Do You Like Being Single?

Back in my college days, I rented a room in a four bedroom house with three other guys I had known from growing up. We had all known each other at least since the third grade. We had a big idea that we could get a house for $1000 per month and split the rent four ways and save a bundle.

We moved in at the first week of May and shortly thereafter, I got a summer job back in my home town, working for the State Parks as a maintenance crew guy. Trash and toilets for $7 an hour. I worked ten days on and four days off. I lived with my parents for those ten days and then I would drive back to the Front Range on my long weekend. Most of the time, I would stop at the house I was renting (because I was still paying $250 per month even when I wasn’t there) and then I would hang out with my girlfriend at the time in Denver or usually hit Renaissance Festival (several times) during the summer. I think I went four times. Maybe six. We would sometimes go both days.

One long weekend, I stopped long enough to pick up some of my stuff and then I spent the weekend with my girlfriend. It was just us at her dorm in CU. We went to Ren Faire, various other places. Then I went back to the house I was sharing just before hitting the road back to Walden.

My roomies had a sit-down with me.

“Where were you this weekend?”

“I spent the weekend with C. Why?”

“Well, you just come and go as you please and you never tell us where you are going. For all we know you were dead on the side of the road someplace. We worry.”

“Did my rent check clear?” I asked.

“Yes, why?”

“That’s all you need to worry about. The rest isn’t any of your business.”

They didn’t like that answer. Hell, I actually had decent boundaries back in those days. It would take an awful marriage to break that down, where your life is no longer yours and where you go and what you do and who you spend time with and who you talk to and why did it take you ten minutes to drive home from work and is that perfume I smell…and and and all took over.

You accept the mantle of things like kids and bills and you get things like social mores and standards twisted to put you in your place in a bad relationship.

I talked with my therapist this morning and she brought up a very good point. She told me that people will get into a dysfunctional relationship because they cannot stand being alone. And the chaos it provides is actually comforting to them if they haven’t been a part of a functional one. All they’ve known is chaos. They cannot just be comfortable being alone.

That is actually a good sign when you can be alone. We are wired for connection, but we also have the choice to be discerning too. So, with a friend of mine tonight, I asked what some of the things they enjoy about being single are. Here’s a list of things we came up with! Enjoy! Provide some of your own in the comments if you like!

  • You can eat what you want
  • You can watch whatever you want on TV
  • You can just hop in the car and go someplace if you feel like.
  • You can leave a mess in the kitchen and clean it up later.
  • No fundamental differences as far as how things like butter are kept around.
  • No drama. No BS.
  • No lies/lies by omission.
  • No having to calm someone down.
  • No sex obligation, or feeling guilted about it.
  • You can drive how you want without criticism. You can miss that exit and just look for another one up the road.
  • No obligatory contact when you aren’t in the mood (foot rubs, back scratches, neck rubs–usually never reciprocated).
  • Not wondering where someone is on a Friday night and why you aren’t with them.
  • Not wondering who someone is texting all the time.
  • No concerns about someone acting shady.
  • Not being given assigned chores like you are ten.
  • No feeling like you are being controlled.
  • No conversation about “Where should we eat?”
  • Nobody is bringing home another dog if you don’t want one.
  • No obligatory dinners or visits with in-laws you don’t like.
  • You can listen to whatever music you want.
  • No criticism about where you left your socks or boots or jacket.
  • No little messes to clean up after someone all the time.
  • You can put things in your drawers however the hell you want.
  • Quiet in the house.
  • No conflict on how to discipline the kids.
  • No communication problems.
  • No in-law drama.
  • No body criticism.
  • No pouting.
  • No yelling or fighting.
  • No lying in bed after a fight, and feeling obligated to be right next to that person for the next eight hours.
  • No bickering over stupid shit.
  • No being reminded of past mistakes to use against you later.
  • You can decorate however you want.
  • You don’t fight about money.
  • The only “Honey Do” projects are the ones you start.
  • No passive aggressive conversations about your behavior in public.
  • No arguments about how money is spent, children are raised, position of the toilet seat.
  • You can travel light, not have to check in with people unless you want, and in some ways you get to experience things on your own terms at your own pace. (I’m a big fan of solo travel).
  • No checked luggage!
  • No having to make decisions for other adults like they are children.
  • Stay up as late as you want
  • Have that glass of wine, whiskey, beer. Have two.
  • Sing in the shower/car/etc. as loud as you want.

So, really, being single isn’t that bad!

Last Looks

There’s a quote that is attributed to Buddha, but I guess its veracity is such that it might as well be something from Mark Twain. “The problem is we think we have time.” It resonnates with Solomon in Eccelsiastes. And even if the Buddha didn’t say it, it rings true. We always think we have more time. Even now with the world behind held hostage in this pandemic. Our life expectancies have gotten higher than any other time in history. And yet…it isn’t just death, but the ends of things we take for granted.

I have several moments in my life which were last looks I had with someone, though I didn’t realize it until later. I’m tired of those moments, though I’m sure my life will be riddled with them until that ultimate Last Look.

In just a couple days, it will be the seven year anniversary of the beginning of my journey through divorce. Or lately as I’ve called it a house fire that has been burning for the better part of the decade. I talk about it plenty of times because when I was heavily considering making that change in my life, there wasn’t much out there to support me. The first page of a Google search was a lot of links to “Work harder to preserve your marriage.” They advocated counseling, all sorts of things that had been tried and were only perpetuating an unhealthy situation. That fire had already been burning and it was time to get out.

The last look I remember on the morning of Halloween, 2014 was that of my then-wife frantically clicking on the computer to buy Christmas presents on Amazon because “The kids should at least get Christmas.” She had found out that the papers were about to be served and wasn’t happy. She didn’t even look up from the computer when I walked out of the house. The kids were another story. The older kids were dressed as Walter and the Dude from the Big Lebowski for their Halloween parties at their middle school. As I dropped them off in front of their school, I called out, “Hey! I love you!” My son didn’t even look back. Just the unidirectional purposefulness of his mind telling him to get to class. My daughter turned and looked back, but didn’t say anything back. She just ran to class. They were never the same after that.

About a month ago, I was walking to get the mail. A former classmate of mine who I never really got along that great with was turning the corner as I was crossing the street. He raised his hand in a rare greeting, and for once, I waved back. A few days later, I learned that he had been found dead in his tiny apartment later that day. I might have been one of the last people to see him alive. What a strange moment to reflect on.

In August of 2009, I stood beside my grandpa’s hospital bed. My aunt was there and she called to him “Grandpa! Clint’s here!” His eyes fluttered open for a moment and his head lolled over to look towards us, but they closed again. His leg was black with gangrene. His kidneys had stopped functioning. I signed off on the papers that said “no heroic efforts” and they stopped treatment to clean his blood. They kept him comfortable, as they say. By the afternoon, he was gone. It was a last look I could have skipped. But it gave me closure, knowing that he was no longer suffering. That he had reached the end.

In March 2020, we were at the beginning of this pandemic. It was a Sunday night and my girlfriend at the time was about to spend Spring Break on a road trip with her family. I was originally going to go with them, but my youngest was coming back to me from Spring Break before their trip was going to end. So I bowed out. We spent the day together and ended the evening watching TV together on the couch. Her head in my lap as I brushed her hair to spoil the hell out of her. She nearly fell asleep like that. When it was time for her to go, it was beginning to snow. A chilly, wet evening with big heavy spring flakes falling almost like slush on shiny black streets. We knew quarantines were coming. Two weeks to flatten the curve. We kissed and because I was standing in the cold in my sock feet, she told me to go back inside before I got cold. She rolled up the window and waved as she drove off into the night.

Six weeks later, the quarantine had changed the world. We talked almost every night until the end, but I never saw her again. I was blocked. Erased. Forgotten. So easily too. No second chances. No regrets.

In July, I didn’t know I would have another moment like that. But, you never really see those moments until it seeps into your consciousness that they have happened. Kissing someone goodbye on their porch. Too many times. Maybe you knew it. Maybe you could have stopped with one kiss “until next time” but it became half a dozen until you were both laughing and they were telling you “Go!” and laughing with every kiss. Maybe you knew there would be no next time. Maybe you always know at those defining moments. If you realized it at the time it would break your heart. You’d never have been able to leave.

When I was a kid I wasn’t much of a reader. I could hardly get through a Dr. Seuss book. In Jr. High I started reading the Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg, in which a bunch of college kids get sent into a Dungeons and Dragons type universere and are stuck there for the rest of their (usually short) lives. After that I read a LOT. One character in particular, a thief/frat guy by the name of Walter Slovatsky became one of my favorite characters. He had a series of quotes known as Slovatsky’s Laws. The one that seems resonant with all of this is this one:

When you say goodbye to a friend, assume that one of you is going to die before you ever get to see one another again. If you want to leave something unsaid, fine…but be prepared to leave it unsaid forever.

Walter Slovatsky

Things like this hit differently when you are older. It fucks with your abandonment issues. Your lack of closure. It’s not always a death, but certainly the end of something. You have to grieve the good and the bad. Grief is what allows them to become memories. Pile on enough of those memories and I guess that’s what gives us baggage. It’s hard out there. It’s hard to stay “good” when you just see patterns repeating. When you begin to suspect that every look back could be the last.

If you live long enough, I’d imagine it becomes more and more likely that those last looks back could be your last.

How to Lose Someone Important to You

Shut them out

Communication is key, and non-communication is an even better key! If you do find yourself in a situation where you are opening up and communicating, be sure to have a supply of things that come up that you can use to avoid any further communication. Emotional neglect and giving the bare minimum is also a good way of letting them know how clingy they’ve been.

Ignore apologies. What matters more is how much they hurt you, instead of a willingness to overcome that hurt. After all, apologies admit weakness, and you need someone stronger than that in your life.

Tell them you need to Process. And by Process, it means distract yourself with all sorts of other bullshit, hanging out with friends, closing down the bar, or doing literally anything else besides Processing. Your toxic friends will provide the right throwaway piece of advice your way because their lives are so stellar. Prefereably in meme or motivational quote form. Or wine.

Don’t box me in! Accuse them of lumping you in with their past while following textbook behaviors demonstrated by people in their past. Because all of us are a completely blank page who shouldn’t rely on past experience to inform us that things are about to implode. Especially if your own self-destructive patterns are right on schedule and obvious to anyone who knows you. There’s nothing worse than being lumped in with your own past behavior!

Remind them they hurt your trust: Tell them in very long text messages that there is nothing they can do to regain that trust. Make sure to repeat this process every week so they know you can never regain your trust. Repeat as often as it takes to explain in excruciating detail how they will never regain your trust. And how there is nothing they can do to fix it. Ever.

When you hurt yourself, make sure they see it. Even the closest people to us in our lives can’t withstand watching us dismantle all the progress we’ve made in our lives. Even the ones who love us will show their true colors when they watch you go off the rails and have to Step Away. Sad choices are the comfort food of emotional healing.

Push away the people who love you most. These people won’t always say what you want to hear. They see good in you, potential, and they will call you out when they are watching you hurt yourself. Being called out hurts, so why let other people hurt you when you are already an expert? If they decide to step back and let you do this, that’s on them.

Orbits are better than emotional investment. Why have one sure thing (that is sure to fail) when you can have four or five people in orbit around you that combine to make at least 1&3/4 of a sure thing! Like old scraps of cloth for quilters, or keeping a jar of bolts and screws, at some point they will serve some kind of purpose. Look at how much emotional support you get too! And if you want, you can always get laid.

ABA: Always be assuming! Actually talking to the other person rarely accomplished anything. You know they are talking shit about you with their friends! What about that song they put on their Facebook! It was a dig! Fuck them! Why aren’t they texting back? Why did they text back?! What are they saying about me??!!

Change the nature of your relationship. Always roll back the nature of your relationship. After all, don’t all people who are “just friends” do these kinds of things with each other? You’ve probably got half a dozen “friends” who stuck around for the breadcrumbs you’ve been throwing them. Hell, they probably told you how much of an asshole this person was too (they are totally objective, btw). If they read too much into things, that’s on them!

Here are some examples of rolling back:

  • Parent = Sperm/Egg donor
  • Valuable employee = Former person in that position
  • My dream job = What I wanted to do when I grew up
  • Lover = Friend with benefits
  • Fuckbuddy = Somebody who keeps bugging me
  • Boy/Girlfriend = An old friend
  • The One = Someone I used to hang out with
  • The One who got away = That motherfucker

Commiserate with enablers

  • People who still want to bang you: You’d be surprised to know how supportive someone you used to sleep with will be when you are in a crisis. You’ll soon see that you were right! It was the other person’s fault entirely! What a good listener.
  • Just any random person: They will see things only through their lens and if you curate the information you give them, it’s pretty certain they will see things your way. If they don’t, then there are other random people to commiserate with.
  • Have a heart to heart with the most toxic person in your life: You’ll see how honest, supportive, and hopeful for your well-being someone is who has completely fucked up the lives of others for their own amusement. This person might have also come pretty close to endangering your safety, your job, and never showed any remorse for dragging you into their drama. Your pain couldn’t possibly just be entertainment for them.

The Process of Healing

Take the high road. Don’t unfriend them. Don’t get angry. Don’t express your frustration. Tell them they are important to you without actually trying to fix anything. You’ll be the good guy. And if there is a good guy, then somebody is the bad guy. Especially when they unfriend and block you, because that’s what bad guys do.

Self-medicate. Spend more time at the bar, or drinking at home. You know, rather than spending an evening hashing things out with someone who you considered important in your life. Alcohol and drugs are great ways to numb any real feeling you might have.

Use your words. Or rather use someone else’s words, and motivational pictures, and TikTok videos, because there is no better way of expressing how you feel than sending someone what somebody else has said about what they feel.

Build walls, not boundaries. Boundaries keep the toxic people out. But walls keep everyone out! At some point everyone will betray you, so build those walls thick and high.

Second chances. The second chances already got used up by everyone else who came before. Their first chance was already their second chance. Or third. Or fourth.

Write your feelings down

Write passive agressive shit about them on the internet. Get angry with them. Write where you know they will see it. Make it bitter. Put it down in words that can’t be unsaid, that will damage the trust between you that was already broken because why the hell not? You didn’t know the secret combination to their heart–Right 26, Left 17, Right 4–to open it. Or was that the combination? Did they even know what it was? How were you supposed to?

What have you got to lose? They walked out of your life. Say the thing. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be mean. It won’t win them back. You lost them a long time ago.

Even though you still love them, even though you want someone who comes home instead of just comes over, even though you know that things can’t go back to how they were, but you can’t help but wonder how things ever were anymore, not now, you don’t trust that anything was real anymore and what was just playing out a fantasy that you wanted and thought they did too. Maybe your finger still itches from where you used to wear their ring. Maybe you still haven’t taken it off. Maybe you see pieces of them in someone else’s smile or laugh. Or when you are scrolling through your phone and you see a picture of them staring right back at you and have to look away because it fucking hurts. Maybe you hear their Name and think about how that special word used to play on your tongue, how you would sometimes say it, just to feel how it felt in your mouth. This is what you get for making plans or daring to daydream. For going past the routine and comfort zones and experiencing actual growth instead of replaying old reruns.

Was it all just a waste of time? Why let anyone get close, ever? Is this why we can’t have nice things?

Sitting there second-guessing your gut. Second-guessing the second-guessing. Keeping your mouth shut even when they were screaming all the warnings at you and waving the red flags and you just watched them drift away. Even when they told you you were overthinking. When they said to stop fishing for assurances. When something was off, but fit perfectly with their old patterns which you had watched before. And yet you had to be right instead of being happy, didn’t you? When you mistook that moment they reached out as wanting you again instead of just…

Stop. Breathe.

Take time to sit in this mess and acknowledge that sometimes things aren’t healthy and that you did enough. You were enough. You were courageous. The only shame you really felt was not feeling worthy of connection with someone who disconnected. Paranoia never brought you happiness. Overthinking is self-harm, just as much as cutting, drinking too much, suicidal thoughts, or alienating yourself from those who truly love you and care about you.

Vulnerability made you beautiful. In spite of your trauma you decided to trust. And you’ll do it again. And again. But each time that weight will be heavier and there are fewer years ahead of you now and we aren’t promised tomorrow. And we are all a little beat up at this age. It doesn’t get any easier.