I just did something I never thought I would ever do. Actually, I did a couple of things. I went to a concert - by myself. I heard that one of my favorite bands from the 90’s, Vertical Horizon, was playing a free concert on the water. I quickly texted some of my mommy friends and began asking around to see if anyone was going. People HAD to be going to this, right? This is too good to be true! After many blank stares and polite declines, I started to question my excitement.
But I couldn’t shake it. Something was telling me that I should go. And that I should go alone. Phew. All my “stuff” started coming up. What if I saw someone I knew and they asked me who I was there with? What would they think if I said, “Oh, I’m here by myself.”
- Would they think I didn’t have any friends?
- Would they think was lonely and pathetic since my husband and I are separated and my life revolves around my three year old?
- Would they think I was socially awkward?
- Would they feel guilty and ask me to sit with them?
I decided I didn’t care.
That’s right. I didn’t care if people decided to make up their own version of my story to feel sorry for me or to make themselves feel better about my situation. I took a deep breath of acknowledgment of my decision. I had come a long way from the days of surviving on people’s validation and needing to be part of a group to have an identity. As a matter of fact, I secretly didn’t want anyone to text me back and say they changed their mind. I was looking forward to this experience with myself.
A week before the concert, I started listening to old Vertical Horizon songs while I was in my car and memories came flooding back. When I was first introduced to this band, I was in college and dating someone who listened to them all the time. I have to be honest. I listened to them because he listened to them. We went to a ton of concerts. But we went to concerts he liked to go to. We always did something on the weekends. But I waited until he made a plan before I committed to anything I wanted to do. I had an outgoing, boisterous, party animal, “ready for anything” persona that I wore during those years that represented who I believe I needed to be to get the attention, validation and love I craved. But honestly, I had no idea who I was. I had no idea who I was outside of the world I had built around myself, full of people who acted like they loved and cared for me - but how could someone really love me if I am not the authentic me? No wonder I felt lonely, disconnected and empty during those years.
As I listened song after song, I realized that my 41 year old self liked this music. I mean, I really really liked this music. Every one of the lyrics spoke to the pain, uncertainty and hope I have lived in every minute of every day...then and now. And the decision to “like” this band was a decision based on who I really am in this moment, not who I need to be for someone else. Wow. So going to this concert solo was really a precious and symbolic gift of acknowledgement of the real me. Not a version of me that needs to appear as if I have clout in social circles, but the version of me that feels powerful and confident enough to lay my toddler’s bed sheet on the grass, rock out my water bottle and backpack full of snacks and watch a concert by myself.
So, I said at the beginning of this blog that I did a couple of things I never thought I would do. The second one was not drink alcohol at a concert. This may not seem like a big thing, but going to a concert by myself is one thing, but not having a glass of wine or beer to calm the social anxiety and turn on the fun was another. For the past nine months, I have not had a sip of alcohol.
God laid it on my heart that during this tender stage of healing and redefining my identity in Him that I would not be using alcohol as my usual coping mechanism, comfort or elixir for confidence. As I watched people go in and out of the beer garden, I began to recall how I used to believe that alcohol allowed me to be me. I believed it was a gateway to lower my inhibitions so I can be who I really am. I often found myself being more friendly and outgoing with a couple of drinks and I didn’t allow fear to stop me when I had alcohol. I never questioned this view or role of alcohol in my life. Until this year.
As I have navigated this past year with no alcohol, I feel like a veil has been lifted. Everything looks different and nothing will never be the same. I have realized how many friendships revolved around an atmosphere of alcohol. It was amazing how quickly I dropped off the invite list for parties when people found out I wasn’t drinking, especially since I was also separated from my husband and doing the single-mom thing. After first it stung. Actually, it felt like a piece of my body was being ripped off, but then it felt like a refreshing wave of really cold water that was awakening me to the real world and what this whole game of life is really about. Without the wine dates with girlfriends and weekends centered around social drinking, I had a whole new world open up, not to mention loads of free time.
For example, I used to go to church every once in a while. To be honest it was mostly because I had a little bit too much fun on Saturday and would rather stay snuggled in bed recovering than get up and get ready. This year, I have only missed church on Sunday due to travel or being sick. It’s not that I believe church is an obligation - it’s that I get so much out of it. I learn so much about my Creator, Comforter, Healer and Redeemer. I have rarely made it through an entire service without crying. It is truly therapy for my soul and spirit.
It is a gift to myself, Berlyn and my calling to never wake up feeling drained or hung over. I am the mom Berlyn deserves, not a grumpy, irritable mom just trying to make it through the day so I can get back in bed. In the evenings, I don’t turn on the television and have a glass of wine to relax. I play with Berlyn. We read. I read. I study. I spend time in God’s word. I pray. I create. I cook. I get to bed at a decent hour. I have been forced during this last year to create new ways to destress, new ways to hang out with friends and new ways to feel the pain of my grief, loneliness and confusion.
I am not standing in judgement as I share - this is MY STORY. My story may bring up emotions in you that you can choose to get curious about or you can just blame me and interpret this as judgemental and move on. Your choice.
So, as I walked into the concert and remembered all of the times that I would have bee lined it to the beer garden for a libation to “get me in the mood” so I could “have a good time” and “let loose”, I smiled to myself, picked my spot near the beer garden and sat down feeling relieved that I didn’t even have to have a discussion inside of my head about whether or not I was going to grab a drink to ease the discomfort of the moment. I just sat with the discomfort. I was surrounded by couples, families, a dad with his daughter, groups of friends and I just sat with the discomfort of being by myself at a concert on a beautiful Saturday. Have you ever just sat in your discomfort instead of running away from it? It’s liberating.
I don’t know how you run away. I have shared some of the ways I run. Another one is food. It would have relieved some of my anxiety and discomfort to go to a food truck and get some yummy comfort food. I could have taken that food back to my little blanket and the food and I could have had a moment. At least I would be doing something that “fits in” with the scene around me. But I didn’t do that either. I just sat and looked around and took it all in. I didn’t pick up my phone and scroll through Facebook or check emails. I allowed the discomfort to be what it was and I didn’t make it anything it wasn’t. I didn’t attach a meaning to it and I didn’t allow myself to make up stories about what other people were thinking about me because the truth is that it isn’t any of my business what other people are thinking.
In that moment, I sat with the truth that every single person at that concert have the same fears I do. But today I decided not to cover up my fears up with a version of me that acted like I didn’t have any fears. I just sat there. I breathed in the air. I ate a couple of snacks. I looked around and noticed that people weren’t noticing me. I wasn’t the center of attention because I was there alone. I was an insignificant person in a mass of people, but in that moment I felt so significant to myself. I was the true me. I didn’t need people. I didn’t need alcohol. I didn’t need attention. I didn’t need food. I was just being me and it felt awesome.
As the music started to play, I rocked back and forth and sang my heart out. I started to think about how cool it would be to go up to the stage and stand, but there was only a handful of people doing that. I started to think about what other people would think as they watched me from behind swaying and dancing to the music. For a moment I decided to stay where I was sitting and then I decided that was not an option. I had come too far in the day’s journey to let a lie hold me back from a once in a lifetime opportunity. I jumped up when one of my favorite songs came on and I walked to the front of the stage. I danced. I met eyes with a woman and I smiled. She smiled back. I met eyes with an older gentleman who was dancing like a rockstar and smiled. He smiled back. Even if I came alone, I was part of something today. All of these people have their own stories and mine is not any more or less significant or important, mine just feels more significant and important because I am living it out every day. But God loves each one of these beautiful people, just as much as He loves me. In that moment, I fully surrendered to the full acceptance of me. I sang a little louder, I jumped a little higher and I danced more freely. It felt awesome to be fully me - full of love, gratitude, joy, pain, faith and hope all wrapped up in uncertainty and excitement.
When the concert was over, I felt completely relaxed and lighter. I packed up my stuff and started walking back. I became aware of how grateful I was to be able to speed walk and not get winded. I was proud of myself that I didn’t blow money I didn’t really have on alcohol or food. I was excited to drive home and open up my computer and have the mindspace and motivation to write down my experience. What a gift.
As I was walking to my car, I noticed all of the couples. I asked God, what was in store for me? Was I going to be part of a couple again or would I be going to concerts by myself forever?
I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence. This season I am walking through is for the purpose of being healed and whole. For my entire life I have been trying to fill the holes inside of me with the things of this world that don’t last. I have spent a lifetime being who I needed to be so I could be someone in this world. I have tried to be a version of myself that would be loveable, at the expense of never being fully loved or known. This is my season to heal. This is my season to become whole. I am finding me for the first time. The real me. The me who knows it is okay to be imperfect because only imperfect humans exist. The me that realizes I will only enjoy the gifts of love and connection if I am the real version of myself, even if the real me isn’t for everyone or accepted by everyone. My next relationship will be with the intention and desire to pour out to the other person from a place of my overflow. I will no longer be a vessel searching for another person to pour into me. God has been restored to His rightful place in my life and He is a river of flowing water inside of me. He is everything I want, He is everything I need. I know who I am because I know who He is. He made me a conqueror, and I can only conquer what I confront. This day was all about confronting the old and new me and conquering some lies and fears that needed to be laid to rest so I could move forward in power and confidence for the battles that lie ahead of me.
I just wanted to share this story to connect the real me to the real you. I hope this speaks to the place inside of you that no one sees but everyone wants to know. I hope this gives you courage to begin to dissect your own masks and allow the world to see the real, beautiful, imperfect you!