I have been single for 5 years now. And I haven’t lived with someone in nearly 4 years.
When I first moved out of the house I shared with my ex, I was ecstatic at the idea of living by myself. Having complete say over what kind of decor to purchase, how the house was kept up, etc etc.
At first, it was amazing. I kept my apartment fairly immaculate. I painted giant canvases for my walls with Ash. I sought out color coordinated pillows and decorations. I cleaned every weekend. I found interesting local art to hang. I made my home a place I wanted to be and hoped others would want to be as well.
However, after years of being single, my standards began to decline and I now believe I have become TOO comfortable with living on my own.
Well, I let the dishes pile up. I sometimes let the housework slide a week or two before I really clean (ok .. maybe three weeks). I honestly don’t remember the last time I did the floors (omg wait … have I even done the floors ONCE?).
I live as if no one might see my home … ever. I am NOT the house maker woman with an immaculately clean home that smells of fresh baked cookies, complete with pinterest-worthy decor. That shit stopped once my dogs began to destroy my adorable color coordinated pillows.
My art hangs on the wall off centered and eclectic. Nothing matches. I have some glade air fresheners but I doubt it masks the rampant dog scent that well. When I lost my belongings last year, I settled for some hand-me-down furniture which included a worn-out teal green fabric lazyboy and an old futon. Seriously.
My home does not look like it belongs to a successful mid-30s female with aspirations of being a wife. I have lived basically like a lonely bachelor. Messy and unkempt and I have been ok with that. Until now.
I recently started dating again.
The other night, after a night of dinner and drinks and frivolity, we decided my date should stay over, just to sleep off his drunkenness before driving back home. I wasn’t ready for anything more. And I realized as soon we started walking up to my door that I also wasn’t ready for this potential love interest to see my disaster of a house.
I made him stand on the doorstep, in the cold, while I frantically tried to clean up all the things I was mortified to have out. Like my sweaty gym clothes and my dogs puppy pads. I threw piles of clothes in the closet, closed the door and lit some candles. But even with all I did, I know my home was still a wreck. Dirty floors. Dog hair everywhere.
Oh and bugs. Bugs under boxes.
See, I have an irrational fear of water bugs. I am currently living in an old, all wood four-plex in East Dallas and when it rains really hard, I have awoken to find water bugs, lying on their backs in various places in my home.
This. is. my. NIGHTMARE.
I can’t handle them at all. I freeze. I often scream. My heart races uncontrollably in fear. And then I go find a box or a bag and I cover them up. I can’t bear to actually kill them and hear that crunch, nor can I bear to look at them. So I hide them. Under old amazon prime boxes.
My ex used to be the bug killer and remover. I would lose my ever-loving shit when I saw a water bug or a spider, and he would take care of them. This was one of the many perks of being in a relationship. But when you’re single .. there’s no one to handle the terrifying creepy crawlies. Once, in a moment of desperation, I actually offered to pay my brother $20 to come pick them up for me. He declined and called me a wuss. My brother is a punk.
So … I just learned to live with random boxes all over my house. Covering up those horrid creatures I couldn’t bear to see … I assumed one day I would take care of them, but honestly I had forgotten all about them until my date walked in. He asked if I was still unpacking after noticing a random box on the floor in the middle of my kitchen.
I hung my head in embarrassment as I confessed, no, that box was actually covering up an awful, terrifying water bug. He just laughed, picked up the box, grabbed the dead demon and threw it away. Easy peasy.
This got me to thinking .. I remember watching ‘The Secret’ a long long time ago. It’s all about how our energy attracts and manifests what we want. In the video as well as the book that went along with it, there are two examples of single people wanting to attract love and a relationship. In the book, the example is of a single woman who is yearning for love and a relationship, but she actually lives as if no man might ever show up. The teacher points this out to her – that her bed is too small to have someone sleep in it besides her, that her life is basically set up for a single and solitary life. Without knowing it, she shut the door to someone being her life by not making room for that person before they even showed up.
Now I don’t know how much I believe in all that, kinda sounds like hog wash … but it is an interesting thought. If you live as if no one might ever be in your life or see your home, are you inadvertently closing the door to attracting a lover?
Do we need to ‘clean up our mess’ before we find someone? And not just in the literal sense, like my home, but also in the emotional sense? Is that a valid excuse for not dating? Or is the truth that we’re potentially always a bit of a mess and never completely ready to find someone?
To be completely honest, I haven’t felt ready to date. I’ve been taking a hiatus. My home is a mess, yes, but also … I only recently got out of a season of emotional ‘mess’. This past year, I was still getting over my ex, so I went out too much, spent too much money, drank too much and ate way too much food. My goal was to ‘clean up my mess’ by dropping the 15 pounds I gained while depressed and getting into a better place financially before I started dating seriously again. But when a date presents itself, you say yes, right? I wasn’t ready for … this. My extra cellulite, my chaotic life. I feel like the person I am right now isn’t the girl I want to be. The girl I know I can be. Not that this version of myself isn’t wonderful… she is and I love her very much, just as she is, but I know where I want to be and this isn’t it. And I’m scared of showing any man my constantly-under-construction ‘mess’ of a life.
This whole emotional vulnerability thing makes me want to curl up and hide under a box.
I totally understand and believe in the idea of working on yourself as a single person before you embark on a relationship. But I’m also starting to realize that the truth is, we might never be perfectly ready for a relationship. That quite frankly, even if we dedicate time and energy to ‘cleaning up’ our proverbial messes, there are still many messy issues that remain hidden, even to us, until we’re in a relationship.
I had boxes covering up bugs in my home. But the more important issue is what am I covering up in my heart? What little fears and triggers have I hidden and just become accustomed to leaving that way, safe and unseen under boxes? No one around to notice them and call them out.
I think I have done a good job of taking these past 5 years and working on truly loving myself. I live life on my own terms and, although I have had painful seasons, they have also been incredibly rewarding. I now love myself better than I ever have. I’m a little bit of chaos. Ok, I might be a whole lot of chaos. But I have learned to love and own and accept my truth. I have learned to live my life unapologetically.
And yet, here I am, dating again … and faced with the possibility of allowing someone into my life on a deeper level. And it’s scary. My instinct, even in the recent past, is to want to hide the darker parts of myself. My fears, my regrets, my mistakes. I do eventually share these but I tend to limit the context, maybe even limit how much of the truth I divulge.
But a partial truth is still kind of a lie, right? It might be like that dead bug, totally harmless, but it’s still hidden under a box, taking up space in your life, reminding you of the dead thing that lies beneath it.
I think (hope) I’m ready to finally be the me I have learned to love so much. Unapologetically. Under construction. Chaotic mess and all. I think I’m ready to pick up the boxes and face my hidden nightmarish creatures and finally part with them.
I started dating again. And I let someone in my home. He saw my mess and he helped me clean it up. Easy peasy.
Maybe the next step is my heart.