alone for now and okay with it

Tonight I went to my downtown work location to use the printer for a personal creative project, and as I was leaving I saw a friend at the patio bar around the corner. I stopped to show him what I was working on, because he himself is a professional creative whose opinion I value. And when I say "professional creative" I don't mean your standard LA bullshit (no offense, standard LA bullshitters). I mean this person is a former creative director for Disney who now works for Virgin Galactic, designing what will be the training environments for civilian astronauts. And yes, he's very happy his boss is safely, successfully earthbound once again. Sunday was the one and only time I've ever used the rocket emoji to denote an actual rocket, when I texted him congratulations.

Anyway, as you may have guessed from the contextual clue that is this man's incredible resume, he's older than me. Not by a ton, but he does have me by twelve years. That's only relevant as it bears on the topic of conversation we had over a drink, which was our respective romantic lives. In sum: his lately has been stop/start, whereas mine has been stop/non-start. And the longer it goes on like this, the more I am kind of loving it.

My friend didn't really know my recent dating history, so I gave him the broad strokes on Timo and then Kenny. But what happened with either of them, or even with Terence before that, really doesn't matter. What matters is me knowing - and hearing myself articulate simply, unemotionally, and almost proudly - why I'm single, and why I should be single. At least for now. 

"I'm a mess," I said, and he asked what I meant. "I'm dysfunctional in relationships. When a guy is good to me, when he's available and caring, I will either lose interest or find a way to sabotage it. But when a guy is unavailable and withholding, that's what gets me going. That activates me, or the fucked up part of me, rather."

When the subject switched back to him, he disclosed a fear of ending up alone. His voice got low and he waxed wistful about how much he missed waking up in a woman's arms. How much he wants someone to garden with. Someone with whom to celebrate good days and hug away bad days. And as I listened to him touch on all these deeply human desires, I braced myself for some kind of triggering. Some kind of thought along the lines of Shit, he's right. Being alone sucks. And who do we know that's totally alone? Oh that's right, it's YOU, Ellie. Shall we go home now and have a cry? But though I nodded with understanding, I felt something different rising up in me: relief at not feeling any of those things.

But back to our conversation.

"Do you know the philosopher Alain de Botton?" He didn't, so I told him about the School of Life, and how much it's meant it to me. "I think it's in one of the videos, or maybe his lectures, that he postulates you only truly become fit to be a romantic partner when you've completely accepted the fact that you might never find the right person to be with -- and you're okay with that realization."

My friend nodded. He'd heard some version of that before.

"The problem with being in a relationship when you really want and need to be in a relationship," I went on, "is that you put that need onto the other person. And they feel that. And it's oppressive. I do that," I told him. "I put my need on the ones I really, really want. And that just pushes them way."

Our talk meandered a bit from there, but when I said goodbye and walked back home, my head was full of all of this. 

Fact: since I was a teenager, the longest I have gone without a boyfriend is right now. Kenny left at the beginning of November. That's nine months ago. Nine months is my PR, and I'm in it right now. And yes, months one through six were utterly devastating. For whatever reason, that boy just...he just checked a lot of boxes. Good ones and bad ones. And if he showed back up in my life one day, ready to try again, the sun itself couldn't outshine my happiness. But for now, I have moved on, though I truly thought I never would be able to. He took more of me with him than anyone has, including guys I dated for years

But.

Somewhere around May to June, something shifted. Something so tectonically deep I didn't even feel it, until I started, like, luxuriating in the fact that there is no one else in my glorious king sized bed when I wake up and want to kick all my limbs out. That when I come home from a long day of work, I have peace and quiet and self-restoration, instead of blaring lights, TV, and dishes in the sink. Then, more recently: that I can take myself out on an innocent date and end up on something quite the opposite, with no one to say boo about it. 

Another fact: this is the first time in my adult life that I am living entirely by my own solidly reliable means. I don't count dancing as adulthood. I was a lost child when I was dancing, developmentally-arrested but with access to much more money than was good for me. Now, though: no inheritances, no help from friends, no scraping by as a creative gigster. And I had no idea how the empowerment of making a good living would bleed out into other areas of my life. But it has. Financial independence has boosted my self-esteem in a way that's changed how I look at relationships. Like, I'm good, thanks. Just over here, doing me, working away at a life of my own design and figuring out what makes me happy. Kindly explain how you'll be a support to this effort and not a detour? Cuz, uh, you're really cute - but you look an awful lot like a detour. 

Of course, I know eventually the department running my simulation will put one such detour in my way again. And all I can hope is that by then, I will be better suited for better partners, with better results for both of us. But until that happens, I will blissfully starfish the fuck out of my big, empty bed.