How to be happy single

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I have been single now for the past 4 years. During that time, I’ve had a handful of really short-lived things and one devastating little affair, but for the most part I’ve been alone and single for 4 long years.

And for the first time, maybe EVER, I am finally happy that this is true. Like … happy happy. Like my life is so full, my-cup-runneth-over type happy. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but seriously I am truly, finally enjoying my singledom. And no, not in this I’m-single-so-I’m-on-the-prowl-dating-all-the-hot-men kind of way. But in the I’m-single-and-I’m-really-happy-alone-binge-watching-old-shows-and-reading-good-books kind of way.

I’m just … happy. Going out, staying in, whatever. There are the occasional bumps, because life is bumpy, but none of them have to do with me being single really. So here are my full-proof steps for getting to a place where you’re absurdly happy being single.

(Note: Ok so these aren’t full-proof, that’s an overstatement. And absurdly is a bit of an exaggeration too. These are basically ‘My unproven steps to getting to a place of general happiness most of the time being single’. Yeah. That’s more accurate.)

 

Step 1: Have your heart broken twice, preferably by the same man.

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It doesn’t actually have to be twice, sometimes one will suffice. But get your heart good and broken. Like good and BROKEN. The more devastating the better. I mean, stop you in your tracks, staring-at-his-picture-and-his-love-notes-for-hours kind of broken. Tears, wailing, binge eating. The works. Sweat pants, no showers, serious weight gain. Like I said, the messier the better. Oh and if you can add in getting banned from his bar, then you’re well on your way to true happiness, my friend.

(Note:  A devastating breakup is not mandatory. Neither is a bar banning. If not applicable, please proceed to step 2.)

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Hands

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I saw hands and I froze.

They looked like his hands. Big. Bigger than normal hands. The hands of a giant really. I couldn’t see the face from across the room but I could see his hands and my heart nearly short circuited.

It’s been two years since A and I officially ended things, two years since my heart was broken. But it’s only been a few months since I last saw him. Last kissed him. Last laid my head on his chest, breathing him in, feeling safe and warm and loved.

And at the same time … not safe. Not warm. Not loved.

I’ve glimpsed him only once in the past couple of months. While walking past his bar, I glanced inside and he looked right back at me and our eyes locked for just a second. No expressions. Just … a moment. We caught eyes and then I was gone, walking down the street littered with memories I’d shared with him. The ghosts of our affair.

To be honest, I don’t ache like I used to. I don’t think about him non-stop. Most days I don’t think about him at all. I’m focused on moving my life forward and it feels good. I feel really good. I have a great job I’m starting to really get the hang of. I have an incredible network of friends who I love. I don’t have a lot of anger like I used to. I don’t replay the moments and beat myself up like before. I don’t sit for hours on end and recount every good moment, every electric kiss and every time we’d stare into each others eyes and feel the weight of our connection. I don’t cry all the time this time. (It helps his social media accounts are private.) I accept where our story ended.

But still … still … my heart froze when I thought I saw his hands from across the room.

Why? Was it because I looked like a hot mess? (I did.) Was it because I’ve gained weight and don’t want him to see? (I have and I don’t.)

Am I terrified he’ll ignore me? Or am I more afraid that he won’t? And I wonder .. is this for always? Or just for now?

I wonder this because the year and a half we spent apart I had many moments like these. I’d see a tall guy with a full beard who resembled him from a distance and my stomach would flip like the way it does when you’re rounding the top of a hill on a rollercoaster and speeding down to the bottom. It would be a mix of excitement, panic, fear and hope.

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What happens after 36?

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I’ve recently been re-watching Sex and the City from the beginning. Why? Well I seriously suck at adulting and still don’t have internet at my home (feel free to judge me), so I’ve just been entertaining myself with my ancient, relatively unused DVD collection.

I was obsessed with this show in my 20s. Before I met the man who would be my ex-husband, while I was living alone, broke and poor in a shitty little apartment in Carrolton, I watched this show for the first time after renting the DVD’s from a Hollywood Video store. Yes, yes I said DVD’s twice … I’m old.

I remember falling in love with these women and their friendships … and I remember falling in love with New York. I looked at them and their fabulous lives and was in sheer awe. I was 22 and had never even dated and at the time, my only friend and I had just had our first falling out and weren’t talking (spoiler alert: we made up and became best friends and co-authors of thetruthandthechaos.com). These women were in their 30s and single but living it right. They were best friends whose connection kept them afloat amidst every dating woe they faced.

It was something I absolutely loved but couldn’t really relate to at the time.

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Whip it good: All about that time I was a dom

An older friend once told me that during the course of a lifetime, most people end up leading at least 5 very different lives.

He mentioned this while we were sitting at a karaoke bar after having already danced earlier that night. It was one of those fun, spontaneous evenings where we just bar hopped and met up with various friends over the course of an evening, dancing and singing and laughing and sharing stories.

I was relaying to him how it seemed crazy to me how radically different my life was from just a few short years ago, when I was married with a house and a yard and I never sang or danced or went out ever. It was so different in fact that I often wondered … who am I? Am I the same person? And of course, the answer to that question was both yes and no.

I used to really worry that something was wrong with me to have had such a change in direction in my 30s. So I found his advice to be quite comforting. And also very, very true. I was indeed living a very different life, hopefully one of many still to come.

His words came to mind again recently while I was cleaning out the trunk of my car and ran across a very long, very serious leather whip and a smaller riding crop. And I remembered, ahhhhh yes … I was a dominatrix once.

Talk about a different life, eh?

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Dating & Demon Facing

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I have taken quite the hiatus from dating. A full year. Seriously.

October 2017 was when my last little blip of a relationship ended and I decided to take some time to myself. And I think I’ve been on maybe one random date since?

There are a few reasons why I stopped dating or trying to date. One, I felt like I really needed to just put the brakes on anything romantic for a while. After my heart was crushed nearly two years ago, my immediate response was to jump into dating full force. Probs not the wisest of emotional choices but I was trying my hardest to move on towards something real. I was also trying super hard not to contact my ex. Long story short, I kind of hurricane-d my way through men without stopping.

But after the last ‘thing’ ended, I realized I had a lot of hurt and baggage I hadn’t dealt with.  I didn’t know exactly HOW to deal with it, but I figured taking a break from subjecting my wildly anxious, broken heart on men was a good first step.

Another reason I stopped dating was because I just got worn the hell out. It is EXHAUSTING. The funny thing is, I was the most hopeful, most energetic and optimistic of all my friends when I first started dating about 4 years ago. I was like, this is easy and fun! I was the one encouraging all my friends to jump in, open up, give dating a try! You get to meet new people, eat good food, have a grand old time. This, of course, was my young(er), naive(er) self that had yet to be truly burned by this cold, loveless world. Just kidding. But … not really.

Dating was tricky for me before I started seeing the guy who broke me (lets call him Andy) and then dating got even trickier after. Then … it just got tiring. So tiring.

Banter till you get the date, then pretty yourself up, shave parts, put all the things together and then go see if you even like each other. Or at least like the version of each other that is all prettied up and neatly put together. If you do (huzzah), then you have to start the very slow, very time-consuming task of getting to know each other, layer by layer, to hopefully (if you don’t fuck it up with your insecurities or baggage) get to the place that I SO long to be … which is true depth and intimacy. I forgot how much I hate the beginning parts of a relationship. I love the romance! But then I wanna skip straight to intimacy and deep knowing.

Dating is just …. SO much. I needed a Rip Van Winkle type nap from dating. And so I took one.

However, another reason I haven’t been dating, at least in past 6 months, was because of a very dumb (but maybe also wise?) decision. My ex, the one who shredded my heart before, came back into my life briefly.

*Cue chorus of groans.*  Yup, I went there. Again.

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Here’s to the cry babies

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The other day I was in the bathroom at work and I heard someone crying. A kind of hushed sob I know all too well. It wasn’t a loud cry but it wasn’t a little one either. It was weeping in a whisper. Soft, heartwrenching sobs.

It was clear she was trying hard to contain the sound for fear someone might walk in. I don’t think she knew I was there. My heart … ached. I wondered … what is this woman going through? A heartbreak? Loss of a parent? Bad health news? Or was her heart broken at her job? Was she feeling purposeless and lost?

Hearing her cries reminded me of my own dark season I only just now feel like I’m really getting out of. It is bizarre to me how windy and long the path to healing sometimes is … and how unique but also similar the journey is for all of us.

Last year, when I was going through my first and really only heartbreak, the tears and emotions took me by surprise. I expected tears, of course. I’m a cryer. I cry at a lot of things. (My third grade teacher even called me a cry baby at one point … rude.)

But what I didn’t expect was how often or how randomly I would cry as I did in those first few months after losing A.

Oh I cried in the expected places – bars (damn you sweet alcohol), places where we’d been that were romantic to me, the privacy of my home when I’d remember moments that seemed so special. But it was the weird emotional gut punches that came out of nowhere that I wasn’t prepared for that would have me crying in the most unexpected of places. Like on the elevator having a flash of a memory with his hand in mine and my heart racing. Or during a meeting, when I was supposed to be paying attention and suddenly I’d remember the way he’d hold my face in his hands, so tenderly.

The mind is so strange when it’s trying to heal. At least my mind is. It fails to compartmentalize. So the worst moments were when I’d be at work talking to someone about a project I was working on, totally engrossed in the details but somehow my mind would dart to a forgotten moment, like the first time he kissed me and all of a sudden tears would start to well up. In that instant I would remember everything so … fresh. The smell, the feel, how my heart leapt for joy. My mind would replay it clearly and so quickly, before I had a chance to put a guard up, and then I’m having to explain that no, no I’m not crying because I have small changes to this email I’m working on, I’m just tired or someone I vaguely knew passed away.

There were days I had to go to the bathroom nonstop to try and weep in private. It was my only solace. And it was terrible, because I’d go there, weep quietly, sometimes not quietly, then return to my desk assuming all the tears had been cried. Only to find out I was wrong, get back up a few minutes later and return to the bathroom to cry again.

I felt dumb. Hopeless. Here I was hurting over someone who .. didn’t choose me. Who abandoned me in a sense. I felt like a fool. It was embarrassing.

Some people might see this … display of emotion as weakness. And I did too. For a long time.

I don’t anymore.

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The 30,000: Or why it’s time to take the leap

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I remember the first time I felt it. That stirring in my chest, those butterflies in my stomach that told me I needed to do something … something different than what I was used to.

To take a ‘leap’ if you will.

I’ve said it before, but I spent the bulk of my life super sheltered and isolated. Too scared to experience the outside ‘sinful’ world, too scared to rebel or to not follow the rules or to try anything new or different. Out of fear of failure. Out of fear of doing something ‘wrong’ and making a mistake.

Then I watched a movie. And ok … this is going to sound dumb, but it’s literally the truth. I watched ‘Yes Man’ and oddly enough, it changed something in me. It was a silly movie but it made me realize how much I was missing out on by saying no to everything that scared me or made me uncomfortable.

So then, when a girl I worked with (and wanted to befriend) asked me to take a muay thai/conditioning class with her on a Saturday morning, I heard all the old familiar voices in my head saying, ‘no, don’t do it. It’s scary. You’re too fat. You’re going to look stupid.’

But underneath those old familiar voices was something new. A tingle of excitement. A curiosity. What if said … yes, instead of no? What could that mean for me?

So I did it. I took a leap and I gave something completely new a shot. I need to give you a little bit of context too – I was never in my life an athlete or someone who worked out. I’m not coordinated or agile. I quit PE in junior high because they tried to make us run a mile one time and I thought that was just torture. So let me tell you, saying YES to a kickboxing and conditioning class was incredibly terrifying for my totally out of shape, never-ever-been-in-shape ass.

Needless to say, that first class was tough and scary and I did look foolish, but I survived and it was wonderful. And more importantly, I learned of the exhilarating rush that comes from pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and trying something new.

I was hooked. After that first time of saying yes, I began to say yes to a lot of new things. New social experiences. New friends. New job opportunities. When I’d feel that tingle of excitement coupled with that voice that says ‘oh no, not you, you can’t possibly do that’, I knew that it was likely something I absolutely HAD to do.

And so I conditioned myself to run towards the things I was most frightened of.

Leaving a stable but unhappy relationship to try being single, living on my own in Dallas, setting up fierce boundaries at work so that I am allowed to create in the way that fits me best, trying out theater again, traveling solo internationally, singing karaoke at places all over the world, training muay thai in Thailand. All scary things that seemed impossible to me at one point in my life, but now they are things I have experienced and loved.

However it has recently come to my attention recently that I’ve stopped taking risks, stopped taking … leaps.

It might not look like that to the objective bystander, but that’s the thing … I keep trying things that for whatever reason aren’t that scary for me now. Singing a new song in a completely new place … not that scary. Trying out a new dance class … uncomfortable, but not that scary. Traveling to a foreign country … well, a little scary but the excitement of it all outweighs any fear.

I’ve become comfortable with the risks I’m taking. Which means they’re no longer risks.

Continue reading “The 30,000: Or why it’s time to take the leap”