What I’ve actually said is that it is important to choose being alone being in a bad relationship or even in a less-than-wonderful relationship. Yes, all relationships have issues or problems, but a relationship either makes your life bigger or smaller. It’s a very black and white issue. Your relationship either supports the life you want for yourself, whether it be career, home, children, travel, charitable causes, friends, time alone, pursuit of hobbies and interests or it doesn’t. The person you are with either respects you with actions and words or doesn’t. The person you are with either makes you a very important priority or doesn’t. These are very easy to answer questions. If you can’t answer yes to these things, then you are better off alone. And not to be resigned to be alone but to be happy to be alone RATHER than be in a relationship that makes your life smaller instead of larger.
This will be the first Christmas morning in my entire life I will wake up alone in a house with no other person. Even in the years I was with my first husband, Christmas morning was a wonderful experience. We woke up, opened presents, made breakfast, let the kids play with their toys and then had dinner and dessert. Even after we divorced, I continued that tradition every year. My kids say they had wonderful Christmas days because I never made them leave their house and it’s become something of an issue for the family because now my kids want the same for their kids but we can’t all be together and give my grandkids what their kids had. So we alternate between houses each year. It’s not what my kids had but that’s not possible. I was adamant that if you wanted to see my kids, you came to my house. But they had no other cousins and my family only visited when my mother was alive and my in-laws never visited. So it was easy for us to not go anywhere.
But I did all the work. All the shopping, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, decorating … everything. And sometimes, even when I was in a relationship and had a mate to help me, I would cry on Christmas night from exhaustion. But I gave my kids something they cherish and that is their Christmases where I insisted they stay home and play together and not be pressured to go anywhere. And they loved it.
And they want the same for their kids, but that would mean me choosing between which of my grandkids I wanted to see on Christmas and not seeing my whole family, so I would be, essentially be punished for giving my children magical Christmases that they want to pass onto their kids. So we recognize that (or they do) and we alternate.
There were years where Christmas seemed magical to them was just worry and exhaustion for me. And even Michael, as wonderful as he was, didn’t do that much to help with Christmas though the year I made him decorate our 5000 square foot house was pretty funny. He did everything I asked of him even when it meant taking things down and putting them back up. Of course he grouched the whole time but he did it. The house was so decked out, you could see it from another galaxy.
And I have not had a Christmas tree, nor sent Christmas cards since he passed, and I’m not sure I’m going to have one ever again, and that’s fine with me. This year I will be a guest and all my family will be there, including a new granddaughter. I’ve adjusted over the years. I loved giving my kids the magical Christmases they remember (though I had no idea they would remember them that way or appreciate the fact that I didn’t make them leave the house), but I also like the peace that I have right now in not being responsible for “putting on” Christmas.
I can look back to 2006 when we all went, as a family, to Rockefeller Center to see the tree and then to Chinese food. I remember walking down Fifth Avenue between Michael and Michael and Nick was trying to weave in and out of them and at one point said, “Is it okay if I walk next to my mother for a while so we can talk?” It seemed like whenever we went out I had “the Michaels” flanked on each side and anyone else who was trying to have a conversation with me, ask if they could “cut in” like it was a dance.
This year Michael is gone and my son Michael is bringing his girlfriend to see the tree tonight (they’re leaving in a little bit) and to dinner. My other sons are home and getting Christmas ready for their kids and my daughter is with her boyfriend.
I can mope around the house, wishing it was 2006 again. Wishing people were vying for space next to me. We had a wonderful time and that is a wonderful memory. This year I’m alone and can think about how it “used to be” and that it will never be that way again. No, it won’t. My kids are grown and Michael is gone.
I have a few options of doing a few things today and tonight and tomorrow, but I’m sick and weighing the option of going out and getting sicker or staying home and making sure that I’m well for Christmas Day. If I can nap this afternoon, I will go out tonight and if not, I won’t.
My perspective is that I’m making peace with the peace. I’m making some desserts for Christmas but, overall, not a lot of work. I’ve cut way down on the number of presents I buy because I can’t afford it, and I’m watching some DVR’d programs while my cats are asleep next to me.
After my first marriage ended, I had a terrible first holiday alone but I was also developing standards and boundaries and limits. My first husband called me every name in the book and I made a decision that no one would ever call me a name again. And I let people know that from the beginning and no one ever did. There was no, “Oh sorry, it slipped out…” NO. If there was a name called, you were gone. There were certain leeways and other times no leeways. You choose your battles. You make your decisions.
And sometimes those decisions mean that the pool of eligible people becomes much smaller. That’s great. If you want anyone, just someone, to be with, you can swing a cat and hit someone willing to be with you. If you have no values, no standards and are willing to be used, abused, called names, broken up with time and time again, cheated on, lied to or whatever, then you can have a warm body in your bed. It’s easy. I don’t care how old or young you are, how atrocious looking you think you are or how little of a personality you have, if you want someone, anyone, you can have it.
But if you value yourself enough to stay out of bad relationships, to stay out of relationships that do not make your life a better place to be, to stay out of relationships where all you do is bump heads and disagree and make each other miserable, then you should value yourself enough to figure out a way to make peace with the peace and to be okay with being alone.
You’re a good and wonderful person who deserves a good and wonderful partner who makes your life better, not worse. It’s not a matter of resigning yourself to being alone but of honoring yourself enough to know that being alone is not the worst thing in the world. The worst thing in the world is loving someone who is not showing you the love you deserve.
And if you’re not willing to see the value in being alone and building up a life that is valuable and better than being in a relationship that brings you down rather than build you up, then you are going to stay in bad relationships because being alone seems to be such such a horror show. You will put up with the unacceptable and you will cling to someone you should be kicking down the street because “being alone” is so tragic.
Even if you find the most wonderful person in the world who loves you from morning to night and treats you like gold, there is no guarantee that the day will come when you don’t find yourself alone again. In the most excruciating moments of that loss, you must have a voice inside you that says, “I’ve done it before. I will do it again.” There will be days when you feel as if you are crawling on your bleeding knees once again through a day where all you want to do is jump in front of a train or off a bridge. And if you live in the NYC metropolitan area, there are way too many trains and bridges as temptations to do exactly that.
I finished cleaning out the house this week. The house we bought and where Michael died. I found things I didn’t want to find. New things I hadn’t ever seen before. I found a deposit slip with a note that said “Hon, deposit this on 8-8-8. Remind me next year to do it on 9-9-9″ (because that is the way the bank stamped the deposit slip.) When I found it I almost lost it. 9-9-9 was about 3 weeks after he passed. I was stomping around, looking at the mess, looking at all the stuff he left me with and I started to cry, “You promised you’d never leave me. LOOK AT THIS SHIT YOU LEFT ME WITH. It’s been SO HARD since you’ve been gone!!!” I was sad, mad, upset, grief stricken and wanted to put my hand through a wall and if I hadn’t broken it fallen off a ladder during the hurricane (another night I cursed his absence), I would have.
Later my oldest son Chris came and helped me put the rest of everything in my car and his and drove to my house. My son Michael came over and brought me dinner and we talked a while. I calmed down. The day started with me bringing back yet another bad computer and ending with me falling into bed in pain from my back and hand and missing Michael. I woke up with a scratchy throat and runny nose and the thought, “Oh great…now, I’m sick.” The house was about 20 degrees the whole day I worked in there so it wasn’t that much of a surprise.
Yesterday was the closing which I didn’t attend. I stayed home, wrote the book, ordered food. I heard a radio spot that Southside Johnny was playing in Ardsley on January 11th.
In the 70s we went down the Jersey shore and listened to the Jersey bands. We saw Springsteen before anyone knew who he was and in the early days had front row seats in the 70s to his bigger concerts (center 3rd row for Darkness on the Edge of town…I have a photo where Bruce is about 2 feet from me). I saw Southside all over the place. And when I moved to Rhode Island I saw him whenever he came to Providence or Warwick.
In September 1986 they were doing a gig for some political group (they were not affiliated, they were just the entertainment). I went and got up front immediately. Most people in the room had no idea who they were. I stood up front and was the only one who knew every song. I was dancing and singing and didn’t realize he was watching me. Toward the end of the night he bent down to give me his harmonica. I was so taken aback, I shook my head “no.” Like I couldn’t take his harmonica! I was like, “Oh no, I couldn’t!” I was just so shocked. My ex grabbed it and put it in my hand. It was a great moment. I couldn’t believe it.
We got home and like always, Jekyll and Hyde, he told me to stop mooning over the harmonica. I thought, “Are you kidding? I’m just so happy that he gave it to me and you’re the one who told me to take it.” He said “Really?” and threw it on the floor and stepped on it. I grabbed it and hid it and still have it. That weekend I decided I’d had enough. I wanted to leave but stayed through the holidays and we split in February.
So yesterday I looked to see if there were any tickets left for the show on the 11th and there was one seat in the front row (all the way on the end, probably right in front of a speaker). And I bought it.
When I broke up with an ex in 1995, I went to House of Blues in Cambridge MA to see Lucky Peterson. We were supposed to go together (had bought the tickets like a year before) but he never showed up. Turned out a friend of mine was opening for Lucky and he introduced me to him. It turned out to be a great night and a few nights later I went back to Cambridge a few nights later and met Michael.
I remember when I first went into the House of Blues that night. I had no idea if my ex was going to show or not. But I was going to see Lucky Peterson as he is my favorite blues guitarist. I had seen Buddy Guy by myself on a business trip in Chicago and it was one of the most fun nights of my life. Buddy puts on an amazing show. I also saw Albert King in Providence by myself, not knowing he would pass shortly thereafter. Again, a friend of mine played with him and I was able to meet him.
Alone does not mean rejected. Alone does not mean “look at me, no one wants me.” Alone can mean “I’m so badass, I just go where I want and do what I want no matter who is coming along for the ride.” Whether I’m sitting at home making peace with the peace or going off to a concert…seat for one…I’m going to be okay.
Because I’ve done it before. Because I KNOW how to do it and be okay with it. Is it more fun to share this with someone? Well if that someone is someone like Michael and not someone who is going to step on my harmonica.
Because I will never again be with anyone who makes my life smaller or who changes personality from 9 pm to 11 pm. I can be alone and be okay with it. I can live my life. Differently.
When I’m cleaning out the house alone or falling off the ladder during a hurricane alone, I’m ALONE in the negative column. But when I’m just relaxing the day before Christmas instead of running around like a loon, I’m (yeah!) alone (yeah!).
But no matter what I know I can go places alone, be home alone, do alone and do it well.
It’s not that it’s the ULTIMATE state, but it’s better than any relationship that is going to make you miserable.
You never know where anything leads you, but if being alone is something you’re “resigned” to rather than something you understand is a better choice over bad relationships, then you’re always going to have that “kid looking into the candy store” attitude when you’re out in the world. As if you can’t enjoy yourself unless someone is next to you.
It’s not easy to go through holidays alone or any time alone, but if you don’t learn that it’s okay and that it’s better than being in bad relationships or better than being with someone who doesn’t want to be with you, you’re going to wind up in a bad relationship again.
Being in good relationship with a loving, caring life partner who has your back is THE BEST thing in the world. I know that. But you will not have that and cannot have that unless you are a whole and happy person on your own. It doesn’t mean YEAH I’m alone! but it means “I’m alone and that’s okay. My life works with or without a partner and because of that I choose only good people to be with me.”
And once you learn to live by that, you will have an incredible life full of loving people and you won’t dread the time alone.
You can do this!!!
For those of you who want to know how my “coming back out to the world” party turned out, see this post: http://www.gettingpastyourbreakup.com/gettingpastyourpast/?p=14923