The Quiet Between Breaths

Dear Nora,

Thank you for your prompt response. Those were exactly the words I needed to hear on such a bummer of a Valentine’s Day. Your seed analogy was especially helpful and comforting! You are a wise one and I appreciate you taking the time to write and care.

My days have tossed me back and forth between two different moods: 1) OMG yes, I love being single, and 2) meh :-/

Your comment about having the kind of sad feeling about not being in love resonated with me. I feel very much whole, very much excited about my life, and very much well… yes, sad…or maybe… a little displaced. I’ve spent most of the last 10 years in a relationship or in a very short space between, during which I was crushing on someone new or crying about the previous person (or both). But now there is absolutely no one. It’s quiet and echoing in here and I think I’m about to get cozy in this big empty space that’s just me.

My favorite moment in swimming is the quiet space, when you grab some air, hold your breath and then put your head under and glide forward under water. Any noise around you goes away. And it’s just you and your limbs and your heartbeat and your thoughts, moving through the water weightlessly.

It feels like I am in that space right now. The quiet space between breaths. It feels like the space where I hear only my own thoughts, and I can reach, reach, reach and move myself forward.

I made a pledge to myself, again. (But for realz this time!) I’m spending 3 months being celibate (Feb-Apr). That will be the longest I’ve gone without sex since I became sexually active at age 21. I know myself well enough at this point to know that physical things are a distraction to me. And I don’t need that. I think it’s important that I’m not sucked into my next thing solely because I get emotionally entangled from a physical connection with someone. Ok, so in addition to the 3 months thing, I am doing 6 months (Feb-Jul) of not considering any new relationships. After 3 months I may start casually dating again, but I’m trying to hold off until the end of the summer before I consider anything “real” again. So help me god.

Side Note: It sounds so arrogant for me to be all like “I’m going to hold off of all these things” like there’s a line outside my door or something. But seriously, 3 and 6 months will be my record and it’s just because I fall into that shit way too fast and too easily and turn into a giggly school girl and I’m determined not to do that this time. Ugh, each sentence I write I feel like I’m jinxing myself. Send the army if I fail this time Nora! This is not a drill.

Luckily I currently feel so removed from “in love” feelings now that I’m having trouble recalling what those truly felt like. Why was I so controlled by them? Do they put me under some kind of spell? What if I’ve lost all ability to fall deeply in love? I’m afraid I’ll never “find what I once had”, like what I had for all those years of being head-over-heals, torturously in love with Kay, because I’ll never BE that girl again. I’ve lost that “me” because I’ve outgrown that version of myself. She believed in all sorts of magic—she lived in a blissfully ignorant and much smaller world. Sometimes I miss her. She was so content with her life because she knew nothing else. But  I can’t go back. I can never be her again, and even though I miss her sometimes, I don’t want to be her again. I’m just going to have to discover a new kind of magic. Or better yet, create my own.

If I know one thing right now, it’s that I don’t want this time to just be the “time between relationships”. I want this to be the period of growing, the time of knowing myself and loving myself. The time of “fuck yes, this is my life”. And it may last 6 months, or it may last 6 years before I find the connection that is truly worth me trading in my single life. But whatever amount of time it is, I won’t be twiddling my thumbs waiting for princess charming. Most importantly—I’m acknowledging that there’s a possibility that she may never come, I’m realizing that is ok too.

Here’s what I know: I only get one life—so I’m sure as hell going to allow myself to be as picky as I like about who I share it with.

I love being responsible for only myself (and Magpie). I love sleeping in my own bed sprawled out and spending my time how I please, and not having my experiences or schedule filtered through someone else’s moods or needs. I check my phone less because I’m not having to keep up any conversations throughout the day. I get more sleep, I listen to more music and I spend less money. I’ve been going to swim, and dancing more and giving myself more grace and positive self-talk. I’ve been filling my basket at the store with mostly healthy things and baking kale chips and eating lots of avocado and treating myself to dark chocolate that melts in my mouth. I love taking a bath for two hours full of bubbles and fancy bath oils and reading a book from the library and having to answer to no one except my kitten who has meowing conversations with me. The best part is feeling that no one else is entitled to my love and my time, except me. I don’t know why I’ve been savoring that so much, but it’s delicious and I think I was craving it.

I think that’s my confirmation that this is what I need. Being alone feels good and feels right to me.

What if I always feel that way? If I’m so happy on my own, why do I keep falling into relationships? I keep assuring myself that I’m not “one of those girls” who always has to be dating someone. But Nora, apparently I AM if my history is any indication! My therapist pointed out that there is probably some kind of need there that I’ve routinely just filled with a relationship, because it’s a comfortable role for me. The need itself is a good and normal thing, I just have to find other ways to meet it. So, what’s the need? I like having someone to help, to serve, to take care of. I like feeling needed. I like feeling like a good thing. I like being adored. As part of my challenge this year of being mindful, I need to focus on ways to fulfill those needs outside of a relationship.

Ok, I’m sorry for the quite long monologue of nothingness. You get the gist. Forever alone club it is! Thanks for the warm welcome back.

An update on Lily: We got together for a bite the other day because she wanted to share some things with me. She is exceeding all my expectations of handling things well and using this time and energy to take good care of herself. She had some roadblocks that were keeping her from fully accepting and loving herself and it is AWESOME to see the light in her eyes as she tells me about the work she’s doing to overcome those barriers. She said she feels like she’s been reborn and sees herself in a new way and she thanked me and told me I was the catalyst to start her on this path. I’m so proud of her, and very hopeful for friendship ahead for us.

An update on Magpie: she gets cuter every day and is my favorite person.

Now I want an update on you! How was the training in February for Crisis Counseling (that sounds intense)? How is yoga in March going (that sounds delightful–a month of free yoga? I’m hella jelly!)? How are Karina and Key? Have you talked to Cory at all? What was your Boston trip for? Updates updates! What are you doing on Wednesday to celebrate International Women’s Day?

fur-ever alone and cat-ing,

Love, Ruth

P.S. We have been writing each other for over a year now! I’m so proud of us.

P.P.S. One of my favorite songs right now is this one by Emily King, called BYIMM (by you I mean me). And it sounds a like a love song thanking a someone for being wonderful, but then you realize she’s thanking herself. When I googled the music video to send to you I was delighted to see it features Tituss Burgess (who is hilarious… I know him from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)!

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