Recently, during a weekly therapy session, my doc and I were doing our thing, talkin’ ’bout boys, my frustration with the ones I have met, and my recent relapse into dreaming about my ex; I was telling her that sometimes, despite being a relatively solitary person who enjoys time alone, I get overwhelmed with loneliness. I miss something I don’t have anymore, that feeling of deep companionship.
It’s something we’ve talked about often in the last year and a half since my biggie breakup; during that time, as my loneliness and grief waxed and waned, my career has thrived. The Frisky has become more successful than I dared to have dreamed when we first started it and I’m noodling with the idea of writing a book; both work and personal projects keep me busy and sometimes I feel like I need to pinch myself to confirm that my professional aspirations have been met with truly thrilling results.
My love life, on the other hand, in the aftermath of my breakup from my fiance — with whom I had a relationship that, while not meant to be, was life-changing — has been lacking. Still, it’s not something I give up on, and I often think and talk about my desire to have a family of my own. My therapist asked me, and I’m forgetting how we circled around to this line of questioning, “Would you trade the professional success to have the family you want?” It didn’t take me but a second to decide. “You mean, would I trade a career that’s still on a significant incline for a happy relationship and children? Yes. Absolutely.”
Of course, she reminded me I didn’t have to choose, that life isn’t that black and white. The desire to “have it all” can be a lot of pressure, but so long as you’re realistic about what “it all” means, there’s no reason to have to choose between work and family. But her asking me that question served as a reminder that a busy career and the excitement of a new relationship are hard to balance at the same time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my career has blossomed while I’ve been single — I’ve had loads more time to focus on it. In truth, right now is not the best time for me to meet someone amazing and fall in love.
Not to mention the time actually spent together — needless to say, it cuts into the time I should be spending working on my book proposal, or, you know, doing my job.
But ultimately, the question of what’s more important to me, a fulfilling personal life or a fulfilling professional life has an easy — and decidedly old-fashioned — answer for me. Especially right now. My grandmother, who I grew up seeing almost every week until I headed off to college, is, well, dying. I suppose that’s the way to put it. She’s my last living grandparent and I love her very much. She hasn’t ever really gotten over the death of my grandpa 15 years ago, but what’s kept her happy and strong during those years is the support and love she’s gotten from her children and grandchildren. That kind of love is something you just can’t get from a big paycheck, a fancy job title, or landing on the New York Times best seller list.
The thought of losing my grandma is difficult, especially because I know it will be really painful for my own mother, and I want to be strong for her. That part should be easy enough, because I’ve always had an easier time letting out my emotions with a boyfriend or romantic interest rather than with my family; I’m not sure why. Maybe some below-the-radar desire to see if a guy is willing and able to take care of me when I’m not in control emotionally? Since becoming single I’ve had to learn to lean on my friends and my family more, which has been a challenging but important change. Needing a man to rely on emotionally is not exactly healthy, nor is it something I want to teach my future children. For the most part, I’ve gotten much better at calling up my pals when I’m down in the dumps, or telling my mom when I’m upset about something, so long as I don’t think it’ll make her stay up all night worrying.
But this weekend, upon hearing that my grandmother wasn’t doing well, I wanted to cry. More than anything, I wanted to cry on someone’s shoulder. I had a moment of really missing my ex, because he met my grandma and thought she was hilarious with her repetitive stories and ability to exaggerate. It’s not that I wanted someone — least of all him, because that ship has sailed — to say or do something in particular to make me feel “better.” I just wanted someone there. I felt an ache that no amount of work — preparing posts for the site, writing chapter outlines for my book — could distract from.