For about nine months, I drove a tiny bit over the speed limit to get home in time to skype Sam before he went to bed in Laon, France. I was always sad to say goodnight to him, but was especially sad on the days I struggled to take care of myself properly – days when I didn’t write or paint or run or drink water or moisturize. Those were the days I would audibly say “Harrumph!” as I closed the video chat window.
That being said, I did produce a lot of things during those months: several new, exciting friendships; almost a dozen paintings; this blog. We all go through lonely times, be they because of a lack of partner or being in a new environment or running short on good friendships. Here are some things that got me through:
This sounds – and also is – bougie as all get out, but I credit a good portion of my mental health during the last months of my life to regular massage. I am a cat animorphed into a human, so a big part of my happiness comes from touch – hugging friends, snuggling Florence, holding hands. A great way to feel connected with my body and to get the human connection of touch was through massage. I am very lucky in that my employer subsidizes an in-house massage therapist every other week (and I work for the state, not even some open-concept, keg-laden start-up!). Scheduling table massages helped me feel taken care of. It also helped me feel like a luxurious princess, which I am. I highly recommend taking advantage of your local massage school, which have rates far below a high-end spa.
2. Scheduled socialization
Some of you might know that I’m America’s next top skeeballer. In Chicago, I used to take unsuspecting friends to play at Tuman’s in Ukrainian Village, where I would skeeball shark them into buying me pints of Angry Orchard. In Austin, I’ve been playing weekly in a league with some of my favorite people. Mondays were something to look forward to when the Sam-less weekends seemed to drag on forever. I also held a semi-regular dinner get-together at my house, where a few friends helped supplement whatever recipe I cobbled together for a main dish. Having those recurring Google Cal events kept my head above water when I started socializing with my cat more than actual human beings.
3. The World Wide Web
(Imagine the buzz of dial-up here) Millennials! All we do is look at screens all day, making the Snapchats and the emojis. I’ve always made friends and nurtured long-distance friends online, but it was especially important this last year. Long emails, Gchats, Twitter DMs, iMessage, whatever – during times of loneliness, cat crisis, and work woes, some of my best friends stayed in close touch even when they couldn’t physically make it to a happy hour. Thank you for being an (internet) friend.
4. Dark Horse Rosé
Self-explanatory. I’ve been experimenting with wine spritzers and can I just say – moms know what they’re doing.
Having a passive activity to do by myself was key. I started watching baseball regularly two seasons ago – just in the nick of time to become familiar with our World Champion Cubs. When I whined (another activity I love!) about wanting more to do, folks loved to suggest that I do MORE painting. I put on my beret and looked down my nose at them as I explained that there’s only so much creative work one can do before they get diminishing returns. Whereas painting is my more enriching weekly ritual, baseball kept me stimulated, out of the house, and perhaps most importantly, gave me something to chat with my dad and brothers about. I got really good at feeling powerful when telling the sports bar waiters, no, I just needed one menu. Okay, two, in case Kris Bryant finally shows up to take me on a date.
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I see the last nine months as tough but formative. I cried a lot, but I learned about myself and the people around me. I wouldn’t recommend shipping your partner overseas to live in a middle school dorm, but practicing how to do stuff by yourself is a great way to build those big, strong self-care muscles, so you can be your own emotional Kris Bryant.