Take a break from loneliness – put yourself first

when you make yourself a priority every day is a vacation day

Two months ago I wrote about why I’m taking a break from love and taking some time out for me.

I have to admit, since then, I’ve been doing a fairly crappy job of sticking to my promise.

In September, I moved to a new neighbourhood and took a solo trip to Ireland but when the dust settled from those adventures I found myself lonely again.

And so I called that guy, the one I said I wouldn’t contact, and asked him to help me set up some furniture which was really a lame excuse to get him over to my place so we could have sex, which we did. And then I couldn’t stop thinking about him and so I finally caved and told him I wanted to take our relationship to the next level to which he replied, “Uh…. I’m  not that into you.”

Ouch! (Read: 12 things I did in the 24 hours after).

Of course, I couldn’t blame him. For the six months that we’d known each other, my behaviour was insane. I’d tell him go away then come here then go away again. Honestly, I wouldn’t have stuck around as long as he did. I had red flags all over me.

But since that blow up, I’ve been lonely. Really lonely. Like dark night of the soul, Saturday-nights-crying-into-a-bag-of-chips- tweaking-my-online-profile-and-lurking-on-Plenty-of-Fish-lonely.

The temptation to distract myself with the excitement of meeting new guys has been enormous. But I haven’t given in. 

And I’ve noticed a new meme in my life.  

I recently joined a support group for people whose lives are in transition. Every week the facilitator reminds us that like putting your oxygen mask on before your child’s in an airplane, you have to look after yourself first.

Last week I wrote about attracting the same types of people as friends.  In a comment on that blog, a reader sent me an article from the Huffington Post by Denise Scarbro about attracting healthy relationships. After reading it, I realized there have been patterns in my romantic life as well.

My last two serious partners both put their art ahead of their relationship with me and my most recent lover simply said it aloud – he didn’t want to put me first.

According to Scarbro, “We attract what we are feeling, not necessarily what we think about.”

Turns out that despite desperately wanting to be a relationship where my partner and I are the most important things in each other’s lives, I’ve been attracting men who don’t make me a priority.

Why? Because I haven’t been making me a priority. 

Sure, outwardly I’ve been blogging about making new friends and taking tentative steps in that direction; but, without a man in my life, inside, the needy, attention-and-ego-validation-seeking part of me has been having a shit fit!  

“I NEED LOVE!” It’s been screaming. “FEED ME LOVE!” “MUST! HAVE! LOVE!”

What am I? The Cookie Monster?  

Hmmm… not exactly what I was hoping to project – or attract.  

“The trick to attracting healthy relationships,” says Scarboro, “Is to feel the love you are searching for from within yourself, to feel truly confident, and to know that you are complete.”

Now to be fair, I love myself lots, I think I’m overall pretty great, and I feel confident about 80 per cent of the time.

But I also suspect, based on my inner Cookie Monster, that there is likely some part of me that doesn’t feel complete unless I am in a relationship with someone who can validate that I am indeed loveable.

And, that, I must admit, is a bit fucked up.

So I asked myself, what if I put all these thoughts and feelings on hold, acknowledged them as there but  diminished their power by putting them in Cookie Monster’s voice (although Yoda’s would work as well)?

And then, what if, instead of scrolling through online dating profiles at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning wondering “Would he love me? Would he love me? What about him?” I did something different?

What if I treated every day as a solo vacation?  

By this I don’t mean quitting my day job or slacking off at work, but instead thinking about how to optimize the free hours that I do have so that, rather than spending them yearning for the hypothetical person I think will make me happiest, I spend them exploring new places and ways to be.

We treat vacation days as precious because they are finite – we only have so many of them. Well, here’s the truth: life is finite. We all only have so many days. When we are on vacation, we let go of all the shoulds and musts and ought tos.

Very often we drop all our psychological baggage as well. Who needs it? We’re on vacation!

Well, life is pretty much a vacation from death. And it looks like I’ll be flying solo for this portion of the journey.

Looking at it this way jazzes me because solo vacations rock!

I meet new people when I want, spend time alone when I want, see the sights that I want, take tours when I want, rest when I want and shop for hours on end with no apologies to anyone for making them wait (or spending their money)!

When I am on vacation, I make myself a priority.  

So why not do this every day? Unlike travel, it doesn’t take a lot of money or time to do. For example, today was my day off of work and so I:

  • slept in
  • wrote in my diary for an hour and then wrote this blog post (writing, for me, is like breathing deep fresh air)
  • took a break at lunch to explore my neighbourhood and discovered a place that sells delicious bahn mi (Vietnamese submarine) sandwiches for $2!!!
  • went to Walmart a place I LOVE (despite it being the evil empire according to most of my friends and acquaintances) and got an inexpensive candle holder for my new apartment
  • ventured into a local indie coffee shop and discovered they carry my favourite tea
  • bought a bouquet of fresh flowers from another local store that it turns out is part florist/part aquarium supply retailer (I’m in a very interesting neighbourhood)
  • finished this blog post and made a tasty turkey sausage paella for dinner

All in all it’s been a great day. I’ve spent it alone, but I haven’t felt lonely once.  

When you stop looking for love, love finds you.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to the point where I stop looking at men and wondering “what if?”

Honestly, I don’t know what it feels like to not be boy crazy but I’m willing to keep giving it a break while I learn to nourish my soul, find new ways to satisfy my inner Cookie Monster, put first things first and enjoy the trip on my own.        

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