Strategies for Singlehood

Frances Ha

Relationships are like textiles woven on a loom.  The longer you’ve been together, the more complexly and deeply are your interwoven heart-fibers.   The break may come abruptly, sharp scissors shearing you apart, or a slower degrading of the warp and the woof,  leaving both of you ragged and frayed and yet still clinging together. It can be hard to  know where one person begins and the other ends.  And when the end comes, you stay tangled up with one another, although the life blood that kept the whole webwork alive has been cut off.  Your heart fibers  beat fainter and fainter until they die or transform into something else, passion burning down into affection or worse, something festered and sick.  Best to avoid that.  And you can.

It’s painful.  There is no way around the pain, now matter how quickly or slowly you pull yourselves away from one another, as you know you must.  Pain is in the parting and pain in the aftermath, the bereft state.  No way around it.

I know this well, as I’ve been now through more breakups than I care to count.  And this last one has been especially difficult, because there was so much passion, so much that was good, so much that I wanted to hold onto.  And also this was a pretty long relationship–nearly six years–and I had great, golden hopes for our future together. So, if you find yourself in this situation, consider the following tips for getting through:

  1.  Praise yourself: Find something positive to say about yourself, however small, every single day.
  2. Don’t trash your ex.  Just don’t.  You can talk about how you were not compatible, how you finally couldn’t make it work for whatever set of reasons, but when you thoughtlessly put your ex-lover down, thinking that this will make you feel better, you are actually putting yourself down.  If he/she was such a loser, what does that make you for hanging on to him/her for so long?  No.  Celebrate what you loved about him/her, the good you had together, and recognize that relationships come to an end for many good reasons, some of which may be out of your control.
  3. Research the benefits of single-hood.  Watch a movie (here is a good list), find a cartoon, an article, a book, a painting or sculpture or song that celebrates the fabulous possibilities that deciding to take a break, take a breath, and be simply yourself, can bring.  Remember why you are not settling.  Every time you want to call your ex, look for something that inspires you to appreciate the benefits of being single.
  4. Be really nice to yourself.  Get a manicure or pedicure.  Take long baths with candles and lovely things to read.  Get a facial.  Gained some weight?  Buy yourself a few outfits that fit and make you feel attractive.  Nothing worse than spending all day in clothes that feel too small.   Be comfortable, but don’t spend the rest of your days in sweatpants and crappy t-shirts.  Recover your sense of dignity, beauty, elegance.  So what if you’re not as thin as you used to be.  The sexiest women in the world have love-handles.
  5. Get some exercise and breathe.  Walk, ride your bike, garden.  Move your body, activate your heart in a way that benefits you, not someone else.  Get outside, or stretch inside.  Even five minutes of stretching (try cat-cow) can help you feel better.
  6. Appreciate life.  Is the weather fabulous?  Enjoy it.  Cold and gloomy?  Get cozy at home in the kitchen–make a pot of soup.  Smell the aromas–of the flowers or the soup.  Be grateful for the beauty and comfort around you, however small or insignificant.  A weed blooming between the cracks in a sidewalk is a wondrous universe of life and power.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

These hilarious and poignant pointers come from my favorite spinster aunt:

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work

1. Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.

2. When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.

3. If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to rape her.

4. If you are in a lift and a woman gets in, don’t rape her.

5. When you encounter a woman who is asleep, the safest course of action is to not rape her.

6. Never creep into a woman’s home through an unlocked door or window, or spring out at her from between parked cars, or rape her.

7. When you lurk in bushes and doorways with criminal intentions, always wear bright clothing, wave a flashlight, or play “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” by the Raveonettes on a boombox really loud, so women in the vicinity will know where to aim their flamethrowers.

8. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from raping women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you when lurking in shadows.

9. Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to rape a woman, you can hand the whistle to your buddy, so s/he can blow it to call for help.

10. Give your buddy a revolver, so that when indifferent passers-by either ignore the rape whistle, or gather round to enjoy the spectacle, s/he can pistol-whip you.

11. Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. When asking a woman out on a date, don’t pretend that you are interested in her as a person; tell her straight up that you expect to be raping her later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the woman may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape her.

In other words, the best way to prevent rape is to not rape anybody.

Bikram Day 26: the back and the belly and the mind

What I’m liking best about bikram these days is the yogatalk in the locker room afterwards.  Today I mentioned that sivasana is still incredibly painful for me and elicited a chorus of similar complaints and advice.  The consensus view is that I don’t know how to stand or sit properly, like lots of women.  What I need to do, the women in the locker room said, is tilt my pelvis back while tucking my butt under and pulling in on my stomach muscles.   A number of them demonstrated, in various states of undress, standing and kneeling on the floor.

It’s not like I haven’t heard this before.  My wonderful Iyengar teacher in Hotchkiss, Nancy, suggested that I think about my pelvis as a bowl of milk.   I need to tilt the bowl back, bringing the front rim up, so that I don’t spill the liquid that I’m carrying in it. This is an old metaphor.  As the lover says to the beloved in the Song of Songs,

Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.

According to the naked and sweaty women in the locker room at my yoga studio, combined with the advice I got from my wonderful Iyengar teacher in Colorado, my back pain, which is sometimes so debilitating that I can hardly move, comes from not having enough respect for my belly.

So where does this leave me?  How do I continuously focus on how I’m holding my self, my spine?   I don’t know if I can do this, but I will try.

What I am noticing now on day 26 is not physical.  I haven’t lost an ounce and I can’t see that I’ve tightened up in any one of my muscular areas.  My arms still look flabby, damn it.  I’m still drinking a couple of glasses of wine every night.  But I am eating less junk food, and I do notice that I’m craving healthier meals.  Yesterday, for example,  I did a double class–four hours in a 90 degree room, three of them holding poses–and afterwards I wanted to eat green stuff.  But the greatest noticeable benefit is psychological.  I feel calmer, more centered.  I feel more self-confident and less anxious.

For example: today I sent off my book proposal. This is a huge achievement.   I’m embarrassed to admit how long I’ve been working on it.  Something about the commitment to yoga made it possible for me to make a commitment to myself in this way.  After years of anxious hiding,  I finally said to someone, “hey, this is my theory, and it is mine, and you should pay attention to it.”  Also: “My ideas are interesting and worthy of publication.”  And, “I’m not going to sit on this for one more minute.”

What is the connection between this locker-room lesson about the belly and the back and  my having sent out something that I have been sitting on and fretting over for 10 years?  The sending out of the proposal is a kind of birth, a kind of delivery of what is within me to the world.   This gesture, so long guarded against, so long feared, has helped me to relax.  But I wonder if I would have been able to make this vital move if I hadn’t also been going through the same 26 spine-altering poses for the past 26 days.

Tonight I practiced yoga with a woman who I have had trouble accepting, even though I have also been very touched by her.  When I first met her, I felt resentment, competition, and dislike.  Tonight my anxiety, or discomfort in the world, abated a bit, and I was able to see and accept her with much more compassion than before.  I caught myself comparing my ability to do the poses with hers, and tried to let this ridiculous competitiveness go.  Tonight she was rather noisy and self-centered and vain and domineering.   I sensed that her not very likable behavior was coming from pain and misery.  She’s very confessional and at the end of class she mentioned that, just before it, she had been weeping in her car.   Christmas is coming on and she just broke up with her boyfriend.  None of her family is here in Pittsburgh.  She doesn’t know quite how to get through the holiday.

Why did it take so long for my heart to soften and to see her as a human being whom I actually liked and wanted to help?  Is it not because I get into these habitual and rigid poses of the mind, not unlike the habitual and rigid poses of the body, that ultimately bring me pain?  Isn’t this guarding of the heart, and these customary ways of holding the body and the mind, a way of dwelling in dislike and distance and alienation from other people? I experience this alienation from other people as a form of pain.   I don’t know how I learned to hold myself in these ways, and it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I learn to change the way I carry myself in the world, not only in relation to other people but also in relation to myself.  The old habits of rigidity and separation may once have protected me from pain, but they can also increase the discomfort, the stiffness, that makes the movements of my body and mind excruciating.