I have now been single for one month. It’s gone by in a flash, and even though it was the right decision it still feels surreal, as if it’s not really sunken in. As if I’ve just pressed ‘pause’ somehow, and am spending the frozen time doing something else until I get back to my life.
It’s not that I’ve been sitting around staring at the wall, or moping. I’ve got right back to doing things I do when I’ve been single before – paying slightly more attention to my single friends, volunteer work, cycling the long way around to things just because, going to the cinema on my own (holy crap you guys Guardians of the Galaxy! It’s really good, right?) I am filling my days with activities I enjoy, trying new things, saying ‘yes’ to adventures even if I am a little nervous. People ask me how I am doing with that sympathetic head tilt and it feels kind of wrong to say that, actually, I am pretty good. I am really enjoying having my own space, my own time and not having to compromise or share things. I grew up an only child of single mum who is basically me but older so never really got very good at having to negotiate, where negotiate means not doing exactly what I want and other people going along with it.
I’ve always enjoyed being single and have never seriously looked for relationships – I’ve usually just ended up in them by accident after a drunken night. The Dinosaur formerly known as Mr RDP was one of the exceptions where we actually went on dates before we started a relationship after a drunken night. Not to say I don’t like being in a relationship too – I do; but it doesn’t come as naturally to me as doing my own thing.
This weekend I was honoured to be part of my friends S and P’s 10 year anniversary celebration, where they renewed their vows at a big old fun party. It was pure joy to see how happy they still are together, and how if anything they are stronger now after 10 years than at their ‘real’ wedding. I haven’t stuck at anything for longer than 10 years. Not a home. Or a school. Not even a hair colour. My longest relationship remains 4 years – less time than I have been at my current workplace. My relationships have ended for all different reasons, including, but not limited to,
- Falling out of love
- Realising we love each other but not in that way and actually can be we be just best friends and that way we can stop pretending we want to have sex
- Living too far away from each other
- The relationship just fizzling out until we were essentially just flatmates
Not long after The Former Mr RDP and I broke up I read a wonderful article about how sometimes ‘love’ in of itself isn’t enough to make a relationship work. This was certainly true in the case of Mr RDP. As much as we cared about each other, and as much as we wanted it to work, that simply wasn’t enough to compensate for the other problems we had. In a relationship like that you have to either accept that you’ve tried your best and set each other free or get married to try and fix it. And I have seen the latter fail too many times to want to try it myself.
And yet, even knowing all of that, and knowing that all of my relationships in the past have ended for very good and sensible reasons, and knowing that I like being on my own, and knowing that my life is full of things I enjoy doing and is pretty full and well lived; EVEN WITH ALL THAT, I still have moments when I look at myself in the mirror, and say look at you. Thirty*mumble* and single. What are you doing with your life? Where are you going wrong?
But am I going wrong? Really? Why do I, a relatively successful and relatively happy young(ish) woman with a place to live and a job and lots of fulfilling hobbies and fabulous friends, feel like in some way I have ‘failed’, simply because I haven’t coupled up with someone and ‘settled down’ and got cats and dogs and babies and one of those steamer things that cleans ovens? Especially when I am really not entirely sure that’s even what I want out of life? Although apparently those steam cleaners are really good.
It’s a powerful message – that there is ‘someone’ out there for you. That when you find ‘the right’ person you will be complete. And that completeness should last for always. And that the older you get, if you don’t have this, you are failing. That you MUST want to be with someone. That *the entire point of your existence* is to find one other person and that’s it, well done. You win. The rest is epilogue.
I am not saying I don’t want that ever. Just that right now I am struggling to separate what I really want from what I think is expected I should be wanting. Am I pottering around with my life on ‘pause’ until I am ready to carry on, or is the pottering around what I really want to do?
Facing this at my age, after having so many changes and emotional lessons this year, and alcohol free to boot, feels both terrifying and exciting. Like going on a new roller coaster for the first time – you don’t know what it will be like, where the twists and turns are, where the drops and shocks are, whether you’ll love it or hate it or both at the same time. It’s almost so nerve wracking that the temptation to not ride at all, stick to familiar ground, is incredibly strong. But you have to ride, or you’ll never know.
I don’t know were the next few months will take me. I don’t know what I really want out of my life. But maybe, as long as I am honest with myself over the coming months, maybe I can unpick the societal expectations of what drives a thirty*mumble* years woman from what actually drives me, and what really makes me feel content and complete.
And I really really like roller coasters.