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.
Love where you’ve been.
Love where you’re at.
Love how you think.
Love the power you pack.
Love all that you seek.
Love all that you feel.
Love your rocking emotions.
And the thoughts you make real.
~ The Universe ~
Remember as a kid going to an amusement park and riding rides all day? You became impatient and perhaps angry waiting in line for the rides. You were hungry and thirsty, for food, drink, and more. You faced your fears and rode that big roller coaster that took your breath away. At the end of the day, you were sunburned, exhausted, yet happy.
Life is a lot like that.
2015 has been my roller coaster year. When January 1 arrived after a hellacious New Year’s Eve party, I was impatient for change, And I got it, for better and for worse, in all aspects of my life.
Halfway through the year, I lost an important friendship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond my control. That loss, though, turned out to be my gain, as it caused me to delve within and find my strength again.
I spent six months trying to leave a job that was killing my soul and my spirit. I applied for jobs with more fervor. Like throwing darts at a dartboard, I knew that when it was the right time, I would hit bullseye.
At one point, these two crises came to a head at the same time and I hit rock bottom. However, I didn’t panic. Instead, I threw myself into traveling and writing, which have never let me down. I traveled to Monterey, San Francisco, upstate New York (Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes), and Chester County, Pennsylvania. New outlets for my writing, like Snooth and American Winery Guide, manifested themselves.
The turning point was September. On September 1, I was forwarded an email, which within 13 days, led me to my new job. It’s now been seven and a half weeks and I am so much happier. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to be valued as a human being and part of a real team of professional and caring people.
November 3: I opened the Facebook app on my phone and there was my ex-boyfriend – the longest, most important relationship in my life (to date) – in my news feed as one of the people I may know, under a fake name. His profile and cover photos were of him and another woman. According to his About section, he had created this profile for her and was in a relationship with this woman more than three months before we broke up. There it was, in all of its glory, the answer to that question in my head for three years: Was there someone else? The good news is that I didn’t cry, I laughed.
In the blink of an eye, 2015 has essentially come and gone. The ride came to a screeching halt and I was breathless, but OK. I rediscovered myself: my power, my talents, and my calling. I found happiness within. I fell in love again with who I am and who I want to be.
I feel like I owe everyone an explanation for not being very present right now, feeling disconnected and discouraged. However, that’s just my HSP talking. I don’t owe anyone anything. What I am going to share is what to do when life blindsides you.
- Cry. Get angry. You can’t move forward without feeling your feelings. Expect to cry frequently, at the most inopportune times, and to feel anger out of the blue. Grieving is real.
- You will wake up in the middle of the night, often more than once, so I suggest going to bed earlier as an attempt to get sleep.
- You will also unconsciously dream about what happened and rehash it over and over in your mind. Do whatever you can to stop. Breathe. Exhale. Release. It’s all in your head.
- Go to your chiropractor, your massage therapist, your acupuncturist, your counselor – whichever floats your boat – to heal yourself.
- Spend time with your pet. Pets offer the unconditional love you need that humans cannot.
- Immerse yourself in something worthwhile that will distract your attention, like writing, a special project, or charitable work.
- Purge or exercise. There’s nothing like a good purging of material possessions and/or a workout to physically release what’s going on in your heart and your head.
- Force yourself to get together with friends, even though you would rather stay home. Once you arrive to hang out, turn off the damn phone. Pay attention to each other. Savor the time.
- Plan a trip, alone or with others, in an attempt to leave negativity behind. It’s OK to escape.
- Do something you haven’t done in forever. Last weekend, I went shopping at a brick-and-mortar mall. I bought a dress. I can’t remember the last time I went to a mall, nor the last time I wanted to buy or wear a dress. I also bought kick-ass wedge sandals and strappy heels to go with the dress. Go, me.
- Take social media breaks and focus on you, because you are all you have and you are all you can control. Remember that social media is still media, complete with falsehoods, biases, misinformation, and people who aren’t what they say they are. You, on the other hand, matter most of all. Be good to yourself.
- If all else fails, make this song your mantra:
Here’s to survival,
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!”
Today a friend shared a Huffington Post article with me, accompanied by these words, “This really is you, Beth.”
I read the article, “16 Habits Of Highly Sensitive People.” This might be the single most important piece of writing I’ve ever read. I didn’t even know there was a label for people like me, HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I wish I had known earlier that I experience life and the world differently than 80-85% of the population.
In elementary school, my teachers called me “a sensitive child.” My classmates were much more harsh. They called me a “crybaby.”
I cry when I am angry. I cry when I watch commercials, videos, TV shows, and movies. Twenty years after the movie was released, I still cry when Mufasa dies in The Lion King.
Music like this often gives me chills and brings me to tears as well.
I am still afraid of the Flying Monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. That movie terrorized me when I was a child. Now I understand why.
I will do anything to avoid conflict. I try to repress my thoughts and feelings so as to not offend anyone. In doing so, I make myself physically ill.
I have uncanny attention to visual, written, and spoken details and I often remember exact conversations – words exchanged, as well as when and where the conversation took place. This attention to detail makes me a great travel planner and wine club manager, but all of these details about everything swimming around in my head often overwhelm me.
I often have trouble sleeping at night because I can’t turn off my world, thoughts, and emotions. I feel like I am always connected, whether I want to be or not.
I love to spend time with people that I really like and who really like me. But put me in a place full of people I don’t know and I become anxious. I am torn between being polite and staying anyway and plotting my escape. I opt out of large gatherings of people and prefer one-on-one and small-group interaction.
I am more empathetic than most, which means I feel what you feel, both the bad and the good. I take your burdens upon myself along with my own. Sometimes the weight is unbearable.
I prefer to work alone. My ideal work environment would be to work at home, at my own pace. As a college professor, I managed to strike a balance between performing in a classroom and my 10 required office hours. I was a pioneer in online instruction at my former college, because I preferred this method of delivery and flexible scheduling. I recently changed careers and I work an 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. job in an open office with five other people. I have found this environment to be stressful. I love when my colleagues are out of the office, not because I don’t like them, but because it’s more quiet and I work better alone, setting my own schedule and working through my to-do list.
I can’t count how many times people have told me not to take everything so personally. Believe me, I don’t want to. It just happens. I am like a Bounty paper towel. I absorb the world around me and it becomes a part of me.
At this moment, I’ve never felt more validated. Thank you to my friend for finding this article and sharing it with me. What a relief, there’s a method to my madness after all. It’s called being highly sensitive and it’s real. I’m Beth and I’m an HSP. I’m different than 80-85% of you reading this. Please bear with me as I begin to learn how to better fit into this world. If you are someone who feels like me, let’s connect.