It’s time for me to to take a break from dating. What I’m beginning to realize is that my quest for “The One” has really just been a way of running away, of distracting myself, of not facing the lingering hurt and anger over the ending of my relationship with Griff. My search for love has been an escape from sadness, and it’s also been a way to avoid facing one of my biggest fears: I am frightened of being alone.
It’s a very particular kind of alone that I’m afraid of. I’m actually very good at standing on my own two feet, of providing love and stability and sustenance for my children, of taking care of my finances and paying the mortgage. I can shovel the driveway when it snows. I can even power wash. During the nearly three years we were together, Griff and I always maintained separate households. I’m perfectly capable of doing certain kinds of alone.
In fact, I could make an argument that I’ve been doing alone pretty successfully for a very long time. In the last years of our marriage, my ex was on the road more than he was home. Shortly after my ex and I split up, my eldest son remarked, “You know, it’s really not very different now than when Dad still lived here. He wasn’t ever here very much. And now we get bonus sleepovers at his house!” Yes. I can do alone, alright.
But the kind of alone that scares me, the kind that wakes me up in the night, is a kind of existential loneliness. It’s a sense of being without mooring, of lacking safe harbour, of having nobody there to love me and protect me. It’s that terrifying understanding that it’s just me, that I have to look after myself. It’s knowing that with the freedom and independence that I love, comes complete responsibility for myself.
I don’t know why this is such a scary place for me, but it is. And I suspect I’m not alone. I remember asking “B is for Ben” what he wanted most in a relationship. “I want to grow old with somebody,” he told me, in his characteristically open way. “I want to know that there will be somebody there to bury me when I die.”
But even if this fear of being alone is widespread, it’s still something I need to address. I can see how it hampers me in relationships, how it keeps me in relationships well past their “sell by” dates, and how it creates anxiety in me when I feel a partner pulling away.
And so even though I don’t like being alone, it’s time for me to try it for a while. I need to spend some time getting comfortable with being on my own, with not being in a relationship, with not even looking for a relationship. I need time to gain distance, to gain perspective, not just on my last relationship, but on my whole way of being in relationships. I need the space to learn what I need to learn, and the time to grieve if I need to grieve. I feel like I need this time to pause, to breathe deeply, to rest and recuperate. I need to get centered.