the age of worry.

didion2

I’ve been single for 661 days and I’m afraid I’m going to be single forever. 

I stumbled upon this revelation the way one might stumble over an unexpected dip in the sidewalk. Reading through old essays written in early 2015…a space in time I was sure I’d never survive…I happened upon a paragraph that required re-reading several times before I believed the words were my own.

Emotionally, I haven’t found home. You were home to me and I fear I’ll never find it again. I’ve discovered that I am absolutely terrible at being alone. I want to be someone’s good morning text and kiss goodnight. I want to take care of someone…to cook for someone, to laugh with someone, to experience life with someone. I wasn’t built for single.

A smile twisted up in the corners of my mouth. And then I laughed a little. And then I contemplated my current life. And then I thought, ‘oh shit.’

“I am absolutely terrible at being alone…I want to take care of someone…I wasn’t built for single.” Words have never felt more foreign. My heart breaks a little bit for the me who penned those lines, knowing they were undeniably true at the time and only captured a fraction of my desperation.

I’ll never forget the first time I found myself alone in a parking lot after dark. That night in February 2015 as I walked from my car to the grocery store, it felt as though all of my nerve endings were naked and exposed to the frigid winter elements. The itch of my skin was intolerable…I was acutely aware of my alone-ness…and I’d never felt more vulnerable in my entire life. At that moment, I realized how deeply I’d come to rely on the presence of a man. I felt unprotected, unsafe, and terrified without him.

About a month ago, I was hiking in the middle of a state park…a few miles away from the trailhead, my car, and reliable cell service. Hearing something other than my breath and the crunch of my own feet, I turned to see a middle-aged man about 50 yards back on the trail. His clothing, which was decidedly inappropriate for state-park hiking, set off small warning bells in my gut. It happens rarely and I’ve never encountered any actual danger…but I always ere on the side of caution. In one smooth almost involuntary motion, I retrieved the folded tactical knife from it’s holding space on the side of my pack and stepped to the side of trail, waiting for him to pass…which he did. I took a 10 minute break, allowing his steps to put a good distance between us. I carried my knife for the next mile or so, just to be safe, then slid it back in my pack and carried on. I never once felt out of control, unsafe, unprotected, or fearful.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was writing about two entirely separate women. And perhaps, in a way, I am.

Reading some of the essays I wrote during those early days of being single allowed me to relive the vulnerability and unease I experienced. At the same time, I realized I’m no longer able to relate to the girl standing wide-eyed and scared in a dark parking lot…desperate to return to the comfortable safety of a man. For so many reasons, that’s a good thing.

As I reflected on the distance between the frightened girl I was and the independent, capable, brazen woman I’ve become, I felt fiercely proud and accomplished. ‘I’m so much stronger now…so brave and unshakeable’ I thought. ‘I don’t need anyone…hell, I don’t even WANT anyone.’

And that’s when I thought ‘oh shit.’

Is it possible I’ve gone too far in the opposite direction? Have I crossed some kind of emotional bridge and lost the ability or desire to make my way back? Did the softness in me die? It’s been nearly two years, shouldn’t I want to ‘get back up on the horse’ by now? Am I jaded? Am I broken? Am I gay? Why does the idea of dating sound about as enticing as licking the floor of a public restroom?

In rapid sequence, questions flooded my brain. What had felt like fierce independence suddenly felt like a defect. Anxiety swelled in my chest as the next questions fought their way to the front of the line: What if I never fall in love again? What if I’m single forever?

For the next several days, I tried to inject an imaginary male into my life…hoping to ignite the flames of some deeply buried desire. It didn’t work. I felt a bit defeated when I was forced to admit I wanted my bed to myself…to share it would feel suffocating. I also realized I didn’t want to confer with someone about what to eat, where to go, or what to watch. No matter the circumstance, the truth felt as plain as the nose on my face…I preferred my time sans guy. I couldn’t seem to muster any want. I’ve come to enjoy the simplicity and selfishness of my life too much. I just don’t want a ‘him.’

I sat on my couch and condemned myself to the life of a cat-collecting spinster. ‘Yep,’ I decided…’I’m going to die alone.’

There’s a difference between wanting something and wanting to want something. I don’t want to fall in love, but I want to want to fall in love…and therein lies my fear – that I’ll never move past the wanting to want and I’ll never actually fall in love again and I’ll wander through life mostly happy and content, but alone.

Later that same night, I lay soaking in a steaming hot bathtub, sipping chilled San Pellegrino from a wine glass…inhaling the aroma of sweet essential oils and ocean-scented candles. Normally I read while taking a bath, but that night I was too exhausted to focus and decided to shut my eyes instead, allowing my mind to wander.

I thought about the me who collapsed…literally collapsed…on the floor of my parent’s home the day I moved out of our apartment. Having dropped to the ground, I fought for breath between heaving moans…the noises erupting from my chest were inhuman. I stayed that way for well over an hour – convulsing on the floor in sheer pain and panic.

I hadn’t thought about that day in so long. Laying in my bathtub with nearly two years standing between myself and that moment, I decided what I’d mostly felt that day was fear. I’d been evicted from the life I knew. I didn’t have the faintest idea how to put the pieces of myself back together…for god’s sake, I was terrified to even walk through a damn parking lot alone…

My eyes popped open and I sprang to a seated position, gripping the side of my bathtub – sending water and bubbles sloshing over the side.

Just like that, my fear vanished like smoke in the wind.

THEN: Emotionally, I haven’t found home. You were home to me and I fear I’ll never find it again.

NOW: Found home! As luck would have it, home was never a boyfriend or an apartment or a group of people. Home is soul; home is spirit. Home exists within my body now and has existed for millenia and will exist for all of eternity. Home is light and home is love and home can never ever dim or die.

THEN: I’ve discovered that I am absolutely terrible at being alone.

NOW: I’ve discovered that being alone is the shit. It didn’t always feel that way. I wrestled against the alone-ness for well over a year, escaping it at all cost. It wasn’t until May or June of 2016 that I began relaxing into myself. Like an agitated animal succumbing to the medicinal cocktail inside a tranquilizer dart, I fought like hell until a force greater than myself eventually took me down…slowly at first, then all at once.

And now, I love, love, love being alone. I take myself on lunch dates and spend time wandering through bookstores and writing in coffee shops. I drive to places I’ve never been just to walk around. I’m never bored…there’s always something to do, even if that something is just a cup of tea and a good book. I am absolutely awesome at being alone.

THEN: I want to be someone’s good morning text and kiss goodnight. I want to take care of someone…to cook for someone, to laugh with someone, to experience life with someone.

NOW: No thanks; I’m good. Right now.

THEN: I wasn’t built for single.

NOW: I was never going to be anything but exactly single for this exact period…it was simply never going to happen any other way. I could have made a million different decisions…turned down a billion different roads…and they would have all converged here. I was not only built for single, I was destined to land in this sacred space of work and growth. Sure, I could have softened the landing with better judgment and fewer cocktails, but I have never felt more appropriately positioned within the universe. This is the becoming. This is the rising. Thissingle…is the why.

The ‘THEN’ and the ‘NOW’. The girl wandering petrified through a shadowy parking lot and the undaunted woman hiking tenaciously through the wilderness. A pile of broken sobs. A peaceful bathtub meditation.

For those Brittany’s, I release any fear of remaining single. After all, I have changed so entirely I must read the words of yesteryear to summon the somber emotion I once felt. I am no longer afraid because I’ve lived to feel the impact of space and time.

I know the day will come when I read this essay and have difficulty believing I ever felt this way…that I ever felt as though I didn’t want to be in love.

So this one’s to you, whoever you might be. I don’t want you today…I won’t want you tomorrow…but I want to want you. It’s a start. And maybe if you’re lucky, I won’t even mind sharing my bed.

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