Thursday, May 27, 2010

On my own

As I was writing my 2500 words today, I was struck by the realization that I am afraid of being alone. Not scared of the dark afraid. Not afraid to go to the movies or have dinner by myself. Afraid of spending the rest of my life without someone of the opposite sex to share it with. My divorce is almost final and then I'll be officially on my own. I wanted the divorce so it's not that I want my ex back or anything. And I thought I'd be psyched to be on my own and have some of the freedom I was lacking. Which is why I was surprised by that realization.

I thought something deeper was going on and wanted to figure out where the fear was coming from so I sat in Remembrance on it. Remembrance is a wonderful Sufi meditation practice of connecting with your heart which is taught by Mark Silver. After just a short time in Remembrance, I had some interesting revelations.

The first thought that popped into my head was "Being alone means death." That might seem a bit over-dramatic unless you look at it from an ancient human DNA standpoint. When humans were living in the wilderness, being exiled or separated from the tribe meant certain death from starvation or hungry wild animals. Women needed a provider to take care of them and their children. Even though it's not at all applicable to me in this life, it's probably something that comes from my 'lizard brain' that doesn't want to be ignored. (The lizard brain is the part of our brains that has been with us since the beginning of our evolution as a species and it's most concerned with survival. It's the part of our brains that makes snap judgments about the safety of people and situations and helps keep us safe from a hungry tiger. Which is generally not relevant to life on the streets of Chicago. But you never know, I suppose.)

I thought about how the need to be part of a "tribe" might apply, even if tangentially, to my life today and it occurred to me that most people have an innate drive to connect with other people. It might be the lizard brain tribal inclusion drive. Or it might be more emotionally-based rather than survival-based. I know that I have a strong need for emotional connection and I don't think I'm alone. The growth of social media bears that out. I know there are a lot of people that use Twitter and Facebook and the like to make money but far more people are using them to connect to other people in some deeper way. For some, online relationships are a poor substitute for the "real thing." But some of my online relationships have been deeper, more interesting and more life-changing than many off-line relationships. That said, romantic relationships that are solely online leave something to be desired. (And let's leave it at that, shall we?)

So I went deeper into Remembrance and realized that I've been avoiding some things related to my being on my own. As part of my divorce, we need to sell our condo and get our own apartments. We're separated but we share the condo and a one-bedroom apartment nearby. Whoever has custody for the week lives with the kids in the condo and the other lives in the apartment. And then we switch. (It's called "nesting" which is short for "something done by parents who can't live with each other but can't bear to make their children move"). It's been a great transition for the kids but frankly it's been a royal pain in the ass for me. I lug all my business and personal stuff back and forth every week. Despite the difficulty, I've been avoiding doing some things that will help us get our condo on the market and I haven't even started to look for my own apartment. So I asked my heart what was up with that. And then I did the math. I've lived with my husband for seventeen years. That's almost half my life. Before that, I was on my own for only a few years because before that I lived at home or with roommates or in a sorority or a dorm. So in my entire life, I only lived alone for a few years. That's it. Now I'll be responsible for my own housing. Picking the right place, decorating it, taking care of it. For some people that's probably exciting. I thought it would be exciting for me, too but it's not. It's honestly terrifying. But until I really sat with my procrastination and anxiety and asked my heart about it, I had no idea what was going on. (You probably can't imagine what a wimp I feel like right now. I mean, what is the big deal? Eighteen year olds barely out of high school are able to get themselves into apartments. What the hell is up with me?).

I wish I could say that in all this I came up with some solutions to getting past my fear that I could share with you. But I didn't. Not yet, anyway. As with my habit of over-apologizing, knowing is half the battle. Now that I know about my fear and know that at least some of it comes from my reactionary, fraidy-pants lizard brain, maybe I can manage it better and move forward. I've found that once I accept the fact that I'm afraid about something, the fear isn't as intense anymore. Our fear is there to protect us so if we don't pay attention to it, our fear will get more and more intense until we do pay attention.

So, Fear, I hear you. I get that you're afraid I'll die if I'm all alone (and I promise I'm not laughing at that feeling even though you have to admit it's kind of funny). And I understand that you're afraid I won't be able to handle all the things that go into living alone - what with my ADD and bad habit of avoiding paperwork and other boring yet important things. But I promise you I'll be ok. Really I will. It would be fantastic if you could go over and talk to Procrastination about all this and maybe the two of you could give me a break for a little while so I can get some stuff done. Maybe you two can take a vacation somewhere nice? Stay as long as you like. Alrighty then. Are we cool? Cool. Glad we had this talk.
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