Month one

It’s been a little more than a month now since I began my official dating hiatus.

Some days, it feels great to be off that roller coaster of “OMG, did he text?!” and then joy or despair if he (whoever the current “he” may have been) did or didn’t text/call/seem happy enough to see me. Other days, I can feel intensely lonely.

It’s easiest when the kids are home, of course. They need to be fed and helped with their homework and carted around to their various activities and appointments. I get all the snuggles I could want, even if “Wild Kratts” isn’t necessarily what I’d prefer to watch while cuddling on the couch.

But when I head home from work, or wake up, and the house is empty, that’s when the relentless need to distract myself can set in. Texting, scrolling restlessly through Facebook, flipping through Netflix, looking for something to keep me from being alone with my thoughts.

© Designs by Romi

Knitting frequently helps. I love the rhythm of it, the click of my metal needles, the connection with generations before me, and the blossoming of something beautiful from what was just a ball of pretty, woolly string.

Currently, I’m working on a lacy shawl made with baby-alpaca yarn. I ordered the kit on a whim , and I didn’t expect the yarn to be so fine that a fellow knitter would inquire if it was “cobweb weight.” (It’s a real thing. I checked. Fortunately, it also wasn’t what I was knitting with.) I had started the shawl when I was dating C., and he was always impressed as it unfurled from my needles.

Shortly after we broke up, I woke up one morning and my first thought was, “I’ve been going from store to store looking for something I have to make myself.” My thoughts are rarely rational first thing on any given morning, so I paid attention to this one. And the first analogy that came to mind was my shawl. It doesn’t matter which big-box store you go to; you won’t find a lacy, handmade, baby-alpaca shawl at any of them. The only way to get one is to learn how it’s done and then put your knowledge into action and persist until you’re done.

With a pattern this complex, I sometimes discover I somehow have too few or too many stitches. Maybe I’ve forgotten a decrease, dropped a stitch, or missed a yarnover. Usually it’s fixable, but sometimes it isn’t, and I have to rip back a few rows. That led to another insight … if your pattern is off, you can’t just keep knitting and hope it will be okay. It’s never going to look right unless you look at where you went off track and fix it. Sometimes it’s a quick fix, and sometimes you have to backtrack quite a ways — but either way, if you don’t make the correction, you aren’t going to end up with what you’re expecting to.

Lookin’ for validation in all the wrong places

On a recent evening, I got a text from a man I’d gone out with twice, both times over a year ago. I get occasional texts and updates from him every few weeks, and they’re usually ignored; something about him had made me slightly uneasy, although I could never put my finger on what.

But this particular night, I was feeling particularly lonely and unlovable, and I responded. I knew as we talked on the phone later that night that I was making a massive mistake. I was seeking something he couldn’t offer me. I was using him as a “scratching post,” as the Elizabeth Gilbert quote that struck me a few weeks ago said. But when he told me he’d never stopped thinking about me, that I was the most desirable woman he’d ever known, that I was “so goddamn alluring” …. well, I ate that shit up with a spoon. “Gee, I must really be special and amazing and lovable after all! This dude who barely knows me thinks so!”

Later in the conversation, the uneasiness grew into dawning horror as he told me he loved me and thought I should have his baby. Let me remind you, we had gone on two dates. Both well over a year ago.

I told him I’d made a mistake in calling him, that I’d been wrong to use him to make myself feel better, but that he didn’t love me, he didn’t even know me, and not only was I not in a position to date anyone at the moment, but I particularly didn’t see a future with him.

The next day, he texted. I replied that I’d told him the night before that I needed a break from guys and my relentless search for ego pats. He said, “I respect that, but I want to help you.” That was where I did a headdesk, then blocked his number.

I was embarrassed to tell my friend Anna about the conversation. She is the friend who will unfailingly call me out on bullshit, which was why I knew I needed to. That, and we’re texting co-dependent; very little goes on that we don’t tell the other. She said,  “I wish you would realize these men are nothing. They’re no better than you and don’t give you anything. The sooner you realize you don’t owe them shit, the sooner you’ll be able to find a man who doesn’t suck.”

worthy-quoteAnd it hit me that here I was seeking validation from a man I wouldn’t even go out on a third date with, as if his opinion meant a damn thing. I was so desperate for someone to confirm that I was lovable, I was seeking it from a guy who I not only didn’t care about but who made me actively uncomfortable.

I decided I needed some sort of affirmation or mantra for times when I was tempted to seek affirmation or validation from a guy, simply because he was, well, a guy. The one I came up with was: “I am valuable no matter what this man or any other man’s opinion of me may be.”

Self-care on a budget

Am I the only one who gets tired of self-care lists that include pricey crap? “Take yourself out for a mani-pedi!” Well, sorry, I don’t always have an extra $80 burning a hole in my pocket.

Here’s my list of affordable ways to care for yourself:

  • Take a long, hot bath.
  • Do your hair and/or makeup.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in a “happy place” — on your front porch (which is where I escape from my kids), the back deck or a favorite cafe.
  • Journal.
  • Write a gratitude list.
  • Color. (You can find many beautiful coloring pages for free online.)
  • Go to bed 30 minutes earlier than normal.
  • Paint your own nails — or, if you’re as bad at it as I am, have a friend do it, then return the favor.
  • Meditate. (If you don’t know how, try the Headspace app — the first 10 sessions are free — or choose a guided meditation from Youtube.)
  • Make yourself a favorite meal or dessert.
  • Do some yoga. (Check out FitnessBlender’s “Stress-Busting Yoga Pilates Workout.”)
  • Call up someone you haven’t talked to in a long time.
  • Unfollow someone on social media whose posts always annoy or upset you.
  • Take a nap.
  • Buy a new book, or hit the library.
  • Prep some healthy snacks and keep in the fridge so you’re not tempted to grab junk. (I like to buy some favorite fruits and veggies and prep them as soon as I get home, then put into Tupperware.)
  • Do a “tech detox” for a few hours (or even a whole day, if possible).
  • Spend time in nature.

‘A day of mine that you won’t be in’

Rather frequently, I am still hit with an intense longing for C. — to be in his arms, to drink coffee next to him in bed, to see his face, hear his laugh, even just get a silly meme from him.

A tiny part of me still hopes a little bit with every text alert… The other, more rational 99.782 percent of my brain realizes that it isn’t him, and it probably won’t be for a very long time, if ever. (I asked Sara recently, “When is it OK for me to text him or call him again?” She replied, “Not until you have no need to communicate with him and no expectations about getting back together.” Guess it’ll be awhile.)

The pain has generally faded to a dull ache, although seeing his favorite drink as  I glance at a menu or hearing the Go-Gos’ “Vacation” can still trigger a few tears — the latter, unfortunately, while I was listening to my ’80s Pandora station at the gym.

My friend Anna recently told me, “I wish you could see it’s not just about him.” (I think she was making a reference to that bottomless-hole-of-need thing I’ve got going on.) And in part, she’s right. Some of it, certainly, is loneliness. Some of it is also the yearning for him and not just someone. His sense of humor. His kindness. His thoughtfulness. His dedication to his kids. His intelligence and curiosity.

He had flaws, certainly, and I feel the night of our breakup involved more than my own simmering issues simply boiling over. However, on the whole, he was so very much of what I wanted, that the loss of our relationship has been far harder to bear than, say, “dude who dumped me by text after we’d met each other’s parents and kids.”

I am striving to see this not as a loss but as the catalyst for the work I needed to start on myself. It is, inevitably perhaps, both. The eggs have been cracked — now I just have to figure out how the hell to make an omelette.