A Thank You Note to my (Messy) Single Self
Single Erin was a Hot Mess. If you knew me then, you are probably nodding. Disastrous relationships, lots of flitting about between jobs, friends, geographic locales, nervous breakdowns, a perpetually messy house… Actually, there’s a likelihood that I’ve yet to live down this particular moniker and in light of the fact that there are many more grown-up things that I could be doing rather than writing this column, I wouldn’t disagree with you too vehemently.
Confession: I didn’t own an iron until I was thirty.
Second Confession: I’d still rather re-wash the entire load than iron one shirt.
That being said, I have survived into a certain state of maturity – having been in a happy and stable marriage for nearly a year, keeping two pets, a child and two houseplants (not to mention some outdoor plants) alive for all this time and eating vegetables practically every day.
At present, I find myself in my third trimester of pregnancy, in the dead of summer, with a house about to go up for sale (which is a story for another day as it doesn’t necessarily detract from my aforementioned Hot Mess status) with both my husband and my daughter in other parts of the country.
This forces me to look back on that Lovely Disaster that was Single Erin and offer her up a note of thanks for the skills that I now have to fall back on, acquired by her foibles and trials.
In this, the age of technology, the art of the Thank You note is almost certainly lost. And to express my outrage at such a ridiculous notion, I’ve decided to blog this note, rather than write my former self a lovely handwritten card which would almost assuredly end up recycled in a pre-moving purge such as the one I’m currently working through. As proof of the wisdom which she (the former me) acquired by the skin of her finger nails, this Thank You has also turned into a bit of a “Hang in there, baby”, on the off-chance that some of you divine readers find yourself still in the Hot Mess phase of your journey.
Because that’s how I roll.
Dear Single Erin,
Well, sweetheart…you’ve never made it easy on yourself. That’s for damn sure. And yet I owe you a debt of gratitude for the following (which is by no means exhaustive):
1. Thank you for staying in the housing market.
It seemed like a bad idea as a newly single mother, making $12 an hour in 2009 when interest rates were high and the price of your newly acquired home was low. It was a struggle, but it was worth it. Thank you for finding (and listening to) a wise teacher who knows a lot more about the subject than you ever will. Believe him when he says that real estate is a long game.
Unsolicited advice: Stick it out. It will pay off.
2. Thank you for your time in a corporate job.
It’s true that a desk job just doesn’t suit you in the long run, but the knowledge you will acquire in a corporate environment helps balance out your inherent flakiness.
Unsolicited advice: Enjoy having benefits. Get your teeth cleaned.
3. Thank you for yoga.
It’s true that when you found it, you were at your lowest low to date. Sorry to break it to you, but there will be worse. Yoga will be your port in the storm through all the low points. A spiritual practice has served us well, Sweet One.
Unsolicited advice: When you love something as much as you love yoga, pay attention. It may suit you far more as a vocation than the corporate job (as important as it is to have a grown-up job at least once in your life).
4. Thank you for learning how to be alone.
And thank you for building a life. This independence is one of the most valuable treasures that you have given me. To create a beautiful life all on your own is not for the weak of stomach. In fact, you will teeter between co-dependence and independence for several more years…but that’s ok. You’re learning. Forgive yourself.
Unsolicited advice: When the time comes to fall in love with a kind man who respects you and cares for you, be willing to swap your independence for inter-dependence. Go to therapy so you can learn what that means. Don’t ever forget your independence entirely, but don’t hold onto it so tightly that you don’t make room to share your wonderful life with someone wonderful.
5. Thanks for the friends.
The greatest good to come from your independence (other than learning to kill your own spiders) is that you learned how to be a good friend. As such, you will attract a fantastic coven of fellow souls who will make you laugh, hold your hand when you cry, to shop with, to bare your soul to and to travel with.
They are an even better investment than real estate.
Unsolicited advice: The lesson that you shouldn’t depend on one person (man) to fulfill all your needs for you will be a tough one and I’m sorry for that. It’s such a worthwhile lesson that has such a positive outcome.
6. Thank you for Sierra.
Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is f*cking hard. Especially when you don’t have your own sh*t together. She is so delightfully worth it. Thank you for her. Thank you, a million times.
Unsolicited advice: You’ll know the right man when you see him by how great a co-parent he is. Don’t settle for someone who isn’t in love with your kid. This indicates a deep-seated f*ck-upedness that you don’t even want to try to fix.
Without that single girl, I wouldn’t know how to be on my own. I would never have had a Party for One or learned to entertain myself or learned to, as Elizabeth Gilbert wisely said, “make a map” of my own loneliness.
Without that girl, there would be no Sierra, because a proper grown-up would never have thought she was ready to become a parent at the stage in her life that Hot Mess Erin did.
Without her, there could be no Wonderful Husband or Fantastic Friends because She was neither a good friend nor a good partner back until she learned to be through trial and error.
She taught me that self-care never goes out of style and that neglecting it can yield some seriously funky results.
Single-and-Hot-as-Boiled-Garbage-Juice-Mess-Erin is the reason I enjoy the balanced, idyllic life that I enjoy today. She sacrificed her sanity (not to mention a lot of sleep) for me to mature into a semi-functioning adult (who needs to go fold some laundry now, lest I have to re-wash it to avoid having to iron).
For that, I am truly grateful to her.