Moments way before this one stung with my loneliness. My entire adolescence, the wake of disappointments in college, the year I moved to another city and it didn’t work out. … Continue reading Notes on Loneliness
Grief is not the fence we hop over. It’s the ocean we swim through.
I’m struggling with self-worth right now. I’m struggling with staying alive. I’m an optimist sandbagged by depression, desperately clawing for hope. Everything hurts right now: my body, my head, my spirit. It all feels so heavy. Is it always supposed to be this hard?
I feel like I have to force people to love me. I chase until I am breathless, heaving. Love was introduced to me as something I had to earn. I never unlearned that. When you’ve never really been wanted your whole life, when the only thing you’ve been to others is option rather than priority, it’s hard. I wish I could gloss this with poetic language, make the pain sound pretty, but it’s not. My emotions and mindset are coarse, brutal, unrelenting. My head is desolate, my throat tight, stomach heavy. I can’t even call it rejection, as it rejected implies that you fit somewhere at some point. I am aimless, a nomad homesick for community.
People don’t want me as a person. As a concept—something consumable, disposable, ready at their leisure—I am wanted. But my vulnerabilities, my hopes and hurts and everything in between—nobody is interested in that. I know this because when I ask for help, I am shamed. How dare the concept think she’s a real girl?! How could you reach so close to others that you almost touch them?
I don’t want to be alive right now. And I know this is so utterly hypocritical to my last entry, a stark contrast in message. I meant every word I wrote last time. I mean every word I’m writing now. With every breath, I’m fighting to stay here. The last thing I want to be is a tragic tale. Part of this stems from believing that I am capable of multitudes, that I can offer others something good. I still believe, as cloudy and everything is, that the best is yet to come. I cannot house the responsibility I do as a sister and friend and mentor in this world and end things. Even if I can’t be loved back, I am obligated to everything/one I’ve ever loved to continue.
But the other part is that I don’t want people to discuss me, and say “if only I knew, I would have done something”. Let me be clear: No you wouldn’t have. I’m fighting for my own life because I know nobody else will do it for me. They will watch me drown, as I am screaming for help, and trust that some other person will throw me a lifejacket. That other person doesn’t exist, and you don’t want to be inconvenienced. My screams make you uncomfortable, and you will feel relief when they stop.
My mental health and self-care is my responsibility and no one else’s. I am not pawning it off or expecting anything from anybody else. But, then, if I fail at this. If this is the monsoon season that drowns me, please don’t come to my wake wishing you knew and proclaiming your love for me. You don’t love me. You loved an idea that served you. You didn’t know because you only saw and heard what sounded sweet and looked pretty. You were never interested in me, and it’s hard for me not to hurt over that. It’s hard for me not to ache and cry and wonder, “why not me? Why never me?” Why, after I learned to love myself, after I did set boundaries, after I have been my own knight in shining armor, after I have tried therapy and exercise, and got all the accolades was it never enough? I could never ascend from the option category of anyone’s relationships.
“You are not a reflection of those who cannot love you, Marisa. You are abundant. They are smallness. It’s profoundly unhealthy to emotionally flog yourself over matters you can’t control like this. It’s out there. What you’re starving for is out there.” I tell myself these things a lot, repeating affirmations like prayer until they are spoken into reality. I try to soothe myself. But being regarded as inconsequential by so many for so long inevitably affects a person’s self-worth. It happens over and over and over, reader. It happens whether I want it to or not, regardless of strategy or lack there of. Rejection finds me. Scarcity finds me. I attract all the things I ultimately repel. They just linger long enough to remind me that I do not love being alone.
No answers are hidden in this post. This is not a scavenger hunt for hope between sentences. Suicidal is familiar for me. I’ve burrowed and barreled my way through agony and made transportation systems of my emptiness before. It never feels easier, never lighter. I would more than willingly take a lifetime of this, if I knew I would be loved as something other than an afterthought. But I don’t have that guarantee. Depression, anxiety, and suicide are dragons I’ve slayed before, but I’ve never overcome my lack of belonging. Loneliness is another beast entirely, savage and unrelenting. I can’t banish it through binge-ing, purging, sweating– I know this because I’ve tried. You cannot be a village unto yourself. I cannot make a community out of only me and be my only support system, and I don’t have a solution. I put myself out there. I am a good friend, sister, daughter, co-worker. Hell, I’m even liked. It is exhausting to put my whole self out there every time, all the time, and have nothing reciprocated. I don’t think I can keep doing this, but I don’t know what else to do. I am an oxymoron– always brimming with life and fire, while always so close to the grayspace that is suicidal. I don’t want to be that anymore.
All too often, I am the recipient of posthumous affection–
An affirmation arriving way too late.
These are not love letters but obituaries,
More eulogy than sonnet.
“I love you”s are epitaphs to my ears.
They don’t understand that their words don’t adorn me—
They collect dust in a moseleum.
I want a love with as much life as I have,
With a pulse
And better timing.
How lonely it feels to be surrounded by a gallery of glossed gazes,
searching for eyes that burn like mine.
I write about love the way a lot of men write about strong women–
deeply intoxicated by the idea
but a complete stranger to the reality.
My love poems are dimension-less symphonies
lovely and without substance.
Poetry They are starved for content in the same way I’m starved for love.
I am 23 years old. I’ve never had a significant other. If you’ve read my other posts, my unease I feel with this is palpable. It’s not a hope to be halved and had by someone else. More that, I am trying to reconcile my fierce independence with my human (and natural) craving for romance and affection. I’m embarrassed for thinking about this as much as I do. I feel like I’ve compromised my “strong woman” status with these knotted sentiments: half of celebrating my freedom, the other half curious about a romantic relationship. Even my curiosity is proud– refusing to settle, in harmony with my gut at all times. When my intuition tells me it’s not right, I can’t allow myself to continue pursuing a person. I wish I could, but bending isn’t something my will enjoys.
I had my first crush at five– in kindergarten. The following year, he declared before our first grade class that, not only did he not like me, but I was the ugliest girl in the world! I moved on in third grade. Although, I quickly squashed my chances by fracturing his jaw in a game of crab soccer. I met attraction as a shameful and always-distant beast. My first two crushes set the stage for a series of unrequited almosts that have followed me ever since. The cocktail of unachieveable affection and my addiction to romantic narratives (Jane Austen, Love Actually, Jane Eyre– you get the gist) sculpted my perception into an hourglass. I was waiting for romantic love for my life to begin, never realizing that I was already living.
And every time, I expected love to save me . When I attempted suicide, when all I wanted to do was run and I noticed anchors at my heels, through abuse and assault and harassment, on the rough days and in crisis– I half-heartedly hoped some beautiful soul would mend the messy parts for me. But it was just me. Me, alone in the chaos of the tempests I created. I didn’t–and still don’t– have a lifeline to pull. As a white, middle class, able-bodied, cis-woman, resources are abundant to me. In dissecting my singlehood, it’s also important to point out my privilege. The world wants to protect fragile, pretty, young white women, and in many ways, my privilege has been my lifeline. When the system is designed for your protection and success, it’s easy to sound triumphant. Were I born somebody else, I would not be so fortunate.
But since no romantic other is here to do the heavy lifting, I get my hands dirty. I am brazen about self-advocacy. There isn’t space for fear in saving yourself. You have to dive in and figure out if you have the chops to make it as you go. More often than not, I realize I have what it takes when I remember that I am worth saving.
I’m not saying that I don’t feel lonely. I’m not saying that there aren’t moments when I resent my singlehood. There are. They come often. However, I am certain that the regret I’d feel from wasting time and emotions and energy on a lackluster relationship outweighs my loneliness. Moreover, I’ve learned to self-soothe.
There are days I feel like the puppy at the pound nobody picked. I watch each one as they’re wanted and carried home. And holy hell how I want to be picked. I question if I am lovable, if I am pretty, why none of this has happened yet. But, that scenario hinges on being selected out of pity. It frames love as a sales pitch and me as a product. Love doesn’t work like that. I don’t know much about relationships or how they work, but I’m certain it’s not through pity. It’s a mutual choice every day to prioritize this relationship over other options you have. I think relationships work best when it isn’t a necessity that both (or more than two) people stay together.
Women, especially, are told that no relationship is higher, more important, than the one she has with a romantic other. Men are paramount, and sisterhood is secondary. This idea is not only absurd but heteronormative and sexist– assuming the only romantic other a woman can have is a man. I’m not saying the relationship with your partner isn’t profoundly important. What I am saying is that one person cannot be everything to another person. A human body cannot configure itself into a life preserver. Contrary to the beautiful and harrowing scenes of Hollywood, romantic love and sex are not your savior. It’s you and connection that will rescue you.
I tell myself this a lot. I convince myself that self-love can substitute for everything else. Humanity is vulnerability. Our ability to need and want connects us to other living things. But, somehow, I would sooner engulf myself in flames than allow you to blister my thumb. Denying my wants and needs is a pipeline to internalized shame. My ego perpetually wars with my humanity. The truth is, I want to know what it’s like to have a romantic other. I don’t know how to allow this want to exist without shame, without my pride storming in to bludgeon myself out of wanting or hoping. Lashing out at myself is easier than embracing the desire to be loved.
This year, 2016, I put myself out there more. I actively dated. I attempted the app game. I thawed. The result was relatively the same. I wasn’t that into most of the people I dated, and the ones I did attempt to pursue weren’t into me. My attempts at dating were in conversation with my attempts to unravel myself from all the “dating rules” women are fed. You can’t text him first or call him first and you can’t sleep with anyone until you’ve been seeing each other for 90 days. How the hell am I supposed to be authentic when I’m supposed to be keeping track of all of these rules?! But the other part of me says, “what if you don’t follow them and end up alone?”
I operated under the collector’s mentality up until this point– this idea that if I preserve myself from a distance, that I never make a fool out of myself or dare to be messy and human– I will always have the upper hand. But it’s the upper hand because nobody is holing it. And this “rules” driven strategy only yields regret. I’m writing this essay because the words have been stewing for nine years– new content with the same sentiments. I’m sick of it. I don’t want to feel the same way anymore. I can’t individually change my relationship status, but I can change my attitude about dating, opening up, and allowing it to be the terrifying mess it is. So, damn it, I’m going to Rihanna, Chelsea Handler, Samantha Jones my way through 2017.
I still feel like the puppy who wasn’t picked, who goes to bed alone in the pound after everyone else has found a home, hope somehow still gleaming after the disappointment. I’m still prying off all the armor– shaking through the process. I wonder if this will never happen for me– romantic love. I hope I read this again in five years and howl. I hope it’s a riot, not because I am in a relationship, but because of everything else that happened– because I am so full and bright that I make the Chrysler Building look like a piece of lint.
Posting this is as vulnerable as it gets, but I felt compelled to talk about it. I am taking ownership of my feelings and actions. I’m 23. Always single. Always independent and strong. Always exhausted from the exteriors I’ve erected. I wonder what it would mean to be something besides a series of always– to be inconsistent and messy and maybe unwanted, but at least, unwanted up close rather than from a distance.
EDIT: I greatly appreciate the comments and feedback. I want to be clear about something– I am not lamenting my single status. Rather, I am unleashing the candor about the loneliness, lack of certainty, and internalized shame I feel with it. Normally, I do not to curate my posts. I want others to draw from them what they value. This case is the exception. Please do not let the lesson of my words be: I want a boyfriend. I am emphatically whole. Wholeheartedness hails from vulnerability– in admitting instabilities, inconsistencies, the aspects of our celebrated facets that we do not throw confetti onto. These words were begging for a body, and I gave it to them. I refuse to outline how I love myself to prove this point, as it is possible to both love myself and question these things. Please, feel free to comment. Feel free to interpret. I just needed to contextualize this piece, as my point could not be further from, “being single sucks”.
There’s nothing wrong
in reaching for another person.
Here I am, screaming in plain sight,
and everyone is too busy to notice.
Even when I don’t want to–
when I want anything else but you,
Any name but yours–
I see my hands reaching for you.
My entire body is an arrow to yours.
Craving your terrain and the way my hands sink into it like teeth.
You are the falsest of norths,
A hometown I am ashamed to claim, and yet, refuse to leave,
A direction made entirely of memory.
I beg my heart to pick another rhythm.
Pick palpitations over this purgatory.
Here I am,
like so many times before,
ensnared in the desolate paths of you.