Learning to love solitude
July 25, 2008 5:34 PM   Subscribe

How do I learn to enjoy being alone after a recent separation?

My husband - of nearly ten years - and I recently separated (his idea, though it was needed). He moved in with his parents two months ago, and I'm living alone in our big, empty house while we try to sort things out. We have no children, and still speak/see each other on a regular basis.

I've never lived alone. I jumped from my parents' home to roommates to living with my husband almost immediately after we first started dating. I've been in constant relationships since I was 16 (now in my early 30s).

I'm dealing with some ugly grief and despair from the separation, but I'd like to take this time to learn how to comfortably be alone. I'm not a needy person by any means - I enjoy time alone, and while I have a lot of friends, I tend to go long stretches where I spend weekends curled up with a book. However, I've always done these things in the context of another person being around. Introvertism is a different animal when you're truly by yourself!

I keep myself busy during the day (I love my job). I see friends. I have animals and a therapist. I exercise and eat well. But I find myself panicking when I don't have plans and the long, long night stretches out before me. I watch TV; I read; I clean; I plan projects; I meditate, but I can't shake the despair of - oh, God, I'm going to be agonizingly alone forever. I start to make bad decisions, like calling my husband for comfort. (Which he doesn't take well.) I cry, a lot. A lot.

Does this go away? The existential despair? What do you do on those planless nights? How do I convince my mate-for-life brain that being by myself doesn't have to be terrifying? Though there's a possibility my husband and I will get back together, I need to proceed as if that isn't the case. (Cutting off contact will be the first big step, but I'm not ready for that yet. Working on it.) How do I shift into a single mindset? (I'm not even close to wanting to date or even have a fling.)

If it matters, I do have a long, long history of anxiety/depression (hospitals, therapists galore, you name it). However, I finally got a handle on that in the last few years and have been better than ever this year. But stress will trot out the old, panicky thought patterns.

(Also of note: while I love my job, it doesn't pay much and requires me be in the area until the end of the year, so I don't have funds/means to travel at the moment.)

Thanks for any advice you have. If you have questions, you can e-mail me at mefilearning2008@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Does this go away? The existential despair?

Yes, it does. Eventually, you will develop some new patterns, so you won't be panicking every time you have an evening alone.

Do you have any comfort/movies/books TV shows? When I'm feeling horribly lonely, it helps me to turn to those kinds of things.
posted by Airhen at 5:43 PM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

You actually sound like you're doing quite well. You're introspective, active toward taking care of yourself, accepting of your grief... I think you've got all the piece in place to get yourself through this.

All in all it sounds like you're having a very normal response to all of this. The crying spells, the lonely feelings - that will pass, but even while you're still dealing with it you should take comfort in the fact that you're having a very normal experience for someone going through this type of deal.

You should start thinking about your future, but don't fret too much about it. You should take an inventory of yourself - make a list of things you want to work on. Maybe you want to get in shape, take up a new hobby, date the pool boy. The point is take a real mellow approach to things right now while you're still working with these emotional jagged edges.

Maybe take some time to reconnect with old friends, or make new ones...

You're going to be great. Hang in there!
posted by wfrgms at 5:44 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I struggled with this mightily when I ended a ten year relationship last year, and that was my decision. First of all I want to congratulate you on how well you're doing. If I had not been the one to initiate the breakup of my ten year relationship, I don't know how I would have fared -- it was terribly difficult, and I wanted it!

That said, I am going to give you the most annoying answer of all time: It takes time. It sounds like you are filling your time whenever you can with things that bring you joy and comfort, as well you should -- but because you live alone now for the first time, you are simply going to have these moments and they will suck -- but they will get fewer and farther between.

I would like to recommend When Things Fall Apart - this book has helped me like almost nothing else could.

Do not beat yourself up for having these feelings. That makes it worse. It is completely normal and healthy, and anybody who judges you for feeling lonely, confused or scared when everything you're used to is just gone, is not being kind to you. This includes you!

Do you have someone you can call that is not your husband, when you really feel this way? Or something you can promise yourself to do first? For example, when I felt in the past like I was going to reach for a comfort that was actually a torment, I would tell myself to call one of my close friends first, and then to see what would happen.

Hang in there, I'm sorry you're going through a rough time. It's hard, but you will come out the other side and feel amazing.
posted by pazazygeek at 5:55 PM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

I think your post shows resilience, presence of mind, an admirable comfort with reality and an equally admirable ability to proactively face problems with sanity and strength. Though you don't know it yet, you are ahead of the game by miles and miles.

Hope these help (relevant posts from my personal blog):

The Art of Living Alone

The Pleasures of Living Alone and Single

I agree that learning to live well alone takes time.
posted by Jennifer S. at 6:20 PM on July 25, 2008 [7 favorites]

Does this go away? The existential despair?

Eventually, yes. It really, really does, even as it seems unimaginable now.

What do you do on those planless nights?

I read a lot, and I created a kind of "great movies I've never seen but always meant to" film series for myself (god bless Netflix).

I also worked on projects that would have a definite end point that I would find fulfilling -- for example, I worked on a couple of play and performance scripts, for which I vowed I would have at least a staged reading for one of them within a year. (I did.) I also took on freelance work solely to save money for the trip I'd been wanting to take to New Zealand to visit friends. (I did that too.) Both of these things helped me pass the time with an exciting goal in mind, even on the days I didn't feel so excited about my life.

How do I convince my mate-for-life brain that being by myself doesn't have to be terrifying?

Tell yourself this: learning to be alone is a great way to become a whole person on your own, which prepares you in unimaginably rich ways for future relationships.

Though there's a possibility my husband and I will get back together, I need to proceed as if that isn't the case. (Cutting off contact will be the first big step, but I'm not ready for that yet. Working on it.) How do I shift into a single mindset?

Learning how to comfort yourself in times of acute emotional hurt can be a good first step. I adopted a few mantras that were helpful to me in moments of grief and crisis: "Whatever happens, I can handle it" and "it's just a feeling -- and feelings pass." These both helped me feel centered and able to breathe, rather than floating away into that panicked space of just wanting someone else to "fix it" (i.e., make the hurt go away). Also, find other things to comfort yourself -- warm baths, exercise, gardening, fixing up your bedroom to be a beautiful place of refuge, watching Christopher Guest movies on an endless loop, etc.

I would also strongly second When Things Fall Apart. And though it's a book about relationships (and which I recommend all the time), How to Be an Adult in Relationships has a very good chapter on separation and grieving.

I'm sorry you're hurting. As I've said elsewhere recently: this chapter of your life is closing. The next chapter will be hard. The chapter after that will be better. (Really.)
posted by scody at 6:50 PM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

I've been pretty introverted by nature, and am going through something a bit similar; my lover is going away soon, and it's highly unlikely I'll see him again. So there were a lot of VERY LONG lonely nights, even now.

Do you have close friends? Call them up, chat with them, maybe talk about your feelings, and who knows, you might end up chatting about some funny subject and laugh your butt off, and you wouldn't feel alone.

Another way, when your friends are too busy, is to concentrate on learning something new. It can be something like knitting or learning to play Go or even writing a poem or some creative work. It might be difficult to start into a new project. You'll think, "Oh God, I'm not in the mood." But something will tick. Think "Okay, I got a project to do. Step one:..."

And there's always taking a walk. Somehow, if you can take a walk to the nearest supermarket, you probably won't feel as lonely. I don't know why. It's just that there's people in the supermarket. Not friends, but people nevertheless. (And you might chat it up with the cute clerk ringing up your groceries ;)
posted by curagea at 7:22 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

You seem to miss having someone around, or just having that background noise when you're doing something like reading. Have you considered leaving a radio or tv on? Getting a pet?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:58 PM on July 25, 2008

Yes, it gets easier. Meanwhile, it may be helpful for you to look for activities that will make you feel more connected -- let someone depend on you or at least expect you. Volunteer, get a pet, join a group, take a class, become a regular at a coffeeshop, etc.
posted by desuetude at 8:08 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sounds to me like you're a survivor. You come across as remarkably sane, strong and self-aware, especially considering that your separation is so fresh and that you're still living in the home you once shared. You have a job you love, friends, a therapist, pets...these are coping resources. No, of course they don't make the pain go away, but they're far better than nothing. Given what you've written here, I'm willing to bet that a year from now, you will be doing much, much better than you think.

My common-law ex and I separated a little over a year ago, after a 14-year relationship. I was heartbroken - utterly devastated. I loved him dearly, and didn't want him to go. He took up with another woman and moved across the country, and we no longer speak to one another.

I moved back to my favorite city (Portland, OR) when we separated, and I've never regretted it. I have history and academic achievements here that are mine alone, and I found comfort in that, even during the worst of the grieving. I'm back in school now in middle age, and hopefully well on my way to a brighter future.

During the first few months after we separated, though, there were far too many nights when it was all I could do just to get through the afternoon, let alone the day or the week. Under normal circumstances, I enjoy solitude a great deal (I'm very much a bookworm/introvert type), but after the separation, grief and crushing loneliness robbed me of the ability to enjoy my alone time. People kept telling me sincerely that "this, too, will pass," but of course everything I heard was being filtered through a lens of grief, so it couldn't really sink in. It came across as a meaningless cliche, and I had a hard time believing it. But now, a year later, I have living proof in my own life: yes, it will pass, and I have learned to thoroughly enjoy living alone.

Grief seems to have its own timetable and can't be rushed, and that's incredibly frustrating when you're in the throes of it. Even if you know intellectually that it'll pass, it sure doesn't feel like it will.

A few things that helped me get through the worst of it:

1) Calling family and close friends frequently. I called them daily, hourly, even in the wee hours if necessary. There were times when I didn't even have anything to say; I just wanted someone to listen to me wail, bear witness to my pain, and reassure me that they loved me.

2) Eating healthy and tasty food. Even when I had lost my appetite or had trouble keeping food down, good food did make a difference.

3) Belly dance. I had taken it up as a hobby about a year before we separated, and found the movements soothing and invigorating at the same time. Sure, some folks scoffed, but it's the most joyful and satisfying form of exercise I've ever found. I'm not exaggerating when I say that belly dance changed my life.

4) Antidepressants. No, they're not for everyone, but they definitely helped me. I had been off the medication and coping well for a couple of years before the breakup, but then the shock and grief re-triggered the depression, so I got back on it. I don't regret it for a minute.

5) Massage. I don't normally get regular massages, but I decided to make an exception right after the breakup. Worth every penny, and then some. My ex hadn't touched me affectionately in a long time, and I knew I was touch-starved. I also knew that grief has a primal somatic component, so I warned my massage therapist that I had just undergone a traumatic breakup and would probably cry the entire hour. I did, and it was just what I needed.

I think it might help if you could get yourself away from the house the two of you shared, whether temporarily, intermittently or permanently. If I'd had to stay in the home my ex and I shared, my grief would have been that much more difficult to cope with (and it was plenty difficult already, thank you). If you can't or don't want to move elsewhere, is there any way you could stay with friends or family for awhile? Even a few days' break from your usual surroundings here and there might make a difference.

My breakup was hellish, and even after a year my grief is far from over, but surviving a broken heart made me realize that I'm stronger and more resilient than I thought. I think you are, too.
posted by velvet winter at 8:17 PM on July 25, 2008 [6 favorites]

Wow Jennifer S. Your article The Art of Living Alone is terrific. Thank you.

Anonymous, I suspect you are feeling an emptiness. It is the absence of love. You have felt the love of your husband, and given him love in return for nearly all your adult life. Suddenly the ability to share your love and to receive love have vanished, and you are left with a void.

In times like these it is very natural to fall into deep fear. Fear of the unknown, of having to change everything, of being alone, of what the future will hold. The manifestations of fear are anger, hate, sadness, envy ... all negative emotions that make us suffer.

The happiest moments in our lives are when we are playing just like children, when we are singing and dancing, when we are exploring and creating, just for fun. It is wonderful when we are behaving child-like because this is the normal human mind, the normal tendency. As children, we are innocent and it is natural for us to express love.

For the time being, try to allow yourself to stay in the now. Avoid the fears by not worrying what the future holds for you, or what the past has done to you. Treat yourself as your child-self would have wanted to be treated. I noticed from your post that you have a way with words. Permit your creative self to express what you are feeling about the present. There is so much to do with yourself, by yourself, if you only think about now.
posted by netbros at 8:27 PM on July 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

I faced a similar situation about a year ago. For months I was so devastated that I could only *endure.* I really just went to work and then came home and just sat, watching hours of numbing tv. I didn't try to talk myself into doing anything, and I didn't berate myself for not "getting out there." I just sat through the worst of it. Slowly my energy came back, and I started doing one of the best things I've ever done in my life: learning to play a musical instrument. I have no idea where the impulse came from--it wasn't like I had this burning desire to do it all my life or anything. I just got the idea and acted on it. And I find that playing music, or practicing, is the very best way I have ever found to be "alone alone." Nothing I've ever done before has made time fly by so pleasurably (and I say this as a huge reader who has spent large chunks of time immersed in books). I'm not good, by any stretch of the imagination, but I really enjoy it and I can do it for hours. It's absorbing and creative, and you can see measurable and steady progress. It really comforted me.

I also nth everyone who has posted here. I never thought I would recover, and now, a year later, I am amazed at how much better I feel. In a really strange way, I got some great and weird gifts out of the whole emotional apocalypse: faith in myself, my friends, and my family; the discovery of an activity that will give me pleasure for the rest of my life; and the equilibrium that comes from having gone through the wringer and come out on the other side.
posted by fiery.hogue at 9:17 PM on July 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

The only thing that worked for me was getting a new partner who was sexier and more fun than the person who had left me. I really don't believe that anything else works at all.
posted by w0mbat at 11:04 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I lived alone for eight years. Although I am in a really fulfilling family situation now, I miss some parts of my solitary life although there was a transition period for getting used to it at first (way back when).

There has been some really good advice posted up there. So let me focus on the mechanics of setting yourself up to enjoy solitude.

Your immediate space that you live in is pretty important to the enjoyment of solitude. It will probably be more difficult for you staying in a space where someone else has left. I'll assume that you don't have the financial resources to leave your current house for awhile, so you'll have to rearrange some of the space that you do have. Sleep in a different bedroom. And change that bedroom around. Move furniture, hang different curtains, put up different pictures. Always have fresh flowers in that room. Do you like scented candles? Get some. Would you like a tent of gauze over the bed? Indulge yourself. Want to set up an artist's easel? No problem. IKEA is great for quick changes to space. Make it YOUR space. A really indulgent space.

Rearrange other rooms as needed or limit yourself to just a portion of the house when you are at home. Create a home within the house, essentially. Put away some things. Get a friend to help you do this if you are undecided about what to change.

Create new patterns for life outside of work. If you usually go home, pop in a microwave meal and watch TV, don't. Instead, dedicate 1-2 days a week of going out by yourself to something interesting, like a restaurant, coffee shop, movie, live music, a play. Write in a journal or draw in a sketchpad if you feel uncomfortable by yourself in these public places and become a researcher/journalist for what is happening around you. No one thinks twice about someone who is writing furiously at a restaurant or reading intently.

When you are at home, skip the microwave dinners. Either buy fresh food or get some really lovely takeout and eat it off of plates, not out of the carton. Lounge around in a fantastic bathrobe. Listen to music or radio plays instead of the TV. Tape an enormous sheet of brown paper to a wall and paint on it (brown paper available at your nearby big box hardware store).

You sort of get the idea. The key is to NOT do what you used to do or be in space that looks like where you used to be when you weren't enjoying solitude. You need to treat the experience as if you have traveled to another country and you are exploring it.

You will still feel all the good and uncomfortable feelings of going through a transition into something different from what you are used to. But you will also experience some really wonderful freedom at times from what was uncomfortable or repressive about the last ten years.
posted by jeanmari at 5:45 AM on July 26, 2008 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this - dealing with a breakup is so hard regardless of the circumstances. Everyone is right that the pain will eventually go away, although it might take a while. More importantly, I'll bet that you will actually start liking living alone. It takes some getting used to, but you can really learn to appreciate it. I've only lived alone for extended periods a couple of times in my life, and it's always the same. I start out being really lonely and not knowing what to do with the long stretches of time alone.

Eventually, though, as airhen said, I developed new patterns, found ways to fill my time, and really started appreciating having my own space and being able to do essentially whatever I wanted.

Keeping the radio on low in the background helps a lot, and you've got the right idea with reading. Indulge in long bubble baths, take your animals for long walks (if they're the kind that go for walks :-)), take a class in something you'd always wanted to do (pottery? painting? salsa dancing? Dancing is great for lifting your spirits and is great exercise). Scheduling things for a couple nights a week will help fill your time and introduce you to new people. Movies are good, but I'd advise against watching too much, if any, regular TV. It has a way of sucking up your time and making you feel lonely and unproductive (maybe that's just me).

It might take some time, but I think you'll start enjoying your newfound freedom. Good luck and congratulations on being free of what sounds like a bad situation.
posted by walla at 6:45 AM on July 26, 2008

One more thing - since you have pets, might you consider fostering shelter animals? All kinds need foster homes - dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds. This has been very rewarding for me and keeps you busy and focused on caring for a being other than yourself - always a good thing.
posted by walla at 6:49 AM on July 26, 2008

I went through a separation last year and I too wondered if the existential despair would ever end. And eventually, it did.

Some things that helped me:
- My mantra, the whole time, was "the only way out is through." Reminding myself that there was no other way to do this other than to just grit my teeth and make it through each day helped immeasurably.
- I took small trips to visit friends/family whenever I could. I also didn't have the means for much travel, but I was able to get in my car and drive up to see my parents on weekends. Getting out of the house helped a great deal as well.
- When I was in the house, bedtime was the worst. Going to sleep by myself was the hardest adjustment for me to make and bedtime was the point where I would feel the most grief during the day. To help, I watched my favorite movie every night before bed. I did this for almost a month. It helped, a lot.
- I rearranged the bedroom so that what was now MY bedroom no longer resembled the room that my partner and I had shared together. Clearly marking my territory as MY territory helped me mentally transition to "life with my partner" to "life by myself."
- Having a list of close friends who were "on call" and calling one of them whenever I needed to talk, even if it was just a need to talk to someone for five minutes. I had some friends who I could call in the middle of the night, even, and they were such an amazing resource. I owe them huge debts of gratitude - I know that I wouldn't have been able to get through it sanely without them.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:43 AM on July 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

First of all, thank you for asking the question -- and responders -- Thank You for your thoughtful answers. I, too, have been wrestling with the aftermath of what was to me a devastating break-up and how to recharge my life. After more than a year, I still don't have the answers and I still desperately want to pick of the phone and call him or send an email -- but I don't as it would be unwelcomed and I simply couldn't stand more rejection. However, I am moving on and here are a few things that have helped me on my new, yet still shaky, path.

Start being selfish -- think of yourself. Be good to yourself.
1. Change your hair, make-up, wardrobe - whatever -- to suit you and only you.
2. Fill the frig and cabinets with items you truly enjoy -- with no regard for anyone but you.
3. Drink out of your good crystal and off your good china -- no need to wait - your life is now.
4. Rearrange your furniture == create your own haven of comfort that pleases you. Perhaps, even purchase a new piece.

Now that you've made your home a haven of peace -- a sanctuary, Get Out of It! Start doing things:
1. Volunteer in organizations that you care about.
2. Consider returning to school - anything from a Continuing Ed course to a full blown degree program qualifies.
3. Join luncheon/dinner discussion groups.
4. Start doing things alone. Take yourself to a movie, a play, a concert.

When the dark thoughts start, grab your IPOD -- turn to the section of Strong Women songs (not the Break-up file or the Love is Wonderful folder) and hit the pavement. Walk for as long it takes to feel better -- then you may return to your home.

Note: the above ideas are just techniques to deal with the unspeakable grief and loss - some days are better than others -- but I honestly can't say how long it takes or if it ever really goes away.
posted by peace_love_hope at 9:00 AM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Watch movies with Bill Murray in them. Start with Groundhog Day. His character there is existentially alone like few others. (You'd have to stomach the romance in the movie, though.)
posted by salvia at 9:21 AM on July 26, 2008

Does this go away? The existential despair?

It´s nice that most of the posts above assure you that it goes away, but it doesn´t work that way for everyone. Most people seem to eventually end up meeting someone else, but some people don´t. Explore any way you can think of to learn to enjoy your present state or at least dislike it less, as the passage of time will only dull the sharp edge of despair, not make it disappear. Actively find things that make you feel better, as sitting back and waiting for time to pass will not heal you.

Brush up on any skills that you might have depended on others for, if you don´t know anything about maintaining your house, car, or finances start learning. Practice making new friends for when all your single friends pair off and don´t have much free time anymore.

Find some out of the house events or activities that interest you. Even if going to these without another person is daunting, push yourself to do this. There will be other people there by themselves.

Decorate the house however you want. Even without money for new things, you can arrange the furniture in whatever configuration you like, or hang unusual things on the wall that you like to look at.
posted by yohko at 11:13 AM on July 26, 2008

I find long, solitary walks, preferably hikes that are not on pavement but any will do, are great for becoming comfortable within myself. In fact, walking cures most things, I think.
posted by anadem at 11:52 AM on July 26, 2008

It´s nice that most of the posts above assure you that it goes away, but it doesn´t work that way for everyone. Most people seem to eventually end up meeting someone else, but some people don´t.

Ah, but those two things -- the passing away of existential dread and the finding of a new partner -- are not the same. The existential despair can go away without finding someone else. It is possible to be alone and at peace. It is possible to work through the grief and be content with one's life without a new relationship, w0mbat's comment notwithstanding.
posted by scody at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2008

I think you'd be amazed at how common this is... It's kinda remarkable, the stories you hear when you get divorced. I dunno... at least for me, it opened my eyes a lot. I also went through this awhile go, being single (and eventually divorced) after living with someone for pretty much my entire twenties. Lots of good advice here... and of course, you will get through it. Once you get into the swing of things, it's really fun and satisfying living alone. (I say... writing this in my underwear.) But yeah... all of a sudden, you have all this time. And what the heck do you do with it?

The key for me was really just getting out of the house. I mean... all the advice about re-arranging and whatnot is great... but for me, I just used it as an excuse to do all the silly things I'd put off for awhile. I started reading down at the local coffee shop, just kinda chatting with whoever was around. I started hiking and backpacking in earnest, threw myself completely into running, and fell in with a really weird crowd of triathletes down at the pool.

It took me a solid six months of weirdness... but I've come to see my time alone as a blessing.

Anyway... in a year or two you'll back on this and be all "damn, that was a crazy time in my life" but you'll be stronger for it. You'll see.
posted by ph00dz at 11:48 AM on July 27, 2008

I think I wrote this question on Ask 3.5 years ago almost exactly.

I had never lived alone in my entire life and with split custody of my kid, I suddenly had half the week empty.

Here's what didn't work for me:
Leaving the TV on for the noise of people. Maybe it'll work for you, but it made the quiet even more sad and sucked up my time. I tried it for a bit and then eventually canceled cable. I got NetFlix and caught up on the movies I always told myself I'd see, but didn't do it every night. Listening to the radio - NPR and the like - for a little bit gave me the freedom to clean, work out, play with the dog, without the deadening silence, but without the mindless suck in that my attention span is prone to.

Reading self-help books. I needed an identity beyond someone's wife, or exwife, and a lot of the language of the self-help kept making me focus on it in that "Don't think of an elephant" way. The closest that did work was When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chondron, but catching up on the authors I loved and the fiction my ex looked down upon did me a world of good and helped me find that single joy again.

Going out with friends all the time. I got completely exhausted and felt like I had to tolerate social engagements that drove me up a wall - particularly with girlfriends who wanted me to find another guy right away. What did work, though, was planning one social event a week. Sure, I forced myself sometimes. But by carving out that time, I caught up with friends in a way that still protected my space. Groups were better because they kept me from whining about my ex (which I still do), but it made the alone time into "me time" rather than time to kill.

Eating take-out/microwave dinner over the sink. After 9 years of marriage, being single left me with no routines, no reason to make anything "nice" for "just me". When I started planning meals ahead, sitting down at the dinner table (sometimes with a book or magazine if I felt bored), even, heck, lighting candles or putting out a table cloth - the comforting rituals really reinforced that this was my life, to build the way I saw it.

Working too much. At first, I threw myself into meetings, projects, etc. No one knew I was going through a divorce because I was incredibly efficient and effective at work - winning awards and clients. And I hated it. When I respected myself, gave myself space and time to do things I wanted to do, not just what I "should" do, I felt a lot more happy in my own skin and in my alone time. And heck, I went to the movies for the first time in my life by myself at the age of 31. How sad is that?

I have no idea if any of this will help you. It sounds like a lot of people have been where you and I are, but feel free to use the email addy in my profile if one more contact would ever be helpful.
posted by Gucky at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Anonymous: I just booked a passage on your boat. (Some of you may remember my earlier question about the guy who said he loved me and that I was wonderful and amazing and I made him happy and etc., but he wanted to break up; well, two days ago, he finally officially did.) I usually have a roommate, but of course THIS would be the month that said roommate is going to be in Virginia the whole month.

I hear you on not wanting to sever contact right now; I probably will backslide on that myself. In my case I have a pretty good perspective on who he is and who I am and what was and was not about us, so I'm pretty confident I will largely stay out of his hair; but it still just plain wouldn't feel right if I didn't call him to share my excitement about the proofreading class he encouraged me to take. So maybe a few days after the class I'll call to tell him how that went, but that's all. (For his part, he's still reading my blog every day, so he's not cutting contact either, completely. And we've agreed we shouldn't be in the same room for a while under any circumstances.)

But as for loneliness -- I just contacted all my friends and put out an APB that people should try to make an effort to get me out of the house a couple this month. I personally don't mind sitting at home alone for a while if I'd had dinner with a friend earlier.

I'm also taking the opportunity to do a really intense reorganizing of my office (if I'm the only one that sees anything, then I can spread everything all over the living room and leave it there if sorting it is taking a long time), and cleaning a closet -- and otherwise redecorating the space I'm in a lot.

This is all also coinciding with the Fringe Festival in New York, and I'm involved with an online review site, writing reviews for the shows -- I'll have to see some of them. (Which reminds me, I should ask friends to come with me to those shows, because I'll have two tickets and the pang I'd get from telling them "I only need one, actually," may be a little more than I can handle.) I also have a writing commitment due in two weeks, so I'll have to decamp to a library for a while for research.

You sound okay. Solitude just sucks right now because it's new, and you're just newly single. Treat yourself like you've just had a physical injury, sort of - if you sprained your ankle in the middle of a baseball game, you wouldn't just try to shake it off and get back out into the game would you? No, you'd go bench yourself a while, and you'd do the things you need to do to treat that injury, and you'd take any of the signs of the injury -- pain, limping, etc. -- as a sign of anything but "whoops, still needs more healing time, I guess." This is the same thing. You've (we've) been hurt. That hurt is fresh. You (we) are doing what needs doing to take care of it, but it is still going to keep hurting until that treatment finishes working. Expecting to be healed overnight is unfair to ourselves.

We'll be okay with the solitude in time. The fact that it feels like it sucks right now is just a reflection of how fresh the wound is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:25 AM on July 29, 2008

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