It has been one month and 4 days since I made the promise to myself to turn my back on love and be single for 1000 days…35 days in.
So how does it feel? Am I lonely? Do I miss being with someone and having someone close?
What does it feel like late at night when I’m used to reaching out and feeling someone next to me and knowing I’m not alone in the nightness, to now reach out and feel nothing more than the cold side of an empty bed?
I’ll tell you honestly.
My boyfriend and I broke up several weeks before I decided to take a vow of singledom, so there were several weeks to feel lost and ring my girlfriends every day carrying on as if I was the first and only person in the world to ever go through a break up and feel as heart broken and sad and hopeless as I felt.
Yes, the first few weeks were difficult and bitter-sweet. Very bitter. And yet, very sweet. And very strange.
I found myself doing unusual things to cope with what I was going through. I developed a massive crush on bleach. Yes, that’s what I said.
There is this bleach gel that the Easy off Bam! Company make that I have developed a creepy obsession for, or rather, for the incredible way it gets mould and stains off EVERYTHING and makes everything pure again.
So I am sitting on my lounge one day and saw a mark on the inside of my front door. It sat there in the corner of my eye whispering ‘clean me, clean me, clean me’ until I got up and grabbed my bleach gel and cleaned that little spot. Wow, it came up SO clean and white. So I did the whole door. Incredible, I have never seen the door so clean. So I did the wall surrounding the door, then the wall adjacent. Then the ceiling above the wall adjacent!!… And so it began.
For three days I bleached and bleached and bleached. Everything in the whole, entire house. Every door, every handle of every door, every window frame, every tile, every inch of grout between every tile.
Looking back, I can see it was insanity. I would bleach until late at night, when I was so exhausted I would fall into bed.
It was 2 days in before I bought gloves, so my hands aged 20 years during this time, and it was touch and go a few times there when I would be stuck in a small ensuite with enough bleach fumes to melt your eyeballs, but I was like a mad woman. It became my favorite thing to do. There is not one surface or fixture in my home that has not been bleached. The smell of bleach lingered for days.
I didn’t stop to register that this behavior might be unusual until I was skyping my sister Nelly, who lives in Nice, France. I was telling her about how much I was loving bleach, and how clean everything was and how white everything was and how I had been scrubbing and scrubbing on my hands and knees to get to the far corners of my floors and then on tippy toes on chairs to get to the highest reaches of my ceiling and at one point she stops me and she gave me that look and said ‘You know you sound bat-shit crazy right?’
In reflection, yes, crazy. Definitely crazy. But I see what I was trying to do. I was trying to wash him away. The memories of him. The presence of him. His smell off the pillows and off the blankets. I was trying to scrub it all off, and exorcise the ghost of our dead relationship from our home.
I did this like a crazy woman for nearly 72 hours straight, only pausing to sleep and feed the children and it all came to a head when I was scrubbing furiously, on hands and knees and I just broke into uncontrollable sobbing. You know the kind – The kind where you double over and clutch your stomach and gasp for breath as if you are drowning and once it starts, there is no stopping it. Once the floodgates open, the dam will empty out whether it is convenient or not, whether you are ready for it or not.
So there I was, sitting in a puddle of bleach and water on my kitchen floor falling apart. I hadn’t really cried about the break up yet. It had been weeks and I had just pushed it aside, filing it away into the ‘I’m not ready to deal with this just now’ box. I cried until I was physically worn out, until I couldn’t walk. So I crawled to the couch, and then I slept. When I woke up I decided I would never put myself through that again. I had lost my first love when I was only 17 years old, I had been through a divorce and here I was again, at only 27 years old, on the floor, crippled with this shitty and painful aftermath of this thing we are so addicted to called love.
“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life…You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.”
So that’s how it began. The next day was day 1 of what I had decided would be 1000 days of rest.
‘How do people do this’ I thought to myself ‘How does the world continue to spin when people go through break ups and heart break like this and just act like it’s a normal part of growing up?
I just don’t understand. This should not be a part of normal life. It hurts far too much. This is something I may not fully recover from for years, if ever. I mean, am I missing something here? Does this kind of dance with extreme love and extreme pain not cause anyone else to just tear their hair out and refuse to participate in any of it ever again! How do you people not hate what this does to you! I hated it. I hate what it did to me. So I refuse to ever go through that ever, ever, ever again.
I’m allowed to decide that. I don’t care what anyone says about it, I don’t have to endure that ever again if I don’t want to.
So now it is day 35. Do I feel lonely? In all honesty? Not yet.
I’m not expecting that I wont face that battle. I know that 1000 days will have its fair share of nights of loneliness and I know it is nothing to brush off as a ‘I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it’ thing, because loneliness is serious. Loneliness is a terrible poverty, and even now I am preparing myself to face it, because it will come. But for now, I am enjoying something that is ‘being alone’ without being lonely. Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone. But solitude express’s the glory of being alone. And that is where I am right now. In the glory of being alone.
I don’t reach out in my bed at night anymore, hoping to feel the warm back of someone I love. I enjoy feeling the cold. It reminds me I can stretch out if I want to.
I don’t mind sitting at home knowing someone isn’t driving home to see me. It reminds me that I can read and write all night without needing to be present for someone else. Right now, being alone is very sweet.
I do have sharp pangs of pain every now and then at the most unexpected times when I am reminded of my pre-single life. I was at the supermarket last week to get sugar. I found myself in the aisle that stocks the soymilk. “He really liked soy milk” ……’I can remember when he first bought a carton of it and I couldn’t believe he was into it” And then, there I was again. In pain.
I was cleaning out my bathroom cupboard and when I found an old can of his body spray I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I began to draw the can up to my nose so I could breath him in, and then stopped myself. Don’t do that to yourself Ness, you’ll cry, and you’ve done enough of that for now’ So I threw it in the rubbish bag along with everything else.
Yes. Those moments have been difficult. Some to the point of feeling physically ill. But I turn to face it and stare it in the eye knowing that trauma cannot heal without time and without taking a few ‘sick days’ and I am not the first person to go through this, and I wont be the last.
So now those moments have become more few and further between and I am trying to navigate my way around a new state of being… being at peace. I feel so calm and so relaxed and so at peace in my life right now. It is beyond description. I am also very, very, very happy.
I do miss kissing. I do miss having two arms reaching around my waist from behind to draw me close while I’m preparing dinner. Yes, there are things about love I do miss. But anything worth achieving comes with sacrifice.
Motivation is remembering why you started; you have to keep the reason for it all in the forefront of your mind because the day I forget that, will be the day the loneliness envelops me. Readers, being alone should not necessarily be associated with loneliness. Like I said several days ago, separating is not separating from love altogether. It is just learning to discover different forms of love, and when you realize how much of it you have around you, singleness becomes doable.
I promise to tell you as soon as I hit that wall where I feel alone and lonely if I do indeed hit it, but don’t bank on it happening any time soon.