The thought of starting over is of course, intimidating, to say the least. As the saying goes, we start from square one. We have to start from scratch and begin again. The idea of change can be frightening. I know this for a fact.
I remember an early June in the year 2006. I had very little to my name. I entered into my small apartment, which was basically naked and empty of life or any decoration. The apartment echoed. It was freshly painted after the previous tenant moved out.
The walls were white and the wood flooring was dark oak. There was no pictures hung in the wall or any decoration in the room to absorb sound. Everything echoed in my upstairs apartment.
This was in someone’s private house. There were two bedrooms and one bathroom. The kitchen was small but the stove was new. The fridge was less than new but it was big enough and cold enough to keep my food and freeze my frozen goods.
I had an old television and an old computer. I had a little stereo. I had a small collection of silverware and a few plates to eat my food. After leaving my last home, my ex-wife packed a few things for me.
She mentioned she packed a few towels for me. And she did. She gave me the same towels I had when she met me. They were old towels and some even had holes in them. I saw this as unfair, but hey, life is unfair. And so is divorce.
Slowly I began to design this place to make it my home, and while I knew this apartment would only be temporary, I decided to make this place my own. And why not?
This was my first apartment. This was the first time I was ever on my own or living without other people. No family. No girlfriend. No wife. There was no one around to tell me what to do or when to do it.
I could leave dishes in the sink without this being a hassle. I could watch whatever shows I want, leave the bathroom door open, leave the toilet seat up or down; it wouldn’t matter because you know why? For the first time in my life, I was on my own in a way that I had never experienced before.
I suppose the most intimidating ideas were the thoughts of loneliness. I was afraid of being alone and living alone. I was afraid of the ideas of failure. I was afraid that I would be this way forever and believed I was unwanted and undesirable.
It is amazing how thoughts create such an overly dramatized, worst-case scenario idea, which is compiled and added together with illogical and overly emotional considerations that create such an inaccurate version of life.
It is true. I was alone. It is true that I struggled with the ideas of failure. I believed I was a failure at marriage and a failure at fatherhood.
I learned here, most of all, that no one ever wins a fight. There are no winners because the simple fact remains that two sides could not interact or negotiate a peaceful process, which means neither of us won.
I spent so much time trying to be right and argue my point. I fought so hard just to protect myself. I was tired of being angry.
My heart and spirit was at an all-time low, which had nothing to do with love—at least, not exactly.
I knew I was never in love. I suppose the ideas of failure came because I never truly experienced love, or real love if there was such a thing, or anything as selfless as unconditional love, in which, I never knew there was such things as truly unconditional love, nor could I believe in it.
At that time, everything I did revolved around other people but nothing revolved around me. I never did anything for myself or by myself. My fears of loneliness were too overwhelming.
I had a need to be heard. I had a need to believe I was accepted and wanted. I wanted to be wanted and desired. I wanted to have a counterpart. I wanted to have someone to laugh with, which is not to say I never laughed before. What I am saying, however, is I never felt completed by anyone or as if she and me or us were this perfectly imperfect thing, as if we were synergistically and cohesively created for each other.
Seamlessly . . .
Everything I did previously and up until this point was based upon ideas of social acceptance. I never knew how to be “Alone” and not feel so lonely.
The odd thing is I wanted love. I wanted connection. I wanted to be around people but yet, I felt so terribly awkward and uncomfortable around others.
Meanwhile, back to my rebuild, I was alone in my apartment. It was a weekend. I was alone and without any plans. There was no place to go and no one to go with. I started thinking sorry thoughts about myself.
But then something magical happened. Something extraordinary happened.
Rather than sulk or linger in the sad recollection of my life’s events, and rather than consider my ex-wife or my ex-life; instead, I made a clear decision to disconnect from these ideas. Instead, I did something for me.
I put on some music and played it loud. I opened up the fridge and took out a few chicken cutlets. I took out a few eggs and some flour and breadcrumbs. I took out the olive oil and my frying pan.
With the music playing in the background, I chose something easy to listen to. I chose a few of the older classics (at least they were classics to me) and I then I lit the stove-top to heat my pan.
The apartment smelled from food.
It was good food though
Now, I do not say that I am a good home cook or a chef by any means. What I am saying is on this day, I decided to make my best favorite meal. I heated the pan and bathed the thin cutlet sliced in egg and then flour and then breadcrumbs. I fried them up in the pan, which made that perfect grilling sound when the cutlets touched the heat of the pan. I had mashed potatoes made by me. And even if I do say so, myself, my mashed potatoes are the best in the world.
I boil’em, mash’em, crush’em, add some butter, add some sour cream, add some milk, and then I take a cake mixer and whip’em until the mashed potatoes are thick and almost creamy-like.
They are perfectly paired with my cutlets that came fresh out of the pan with the crumbles of fried bits on the breadcrumbs and then tossed on a plate.
I took my time with this. I prepared a meal for myself. I made a few side dishes for me as well. I had a few caper berries. I had some artichoke hearts to sit as an appetizer before my main course was served.
I set the table for myself, which was not big by any means. It was round and small.
I put out a few napkins for me because I knew, one thing for sure, as soon as my knife and fork were in hand, I was going to eat my messy creation and enjoy every piece of my friend chicken cutlets and every last portion of my mashed potatoes. I would mop up the last piece of mashed potatoes and gravy with the last piece of chicken. I knew that afterwards, I was going to retire to my coach. I knew that although I did not have much, at least what I had was mine.
I never took care of me like this before. I never nurtured me or my life like I did on this day. This began a trend for me. This was my square one.
There are writers that write about their perfect day. There is even a passage by Fulghum which is similar to mine in which Fulghum discusses chicken fried steak. I cannot say I have had too many days in my life that I would relive exactly as it was, without change, and completely the same. However, in a time of desperation and at a time in my life where I thought all was lost, I look back on this day and feel warmth.
The idea that I cannot be alone or by myself and that I am unwanted or unfit is only an idea. None of this is fact. The only fact is that I needed to learn how to nurture myself.
Around this time, I was working in a commercial office building on 34th Street. There was a radio station on the 42nd floor. I knew some of the on-air talent and some of their assistants were very friendly to me.
They offered me some food made by a chef. When the food was delivered to me, I said thank you. I was told not to worry. I was told that food is love; that this is the best way to show someone you care and appreciate them. I suppose I took this lesson to heart.
Food is love . . .
We need to feed ourselves and nurture ourselves. We need to be comfortable in our own company. I learned that if I can master this then I will never feel lonely again for the rest of my life.