I spent years of my life sending up a small payer of thanks each time I crawled into bed alone.
It was such a sweet moment. That breath—that suspended moment between one day and the next.
I loved going to bed alone—recognized it as both a blessing and a privilege.
And as a thing that would not last forever.
It was at a time when I was healing and learning and stumbling at such a ferocious rate that the solitude of nightfall, and the inevitably of sleep was manna from the heavens. Sustaining and necessary and a very great blessing.
I went to bed alone, night after night, because I wanted to. Needed to.
Because I was not in a place to share myself with someone in that way.
Once upon a time a man I loved asked me how I got happy—if I did it on my own, or if I did it with someone else.
On my own, I replied, knowing those three woulds mean I'd have to walk away from him.
I got happy on my own, which is, to this day, one of the very best things I’ve done in this life.
I got happy on my own—meaning I figured out that happiness is but one sliver of a full life. And that all things ebb and flow.
And part of figuring that out was crawling into bed alone. Because there was a time I crawled into bed with a man I wasn’t nuts about and that took something from me—something so personal and so vital I never wanted to do that again.
But I knew, even then, that there would come a time when it would end. And that, even if it didn't, it wouldn't always be so sweet.
Because needs change. And experience has a way of shifting and shuffling priorities.
Eventually, I knew, I’d go to bed with someone else.
And what a blessing that would be.
Born of a desire, and a choice, and the inevitability of luck—capricious as luck mostly seems.
But that desire is a tricky, little bugger. Mainly because people attempt to read into it like tea leaves—divining mystical information where there may not be any.
Because the thing is—and I can’t believe I’m saying this (since this is what people always say to me)—it’s not that deep.
Because sex is a thing. And oxytocin is a thing. And companionship is a thing. And a man’s arm reaching out for you at three in the morning after you’ve gotten up to use the restroom is one hell of a thing.
And those things…well, I can pretend to not need them, or want them, except that I am human, with, as Mary Oliver calls it, a soft animal of a body.
So yes, I would like to find a person to crawl into bed with night after night.
And for reasons surpassing my understanding I want that person to be a man--for better, or for worse, that’s how I was packaged up and sent into the world.
I lived alone for two years. And loved almost every moment of it.
But hell if loneliness wasn’t a thing.
And I’m not talking about the-get-good-with-yourself-sort-of-loneliness—the kind that people always reference because they think maybe you don’t like yourself and if only you did, then you’d never be lonely again.
I mean loneliness of the variety that has seen my entire adult life in New York City, where I have faced nearly everything alone.
So when the time came to leave my studio apartment, faced with boxes and cleaning supplies and the daunting task of resolving the previous two years, I stood in that small space with a paintbrush in one hand and a blank wall before me, and I sobbed.
Because I felt so tremendously alone.
Because it was yet one more thing I had to do by myself.
And as my shoulders heaved and my chest rattled there was the very physical need to be held.
The soft animal of my body wanted nothing more than for someone to take me in their arms, press their face into my hair, and whisper small words, full and good.
And that need, that desire, was so physical, so immediate, and so totally consuming that it was a very real sort of terror.
Several years ago there was an article making its way around the internet and quite a lot of people had quite a lot to say about it.
I’m going to remember it imperfectly, and I’ve already made peace with that, so I ask you do as well.
It was about a woman in her thirties who’d never had sex.
And in the article she so bravely discussed the particular loneliness and frustration and fear born from that.
And, as tends to happen on the internet, everyone, everywhere had an opinion.
And all I could think was, How can anyone comment on this? How can anyone, anywhere have anything to say? Unless, of course, they’ve found themselves in that very same situation?
Because, let’s be clear, getting married and divorced by that age, while heartbreaking and difficult, is not. the. same. thing.
I think of that woman often. That nameless, faceless woman and how she hadn’t been touched. And how that lack of touch divorced her from her body. Created a space that simply couldn’t be filled by her actions alone.
And how giving voice to her many feelings was a way of claiming the experience. Of quieting the shame. And accepting the lonely.
I can’t comment on that woman’s story because it is not my own.
But I can say there are specific realities to still being single (and single at twenty-eight in this particular city) that someone who is not cannot possibly understand.
I live an incredibly lucky life. This is not lost on me. But I’ll be damned if I don’t get to say that eventually I’d like to move my life forward. And it is my great wish, that that will mean climbing into bed and sending up a prayer of thanks for the person next to me.
This is what I believe to be true:
A person can be happy and content and with a very good life and want someone to share it with.
A person can be lonely (or not) and want a partner.
A person can be happy (or not) and want a lover.
A person can be totally good in their skin (or not) and want all of the above.
And these things--loneliness, comfort, sadness, acceptance--may all ebb and flow from within the boundaries of a very good relationship.
But let’s be clear, being loved—unapologetically and guilelessly for who you are, flaws and all—I don't know if there is anything better than that in this life.
There’s a fragment of a Galway Kinnell poem that I think of often, the wages of dying is love. Meaning, because we have to die, we get to love.
We are actually paid in love.
Meaning: to love. To love to love to love. To love is the point.
Or so I think and so I believe and so I understand.
And so I want for my life.
(And so it’s just not that deep).