If you are most people, most of your relationships will not work out. Sometimes things will fall apart naturally; sometimes everything will come screeching to a halt; sometimes you will fall asleep facing in opposite directions for months and one day realize it is not because of your back pain, it’s who can no longer look at the pereson lying next to you. Sometimes, it will creep up so subtly that when it’s over, you’re not heartbroken — in fact, you’re not even surprised. I am most people, and most of my relationships have not worked out. All, in fact.
I knew when I moved out of Portland, things would be different. I’m writing this from my new room in my new apartment on the Lower East Side. I have no furniture, no lamps and nothing on the walls. There are no curtains, so I typically change under the covers in the dark or in the bathroom because I am paranoid somebody’s sitting outside my window. I’m just paranoid in general.
For instance, I am afraid of being alone. Not being alone while walking on the street, though I am admittedly scared of that, too. I am afraid of being alone in that same way millions of people fear solitude: I am scared of living alone and, in the end, dying alone. I am not always afraid of being alone, however — just when it seems inevitable.
Yesterday, I realized something I deeply wanted to work out will not be. It was mostly mutual and for a very, very rational reason; I moved last month from the Pacific Northwest to New York, thereby creating an enormous gap. We knew this would happen, but predicting events and watching them unfold are two very different experiences. Nevertheless, despite knowing how rational those reasons are, I am so sad today. I haven’t told many people because I don’t want to hear any advice. I do not want a single “things will be okay,” “forget about it,” or, worse, “you’re better off.” I do not want sympathetic offers to have a drink tonight. I do not want a hug. I want to experience being alone on my own terms because I’m tired of being told loneliness is the same as weakness.
I don’t need a relationship to make me happy. I love my family, my friends, my pets, my job, and avocados. I am a decent cook. I eat well. I laugh often. I support myself financially and (much of the time) emotionally. For years, I was co-dependent and needy; I thought I was only half a person without another person. Now, romance-wise, I want somebody whom I can speak with, sleep with, and sleep next to.
If you are alone, I can’t give you much advice on how to change that; I can only say that you’re not really alone, because we’re all somewhat alone, but that doesn’t mean very much, anyway. But if you’re afraid of being alone, I can tell you that I know it’s terrifying, especially when you have never really been done it (successfully, happily) before.
People who spend most of their lives alone aren’t necessarily “good” at it, but they’re better-adjusted, and that can mean the difference between driving yourself crazy with fear and simple acceptance. It means you can spend a Saturday night quiet and alone without feeling overwhelmed by your own company. And people who spend most of their lives alone will tell you how much better it is, and how much easier it is, and how you should really stop being sad about it because they aren’t sad about their situation and it’s only made them stronger. And if you are like me, you’ll nod and say, “Yes, you are so strong, that must have been so hard, thank you for the advice.”
As many of you may know (or may not, I don’t know, you could just skip all my blubbering retrospective sadness each week), I write a lot about my personal issues. Typically, those pieces are about the past and what I’ve been trying to do to correct those problems.
But today, while I am sorry to be such a huge bummer or to sound as though loneliness is somehow the only thing my life revolves around right now, I am admittedly very sad. So, the point of this piece is to remind you that being lonely is normal. Being afraid of being alone is very, very normal, no matter how many high fives we give to those who are permanently cool with it.
Just because you’re sad about being lonely and scared of being alone doesn’t mean you are a flailing, affection-anemic loser who’s flunking at being “unconstrained” and self-sufficient (at least, I hope not). Being told you’re not allowed to sometimes feel sad while alone is like being told you can’t get hungry when on a diet. While I may be shedding some metaphorical weight by being alone (160 pounds of it, to be more literal), I don’t have to be happy about it and I don’t have to stay strong.
You are allowed to be sad, you are allowed to be lonely, you are allowed to not want to be alone. So tonight, when I retreat back to my new apartment, stare at my blank walls and change under my borrowed covers, even though I won’t go so far as to sob or panic or casually call some old acquaintance up for sex, I won’t be happy. But I’m allowed to not be, and that’s okay for now.