Posted: July 31st, 2012 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges, happiness | Tags: being alone, happiness | 4 Comments »
When I lived in Northampton, I never really felt alone because every time I went downtown, I would run into someone I knew. Plus, I was never away from my kids for more than two days, so my alone times were short-lived.
During this two-week spurt of childlessness (and partnerlessness), I am diving much deeper into the experience of solitude. I wrote last week about my day at the De Cordova Museum and my solo matinee (it’s kind of easy to hide alone in the dark). Sunday, with none of my friends available to join me, I drove 35 minutes northeast to the Lowell Folk Festival by myself. To be fair, I thought that a friend of mine from Northampton might be there, but I still had to motivate myself to get out of the house on a gloomy day that looked like it might rain to go to a part of the Boston area that I had never been before. I was definitely tempted to veg on the couch and watch the Olympics instead.
When I got to Lowell and wound my way through the rather large crowds, I felt a peculiar elation. My ex hated crowds, and so does my daughter. I’m not a huge fan of them either, but I found that they are a lot easier to manage when you are alone and don’t have to worry about losing anyone (or someone feeling tense about them). And of course there is that old adage about the freedom of being alone in a crowd. I did meet my friend and ended up having a really fun afternoon drinking a little beer, eating Filipino food, and dancing to some great music.
I can’t say that I always like being alone. Yesterday, I chose to go to the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain and saw a couple staring romantically at each other on a bench, and kind of thought it would be better with a date. However, once again, I found some benefits. When I am not busy chatting with someone else, I am more observant of my surroundings. I notice more of the subtleties of my environment.
After the arboretum, I stopped in for lunch at a local restaurant where they had a special of a burger and a beer, which reminded me of Spain, where I drank either wine or beer with every midday meal. Then I headed to JP Licks, which is an ice cream store in the rest of the city but is a real café here in Jamaica Plain, complete with comfy leather armchairs. I enjoyed watching my fellow MacBook users, inventing stories in my head about what their lives were like.
The more time I spend alone, the more accustomed to it I get. It no longer feels strange or awkward, and instead of self-conscious, I am starting to feel empowered. On that note, I have decided to set myself a challenge of going to more new places alone. I haven’t taken myself out for dinner before. There are some local bars that I would like to visit alone. As with most goals, I get a kick of satisfaction just from accomplishing them.
In the meanwhile, I’ll keep you posted on how these things go. And I’d love to hear about things that you have done alone that maybe took real nerve. Maybe you hated them or maybe you found that it was a lot more fun than you thought.
Posted: July 26th, 2012 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges, happiness | Tags: being alone, infidelity | 6 Comments »
It seems as though my current theme is how to fill the void created when your children are with your ex. It was fitting therefore that I ended up going to a matinee showing of a movie with that same topic, albeit in a very different manner. “Take This Waltz” was billed as a movie about a happily married woman who finds herself inexplicably drawn to a man who lives across the street from her.
As I watched the film, I couldn’t figure what message it was trying to send because for most of it, it seemed as if it were about the protagonist resisting the urge to cheat. That would have been a novel topic although perhaps unsatisfying for the viewers who had endured numerous sexually and emotionally charged moments with the illicit couple. Spoiler alert: the woman eventually leaves her husband and falls ecstatically into the arms of her beloved only to find that he too eventually becomes mundane and boring (demonstrated by bathroom scenes where they urinate and brush their teeth in front of each other).
There is a subplot of an alcoholic sister-in-law that eventually brings a denouement and reveals the film’s message. When she falls off the wagon after a year of sobriety, she accuses Margot of being the fuckup, saying that life has a gap in it and you don’t go trying to fill it like an idiot (which of course is ironic from a woman who has just tried to fill it with alcohol). Margot then realizes her mistake and asks her husband to try again, and he refuses, thereby letting the viewers know exactly what she has lost in her attempt to fill her own internal void. The film’s last scene is of Margot on an amusement park ride smiling, leading us to believe that she has temporarily found an innocuous thrill so that she doesn’t have to go looking for another illicit affair.
I don’t want to start preaching about how we shouldn’t have extramarital affairs because most of you have probably already figured that one out. However, the truth about us all having some kind of need that we are trying to satiate, a gap that requires filling did really resonate with me. I have felt that gap on many occasions in my life, especially since I have returned from Spain and my kids went to spend time with my ex. I briefly tried to fill it with an old flame until I realized that was not going to work. Now I am trying to be more mindful and simply content with the space that is currently in my life. Maybe I’m trying to cram it with lots of exciting adventures and activities, but I certainly know that museums and matinees are healthier experiences than, say, drunkenness and illicit sex.
Nevertheless, I am aware that even simple activities like talking on the phone while I drive are a way to make sure that I don’t have a quiet and dare I say boring moment. A novel that I am reading, The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris, made the following observation that I found to be quite thoughtful:
“Email and PDA, cell phone and voicemail were extensions of the ruinous consuming self. They made thoughts of the self instantaneously and irrepressibly accessible. Who’s calling me, who’s texting me, who wants me, me, me. The ego went on every walk and ride, replacing the vistas and skylines, scrambling the delicate meditative code.”
As I watched the movie, I noticed that that there were several other single people in the theater. The woman next to me seemed quite affected by the film, as she cried during a particular scene in which the protagonist was trying to explain her ennui and vague feelings of discontent to her husband (who replied “What. The. Fuck. Are. You. Talking. About?). I couldn’t help but wonder what void she was experiencing and how she might be trying to fill it.
So I am curious, what do you do to fill the emptiness that sometimes resides either inside your heart or simply within the structure of your life? Are there productive ways to fill it? Right now, I am heading to yoga class, which is both an activity that helps my fill my time but that also helps me just accept the gap as a inevitable part of my existence.
Posted: July 24th, 2012 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges, single life | Tags: being alone | 13 Comments »
Can you see "Me" in this picture? (Does anyone remember that show?)
One of the hallmarks of divorced life is learning to split custody of your kids. Sometimes they are with you and only you, and then you can find yourself alone as they go to stay with your ex. It often feels like feast or famine.
Just two weeks ago, my kids and I returned from a six-week trip to Madrid (with Paris tacked on at the end). It was an amazing experience in so many ways, and I am so glad that the kids got to benefit from it. However, there were times when I wished (not so secretly, I imagine) that I had a kidless moment to enjoy a slow stroll through a museum or to take advantage of Spain’s famed night-life. Alas, that was not to be.
Now, of course, the kids have taken off to visit my ex’s family for two weeks, and I am very much alone. At first, the absence of kids can feel like a huge void in your life. However, when I posted about it on Facebook, several of my married friends expressed their desire to be kid-free for a while. We parents have to be honest. Sometimes we want our former life and identity back, even if just for a short period of time.
Apparently, I have been given this opportunity, even though I might not have asked for it. So the question that I am asking myself is what am I going to do with it. So I made a list of things that I want to do but can’t do very well when I have the kids (like museums and bookstores). I also want to think of it as an adventure. When I was in Spain, everything was so new and fascinating. I want to cultivate that same mindset here in my home of Boston, a city that I actually don’t know very well.
Since I am a teacher and don’t have to work in the summer, I set a goal for myself to do one new thing every day. Today I started with the De Cordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA. It is just twenty minutes from my home. Being the frugal single mom that I am, I reserved a museum pass from my local library that got me free admission. The drive there was unexpectedly lovely, as I passed through rolling hills, beautiful old homes, and charming stone walls. When I got to the museum, I was immediately transported.
It is a gorgeous indoor/outdoor museum space. The highlights for me were the rooftop terrace with a view of the Cambridge Reservoir, the Matisse “Musical Fence” which is a series of metal bars that you can hit with a stick to make them play, and a breathtaking (and I mean that literally) installation called “Capturing Resonance.” This temporary exhibit consisted of luminescent colored glass squares placed into a sort of chain-linked fencing material. As I was descending the stairs into the installation space, I heard a loud crescendo of sound and assumed that it was coming from another room. It wasn’t until I read the piece’s description that I realized that my movement was making the noise. So at that point, I started moving around to see what kind of different sounds that I could produce. I also had a great time taking photos of myself reflected in the different shards of glass. The whole piece was just a wonderful stimulation of the senses.
As I meandered through the largely empty and quiet grounds, I was reminded of how important solitude can be, yet how difficult I can be to appreciate. I was running at breakneck speed in Spain, with the two kids in tow, interacting with as many people as I could meet. I am so glad that I chose to begin my transition into alone time with this museum because it was a peaceful, internal experience that reminded me that sometimes we just need some quiet time. Alone on the rooftop terrace I could hear the wind rustling the leaves of the trees. In the gardens, I could hear the birds singing. In addition, I was treated to these lovely musical pieces. I would have had a very hard time enjoying it all with the kids chattering in my ear (or complaining to leave, as Jonah often did when it came to museums in Europe).
So while I certainly loved traveling with my kids, I am going to savor this time without them. I am hoping to find parts of my identity that have been a bit muted by the ruckus of parenting and everyday life. Now that I have some time to reflect, I’ll keep you posted on what I discover.
Posted: September 5th, 2011 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges | Tags: being alone, loneliness | 14 Comments »
I have been so busy with my move, learning my new job, enrolling the kids in school, making new friends, trying out yoga studios, dating and being a tourist in my new city of Boston that I haven’t had a single moment to myself to think or write. Yesterday was my first day of alone time in which I really didn’t have any major projects to accomplish. Damn, was it scary. I felt completely lost, and, frankly, very lonely and homesick for Northampton. However, as all difficult moments are for me, it ended up being a good opportunity to reflect upon how I handle the occasional pang of loneliness and sadness.
Many divorcees write to me about how hard the transition into part-time custody is for them. Not only do we miss our kids, but we also don’t always know how to have time off for ourselves. It’s a foreign concept for most working parents who go at break neck speed all day (and night) long. It can be very disorienting to have unstructured time to yourself.
When I was living in Northampton, most of my free time was taken by yoga classes followed by nights out with friends. Even if I didn’t have a social engagement, I always knew the cafes and bars that I could go to when I wanted to see people, and usually I would end up running into a friend and having a good time. I don’t have places like that yet in Boston so here are the following activities that I did to fill my time and feel better. Maybe some of them will resonate with you.
1) Pamper yourself. I decided to give myself a much-needed pedicure, and I also bought a new hair dryer. Sometimes we are too busy to really even focus on our looks, and it feels good to primp and preen a little bit.
2) Catch up on house projects. I mowed the lawn yesterday when I was feeling restless. It was something that I needed to get done, and the activity and the fresh air lifted my spirits.
3) Go grocery shopping. I have noticed in the past that there are often attractive men in the Whole Foods market. Last night I went shopping around 7 pm, and the store was teeming with eligible bachelors (because who else shops on a Saturday evening?). Several guys gave me smiles and prolonged eye contact. It totally boosted my mood. If I had been really brave, I might have struck up a conversation with one of them in the produce aisle or something.
4) Call a friend who will make you laugh. I have so many people that I love to talk to on the phone and often don’t have enough time to really catch up with them. Last night I called my sister, and she told me a story that had me in hysterics (as my sister often does). The endorphin rush from the laughter really helped. And that happened right before the guys smiled at me in Whole Foods. Maybe I was glowing from that.
5) Read a good book. I tried to watch a movie on television but it just depressed me even more. I probably picked a bad one (it was called “A Single Man”). So I picked up my book instead, The Bastard on the Couch. It is a fascinating and often funny collection of essays by men reflecting on the difficulties of relationships and fatherhood. It made me chuckle, and it also gave me some great food for thought.
So yes, I do get blue sometimes. Maybe these tips will come in handy if you find yourself alone and at a loss for what to do. And if you have any of your own, I’d love to hear them.
Posted: April 4th, 2011 | Author: Molly Monet | Filed under: challenges, single life | Tags: being alone, family | 14 Comments »
There is no denying it. Divorce makes you feel lonely sometimes. It can acutely underscore the realization that you are all alone in the world. This is how I have been feeling lately, brought on by the fact that my ex and I are considering applying to jobs in places where I have no friends or family (Boston, DC, Philadelphia, Upstate New York, etc).
I know it’s a little crazy. How can I feel alone when I will be making this move with four other people (my two kids, my ex and his girlfriend)? Because my ex has his girlfriend for support, and I…Well, I will have to start out from scratch, from nothing, unless I win the jackpot and end up in California with my family. I know I shouldn’t jump ahead and worry about these things, but this whole process has me feeling like I wish I had someone in my corner, someone’s strong chest to rest my head against.
On Saturday night, with no plans in sight, I went home from yoga feeling sorry for myself, and frankly I hate self-pity. So I called my sister. My sis and I have a pact. We always pick each other up. We know each other so well that we can usually choose the right words to have an almost instant impact. I was therefore surprised when she said, Aren’t we all alone really? I asked her who took my sister and would they kindly return her to me. Then she tried a spiritual argument, but spending a Saturday night with Baby Jesus just wasn’t doing it for me. Yet at least that had me rolling on the floor with laughter. She was getting closer.
Then she brought out the big guns. She reminded me that no matter what, I had three very special people in my life who were on my team and would always take care of me: my father, my mother and her. Mind you, these are no ordinary people either. These are the warmest, kindest, most upbeat, most energetic, funniest people that I have ever met. There is a long line of people who want to join our family. Together we are blessed in ways that we sometimes take for granted. But when the chips are down, these three people will come through for me. I really needed to hear that. She reminded me that I had a lifeline; that they wouldn’t let me drown.
I guess that’s what I always thought my spouse was for, but luckily now that my spouse is unable to perform that function, I have come to realize that my family is there instead. In fact, now that I think about it, my ex never played that role for me. He hated it when I was down because it made him feel down too. When I felt like I was drowning, he was usually going under too.
We’d all like to think that we have that one special person in our lives who is our biggest champion. Yet all along, my champions have been my family, and they still are. I was very grateful to my sister for reminding me of that.
After our chat, I went upstairs and climbed into my bed: my comfy, wrought-iron bed with a memory foam mattress that I so adore. I turned on the TV and found the perfect comfort movie “Sex and the City 2.” The ironic thing, though, is that this movie is all about marriage. In fact, when I saw it in the theaters last year, I remember thinking, Yep, marriage is a bore, Carrie and Big have lost their spark, just like so many long-term relationships do.
However, given my current state of existential crisis (yes, I am being a drama queen and laughing about it), I found myself envying their relationship this time. It actually looked comforting to come home to the same person night after night. Maybe I’ve progressed and am ready for another life partner. Or maybe I’m just feeling a little frightened by my impending change. I mean, is there really a man who would want to watch Sex and the City 2 in bed with me on a Saturday night? Maybe being single still has its privileges.