One is the Onlyest Number (aka: Pathways)

Life is a maze of pathways.

When we are young, the paths seem fewer. Wider. Simpler to choose. Well duh…I choose the path with the great job, perfect spouse, 2.5 kids, and a 3-bedroom house with a picket fence. Okay, maybe not with the picket fence, because those babies require maintenance.

But as we journey forward in life, those paths begin to multiply. They are murkier, shrouded in mystery. We think we have wandered down the path leading toward our destiny, only to discover that we’ve wandered into some ghetto by mistake. Whoops. Backtrack.

So we choose new paths, with new starry-eyed goals, and new hopes for a better lives. Surely this time, we’ll get it right. Right?

I used to be so good at picking the seeming winners. I wanted to graduate from a university. Bingo! I did it. I wanted a traditional marriage to a good man, with three kids, a golden retriever, and a house in a sleepy suburb. Bingo! I got that, too. Only later, the good man turned out to be not so good, so that path grew more like the journey toward Mordor, until i worked up the courage to flee.

I chose a new path. One with just me, and three great kids. (Only no more golden retriever, because, sadly, she was stolen from us.). It turned out to be the best path yet. My kids and I make one happy family together. I have a career that I enjoy, our health is good, and I feel that I have an optimum balance of work, hobbies, and rest.

But there is only me.

I’m not completely alone. My kids and I have a terrific relationship. We talk, support each other, and laugh together. What more could I ask for? One of my sisters lives nearby, and though we rarely talk or get together, I know that I could call her in an emergency. So I guess that’s kind of a support network.

Still, there is only me. (Cue Whitesnake)

I am the only parent i our household. Which means, I get to be the nurturer, enforcer, provider, protector, teacher, and final-decision-maker. Those are my roles, as Mom. I can pretend sometimes that my kids are my friends, but truthfully, they have their own lives, with their own friends. And there are many things that I can’t share with them the way you can with another adult.

I am my only friend. I’m friendly enough with people I encounter at work or the occasional meetups I venture out to. But I do not have any close friends. If something exciting were to happen in my life, I would scream about it to No One and Everyone on Twitter and my blog. And possibly with people at work. I would not have a friend to share it with. If something bad happens in my life, well, I would probably write about it in my journal, or deal with it internally while listening to sad music. It is up to me to cheer for myself. It is up to me to comfort myself. Because, there is only me.

Luckily, I am good at being the only one. I’ve had a lot of practice. And I’m a pretty darned good friend to myself. I treat myself to an occasional chai, or glass of good wine. I know myself well, so I know just the right things to say to motivate me. I compliment myself and cheer my own accomplishments. Most importantly, I like myself. And I will never leave me.

This path of Onlyness isn’t the path I thought I would take. I thought that by now, after being single for nearly five years, my life would look a little different. I thought that I would have a couple of close friends to hang out with and chat about stupid stuff and important stuff. I thought I would have been in a serious relationship, maybe even remarried, but to someone much better for me. Why not? I’m a kind, honest, interesting, intelligent, and funny person. But neither of those paths led anywhere. They were only ever dead ends. Somehow, it always ended up with only me, standing there, wondering what went wrong.

So I chose a different path. The path of purposeful Onlyness. A path on which I no longer seek friendships or relationships to fill whatever voids I may have, as doing so only led to deeper voids, and more hurt. A path on which I allow people come and go as they choose, and not chase after them. Nor will it hurt when people go, because we will never be close to begin with. A path on which I will not ever again allow myself to be emotionally weak and vulnerable with others. I will instead hold others at a distance, safe in my aloofness.

On this path, I go out to see concerts, movies, and plays with Only Me. I try new foods. I read great books. I work hard at staying fit, advance in my career, and focus on raising my last two teens to adulthood. I do not look with envy at those who are on a different path. I instead celebrate my own path, and offer myself the love, respect, and appreciation that I know I deserve. Is the Only path a lonely path? Yes. It can be. But no lonelier that when I was on the wrong path, searching for togetherness, and only finding aloneness. Better to admire the garden from a distance than to pick the flowers and be stung by bees.

12 responses to “One is the Onlyest Number (aka: Pathways)

  1. Onlyness is often the first step out of loneliness. Good for you for having the courage to embrace your current path! As someone who’s been there, supported my two teens alone, and remarried the (finally) right man 5 years after I had dumped Mr. Wrong, I believe that being your own best friend will lead you to the happiness you deserve. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’!

    • Thanks. I’m happy to know how things worked out for you, and that you ended up marrying the right man. 🙂 I don’t believe that being my own best friend will lead to happiness. I believe that happiness is found in the small moments of each day. I have been my own best friend for many years now. It is a good thing, but I no longer have any illusions that self-love, being yourself, and being a good person are magic ingredients that somehow produce healthy relationships. Too many empty years have passed. I will continue to love myself, because I must. I will continue to embrace my Onlyness, because the alternative is despair.

  2. This post very much resonated with me and I enjoyed how well it was expressed. I’ve felt exactly this way more than once.
    It’s so difficult to process the grief of a painful break-up, especially for those of us who are sensitive and go all in.

    • True. And it is something that I am never, ever willing to risk having to face again. Not for a close friendship, and absolutely not for a romantic relationship. How you or anybody else ever felt the same way, yet chose to face it again, is far beyond my understanding.

  3. Probably weakness more than anything. It happened first when I was 24. Then, after a lot of loneliness, I was willing to try again when I was 32. And then it happened again .. 😦

    • Ughhh…I am so, so sorry that you experienced love and loss multiple times. I know that it is a kind of norm in our culture, but I wish that it weren’t. I wish that we could just know who would be good for us, and who would love us back before we invest our own emotions, dreams, and hopes in another person. I feel so disappointed in myself for having been so foolish and vulnerable, for having allowed myself to love and to trust, and to have such hope that it was mutual. But he was so kind, and good, and right for me, and we seemed so right together, that it never occurred to me that I should have kept my walls up. I will not be so weak again. I will keep my love for myself and for my children. Never again will I make such a mistake.

      • Yeah, the first time was really tough because I had planned my whole life around this person. I had been in love with her for 4 years (never had sex but totally in love in an innocent, pure way), changed my graduate school plans to be near her, moved across country to NYC be near her, kind of molded my life for this vision of us spending our lives together and having kids and everything. And then I accidentally discovered that she had started an affair with her professor in her PhD program, a wealthy older guy, and it was so devastating. I immediately left and never spoke to her again, but I just thought of it every day for a couple years. The pain of the rejection was so intense. I couldn’t get the thoughts out of my head. I couldn’t focus on myself or my plans. It was miserable and all-consuming and deadening all at once.
        And in addition I was dealing with my loneliness and the desire to have that kind of closeness with someone who is a best friend/soul mate/yada yada. But every time I would think of it, it would also trigger this pain, like a broken bone that was not healing and extremely painful to the touch.

      • What an awful experience! 😦 The way you described the aftermath sounds very much like what I went through after my closest friends left. It was years ago, but the pain of it is still so raw, and it has kept me from forming any other friendships. Dating “Mr. Right-for-Me” woke up something in me that had lain dormant for so many years. I had no interest in dating, really, but approached it with curiosity, thinking that maybe I’d go on a few dates with a few men, even though honestly, no one seemed remotely interesting or attractive. But then, there he was. And all of a sudden, here was this wonderful person who was easy to talk with, and laugh with, and connect over shared interests. We just fit together so well. I began to envision our lives together down the line, coming home to him at the end of the day, spending our lives together even after my teens have gone. It all seemed so possible, and not just possible, but wonderful. I could feel myself healing, too. I felt braver, and began to reach out to a couple of acquaintances, starting to build new friendships. I was devastated when he called it quits. It was like my friends leaving all over again, but even worse, somehow, because it wasn’t due to something I did. Whatever had begun to heal in me tore open again. I turned inward. I cried a lot, and sometimes still do, even though months have passed. But I have my children to focus on, to keep me grounded, and help me to keep my perspective. I have learned, though. It is not worth it to open myself up to others, to allow myself to be vulnerable, to care very much. There is only pain and misery, in the end. I have managed to be content without friendships for so long, that it is now my habit to be without friendship. And I did not have a romantic or intimate marriage, so it’s not like I miss or need that, either. I only wanted it with “him,” because it was him. And he is irreplaceable.

  4. I almost want to carry this for you, but being of a like mind and spirit on this matter, I am confident you are following the right path and will find what you’re looking for, and hopefully, some unexpected surprises. Are you sensing I’m speaking to myself as well? Even when you do find a wonderful partner that you plan to spend the rest of your life with, and do your best to love and raise your children, you come into the world alone and leave it alone. But, self-awareness and some belief that you are connected to the universe is somehow sustaining.

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