Solo life & self-love
(This article was originally written for and published on The Tempest)
When I'm in a relationship with someone, I utterly and completely unfold for them. I give it everything I’ve got and there’s no half measures or middle ground. Instead, there’s an all-encompassing effort in an attempt to be the best girlfriend, the sexiest woman and the most supportive partner. While being an overachiever can be a good thing, it also means I rarely leave anything for myself. By the time I’m done loving my man, I’ve barely got any crumbs left for myself. So as another relationship ended in which I realized I had once again given far more than I had ever got, I committed myself to the single life.
Despite the stigma, the sympathetic looks (of which there are many) and the crushing spinster stereotype, I realized that if I was unable to master the fundamental tenets of self-care, I had no business being with anyone at all. People are afraid of being alone, I however, was terrified I would give myself away again to the next man that came along. Giving yourself away once is painful enough, but doing it twice over the last five years has split me in ways that I’m not always sure I can recover from. Sometimes, things that are broken can’t be put back together in the same way. The pieces don’t always fit like they once did.
Deciding to remain single, despite the possibilities that arose over the past year, has given me an enormous amount of time and space. The time to understand the things I want and the space to fall for myself. It’s remarkable the shifts that happen when there’s no one in the picture and by no one, I mean there’s no romantic involvement, boyfriend, someone you like or a situationship going on. In short, you’re not waiting for anyone to message you which in itself is a liberating feeling. No matter how strong we are, we’ve all felt the agony of staring at our message screen waiting for those grey ticks to turn blue and the ‘typing…’ sign to appear.
I’ve found that being single is a lot like standing alone in a vast marble hall and every time you call out, your echo returns to you. Which is to say, you are utterly alone with only yourself to come back to and within that hall is infinite possibilities. I’ve been standing in that hall for over a year now, and instead of loneliness, I’ve felt all the love that normally flows out of me into another person, flow straight back into me. It gives me the energy to selfishly chase every dream I’ve ever harbored. I can pick up and travel to Australia for two months, because I’m not worrying about when I’ll see my man. Even if I wasn’t worrying about it, I know that if I was madly in love with someone, I wouldn’t want to travel around Australia for two months because I would miss them and feel the pull of their arms calling me home from oceans away.
I can stay up late or hole myself away for weekends at a time writing as many novels as I like, never worrying about someone else’s schedule. Leaving those worries and the expectations you place on yourselves to always ‘be there’ for your lover is liberating as hell. It’s like breathing the freshest air you’ve ever tasted.
I’ve also learnt that single seems to be a synonym for time. When I’m in love, in that gut wrenching, tremble every time you see their name kind of way, I spend time writing messages, rephrasing messages, having long FaceTime conversations, watching what they’re up to on social media, worrying about outfits and buying new lingerie every time they come around. I know I don’t have to do any of these things, I know the men I’m with don’t expect it, but I know that the person I am does it anyway. It makes me feel good and sexy and I love talking to the person I’m with. So believe me when I say that my single life has given me so much free time, and I’ve put it to better use than I would have done having a four hour conversation with some guy who gives you FaceTime because he can’t give you much else.
But time is a small thing in the grand scheme, and the lessons single life give you are golden. Being alone means you’re confronted with yourself when normally you can hide in another person. It means you have to figure out how to make yourself happy when you’re sad. There is no one else to take you out and cheer you up. You have to understand your triggers, and learn how to talk yourself off the ledge when you’re in bad spaces. Above all things, you must learn how to be so complete alone, that no matter who might come along, they could never take parts of you away. That’s the golden lesson, the best thing I’ve ever learnt and the reason I’m trying to persuade anyone who will listen to stay as single as they possibly can.
We’ve learnt from childhood that we need a man to save us, and I’ve spent years learning how to save myself and that’s something I’ll need forever, even if the love of my life turns up tomorrow. He still can’t save me and it’s good to know that I’ve got my own back.