I’m just not sure I see a future in this” a voice was saying on the other line.  I was being dumped for the first time in my life, and I was elated.  After a quarter of a minute, that feeling was downgraded faster than a credit rating after a few too many Tea Parties.  Then realization, devastation, and searing cardiac dissonance set in.  Hard.  Tegan and Sara, Phil Colins and the Punch Brothers on repeat were about all that got me through those first lonely winter days as a so-not ready to mingle single.  And friends I didn’t know I could count on became one of the most important components of my post-grad life in the raw.

Six months is the longest period for which I have been single in my adult life.  Against all odds, I gave up and grew past waiting to be loved again in the same inhospitable and unsupportive manner.  Instead, I poured myself into searching out the love that was already in my life.  I visited once-distant family, I spoke to my parents with increased frequency and mutual compassion, and, in particular, I put in the effort I had wanted for some time to put into my friendships with women.  All bloomed.  Like one of my favorite books when I was a child, I cultivated this bloomability.  Because to some extent I had first moved to Boston to continue the now-failed relationship, it was difficult not to resent my frigid new metropolis.  But my incredibly generous friends and roommates were almost always there for me with an adept hug or a night in watching Super Troopers.  I probably would not have made it through the tens of inches of New England snow without them. And I never knew that I had that before.  Almost always being part of a couple had led me to undervalue the other relationships in my life; unfortunately, it took getting burned pretty badly to learn what an incredible support network I had had all along.

This isn’t a new scenario- the woman who learns to rebuild her life in the chalk-outlined, ever-present absence of a man.  I see it as pathetic that it came to that for me.  That to be truly grateful for the friendships in my life I had to be dumped by someone who had been one of my best friends, to the detriment of most of the other silk threads in my life’s web.  Don’t get me wrong!-  I had great friends before this break-up, and I’ve had other down-low breakups, too.  But the particular adultness and stunning finality of this one left me reeling.  Lucky for me, my friends picked me up from the battlefield and carted me off to safety and positive singledom, firmly and most helpfully slapping back the hand I briefly reached out to the lame online dating lottery wheel of sketchiness way too similar to what I’d just left behind.

When all I wanted to do was throw myself at the next pair of thick-rimmed glasses that came my way, my good friend P.E. gave me some good P.G. advice: “Don’t rush into anything.  Just take some time for yourself and be single for six months.  See how you feel after that.”  I took it, and that has made all the difference.  Disabused is the notion that I would compromise more and more because I was in love, have the children I had inwardly begun to expect I’d have (what can I say, this is how we’re trained to operate), and put my own professional life and other relationships on hold to prioritize love. (I don’t blame that last ex for that last part, though.  I had felt compelled to do those things and it had been neither fun nor worthwhile- which I realized with extreme discomfort upon the wearing off of the love chemicals).  I lost one person who, it turns out, really wasn’t right for me, but I gained strengthened friendships, new direction and a sense of self that floated back to the surface over the months.  I walked through the flames after the burning ring of fire turned out to be a mirage.  My friends were waving on the other side; they didn’t hold Cosmopolitans or designer anythings, but instead offered fun, support, feedback on creative ideas, back rub trades, skillshares on sewing, kombucha making, guitar playing… it was a lot.  A comfortable chair, and a drink to share, and that was all that I needed.

Now, as I try to evoke the feelings of half a year ago, I’m getting distracted by a new love interest.  And just as I had the contradictory, sort of wrong feeling of relief at being dumped, I also feel a little sadness over this handsome fun.  But as Starlee Kine and Ira Glass eloquently and heartbreakingly explore, it’s all about the contradictions and the strangeness and the indulgent dolor.  It’s the contemplation, rage and overrelating to the great sad songs of our time (thanks to my Ex Number One B.M. for taking my mix theme suggestion) that lead to healing.  If my life were a film, the heterosexual narrative would now be going into overdrive following an unexpected but ultimately welcome dip.  And like any women who become involved in relationships of any sort, I’ll have to do a little self-policing to make sure that my reemerging creativity and individual identity don’t get subsumed again.  And that the connections I’ve worked to build continue to strengthen; I want to be there for my friends through this and all the other kinds of other low points.

I’d give anyone who’s hurting the same advice P.E. gave me: take a breather from the stupid, messy dance. Focus on yourself, your skills and experiences, and your friendships.  My closest friends may not be writing love songs about me, but many of them can empathize with the thrills and the complications of being a boy-crazy feminist.  In them I find value, comfort, ardor, and fun.

Having a boyfriend can be wonderful– it can also be a full-time job.   Right now, I am happy to be funemployed.