My new man and I started seeing each other toward the end of August, and it very quickly became an exclusive, meet-my-family, let’s-do-every-single-thing-together kind of a relationship.
I was exhausted almost immediately. Whenever his truck would pull up, an hour early, just because he wanted to be with me, I would be filled with a mixture of frustration that I wasn’t getting anything done, and the heady thrill of seeing him walk towards me, blue eyes glinting, and those arms of his, ahhh, those biceps.
“What are you doing here??” I would greet him.
“What I keep hearing you say,” he would tell me, “Is that you need more sleep and you need more alone time. Is there any room for me in this relationship at all?”
It was one of those kidding/not kidding kinds of moments. I may not have even responded.
Because for years I’ve been ignoring this rampant desire to be alone in a cabin in the woods, with no one else for miles around.
But I also want an amazing lover in my life.
So I kept trying to bargain with myself.
I’ll spend time with him … at his rural house, where the coyotes howl in the hills at night, and four foot snakes have been known to slither from the ceiling.
I’ll ride in his pick-up truck, and jog the county highway at dusk.
That’ll have to be good enough.
But it wasn’t.
Something inside of me was angry. Every time a friend invited me over for dinner, or my brother and his girlfriend showed up to visit a day early, I would think, “Can’t I just be left the fuck alone already??”
That’s how I entered New Year’s week. Full of a seething bitterness.
But I came out calm.
If you’re in a place of maelstrom in your life, I want you to read this.
Because there is a very tender, very forgiving, very socially unacceptable solution. It’s free and available to you right here and now.
If you don’t take it, you remain in the unhappy, unfulfilled, bitterness brew I was just describing. Life gets more and more stale. Negative thoughts crowd your brain. You start to hate more things, including yourself.
But if you do this thing – this radical, rule-breaking thing I’m going to tell you about – then everything changes.
That house in the woods, all alone, no visitors, no commitments? This week I finally did it.
I took myself out to a house in the country for the week around New Year’s. Just me, two dogs, a cat, and the wide open, snowy countryside.
I told everyone I was going on a writers retreat but I didn’t actually do any writing.
Because as soon as I got there I got swarmed by all these old emotions – my past came back to haunt me.
I was beset by questions like:
Why the hell would 2017 be any different than any other year? I’m still the old me, I can feel it in my very cells!
How can I possibly have a relationship with the new man in my life that’s free of old lovers and past hopes & dreams, given how drowning in the past I feel around love and sex and all that intimate stuff??
And what about career? I’ve been working on this work-life thing for so long, and I’m tired. I am so tired.
Just the thought of the plans I had for the coming year were enough to paralyze me.
So I said no to every single person who wanted a piece of me.
No, you cannot come hang out at the house in the country with me. No, you can’t use the hot tub. No, I’m not bringing the truck in for a service appointment. No, I won’t be at your New Year’s Eve afternoon tea party.
I felt guilty doing it, which isn’t an emotion I feel often (maybe ‘cause I’m so ready to help other people out?? That came up and was good food for thought …). But I cancelled everything anyway.
I walked to the top of the field with the dogs in full dark.
I listened to baby coyotes yip madly in the distance.
I sat in the hot tub with gin on ice every night before bed, and imagined someone silently approaching from behind to slit my throat. I saw the blood run out of my body and felt at peace.
I skied across fields and crunched up dirt roads, dogs bounding around me, clearing my lungs of the cigarette smoking I’ve been doing “socially” these past few months of transition.
I read trashy romance novels. When I ran out of books to read, I panicked. Books are my drug! I need some historical fiction over here! (That was good food for thought, too.) I did without.
I imagined giving up my life coaching practice. Being a writer hidden away from the whole damn world forevermore.
A few days in, and as dusk approached, I felt a chafing in my heart. A rasping, painful sort of feeling, as if an old engine were starting up after lying dead in an abandoned car in an old wood shed behind a burnt down homestead since the 1930s. A drizzle of motor oil seeped into my cracks.
I was suddenly back there, the last time that part of me was activated. Full of hope. Another man then. Another town. Dreams of babies and of a life of dinner parties.
The past. One of my most relentless hauntings.
Giving it all up seemed even harder suddenly, as I remembered. More impossible. Those memories are scratched indelibly into my being. Aren’t they?
Dusk came. For me that’s the time of poems. A poem began to form inside of me.
My past rests against the/bones of my body/an invisible glass city/its foundations buried in flesh/its turrets tangled in sinew.
I am a sleeping beauty dreaming/relentlessly old dreams/Awaiting the kiss of/a borrowed exhale.
Writing that, I began to feel better. More at home inside myself.
I woke up on Sunday morning and reworked the poem from bed. A flash of fulfillment.
Then I was up and making breakfast and I felt a little lonesome. A little like I wouldn’t mind some company.
No one called. I took the dogs for another walk. Lay on the floor with them, in front of the fire, covered in their fur, and let them lap at me while I scratched their bellies.
The house felt empty. I felt my aloneness not so much all around me, which was an experience I’d been drinking in for days now, but inside of me, all through me, like a new garment my flesh had absorbed and was making part of itself, a reverse cannibalism.
This is me, all alone. Lonesome me. Solitary me. Alone.
A piece of my soul dropped into my body. I hadn’t realized it was missing. I just knew there was a hole somewhere. But this soul-piece? Ah, yes. Recognition. No more hole.
A sort of unexpected wholeness, like a calm entity possessing my usually chaotic inner realm, came over me.
When the phone rang at 9:30pm, my guy calling, I’ve never been more thankful to talk to another person in my life.
I realized that somehow a room had opened up inside of me for him.
By realizing my aloneness, allowing it to inhabit me so incredibly fully, I suddenly had space for him, too. And for friends. I ran errands with my sister all afternoon on Monday and was unusually cheerful.
“Let’s always run errands together!” I said to her. She laughed at me. I’m always trying to run errands alone.
A friend invited me, last minute, over for dinner, I got excited and said yes.
And as I was sweeping the house for my friends’ return, folding linens warm from the dryer, stoking the stove, and taking a final walk up the hill with the dogs, a revelation occurred. A project idea for my work was suddenly born, uninterrupted, complete. And to think that only days earlier I was ready to give it all up.
When all I needed was to heed the call my soul had been sending me. To be alone, in a house in the woods, for a stretch of time.
All those false attempts, those half-way sacrifices on the lauded altar of compromise? I found out the hard way that they just won’t do.
When my soul calls, I will now answer. That’s my hallowed vow for this new year.
And I invite it to be yours, as well.
What are you being asked to do? Where are you being asked to go?
Where are you denying the call of your soul?
And what is the one thing you can do right now, that will crowd out the back-talk inside your mind & forge a new bond of respect, kinship, friendliness, between you and the very soul of you?
Do it now.
And then tell us all about it in the comments below.