I am quite happy at this point in my life and I am 99% comfortable with living solo and spending time by myself. For 15+ years, I was in a relationship that consumed almost every facet of my life. Without intending to do so, I now realize that I had allowed that relationship to distance me from family and friends. Once it ended, I really didn’t know what to do with myself or how to reconnect with those that I had unintentionally abandoned. However, it feels like I’ve been working four years on completing a 1000-piece puzzle (remember those?) and I have a few pieces with which I am struggling to find the right place. It seems that no matter hard I try to fit in and make friends, I am still mostly a loner. I often travel, dine, and attend events solo. Sometimes I connect with people I consider to be friends or would befriend if we were strangers before, but I still don’t have the companionship or the level of friendship that I had with him. I do know now that I would never, ever allow any relationship to have that much control over me, but I definitely miss having a best friend with whom I can talk about anything. I carry many thoughts and emotions inside of my head and my heart.
I feel like I have a lot to contribute to a friendship. I am loyal beyond a fault, kind, polite, and caring. I usually give way more to others than I accept from them. I go above and beyond. So why is this so challenging? Interestingly, I think that some find me a bit threatening, for lack of a better word, although nothing could be further than the truth. I believe living solo is a sign of bravery that some may not possess and it makes them uncomfortable. All that being said, does the friendship world have a place for someone like me? Or am I destined to remain a loner?
I think part of the reason I feel the way I do is the influence of social media, with which I have a love-hate relationship. I scroll down my Facebook News Feed. I see people out and about with others, spending time with loved ones, and posting the perfect parts of their lives. It compounds the feeling of singleness. I wonder why I don’t have that level of comraderie in my life. Why am seeing all of this from afar instead of living it?
The good news is that living life completely on my own for the past four years is ultimately a testament to my strength and to some, that may be intimidating. I moved 2626.9 miles away from home. I take care of myself and my cat all by myself. I manage every detail of my life. I have learned a new career in only two years. My writing has blossomed. Perhaps being a loner is actually a gift waiting to be shared with those who understand and embrace my power and affection.
When you numb your pain you also numb your joy. ~ Brene Brown
I have one more thing to write before 2015 begins after all.
Yesterday, I had a panic attack about being alone. I don’t mean not being in a relationship, I mean feeling disconnected from the world, away from East Coast family and friends. I never had panic attacks until I lost my relationship and job in 2012, but I guess they are a form of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), maybe? Most of them are about finances, but this was personal. With these moments of panic often come moments of clarity and enlightenment.
While I took a big risk by moving across the country for a new life and I love to travel to new places, I’ve never really opened myself up completely to opportunities or people since I moved. I have RSVPed to events or get-togethers with people I didn’t know, then chickened out at the last minute. I wanted to go, but I was afraid. Sometimes I attended, but I would quickly exit. I just arrived home from Hawaii and realized that while I was there, I did the same thing. I spent a lot of time with new friends that welcomed me into their fold, but I also would retreat to my hotel when I could. Part of that is because I’m an HSP and crowds and activity can overstimulate me. However, I also think it’s because I am drained from keeping my guard up.
On Christmas Eve, I watched one of my favorite movies again, French Kiss, but with different eyes. It has comedy, romance, France, a great wine moment, and it has a woman like me, a crazy chick who takes a risk that goes against her grain. However, she discovers along the way that she had been living a very closed life.
As I thought of all of this, it hit me. I am like an egg, closed, afraid to break open. I’m afraid of someone breaking through the shell that I’ve built around me for two and a half years. I’m afraid of not being accepted. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid to really live. My chiropractors have known this for seven months, as they have had to open me up physically nearly every week.
In 2015, this egg will be ready to crack open. What good is an egg with an unbroken shell? The shell is meant to be removed to get to the deliciousness inside. I know it will be a process to let go of my fears, but it’s all about baby steps. It’s about peeling the shell away one piece at a time. And just wait until you see what’s inside of me.
If I could describe this year in one word, it would be crazy. Who in the hell packs up and leaves the life they know, their comfort zone, their family, their friends, their people, the South, the reality they have known all of their life, and moves across the country to start a new career? I’ll tell you who. This crazy girl.
It’s been a roller coaster of a year. The first phase was bliss: I can’t believe I live and work here. Every season is gorgeous, well, except the pouring rain right now. I pass famous vineyard after vineyard every morning on Silverado Trail and in the beginning I was thinking, “Holy shit, I LIVE here!” There’s wine everywhere. People drink and give wine away like it’s water. I have about 90 bottles right now and started out with 24 when I moved and I am drinking wine multiple days per week.
The second phase is reality. Napa is expensive. My apartment is a third of the size and over triple the rent of my apartment in Virginia. Fresh food is abundant, but costly. Gas is higher than in much of the country. My old car had two major, unexpected repairs. Health insurance finally kicked in and I realized I need a dentist, doctor, and medications. I also needed a veterinarian for my cat. Reality exists in Napa Valley. I finally went to a chiropractor after having been in pain since December 2013 and realized that’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. Because of my chiropractic care, my overall physical and mental health have improved. I no longer have the pain I had. I’ve cut out most of the daily medications I was taking for allergies and other things. I now take one allergy medication and a couple baby aspirin per day (confession: I’m terrified of having strokes like my mom and uncles had, even though I’ve never smoked like they did). I also discovered along the way that I’m not really like about 80% of everyone else. That was a big reality check. There’s also the reality that every job has its good and not-so-good days, even at a gorgeous winery in Napa Valley.
The third phase I’m going to call the holidays alone. It’s the time of year when my dad passed away. My mom is in a nursing home in North Carolina. I’m in a place far away from my people. Strangely enough, in a place that is often festive with an abundance of wine, food, and events galore, it’s been hard to connect with people here. I knew a ton of people here via social media, then I arrived, but my social life is meh. There’s also the “I have no one to spend the holidays with” syndrome, which has been going on since 2012. This is my third year trying to arrange things so as to not be alone. In fact, this past month, my coping mechanism has been crazy-ass travel: Philadelphia, Seattle twice, and Asheville. I needed to get away and be with my people.
Although most days I feel like I am where I want to be, there are some days I really struggle. I miss people from the East Coast, I battle loneliness, and I have sleep issues from the stress of such a big life change. Sometimes it feels like me against the world. I owe an apology to those I’ve maybe leaned on a little too much this year, but I am thankful to have you, too.
Today was one of those challenging days. Both the rains and my tears flowed most of the day. However, at the end of the day, I discovered an unexpected blessing. A much-needed blessing. It was in that moment I truly felt like the Universe may not have forgotten me after all and I was filled with a bit of hope. After the rain and tears stop, there’s something beautiful to behold. Someone at work told me that when things get crazy tough, just go running through vineyard to clear my mind. I think she’s right. Running through the vineyard sounds like a much better idea than tears.
I’m ready to get back to the bliss phase in 2015. And admittedly, it’s still there inside of me when I allow it. I still say to myself, “Holy shit, I LIVE here!”
I have a chiropractor who believes in the mind-body connection like I do. Every visit she adjusts me based on zones, which have both physical and emotional components attached to them. I have finally reached the maintenance level of chiropractic care, but every now and then I have what I call a relapse. Today was one of those days and I knew it before I arrived for my appointment. Throughout the day, my physical discomfort increased relative to the emotional pain I was experiencing. I tend to repress my feelings, which affects me physically. I required a complete adjustment tonight.
After my adjustments, my chiropractor always provides me with an affirmation for my 15-minute rest period. Tonight’s was:
I am strong.
I trust my foundation.
I repeated my affirmation and thought about what it meant for me.
I know I am strong. I know I am a survivor. However, what is my foundation? What are my core beliefs and values?
When I think of myself, these descriptors come to mind:
In spite of everything that has happened to me, sometimes I am still guilty of doubting my own strength. I allow things to shake me to my core, to my foundation, if you will. I analyze and question myself. After repeating this affirmation, I realized there is nothing wrong with me. I am still strong. My foundation is solid if I just believe and trust in myself. I can only be shaken if I allow myself to be shaken. I will only crumble if I allow myself to crumble. It’s all about my choices and my reactions to the world around me.
My revised affirmation:
Choose to let go.
Choose to grow.
Sometimes I can’t believe I live in Napa, yet it’s been nine months since I moved. It often feels like an out-of-body experience or a dream as I am commuting to and from work via Silverado Trail, which has to be one of the most gorgeous commutes in this country. Napa Valley is amazing and I know my heart is here to stay in wine country, but I still feel like I am in limbo when it comes to my career and relationships.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the past nine months:
1. Leaving what was comfortable was and still is difficult, even if it wasn’t good or even healthy for me. No matter how beautiful a place I am in or how lucky I appear to be, I am reminded daily, especially thanks to social media, how hard it is to leave the other life behind. I had to create a whole new life for myself and it hasn’t been easy adjusting to a new schedule, career, and work environment. All are very stressful, even if they are for the best in the long run.
2. I lost my social and support network in Virginia and North Carolina and it still hasn’t been replaced. Again, social media is awesome for superficial, virtual connections, but it still drops the ball when it comes to real-life relationships. Some of the people in Napa and Sonoma I knew through social media before I moved are still just social media connections, not real-life friends, like I hoped we would be.
3. Teaching is the hardest profession, this I know for sure. Towards the end of my teaching career, I had already made up my mind that I was going stop teaching after spring semester 2014, but the universe had plans for me to exit unexpectedly in late 2012. In my former life, I often worked 16 or more hours per day, in the office and at home. Now I work more like 8-9 hours per day during the work week and a couple of hours per day on weekends as needed, by choice. I am happy the teaching part of my journey is over, although I would not mind teaching informally about topics like wine, travel, and the lessons I’ve learned from my life journey. I’d love to be someone’s mentor.
4. No matter where I live, I believe I am destined to be a loner. I try to forge relationships both near and far, but they don’t seem to work out. I’m surprised that my last romantic relationship lasted over 15 years, but then again, we were only together twice, three, or four times per month, so maybe that explains why we lasted so long. I’ve never said this in public until now, but the last couple of years of that romantic relationship, I used to wake up at his apartment on weekends and think, “Is this all there is?” I think that was a big sign I chose to ignore until he kicked me to the curb. I deserve more in all of my relationships. I will NOT be an afterthought. I want people to think of me first or not think of me at all.
5. If I ever find myself connected to someone in a similar situation as me, feeling like they are alone in the world trying to survive and move forward, I promise that I will reach out and include them. It surprises me that we as a society are so oblivious and wrapped up in ourselves that we completely ignore the signs of someone who is reaching out for the human connection, for support, and for a genuine relationship. If you know anyone that is single and/or lives alone, please INCLUDE them. At least invite them to your gatherings, for God’s sake, and let them decide whether or not they wish to attend. It’s not easy being alone anywhere, regardless of a locale’s beauty and opportunity.
We are NOT too busy to be welcoming, kind, and inclusive to others. We are here to love ourselves and each other. Be love. Share love.
A few years ago, I wrote a post about this topic for another blog, but the blog has since been discontinued, which is sad, because it’s like losing part of my writing history.
On September 11, 2001, my life was so different. I was a college professor in Virginia. I was dating a guy who lived and worked in the New York City area, so the events of that day hit close to home. I remember I was teaching a class via interactive television when the technician ran into my classroom and switched the channels as we saw the replay of a plane hitting the twin towers. It was and still is so surreal. When the first plane, American Airlines 11, hit, we thought it was an accident. When the second plane, United Airlines 175, hit, we knew. I dismissed class and the college closed, but my students remained glued to the classroom televisions. I made my way to my office and kept trying to call my boyfriend from my cell phone, but my calls would not go through. Finally he called me to tell me he was OK, as was his brother, who worked for Citibank. I was relieved for them, but heartbroken for those who lost their lives and who lost family members and friends. Silly me kept hoping for more miracles than actually happened. To this day, I still cannot believe the magnitude of loss of life.
During the course of that morning and day, we heard about American Airlines flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, then United Airlines 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers attempted to gain control of the aircraft after it was hijacked. It was as if the destruction and death would never end. I will never forget this day or its moment in history. I still grieve for those who lost loved ones.
I still remember what it was like to fly after 9/11, how quiet it was when I landed at Dulles instead of National for a required doctoral class at George Mason. I remember seeing the smoldering twin towers from my weekly flights in and out of LaGuardia Airport for what seemed like a very long time after the events of that day.
I also remember the kindness that we shared with strangers after this tragedy. For a while after 9/11, people seemed to care more about each other. I saw more public displays of politeness and affection and less frustration and anger. It still breaks my heart that it took a tragedy like this to make us treat each other with more love and mutual respect than I have ever witnessed in my lifetime.
If there is one thing I could wish for this anniversary of 9/11, it would be for us to return to love, in spite of our differences, and in honor of all the lives that were lost that day.
Photo Credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/