Story and Photos by Lauren Belcher | firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a codependent.
And, as a codependent, there are a few obvious truths about me. I hate being alone. I get attached really easily and once attached, good luck getting out unscathed.
But the biggest issue is: I cannot be alone — not without sinking into a dark place until someone comes and pulls me out. Even now, as I sit and write this, completely alone, I have an incredible urge to pick up the phone and dial everyone I know.
But, for some reason, I woke up last week, stretched my hands towards the ceiling and decided: “I’m going to get my hair done.”
And that was that. I got up, perky as I could manage for the morning, tied my ratty hair up in a bun and headed out the door.
This day was different. It was very un-characteristic of me. It was more spontaneous —like the old me — the me I have not seen in awhile; the me that only comes out when someone else is responsible for my happiness.
I wasn’t tired. I was not wondering what other people were doing. None of that crossed my mind as I pulled into the parking lot of Hair Benders. There was a cute blonde girl who ushered me into the salon chair. Normally, this kind of female would annoy me. Happy, smiley people annoy me. However, she was so bubbly and sweet that I couldn’t help but be bubbly and sweet too.
As she turned my chair to face the mirror, I couldn’t help but think about all the other times this had happened to me. Usually, upon sitting in the chair, I would immediately look down, avoided the mirror that glares me in the face. If the stylist talked to me, I would mumble answers until he or she finally gave up on small talk. When I would catch sight of the mirror, I would scrutinize every feature.
My chin looks fat. Damn, when did I gain so much weight? Why are my eyes so dark? I look dead.
But not that day. I looked happily in the mirror and admired my smile. And I boldly told the stylist to do whatever she wanted with my hair, as long as she kept the long layers.
What did I end up with? Bangs!
I haven’t had bangs since sixth grade and those were the kind that are long and go straight across your forehead. These bangs are short and choppy and they go off to the side. I was ecstatic.
As I walked out of the salon, feeling overwhelmingly confident, I wondered what else my new sense of independence could accomplish.
I found that answer at the Manatee CafÃ©, located a few doors down from the salon.
The Manatee CafÃ© is a vegetarian friendly eatery. It was just the fresh, healthy food that I needed to keep my good spirits up.
I walked inside, and the host came up to me and asked how many people he needed to seat.
I smiled to myself and said, “It’s just me.”
And that is when it hit me. It is just me. Whether I have another person in my life or not, I still need to know I’ll be okay without someone.
No one should be in a relationship to the point where they forget how to be alone or to love themselves more than their “other.” It was much easier to learn this lesson while single, at a time when I have no one else to think about or consider.
My host nodded his head and took me to a small table for two. As he removed the extra place setting, I giggled at the irony. I would never normally do this. Eating out alone? No way!
And here I was, sitting alone at a table for two, giggling at how funny life can be.
As I looked at the menu, I realized I was definitely at the right restaurant. So much so that I couldn’t even decide what I wanted to eat.
I decided on the half sandwich which came with soup and a salad. Seemed like the best of three worlds.
It was. The soup was warm and hearty and the salad was light and tasty.
My half sandwich was a tofu reuben. This sandwich was the most delicious sandwich I’ve ever tasted. I was so sad as I finished the last bite and realized there was not another half.
I was wiping my mouth when my server came to collect my dishes. She asked how my meal was and I jokingly told her, “It was so amazing I almost wish I had the other half of my sandwich!”
She laughed and asked, “Well, do you want the other half?”
I contemplated this and my mind wondered to an image of their kitchen. I pictured the other half of my sandwich, sitting on the counter, never to be eaten. All because I decided I only wanted half. I became sad for the little half-sandwich.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes I would.”
She smiled and said it would be out in a few minutes. Now, obviously the half-sandwich I imagined did not exist. Actually, my order probably put more stress on the kitchen.
None of that mattered at the time. I knew that, because I was alone, no one could judge me for getting the other half of my sandwich. And I was damn proud of that.
When my half-sandwich came out, I ate it like a champ. Like it was the reward for everything I had accomplished that day.
It is amazing that every tiny decision I made that day felt like a life decision. Like my answer would be the difference between life or death — only I could decide.
Since that day, I have tried to spend time by myself a few times a week. The idea of going somewhere solo is less foreign to me now but it is still equally exciting.
I learned a lot about myself through these times spent alone. I am continually reprocessing the word ‘alone’ and the negative connotation I associate with the term. Alone is a fun, new mysterious word now.
What can I accomplish today? Where do I want to go? What should I do?
These are all questions I answer without considering anyone else. And I am excited to see what happens next.