The deep, long, often interrupted lines tell the story of a woman who’s been fighting all her life to understand the journey she is on. Up, down, up, down, long, short, straight, crooked – stories they all tell. Stories of hardships, stories of love, a story of a mosaic not yet completed. Deep lines of strength, short lines of indecision. Oh, the stories they tell. Slim fingers holding the key to a future forged in the struggles of the past. An outsider might never understand her or the portrait her feminine hands now paint. All the token signs of resistance are gone – calluses, dry spots, cracking, scars – every single one, disappeared. Like a mouse disappearing into a labyrinth behind a drywall at the sound of a feline. The softness is deceiving, the tenderness inviting.
I sat there staring at my hands trying to make sense of what everything meant. Thoughts designed to appease a restless mind in the dark of night. Next to me laid a man I did not love, usurping the place of a man I once did. I said to myself – it would be so much easier if I could make myself care for him. If I could see him the way he sees me. But deep down, I knew it would never be. My hands reminded me that I’ve been here before; I knew what would come, the demons I would face. Life isn’t always fair and some things aren’t meant to work, no matter how badly we want them to. You give, you build and you endure only to see yourself lose a part of you in the process. But isn’t that what happens when you love someone? Aren’t you supposed to give them a piece of your soul? A piece of you, you’ll never get back. Because that’s what happens when you love someone- they take a piece of you with them forever. Those thoughts don’t make this pain less suffocating, less disgruntled. I turned to him and said – I got work tomorrow. I have to get some sleep. And I immediately saw the disappointment in his eyes. His lips curled, his brows furrowed, his deep brown eyes waiting for that moment when I realized that I wanted him to stay. That moment never came.
I walked him to the door and wished him a safe night. He grabbed me in his arms and held me tightly. The embrace of a temporary lover who knew this was the end. I wouldn’t be calling or sending the – hey, what are you doing – at 3am text. The happiness in his voice which filled my room hours ago was now a somber echo in my hallway as the darkness of the night wrapped itself around our bodies. A small knot dug itself in my chest and from it branches of guilt grew in every direction. He’s a good man. He deserves better. Goodnight, we said. And off he went into the night, never to be my clandestine release again.
I needed to feel something, anything. That was my justification. I am human after all and a tricky part of humanity is that we long to feel something, no matter how fleeting that feeling might be. An emotional connection, permanent or temporary, that reminds us that we are capable of being more than what we are at that very instance.
That’s the night it began – November 2012 – my journey of self discovery. That’s when I decided that from that moment on, I would be completely and unequivocally selfish. I would make room for no one else in my life until I learned to be undeniably and utterly in love with myself first. How could I give myself my all if I was dealing with someone else? No! No more guys, no more dating, no more giving. I’ve been giving to others my whole life; it was time to only give to myself. That’s the thing about heartache – it can make you or break you – as cliché as that sounds. You either rise above the pain or let it consume you. The first step was admitting that I, too, was responsible for my current situation. The choices I made, the path I chose to follow are what led me to this point and I had no one but myself to hold accountable for that. I knew better and I still continued down that road. That’s on me. Not anyone else. Me. People have a tendency to blame everyone else, or someone else entirely, when something goes wrong. That’s what we do because it’s easy. It’s much harder to hold yourself responsible for your part in the failure. Because as amazing as we think we are, we too must take part of the blame. No one comes out of something completely clean. In order to grow, you must reflect and take responsibility for who you are and where you are. I finally began to do that.
The lonely nights came fast and furious. The days filled with thoughts of yesterday. It wasn’t easy but it was manageable. What I missed most was the feeling of meaning something to someone, the intimacy, random laughs, knowing that someone sees something in you that most people never get to see and isn’t scared off. The vulnerability. I missed that. I missed the sides of me that I never really show; I missed how I was during it. Well, the rosier parts of it. Shit, I even missed the bad parts. Yea, I admit it. I even missed the bad parts because I felt that it was something that was ours and no one else’s. My days were now mostly filled with remnants of yesterday. And that’s the part that sucks. How do you replace something that took up such a large space of your daily life? How can you truly be happy when that source of happiness was now gone?
Date!!! Meet other people!! Make new connections. That’s what we are programmed to do. Find happiness with someone else. There’s a million fish in the sea. Go put on your Sunday best and try to make a connection with someone who might not even be in your life in 3 months. And if that doesn’t work, well, there’s someone else right around the corner. There’s tinder, there’s match, there’s Facebook and Instagram. There are a million ways to find someone but not a single way to find someone. But wait!! You have to be careful – you can’t say too much too soon, you can’t feel too much too soon, you can’t be yourself just yet! And sex? When does that happen? You don’t want to sleep with them too soon but you don’t want to wait too long. Go like their IG pic, go comment on their FB post but not too much. You don’t want to seem desperate. Oh and you don’t text first. No, they text first. And wait a few minutes – like 15 – to text back. You need to be aloof and make sure you give off the cool girl vibe. All these rules, all this energy, all this shit just to be “happy”. Because being lonely sucks and you can’t possibly be happy if you’re alone. Nah, that’s something lame people tell themselves to make themselves feel better. The best experiences in life are those you share with the one you love. God, this is painfully exhausting. I truly hate dating. It’s the worst.
So I asked myself – What is happiness? What makes YOU happy? And that’s when I decided that I would not sleep or deal with anyone else until I was at a point in my life that my real happiness was never dependant on someone else. My real happiness would come from within me. I would be the love of my life. I would be the source of my happiness. And that’s exactly what I did. I became celibate. Not because sex is bad. God, no! It’s wonderful. I miss it every single day. Almost 2 and a half years and I still want to do it every single day because being one with someone, being connected on that level is wonderful. And let’s face it, it feels fan-fucking-tastic. No, I didn’t want to waste any energy on anyone else but me on this journey. I didn’t want to have to take care of someone else, be with someone else, grow with someone else, evolve with someone else because that meant that I would take away that energy and focus off me.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Wait, you’re celibate! Bullshit!! No way. You’re so full of it. But ask yourself – how much do you know about me? How much do you know about anyone really? Social Media is a farce. People tell you what they want you to know. With the exception of one of my friends, no one knew. I even lied to some of my closest people about it because I didn’t want them knowing, I didn’t want the questions about it. My own Doctor was against it. She would say – No no Ana, you need to drop this. This isn’t healthy. Not kidding. I have the most loyal and understanding friends on the planet but they too want to see me settled down with a good dude because they love me and think that’s what’s best for me. They think it’s time for me to take that next step. But I’m wired differently, my idea of happiness and fulfillment is completely different than most people and I finally understand that that’s perfectly OK.
So the follow-up question – why are you sharing this now? Because I want people to understand what I have learned in my journey so far – your happiness is your responsibility, your happiness comes from you not someone else. Your happiness comes from being able to be alone and still love and enjoy yourself. Loneliness will come, it’s not just going to disappear because we are human and we crave emotional and physical connections. That’s normal. I have my bouts with it. But, while I’ve been on this trek, I have accomplished things that I never thought I could, I have found strength that I never thought I had. My relationships with my family, my friends and my God are stronger than ever. I finally love myself entirely because I took the time to discovery who I am and what I truly want. You will never be truly happy unless you truly love yourself. Not by only looking for that love in someone else. It has to come from you. It has to be built by you. It isn’t easy, it isn’t fun but it will change your life. And once you have that unbreakable love, you will then find someone who you can genuinely share that love with. Who you can build a strong foundation together. A real foundation. Because they will know who you are and have to love who you are. Because you love you and won’t be afraid to be you, flaws and all.
And if for some reason it doesn’t work, you still have a great love in your life – yourself. Two people who are independently happy make happier couples – that’s a fact.
I’m not saying that these things cannot be accomplished with a loving partner by your side. I’m sure they can. That is a blessing if you have it. And I pray that you continue to flourish together.
But in my instance, I had to be alone to learn to really love myself. And because of it, I am in the best and happiest place of my entire life. And that is invaluable. My love is real. My hands are a testament to that.