Put simply: We treat bad dating experiences like hangovers. We wake up groggy and swear off dating forever. Then, slowly, the pain of the memory subsides and we are swiping right on our phones in a superficial practice that seems a bit too easy. And in many ways, it is.
What’s hard is living alone. Or rather, living with yourself. So much so that, like those tempted to relapse into another hangover, I have brought on my very own “single sponsor.” A checkpoint for my dating sobriety, I call my “single sponsor” when I’m about to fall off the wagon and succumb to another online date. I call him in other situations, too. Like, say the other week after leaving a drunk voicemail on my ex’s phone in which I attempted to teach said ex how to say “I still love you” in Australian. The result? “I’ze still focking lov youz,” is now recorded on his voicemail. I imagine it will serve as a future antidote should he ever miss me.
And so, I called my single sponsor again seeking some rich insight into the comfort of self-love, wanting badly to hear some magic words that would snap me out of my self-pity. When he picked up, I cut right to the chase.
“How do you live alone?” I asked him. “You’re so good at it.”
“Oh! You mean, ‘How have I not killed myself yet?'” he chuckled. “Well fuck you very much for asking.” Continuing on, he tended to my emotional fragility like one would wrestle a bear. “Stop listening to these anxious voices. That’s your problem. Let it go.”
Alas, “single sponsor” is just another word for best friend, and the good ones rarely hold back. He was right. I was letting that self-doubting, anxious voice circulate in my mind until I needed frantic answers. That said, over the next few days I took inventory of the things I do that help me to live happily alone.
You’re probably wondering: Why should I take advice from a woman struggling with solitude herself? Liken it to learning math from someone who grappled with the subject. Like a bad student who grew into a good teacher, we can anticipate your hangups:
No. 1 IMAGINE YOUR WEAKNESSES ARE LIKE A MUSCLE
Full disclosure: I have no problem finding a guy, so long as I’m willing to chip away here and there at the things I want and need. That said, I’ve realized that I need to take a break from relationships if I’m ever going to a.) appreciate a good one, b.) be worthy of one, and c.) understand myself and my needs. In moments when I doubt the practice of being alone by getting anxious and wondering How will I ever meet someone!, I calm myself by imagining that I’m working a weak muscle. Like exercise, the best part of practicing new behaviors is seeing the results. Give yourself two weeks to “calm the anxious voice” and just be alone. Likely, the results will propel you to do further introspection and build for yourself a solid foundation that doesn’t rely on the fickle approval of the opposite sex. A side effect of this is that you will avail yourself to new and better possibilities.
No. 2: CALM THE ANXIOUS VOICE
This fact actually changed the way I think: Emotions only last 90 seconds. According to brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor in her book My Stroke of Insight, “there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.” In other words: Your thoughts feed your emotions. Thus, if you want to change your emotions, change your thoughts. Crazier than that is the fact that this actually works and will save you many-a sleepless night.
No. 3: TACKLE YOUR INSECURITIES
Some insecurities can only be solved with self-love — the dark circles under my eyes, the way I look without makeup … the list goes on. However, one insecurity that I can change is my debt. Create an attack plan to tackle your insecurities in a manageable way. While improving your circumstances, tackling these insecurities and achieving your goals will also give you a sense of control and assign even more meaning to this time alone, which, after all, doesn’t have to last forever.