I know that my friends in the Midwest, South, East Coast and everywhere in between are still having to deal with the snow that a mere ten-day honeymoon of left me with a cold that has now lasted over a month. We arrived in Boston on January 2 as the snow began to fall. We experienced a blizzard there and bitter cold as we traveled down and spent half our time in New York City. I’m not sure how you guys handle it day in and day out for months on end. But it was fun for Harry and I at the time. Seeing the snow flurries, watching the people with shovels, bundling up, eyes watering, fingers numb to the point of pain, hair that looked a wreck no matter what I did. It was fun! It was! Why? Probably because I knew it would soon be over. I knew I’d be flying home to sunny SoCal very soon.
Ten days and it’s easy to have a great attitude about it. A bit more challenging for three months. But even then, we all do know that eventually Spring will come. That’s how it works.
So why when we are in a season of pain in our life can’t we relish the time as a different phase and soak it up like Harry and I did in Boston and New York this winter? Put on that hat and coat cheerfully. Don’t worry about the messy hair so much and take a good long walk in Boston Commons. You’ll see fields of pristine, white, snow with not one footprint. Beautiful.
You’ll walk in Central Park and in between your fogged up glasses, and scarf, your nose will smell the wet dirt. Your ears will hear the scurry of a squirrel up a tree and the distant honk of a taxi cab. You’ll throw rocks onto a frozen lake that perfectly reflects the frosty skyline in the most magical way you’ll ever see. It will be bitter cold. You will look as if you are miserable and part of you will be. Your fingers will hurt. They will hurt so bad it will feel like pin needles piercing the skin. You won’t even be able to take your gloves off because your fingers won’t be able to move. But you will also have unique moments that you couldn’t have at any time and anywhere else in your life. And you’ll be proud of yourself for getting out there and doing it anyway. And you will have precious memories. Of course, this is only one option. You can opt for looking outside and thinking to yourself, There is no way in hell I’m going out in that. Or you can find the first plane back to California and not be changed by the experience at all because you’ll go back to exactly where you were before.
When I was newly single after a break up, I became determined to find solace, strength, and beauty in my singleness. That time alone is a precious memory to me now. I decided to take the walk. I chose it. I could have turned around and gotten back on the plane. In fact, there were two guys ready and willing to put me back exactly where I HAD been…in a bad relationship. But I didn’t want to have more of the same. I wanted something better. I could have hibernated for the winter too…and there is some wisdom in that. At least that is safer. But I knew I had to keep living. I wanted to keep living. I chose to walk.
So often when people find themselves single again their well-meaning friends tell them to get back on the horse. Go on a date or two and that will help you forget about that jerk yahoo. But the problem with that logic is that you are nowhere near emotionally ready to date again right after a break up. Missing is mourning. Missing like mourning is necessary. And being alone for a time is necessary too because it’s hard to miss when someone is sucking your face. If you jump into a new relationship without dealing with why the last one failed, you will make the same mistakes again anyway. And you will find yourself in an endless cycle of either choosing the wrong kind of guy, or being the wrong kind of girl. Either way it’s no good.
Instead of a string of bad relationships that only creates baggage and insecurity in life, I decided to work on being okay with just being me. It was not fun all the time and I didn’t follow my own advice 100% of the time. It was hard and painful but I almost relished the pain like the hurt your muscles feel after a good work out. I knew it was the good kind of pain. I was willing to go out with men as long as they knew I just wanted to be friends and hang out and have some fun. Men don’t do that well. I tried. But, they just wanted to rush things. Giving me a hug after our first ever hike and asking me for a kiss? Um…NO…I said, “Just friends. It was not a date.” Yes of course I kissed him anyway…but then I called him up and broke things off. I knew I wasn’t ready. Telling me they love me after our first evening playing pool? Um…NO…I said, “Just friends. It was not a date.” Yes, of course, I let the guy come around for a while. It’s hard to break someone’s heart. But I also sent him packing as well. Because I knew both guys weren’t right for me. So I let them both go. In the midst of all of that, the guy I originally broke up with was trying to win me back too. And even though there was a time when he made me feel like he was Mr. Right, I knew without a doubt he was very much Mr. Wrong. So as hard as it was, I kept saying no to him too. And decided to do my own thing for a while.
It would have been so easy to fill the void with another guy. But I figured I was 42 years-old and I should probably fill that void myself first. Because if I had no void to fill, the next guy in my life would be a guy I wanted instead of one I needed.
I practiced sleeping on my ex’s side of the bed (after being married 18 years that felt very foreign). I developed a workout routine. I found ways to make myself happy while I was alone by going to my favorite restaurants, or watching the kind of movie that I liked. I reignited friendships with girlfriends. I started a few projects. Truthfully, what I discovered, was that I absolutely HATED being single. I hated it. HATED. But I also discovered that I could do it. I absolutely did not need a man to have beautiful, special, precious, dare I say, even happy moments.
It’s funny because as soon as I stopped looking for the sun and chose happiness steeped in my winter snow…the sun popped out in the most unexpected way. I re-met Harry. He was just a guy I’d known practically my whole life as an acquaintance. Like the others, I told him that I only wanted to be friends, nothing more. He said, “Fine.” But unlike the others he stayed true to his word. He did not push for a relationship at all. We became friends and talked all the time. That’s it. Just talking. For months. I shared with him stories of my life and he shared with me. We learned a lot about each other’s weaknesses and never tried to impress. There was no need to impress because we weren’t dating. I didn’t need this guy but I really liked talking to him.
It took us three months to hold hands. A few more weeks to kiss. No one pushed or pulled or cajoled. It just happened. The way these things are supposed to happen. Naturally. I realized I wanted Harry in my life. My season of singleness was over. I’m so grateful I did the hard work in my winter so that when the right guy did come along I was ready to love him the way I should.
Seasons change. We all know they will. But some people who are single are so afraid of being single they chase down men who are so completely wrong for them while calling them Mr. Right. As if by name alone that will change their make-up. NO. They are Mr. Wrong, move on. They try to fit a square peg into a round hole instead of waiting, finding beauty and strength in themselves. When that right guy does come along (and he will) you want to be ready to want someone instead of needing them.
At the time I likened being single to eating fish. I hate eating fish but I know that eating fish is healthy and good for me. Being single is for a time too. And when you’re in it…it’s easy to think desperately that you will never get out of it. But Winter will end and Spring will come. For some lucky people they only have to endure Winter for 10 days. I realize that I was one of the lucky ones. Others get three months or more. But eventually…at the right time for you…when you’re ready and not a second sooner…it will happen.
If you’re single, your job right now is to relish the time of having numb fingers, dry skin, rotten hair days, and bitter cold and look for the beauty in those days despite the pain. Celebrate the times you are strong enough and brave enough to take those walks in the park so that you can learn the good lessons, build your strength up, and feel whole, with no void at all. One day the sun will pop up and you will realize man or no man you are fulfilled and into your next season.