It’s so intriguing how the universe works to paint the picture of our lives.
Today marks a Leap Year, which only happens every four years. Looking at my canvas last Leap Year, in 2012, my portrait includes me, happily in love with my ex-boyfriend, having just begun dating a few weeks prior (on Valentine’s Day, in case you don’t recall). If I had to guess, that picture was filled with pinks and yellows and bright colors of love and happiness and new beginnings.
Come Leap Year 2016 and my painting has changed tones: my canvas has faded, perhaps from spending too much time resting comfortably in the sun, taking on new shades of color and leaving space for touching up—or perhaps, for a whole new picture overall.
Let me explain.
As you may recall, I decided to take this month and go boys-free and booze-free (with the exception of Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day, during which I enjoyed a few mimosas for obvious reasons) in order to help dive a little deeper into this whole journey of self-love and self-reflection. I only texted the guys who texted me first, keeping it short and sweet as to not be rude. I didn’t go on any dates. I even made it a pact with my best friend Chrissy (I’ll be sharing her story soon) to not talk about men—no gushing about crushes, no talking about our successful social media stalking, nothing.
I actively cut myself off from any romantic interests, and while I always have my friends and family, two jobs with amazing co-workers and a ton of awesome people around me, I’ve never felt more alone in my life.
And guess what I learned? Being alone fucking sucks (and being alone without red wine sucks even more).
You see, as I was driving home from a spin class during my first V-Day weekend as a single woman in four years, it hit me: I’ve never not been romantically involved with at least someone on some level—be it a texting buddy, a “friend with benefits,” a boyfriend or what have you. Ever since my relationship with my first love at 15-years-old, I’ve always found myself involved with someone in some way. It’s just who I am as a person—I love to love and be loved, and people (friends, strangers, men) tend to connect with me on a deeper level because of it.
But that’s exactly why I can’t say this quality is necessarily a bad thing. Giving and receiving love is something that comes so naturally to me, something that I genuinely consider a strength. Something that makes up the portrait of me.
So I asked Chrissy (who’s been single for 6+ years and has yet to give up on the idea of love despite getting her heart torn out of her chest one or five times): How do you do it? How do you still maintain the ability to love so hard and so deep without it having to be romantic?
While she answered with uncertainty, she gave me a major revelation:
“I think I just look for that kind of love in other places.”
And it donned on me: I don’t have to change that loving quality about myself; it’s a beautiful quality to have. Rather, I just have to figure out a way to mold it into other forms of my life, to paint with different strokes in order for it to benefit me, even on the days when I feel the loneliest.
Instead of feeling sad about no longer being in love, I will apply that energy to cherishing all the loving relationships with the people who currently surround me—the people I don’t have to worry about falling in or out of love with; the people I just love.
Instead of focusing on falling in love with someone else again, I will focus on falling in love with my life…over and over and over again. And instead of wondering if I’ll ever be lovable in someone else’s eyes in the future, I will look myself in the mirror, look in my own eyes and have the confidence to remember: the only person who can decide how I am loved is me—right now, tomorrow and every day to come.
And thus, I guess I can say this month of solitude really did teach me more than the (obvious) fact that loneliness sucks: I learned that figuring out how to thrive during those lonely periods is essential to my happiness, my growth as a human and my ability to love myself and those around me entirely. It’s essential to my masterpiece.
With that being said, figuring out how to do that and making a habit of it doesn’t just happen in a month (sorry, self). As with any masterpiece, it takes time.
So just as I made a pact throughout February, I’m making myself a new promise now: No matter how the universe changes my canvas, I will remember the revelations I made during this time and apply them day after day, month after month, year after year, growing and transforming with all the different strokes and shapes and colors my life takes on (the only difference being, I’ll likely do it with a glass of red wine in hand).
Maybe by next Leap Year, I will unveil the continued progress of my masterpiece, this time having practiced the Art of Being alone by whole-heartedly and passionately loving the artist… Me.