Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Lessons in Solitude
When I was in high school, college and grad school, enduring a series of problematic boyfriends, my sister used to tell me that I was fatally flawed: "you can't be alone". I don't know why she thought that. Maybe it was because I used to lock myself up in my room during the summer vacations and write long, anguished love letters to my paramours, who never seemed to suffer with the same level of intensity. Perhaps my sister came to her conclusions watching me cry into the phone, night after night, lamenting my loneliness and inability to function without my addiction, I mean, the love of my life. She hardly maintained the moral high ground, as I caught her poring over the Spanish/English dictionary attempting to translate Joaquin's letters, and more than once I heard her breathing into the phone while I was lamenting my frustrated passion for man on the other end of the line.
Time passed. I married the only decent and straight man in Appleton, Wisconsin and my anguish over lovers was over. Or so I thought. Whatever pain I experienced during those early experiments in intimacy was laughable compared to what came later. I'm not ready to go public with the pain of a divorce, but if you've been there, you know. You know that the silliness of your angst over boyfriends or girlfriends was trivial compared to the searing misery of divorce. Nothing compares. When I found myself alone in my lovely little Craftsman home in Long Beach, I congratulated myself on Being Alone. I surrounded myself with cats and flooded myself with TV and the Internet. So, of course, I wasn't really experiencing the state of Alone. I was, instead, finding ways to numb or postpone the pain. My secret worry is that I am still doing that, shoving vast reserves of emotion into various time wasters or numbing routines. But that's kind of my big wrap-up point, so I'm going to wait on that for now.
My current husband was and is so wonderful that he tricked me into thinking that I had no work left to do, no pain to wade through, no path of spiritual transformation to discover or follow. Love had eradicated the need for such unpleasantness as feeling the weight of the past, with all of its attendant misery, unhappiness, disappointment and hard lessons.
The problem is, my husband leaves once a year to battle miniature warships (this deserves its own blog entry) with big groups of salty Navy types and Republicans (he is not a Republican or a salty Navy type, so I'm not sure where he fits). His departure creates all kinds of upheaval for me, which is entirely inappropriate for an independent woman who makes decent money and has her own interests. When Ty leaves, time rewinds with dizzying speed, and I am, once again, the 19 year old locked in her room, crying over her ambivalent boyfriend. You see, every boyfriend I ever had and even my first husband were ambivalent types: they kept me in a constant state of insecurity over the depth of their commitment or the level of their interest. Ty emphatically does not put me through such torture; however, I don't believe that he could possibly want to spend the rest of his life with me.
Husband #1 ripped out my heart and soul. That's actually an understatement. There are not words for what he did. My therapists advised me to wait a year or two before I started dating. However, I met Ty two weeks after my ex moved out. A few weeks later, our fate was sealed. That's the way it worked out, even though it was not emotionally prudent. Love, the real thing, does not play by the rules. There is a price to pay, however, for the lack of healing time: I depend upon my husband to fill the void that my past has left in me. When he leaves, there is something akin to panic that gnaws at my insides like a starved and insane rodent searching for a way out of my heart.
That's bad. My sister knows that's bad. She'd be the first to tell me. OK. So I have to learn to be Alone. Apparently, the lesson I was supposed to learn in my late teens is still a pending project. It's perversely comforting to think that I'm the same person now that I was then; I'm still young! Pity that's it's such a crappy connection to the past. It seems that my strongest connection to who I was as a young adult is entirely about lack, loss and empty spaces. That scares me a bit, because I have not yet unraveled the root cause of that state of being. I am not sure that I wish to open the Pandora's box of possibilities in search of an Answer. So, instead of delving into layers of unbearable psychic pain (although I could find teddy bears and chocolates and rainbows in my subconscious), I made a list of rules for myself to prevent my tendency to numb or avoid my emotions. It's kind of a short cut to Enlightenment that doesn't require years of hideous therapy (I've done that, it sucks mostly) or brain-altering chemicals (tried that, but I end up feeling like the Zombie who doesn't give a crap). Instead, my rules force me to actually live in the moment and create something.
The Rules to Living Alone:
1. No television during the day. Ever. Only two hours at night, max.
2. No sugary snacks. Menchie's is permitted at night.
3. No mindless Internet surfing or obsessive email checks.
4. Naps are to last no longer than one hour.
5. Practice the piano at least 45 minutes per day.
6. Write something every day that is not work related.
7. Post photos and write blog entries only after 9 PM.
8. Call husband no more than twice per day.
9. Contact a family member at least three times per week.
10. Explore scary places at least once per week.
11. Maintain and nourish friendships.
12. Spend at least 1-2 hours in the sun, although in the Valley in July this could kill you. In that case, wait until 7:30 before you go walking.
13. Do NOT spend more than 2 days a week in the gym. The gym is boring.
14. Deeply enjoy nature.
15. Be a creative and fun parent. Expand Imanya's and Connor's minds and spirits.
16. This one is personal. Sorry.
I hate people who write rules for themselves, all righteous, pretending that they're all spiritually evolved and crap. I'm not evolved. I am attempting to stay sane and leave the sad child behind with her ghosts of boyfriends and husband past. Unfortunately, we never really evolve past the sad child; and the marks that past love inflicts upon us become scars that don't ever heal properly.
The trick to living with these wounds is perhaps to accept that they are there, and stop attempting to discard them or pretend that they will go away. The people I loved are all still with me, forever. They can't hurt me now, but they remind me on a daily basis that I have a long, long road to travel with them. They have something to teach me that I still haven't learned.
I have to be Alone. It won't kill me, but I would like my husband to come home and love me through whatever wakes me up at 3:00 AM, hammering at my heart.