This is a guest post by Carrie Schmeck.
While the rest of the known world proffered chocolates, roses and sweet nothings on Valentine’s Day, I was alone, the single one, the one nobody wanted.
It’s easy to feel very alone and unwanted in a world dominated by messages of love and togetherness, whether it is Valentine’s Day or not. We’re wired for relationships and when we aren’t in one, the silence can be stifling.
During the first month’s after my separation, I didn’t notice the void. I was so glad to have been relieved from the confines of a controlling relationship that I actually relished the freedom and woke each day thanking my lucky stars I didn’t have to be someone I wasn’t.
It was the party after the storm but, as with any good party, good guests eventually go and leave behind empty cups, scattered corn chips, and a sink full of dishes. An honest assessment of the mess can be downright daunting, especially when you look to the right and left to discover it’s you and you alone to deal with the detritus.
So the post-separation euphoria gave way to my rubble and dregs. It was me, myself and I. My thoughts. My fears. My choices. And my responsibility to figure out how to live, when to eat, where to go and what to spend. I couldn’t hide behind anyone’s choices or catch the coattails of another’s dreams.
It was terrifying to realize how much of me had been defined by “we.” With the whole world open to me, I felt both exhilarated and small. And very alone.
Going places was hard. I glared at families and rolled my eyes at carefree, connected couples. I really hated them for what I didn’t have—someone who loved me that way for me.
For that was the core of my pain. It’s the core of every person’s need to connect. We want to know, are we lovable? At all? And I wasn’t sure I was. I’d failed at loving. I felt broken and damaged, undone, disassembled and of little value. I wondered if I had anything left to offer and felt petrified to think I might never meet someone to love me like I want to be loved.
Having a partner, even a bad one, lends a stamp of approval for ourselves—we reason, Yes, but at least he thinks I’m nifty… When no one materializes to stamp our lovable card, well, that’s a day of reckoning.
I’m not sure when the turning point came but it did. A friend helped me redefine my vocabulary. I wasn’t damaged, I was wounded. My therapist explained how disassembling, with an honest evaluation of parts and pieces, is the foundation for health. And I began to surprise myself with small victories—figuring out how to get my bike fixed, putting up Christmas lights and attending my company holiday party all by myself. I chose music that I liked, walked when I wanted and planned a solo road trip.
I knew something had finally shifted when, for the first time ever, I faced Christmas Eve and Christmas alone. No husband. No kids. Just me.
A girlfriend made it clear I would not be alone for the holidays and I absolutely knew I was grateful to know I would be as welcome as family for both days. But it occurred to me that I wanted to spend Christmas Eve alone. By myself. It was a choice. My choice.
It was the best Christmas ever. I relished in myself, the work I’d done, who I’d become, the freedoms I could enjoy, and the promise of a hopeful and wide open future. Without knowing I’d done it, I had found that love and compassion I’d so needed from others and turned it toward myself.
I still didn’t have answers. I couldn’t know if anyone would ever love me again. But I could dance. For me. That day and every day after. Because I knew somehow I’d finally received (and accepted) the best gift ever. Me.
Carrie Schmeck is a marketing content and features writer from Redding, CA. Her work has appeared in USATodayCollege, NextStepU, QSR, Clubhouse and Enjoy magazine. After being married nearly 27 years, she is rediscovering life on her own, enjoying her three (plus one and a half) kids and racking up miles with close friends on her road bike.