There are Worse Things than Being Alone. ~ Lauren Constance Everingham

Via elephant journal
on Jun 1, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

Oh Yes
there are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it’s too late
and there’s nothing worse
too late.
Charles Bukowski

It took me 27 years to discover the value of being alone.

Photo: Cheekie Blog

Now I finally get it. And I think everyone, yes everyone, should be single for at least one year of their adult lives.

Let me be clear: I believe love is the highest expression of humanity. And I am most certainly a romantic. I love cuddling, hugs in the morning, blueberry pancakes in bed, knowing that another person has my back (and I have his), laughing so hard that I fall off the bed, embarrassing nicknames, streaking through my living room to wild applause, sweet messages on sticky-notes, and being comfortable enough to perform my goofy, made-up songs for someone.

I am not suggesting these experiences alone are equal to the massive, ineffable concept of love. They are simply human expressions of love. And they are some of the reasons why it took me so long to appreciate the single life.

But love does not require a committed relationship, let alone a ring (c’mon Beyonce, I know you don’t buy that shoulda put a ring on it crap). Love doesn’t even require another person. Although a measuring device does not yet exist, I am pretty sure I experience more love as a single woman than I did as a girlfriend or fiancé. But why?

For one, I am more open. Open to experiences. Open to people—forming new friendships and reviving old ones that have faded. Going by myself to a quaint little bar in town leads me into the most fascinating conversations with the most fascinating people. (Most recently: an ex-lawyer from Jersey who used to defend mobsters.)  Sure, you can do that while in a relationship, but how many do?

Also on the list of things I do now that I didn’t do when I was in a relationship: practice yoga, meditate, disappear on a long drive without telling a soul, spend entire days reading and writing, dream up the most fantastical scenarios for my future without feeling a single ounce of guilt about who else would be affected, cry senselessly and often without anyone asking what’s wrong, and converse weekly with adorable boys from Chicago I’ve spent only 9 amazing hours with (okay, there’s just one adorable boy from Chicago).

Photo: Cheekie Blog

I’ve been single for the last two years or so. During the first 8 months, I didn’t date anyone. Unless you count that one time I spent two hours watching a guy down five gin and tonics on a Tuesday night while raving about how much he hates liberals.

It’s not easy being 100 percent single, as in not dating, after being with someone for years. The loneliness is piercing. I spent a lot of time trying to pick up the pieces of my shattered ego. I also spent time beating myself up, smashing what remained into tinier and tinier pieces, until one day I had absolutely no idea who I was.

And that moment, when I had lost any inkling of an identity and sat in a heap on my living room floor, turned out to be the most important moment of my life. It was the first time I realized that truth we all do our best to avoid: I am alone. I’d been alone a year prior, when I had a boyfriend, and I’ll be alone 20 years from now when I’m (hypothetically) married with three beautiful kids.

People change, people leave, and people die. That fact always exists. Moreover, other people live inside their bodies and their minds, and they will never live inside mine. We may try to merge with our loved ones—through hugs, words, laughter, sex—but we cannot. And so often when we try, we lose our own sense of self (or fail to develop it in the first place).

When I was finally whole enough to date again, I did so with new intentions. I stopped looking for a boyfriend, a soul mate, a lifelong partner. I began opening myself up to simply experiencing men. Appreciating each one for who he is at this moment in his life. Worrying less about where it’s going and more about how it feels now.

Photo: Cheekie Blog

The notion that a loving relationship requires a label, or even an exclusive commitment, is just plain false. I dated a guy for 9 months, never once referred to him as my boyfriend or made a declaration not to see other people, and had more fun than I’ve had with any other man in my life. I loved him. I still love him. We remain (gasp!) close friends.

This is not to say everything was perfect, or that we never experienced jealousy, or that I didn’t struggle with having to explain our relationship to family and friends. And it’s not to say that a non-exclusive relationship is necessarily tenable long-term. It’s just that we proved love exists outside those boxes into which most people insist on cramming it.

My relationships are not shallow. Tears flow, my heart breaks, and disappointments are inevitable. I am still me: fiercely loyal, passionate, intense, and exceptionally picky. When I love you, you know it. And this love is not reserved for boyfriends only. It’s available to everyone I invite into my life.

I am learning how to love without giving myself away. Without needing to nail down the future (an impossible feat to begin with). Maybe you were lucky enough to learn these lessons in high school. Or maybe you learned them through your relationship or marriage. But for me, it took being utterly alone to appreciate what Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in one of his letters to Franz Kappus:

Nothing describes loving less aptly than calling it a merging, surrendering and uniting with another person (what could such a union of the unresolved, the unready and the as-yet-unorganized possibly resemble?); it is a sublime occasion for the individual to mature, to become something in himself, to become a world, to become a world unto himself for the sake of someone else; it is a great immodest demand placed upon him, something that singles him out and calls on him to go far. Only thus, as a task to work on themselves (“to listen and to hammer day and night”), should young people be allowed to use the love that has been accorded them.


This article was previously published at Cheekie Blog.

Lauren Constance Everingham is a lover of boots, books and Bukowski. After years of frustration with the often-futile content of women’s magazines and blogs, she launched Cheekie: a lifestyle blog for smart women. She also has a day job and a few diplomas. Lauren lives in Asheville, NC with her pup and her yoga mat.


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter. Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of Questions? Send to [email protected]


12 Responses to “There are Worse Things than Being Alone. ~ Lauren Constance Everingham”

  1. Cheekie says:

    Ohhh, I love that passage too. And the letter about the meaning/impact of difficult and sad times is probably my favorite. One time I started highlighting passages only to realize a few pages in that I was pretty much coloring the whole book yellow.

  2. VerticalDrop says:

    Great post! I'm here right now. Embracing aloneness for the first time ever. It sucks and it's awesome all at the same time. I read the book "Undefended Love" by Jett Psaris and Marlena Lyons and it totally changed my view on relationships. Until I can have a relationship based on total authenticity, I will enjoy being authentically single!

  3. jackie says:

    LOVE THAT you wrote this at such a lonely 5 months out of a relationship day for me. A great reminder to embrace no one else in my head but me. Lovely

  4. Paula says:

    This is an amazing post … amazing …. I've come to this moment and conclusion myself. You put it so perfectly …. I've finally made it to the phase of "experiencing" men as you put it without exceptions. My very recent guy "friend" and I are trying something way out of the comfort zone for both of and we keep reminding ourselves … no exceptions, let's just have fun. It's very freeing … scary once in awhile when you let yourself try to "control" the future. But fun and freeing …. I strongly agree with you, everyone would benefit from this deep introspection from spending quality time alone. Amazing post ….

  5. L says:

    You couldnt have shared this at a better time. I’m coming into the dating world for the first time in about a year and am really discovering the importance of sharing now with men rather than trying to see where they fit into my desires for the future…Thank you for this insight, for sharing that I’m not alone in my loneliness and reminding me to love myself first and foremost, while also sharing my love with others without attachment to outcome.

  6. moi says:

    Thank you. Truly. You put into words what I've been feeling for the past 2 years of my own life. The "being alone" part is always difficult when it hits you in unexpected ways…but then you bring your mind – and your heart – back to yourself. Because you will always have You. So you should love yourself like no one else can… And once you do, if feels wonderful and fills your heart in a way that no other relationship can. Blessed, we are.

  7. Cheekie says:

    Best wishes to you as you embrace the greatest love story of your life–your love for yourself. I definitely need to check out that book!

  8. Cheekie says:

    To anyone who posted here–I am attempting to reply to your comments, but for some reason it won't let me! The site seems to be deleting my comments… perhaps they will reappear at some point! Thank you all so much for your comments & best wishes on your own journeys.

  9. Susan says:

    I also came across this at the perfect time. It is nice to see that others have come to the same realization and know that there are worse things than being alone – I have been married to several of them! After 17 years in a very controlling relationship, I finally broke free. That relationship broke me of any need to "find someone"! I am so enjoying being able to do what I want when I want. I don't feel lonely or anxious about being alone.

  10. Zhenya says:

    I love this post. Currently being in a four year relationship with a child from a different marriage and realizing that I feel alone despite having a wonderful man by my side arouses deep guilt within me. I’ve never been in complete solitude, jumping from one relationship to another, not given myself a chance to truly come into myself. Now the feelings of wanting to follow my dreams even if they don’t involve the other half is so profoud I can no longer ignore it. What a painful feeling to know the right thing to do and yet be so terrified to take those fort steps to liberation. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you!