I like being alone. It’s my default preference. It’s safe. When I was younger I was often in my own little corner of a shared bedroom, playing alone because my feelings were often hurt and I was able to play with my vivid imagination and not get ignored by big sisters that I couldn’t relate to, or neighborhood kids with better gross motor skills than mine. (Kickball and pickle are all fun and games until you can’t keep from kicking the ball onto the roof, or catch the football without making it bounce off of your hands after you just threw it like a flailing duck that should be shot.)
My mom saw my isolation as a gift in ways that I couldn’t. She put me in gymnastics, dance, and swimming. She knew I wasn’t cut out for team sports. Drill team doesn’t count. That was a self inflicted hell on my knees.
In elementary school, I connected with two beautiful girls. They saw me and called me “friend.” We did sleep overs and car washes. They introduced me to Guns N’Roses and Metallica. I survived elementary school because of them.
Middle school happened and schools changed and I had one or two really great friends I saw in school and one that I had slumber parties with. We would steal her mom’s car in the middle of the night and learn to drive together, always trying to replace the gas we burned off, joking about our shenanigans and confessing as legal adults about what we did at 14 years old. My isolation meant that when I graduated high school, it never occurred to me to collect contact info because I wouldn’t just see these people on Monday or after summer break. I would go home and enjoy my solitude. I burned too many candles, read a million books and listened to music that made me feel things.
When we were barely legal, my best friend would pick me up for nights at house parties and raves that included drunk driving and dancing on go-go boxes while taking off more clothes than I would now. It was wild. I was broken and as much as I loved her, I eventually pushed her away with broken parts trying to maim others. I wasn’t a nice person. I married in the years we were apart, and when I was pregnant with Kid1, she found the space to forgive me for the ways I hurt her. She is amazing and still the most beautiful and powerful woman I know.
As remarkable as she is, I pushed her back again. Looking back, pushing her away the second time had nothing to do with her or with me. I pushed her back because my ex didn’t like her. I pushed my guy friends away because they couldn’t see what I saw in my ex, and I was choosing the man that promised me forever for the friends that gave me forever without needing to make a pledge.
One of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship is isolation. If your person needs to be your only person, it’s worth looking long and hard at. If your person is open to friends becoming family, there’s a good chance there’s nothing to hide.
Isolation from people by my marriage was a gradual process that didn’t look like denied permission. It looked like I had a boyfriend that my friends didn’t like and made fun of. I wasn’t asked to choose, but I couldn’t stand seeing my ex feel hurt by them, so I chose him and walked away from my friends. There was good in that too. They accepted me drinking like a fish and smoking like a dragon. He wanted to wife me and make me a mother and I wanted to stop because that was what would have earned his approval. His friends became my friends and I let my friends go. Eventually, his sadness looked like he needed to get out and have time with the guys. I understood that because I needed it too, but I had pushed them all away. He would go out and I would stay home with the kids. He had concerts and paintball, and I stayed home with the kids. I stopped looking at strangers because I was worried he would get jealous if I got attention from someone else. After Kid1 was born, there was an incident. We lived in a 30 unit apartment building. There was a man visiting another unit that left the building smiling at my ex. There was a fist fight in front of our building over a smile that made me look like a cheater. I felt the need to become invisible and I got really good at it. I had the perfectly formed incentive and I loved him too much to see that as scary.
A lot of what I’ve seen in past relationships has made me very hard on potential dates. It doesn’t take much for me to kick a new guy to the curb, down the gutter, and then seal off the manhole.
When it comes to my kidlets, isolation was about protection. My kids had sensory needs that had them poopy painting on walls when they were younger. They like being naked. We used to replace all furniture every single year because of destructive kids, and really, they’re still destructive. I need to replace my broken dinner chairs again. I have a home in various states of broken. Right now it’s the chairs and the motor on my jetted tub sounds sad. I have a paper towel dispenser that I need to screw back into the wall and a toilet paper dispenser that became a toy before it was thrown away. It hasn’t been replaced yet. It will be. When I get around to it. But inviting people into the messiness when I’d rather just escape until they are home and I want to stay home with them hasn’t been a priority.
We’ve been sharing custody for a year now, and in this year I’ve been going out alone a lot. I go to the beach or a museum. I’ve started hiking and being a tourist in my hometown. I love it. It doesn’t require company. I’ve in the last couple of weeks decided I don’t want to be a lonely cat lady. I’ve recently started meeting people out and about. I don’t mean my one date allocation for men. (I will one day go out with a guy more than once and the cute Italian guy I couldn’t understand doesn’t count.) I mean, I’ve been going out with people I know, and not just one on one sessions where I can get stuck in a session of complaining about life.
I have a tribe. Our friendship was mired in the trenches of transformation that looked like 5 days of screaming and crying. These people are remarkable and bigger dreamers than I am. A few of them have had events and asked for people to show up. I decided that when my tribe calls, I get to show up. It’s a stretch, but it’s not without it’s rewards.
I don’t drink often or much. I don’t drink around my boys often. Last week I had a gluten free beer and ended up fairly drunk. I wasn’t trying to get drunk. I just wasn’t trying to waste a full beer. I’ve started having a drink while out enjoying a solitary dinner, then sobering up completely before heading home. I’m a grown up. I can do these things. As a wife, I was often our designated driver. I could never handle my liquor and even when I was drinking, I was a lightweight. Add kids, and I often felt like I couldn’t drink. My boys spent so many long nights in the emergency room at random times for crazy reasons. I was afraid of what it would look like to not protect my kids from themselves, and show up drunk in an emergency room full of mandated reporters. I had to be the designated driver because one of us had to be sober in case of emergencies and it was always me. I can’t tell my kids to never drink and drive, and then be the drunk driver strapping them into car seats.
Yesterday was busy. I had my brunch around 11, and went to meet friends for a show and a drink. Literally, one drink. I know better, but decided I could do it because I didn’t have a curfew. I was nicely sauced and everything was insanely funny. It was great. The thing that was different was I wasn’t alone. I was there with several of my tribe. I had a first. It was the first time I was mothered while drunk by other women. Again, I rarely drink and hardly ever get drunk in public. It’s usually a drink with a meal, and never on an empty stomach. These women walked with me. We talked and ate and visited for a while. When it was time to go, they wanted to be certain I’d be okay. It was a unique experience and it hit me that this is what happens when you are a grown up drinking with people that care about you. My best friend in my youth absolutely loves me and loved me then, but we were both immature about our choices.
It’s made me want to stretch my isolated parts. I never have company at my home. I have excuses about why I never have people over. I live on a tiny one way street with no parking. I have a messy house that my boys treat as their personal natural disaster. I have repair jobs I haven’t gotten around to because I plan to fix them all myself when I’m nome, which is when the boys are home and I’m busy running around catching up on laundry. I never have people over. Tonight I will. A friend needs a crash pad to save on a late night commute into a different county, and I’ve offered up an empty kid bed. All year, I’ve had one girlfriend and that cute Italian boy over. For him, that was the night I realized I couldn’t keep seeing him because I finally broke through the sexy accent and I could understand what he was saying. Who knows? Maybe I’ll consider having a small gathering or soiree or shindig. I doubt it though. Parking still sucks, and that means I’ll have to be home on a kid free day.