Looking back on my life, I would say that most of it has been spent as a single person. Across the span of nearly three decades as an adult, I've only had a few instances where I was in a committed relationship. And for the most part, I'm just fine with that.
Recently this article came across my social media feed, "When Can I Say that I'll be Alone Forever?" A lot of it spoke to my condition, particularly the sense of feeling somehow lacking because you aren't in a committed relationship.
It reminded me that while I am alone, I'm not lonely. In fact, I'm pretty damn happy as a chronically single person.
Some folks asked me if I had any thoughts or tips about how to be happily single, in a world where the culture wants you to feel incomplete without someone constantly by your side. I wish I had a magic Ten Step Plan. A lot of it was just trial and error for me. But here's my thoughts on the matter:
- That perfect person who will meet all of your needs and fill all of those blank spaces inside of you doesn't exist. Seek completeness in yourself, whatever that might mean for you.
- Be at home in your body. You don't need to an Olympic athlete. But do what it takes to lively healthily, feel strong, and be okay with how you look in the mirror.
- Get your spiritual, existential house in order. A significant part of the frantic drive for companionship is the fear of "dying alone." Find a spiritual path or community that helps you purge that fear from your heart. I'm a semi-practicing Quaker. That could work for you, or another tradition. (Okay, maybe not evangelical capitalism.)
- Try and be motivated by love and inspiration more than fear. Are you running from something or toward something?
- Make progress on your personal "bucket list." Don't have a ton of "I could haves" lying around your heart. Make plans to go sky-diving, learn to bachata, or visit your relatives in the old country.
- Be kind and gentle to yourself. I can be very hard on myself and have to actively practice forgiveness and tolerance for my own foibles. Sometimes while riding my bike, I will say outloud, "Rik, you did the best you could back there. And you'll do better next time." Self-love is a legitimate form of love.
- Take care of those around you. It's hard to feel sorry for yourself while you are helping someone who just lost their job or is grieving a dead pet.
I guess none of these are exclusive to chronically single people. Really it's about being the best human you can be. But if you are rolling solo, having this stuff in order makes it a whole heck of a lot easier, and more fun.