The holidays are a shitty time to be alone, and mostly because commercial America makes us feel as if we’re less because we’re not paired up or paired off or part of the picture perfect Norman Rockwell family tableau.
And all of that’s enough to make you feel lonely.
It makes me feel lonely.
By most definitions, I’ve been alone since Jason died in 2010. A few weeks here, a month or two there, followed by an unspectacular implosion or disintegration and whammo — I’m alone again.
And I won’t lie. I have plenty of days where I feel lonely.
Which is weird because there are nearly 30,000 of you swarming my neck of the wood on Facebook and thousands more following whatever words come out of my keyboard-mouth here. So how on earth could I feel lonely?
Today’s truth is one that hurts — learning the difference between being alone and being lonely.
In the past five years (basically since I moved to Colorado), I’ve had an incredibly journey involving the lessons of friendship. I can honestly sit back at this very moment and tell you that I have friends that make me feel lucky every day. They make me proud that I accepted the challenge to be a better friend and understand what being a friend means after so many years of having more fleeting friendships — or acquaintances, which they should rightfully be called. When I’m surrounded by these people — held in their arms for awkward hugs and late nights filled with unexpected calls, random Facetime chats with someone’s kids, talking off ledges, and ears I can count on to listen to me as I reach the end of my rope (again) and try as best I can to not let go of the frayed ends — my life is magic.
I’m not lonely.
I’m Erika. And I feel more me than I’ve ever felt because I don’t have to be anything but honest.
And even though they might be 1100 miles away, most of them, I’m not lonely because love has better coverage than any LTE cell network in the country.
And that’s different from being lonely.
Lonely is when I judge myself based on everyone else’s standards of where I should be and whom I should be with and what I should be doing when I get to that where with the whom I’m supposed to be with.
That sentence alone? Fucking ridiculous.
Lonely is looking at a couple walk down the city streets of Chicago and wishing you had a hand to hold.
Lonely is feeling bad because you say (again) “Just me” to the hostess when you walk in to treat yourself to a holiday meal.
Lonely is thinking you bought, assembled, and decorated your own Christmas tree this year and the dogs don’t quite appreciate it the way you do.
Lonely is thinking at this time last year, you were fully confident that you’d have someone to share the holidays with this year because it was going to be your year.
Lonely is hearing a couple you know talk about moving downtown and what condos cost down there, thinking that you can’t afford that because you’re a one and not a two and that mortgage needs a two not a one.
And lonely is when you keep playing all of the above stories in your head and telling yourself that you’re less of a you because you’re not a TWO.
But for the first time in a very long time, I can tell you that this year, I’m not lonely.
And it feels pretty fucking good.
It feels amazing, actually.
It’s the feeling of grabbing friends on Christmas and heading out to see a double feature. It’s the turkey breast marinating in the fridge and the cornbread drying so I can make homemade stuffing (with pecans — prenounced pee-cans because I’m from Texas, that’s why). It’s working less this week and sleeping in. It’s random texts from friends and arranging some Skype calls to catch up because no matter how far apart we all are, we’re still friends. It’s the joy I feel as I hear Christmas music and realizing that I don’t hate it like I once did…and realizing this year that I can actually sing and all I needed was an environment where I could do it without being judged so I could let this belt of mine fly — a belt that I always joked was better used to hold up pants.
And the difference between being alone and being lonely, I’ve realized, is that it’s 100% a state of mind and finding some fucking happiness in my world as it truly IS instead of how I’d like for it to be.
Lonely is when I feel I’m less because I’m comparing myself to some idealized ad that says I’m supposed to be a TWO.
I’m supposed to…
Well, supposed to can go hump a derby hat.
Because this? This is what I’ve got and I’m going to miss a helluva lot of fun if I keep my head hung low, held down by the weight of all these supposed tos.
So, if you’re feeling lonely — drop me a line. I’ll email you back. Because I know what it feels like. And darlin’ — you’re not lonely. And you’re certainly not alone. And if you’re feeling brave, post a message to my Facebook wall and you’ll find some digital camaraderie.
You just haven’t looked up to see who’s there to catch you when you’re feeling blue.
And this year, it just might be me. Or some other random person.
So, dump all of your shoulds on me because once those are out of the way, we can get to the business of being alone.
Which — lemme tell ya — is pretty lovely once you stop trying to wrestle it into some weird pretzel-shaped, forced union with something it’s not meant to unite with.
And finally, if you’re with someone this holiday and you feel lonely — maybe it’s time to spend a holiday alone. Because being alone with your YOU sure beats the living fuck out of being lonely with someone.
Because you don’t deserve just someone.
You deserve the one.
PS: I’m serious — if you feel lonely, drop me a line. It’s the least I can do for every moment of your days you share with me because all of you make me much less lonely and very happy to have found happiness in being alone.