The year was 2001 and I had just found myself single after a brief but tumultuous relationship. Everyone has that one person in their life that fucks them up, and this was mine. The timing couldn’t have been worse as my best friend had passed away only 18 months prior, and I was still trying to adjust to life in his absence. In fact, it was one of the reasons this relationship messed me up so bad, as I was hyper aware of the void in my interpersonal circle. Weekends were just an additional reminder that I was more alone than ever… not something to look forward to in the least. That’s when I discovered another person just as alone and afraid, facing a new life much in the same way that I was. I began to look forward to our time together every Friday and Saturday evening, and in the same instance, I started to fall in love with someone I least expected…. myself.
Humans are social creatures and it’s just natural instinct for most to seek out others for companionship, love and friendship. For some, being single is a worse case scenario, involving feelings such as extreme loneliness, lack of self worth and even identity issues. The idea of existing through life without a significant other is equivalent to hell on Earth. While for others it’s really not such a big deal. Either they choose a life of solitude for purposes of growth and introspection, or they’re so independent they couldn’t care much either way. If a relationship manifests, they welcome it, but if not, it’s not the end of world. Still, even some seem to just know they will find someone, and simply view being single as a stepping stone or “pause” between the next relationship. During this time in my life, I saw the prospect of a partner as a way of escaping my world as I had come to know it… empty and somewhat without any kind of direction or maybe even purpose. The relationship I had just experienced left me wishing it would miraculously and suddenly work out somehow, as if waking up from a bad dream… yet at the same time, never wanting to date again and make myself vulnerable.
I remember watching the news one day, showing kids and adults alike, being so excited regarding the release of the latest Harry Potter book. Several were already in print and this latest edition in a series of best sellers, was already flying off the shelves. I decided that I would purchase the book and see what everyone was taking about. The idea of doing something special for “me” seemed to also supplement my desire to do something different and exciting. I found myself visiting a local Barnes And Noble the next day, enthusiastic about partaking in an adventure so many on the planet were experiencing. Walking into the store, the smell of so many books combined with coffee and pastry seemed healing just by itself. My mother used to take me and my siblings to book stores often as a child, so I’ve always associated the sights, smells and sounds with warmth and comfort. It wasn’t difficult to find the Harry Potter books, they were arranged in such creative displays, stacked to attract attention and interest, which only added to my sensory buffet. I grabbed a copy of the first book in a series of four, and took it to the cashier.
Reading a good book is almost like a ritual for me, I like to be comfortable and have everything I need close by. My immediate space is configured so that refreshments and possibly snacks are within an arm’s reach, with adequate lighting and pillows being an absolute necessity. I think this is because I always saw my mom reading in bed, and she always seemed so content while in a world completely her own. Before Kindles were a thing I had to position the book so I could turn the pages without them rubbing against something, they required calculated clearance. As I’m writing this now, I’m being made aware of possible OCD behaviors in my practice, something which actually makes sense considering at the time I felt like I had little control over my own life. Needless to say, that night I locked myself away in my room and begin to read all about the life of the boy that lived in a cupboard under the stairs.
Almost immediately I began to see parallels in Harry’s life and my own… the loss of loved ones, being bullied and trying so hard yet unsuccessfully to fit in. The imagery of the text completely pulled me away from the nightmare I was experiencing and into a place filled with promise and of course, magic. The impossible became reality for Harry and that brought me the promise of great hope. That weekend I finished the first book and couldn’t wait to get the next. I was completely addicted not only to the magical world of this child, but to how I felt while reading. The pain I was experiencing did not have room to exist in this alternate reality, and I was more than happy to see it vanish. Book two came and went, and then book three and The Prisoner Of Azkaban brought in an unexpected angle… the feeling of being reunited with a long lost friend you never knew you had, something I so desperately wanted at the time.
You stop sending out the “I’m desperate to date someone” vibe and start sending out the “Are you really what I’m looking for?” vibe.
Then it happened. I’m not sure when or how, but I remember mentally acknowledging it as a huge light bulb moment. I was happy, but I was also single. I was enjoying time with myself and only me. I was learning about myself through the words and stories of J.K. Rowling… and it was awesome! I didn’t need another person to enjoy life, I just needed me. I began to look forward again to the weekends, because it was a time where I literally loved myself. I treated myself well and I enjoyed the quiet time alone, living the adventures with Harry and his friends. I stopped looking for other people to fulfill my life because I realized I could do it on my own pretty darn well. I knew that eventually I would want someone physically in my life, but I was comforted in knowing I would be good until that happened… I had become my own best friend.
Something else starts to happen when you come to this realization. You stop sending out the “I’m desperate to date someone” vibe and start sending out the “Are you really what I’m looking for?” vibe. People begin to approach you for dates without you even asking and your tolerance for bullshit and falseness is at an all time low. I clearly remember going on a couple of dates with someone extremely good looking and fit, and realizing that they were way to aloof for my taste. When he abruptly cancelled our third date I decided there wouldn’t be another one. He began to accuse me of being in another relationship, and that’s why I was calling it quits. He couldn’t understand why someone would turn him down… he was so wrapped up in his own vanity, he chose a reason he could wrap his head around. What he didn’t realize is that being with him wasn’t as fun as being with Harry and his friends… yes I’d rather be alone than with someone that didn’t make me feel good. And that’s when “the bar” was created and raised for me. Something I wouldn’t have done unless I realized how to love myself.
As I mentioned earlier, people are social creatures and I know it’s hard to be single. But it’s even harder when you haven’t learned to love yourself and don’t have a healthy level of self respect. You don’t need to be arrogant, you just need to know what it is you want and the type of person you’re looking for. And when you meet another person with those same qualities and aspirations, your relationship rises way above insecurities and jealousy that can break even the strongest of loves. Love yourself first and watch love come to you. Stop searching so hard and let it find you instead. It so pains me when I see other gay men putting themselves down, wondering why they’re still single. They’re so eager to find someone, but haven’t realized the person they need to love first, is staring back at them in the mirror.