HOW TO BE ALONE

 


HOW TO BE ALONE

A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go, team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an EL-I-V-E. Live! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.

— MAUDE, HAROLD AND MAUDE


Just after Max and I ended things, I’d found out I was going to be in the Out 100, which is a list of influential LGBTQ people as listed by Out magazine. It’s huge and I was so touched, even if I was living in my own personal queer nightmare. Man, when people say, “I wish I could date women, it’d be so much better,” I want to show them my box of evidence to the contrary. The shoot ended up happening just two days after I found out about the cheating. I cried the whole way there and told the photographers and makeup artists I’d just had a “bad breakup,” which obviously doesn’t begin to cover it.


The incredibly sweet and warm photographers and stylists showed me Mariah Carey’s apartment, which was across from where we were shooting (I did not scream “OMG, I used to practice hitting high notes to your songs while sliding down the stairs!!!” at her window and I really regret that now), and reminded me I was beautiful, something that had been beaten out of me in that relationship more times than I’d realized. My favorite part of the shoot was when the art director looked at the shots they were getting and said, “You said you were just getting out of a bad relationship, right?” and I said, “Yeah,” and he said, “Oh, we’re gonna find you someone so much better.” And I lit up at the very idea. Of someone seeing my face in these photos and thinking, “What a special, beautiful person. I should be so lucky to date her,” a sentiment I hadn’t heard or felt in what seemed like years.


And again, in that instant, I felt held and seen. They couldn’t know what those words meant to me, or what it meant to have the contrast of immense pain in my life, but also a roomful of designer clothes in my size that were just for me, and a team of people who were all there to take my photo and play around with me while I was wearing seventies roller skates I could barely stand in, because I had done the work I’d set out to do for my community. And even if I felt so completely alone right now, this was an acknowledgment that I was, in some way, not alone at all. Sure, I was coming out of some shit with a bi-phobic person who was so cruel to me I still can’t absorb it, but the other people in the queer community thought I was special and important and worthy of good things.


About a week later, I booked my dream trip to Prince Edward Island, home of Anne of Green Gables. I’d had a lifelong dream to go there, live there, and fall in love there. I’d put it off for months, due to my basing my entire life on Max. What if I booked it at a time when she was here in New York? What if I booked it at a time when she was going to surprise me and come here? Later, on the plane to PEI, I laughed at this because I would’ve been shocked if she’d been capable of basic human emotions toward the end, let alone grand romantic gestures that weren’t entirely self-serving.


It’s insane the kinds of rewrites you have to do when you find out who someone really is. You have to rewire and reroute your entire brain. (“I want to text Max.” [Takes self by the shoulder and reroutes her to the other direction.] “No, she doesn’t exist. Not anymore, and she never did.” “But . . .” “I know, sweet pea. I know.” “I miss her so much, she’s the person I love,” “No, she’s not. It was all a lie, Laney. You don’t know that woman. You don’t love her. You just love who she pretended to be, and she pretended to be that woman so that you would love her.”) It’s like training a dog not to shit all over your house, but instead you’re training yourself not to be with someone who shit all over your life. After we broke up, I realized I might as well book the trip. And I did. Thank god.


I booked my flight pretty down to the wire, a few weeks before, but fortunately flights were still pretty reasonable, which I would later learn was attributable to the fact that I was going to PEI in the fall, just after their tourism season ended and basically on the very last possible day to go there before every business shuttered for the season, and every homeowner bolted their doors to fend off the torturous winter.


I went for eight days. I packed the small tote bag I always bring with me no matter where I go or for how long. I brought three lightweight lacy sundresses so I could go full-on American Anne Fan Woohoo. (I would very quickly regret this once I got there, since it was max fifty-nine degrees every day.) I brought my Dolly Parton hoodie given to me by Stephanie in Atlanta, four pairs of underwear, two pairs of wacky knee socks with hearts on them, one pair of sneakers, and just a ton of face masks. And I hopped on the puddle jumper plane and landed and got a car without extra insurance or roadside assistance because, wow, what a badass.


I’ve traveled by myself exclusively for as long as I can remember, but apparently people don’t do it that often. Movies and TV and friends have made it very clear to me that people travel in packs, in groups, but I never did. I never moved anywhere where I already knew people, never moved to a neighborhood because I had friends over there, never took a Girls’ Trip (???). I never even thought about it. That was what other people with families and normal lives did and I just figured there were no exceptions. That, and I wasn’t sure where I’d go and also LOL poverty and survival.


When I arrived in the area of my friend Caissie’s vacation home/church (that she generously lets her friends stay in when she’s not there—THANK YOU, CAISSIE!!!) in the middle of nowhere, I couldn’t remember what it looked like at all. She’d sent me photos but I was still in my zombie post-breakup brain mode, so I was barely functioning. The second I saw the house and the road leading up to it, I squealed. I got inside and the church was freezing and I couldn’t get the heat to work, but I didn’t care. I googled the nearest grocery store and loaded up on whatever I thought I’d need for the week.


The first thing I did when I got back was throw my bag down and belt out Neko Case’s “John Saw That Number,” which was just meant to be belted in a church with incredible acoustics. Over the next week, I did a series of Kitchen Karaoke posts (Instagram videos of me singing in my kitchen while chopping vegetables) every single night because the church was so beautiful and my voice sounded so strong and so crisp and I could really hear myself, as if I were listening to someone else sing.


The next morning I went to the restaurant nearby that I was told had Lane-friendly foods and asked a woman I saw waiting tables, who looked like a young Mrs. Claus—just super happy and cheery, with full red cheeks that made you want to hug her—if they had things that were both vegan and gluten-free, so I wasn’t resigned to my typical no-man’s-land of side salads and granola bars. She looked at me and said, “Oh, yes, dear! All of our desserts today are actually vegan and gluten-free.” I got so excited I said, “Oh my god, honestly, my first instinct is to hug you right now.” She laughed and said, “Well, bring it in, girl!” and we hugged.


I told her I was Caissie’s friend from New York City and she told me her name was Allison, and we talked as I ate poutine for the first time and she sat with me once everyone left and we chatted and she introduced me to her husband. They ran the restaurant together and lived upstairs and it was just the sweetest thing. The restaurant was equal parts delightful small-town diner and monument to all the years they’d been married—which was exactly why I’d come to PEI. To remember that I once believed in love, that I once was a romantic. That I once lived and breathed people’s love stories, even though that part of me had been murdered like a Law & Order: SVU victim found in a river.


I told Allison it was so much colder than I’d expected and she offered to give me an extra coat and told me I could keep it the whole trip if I brought it back before I left. I brought it back the next day, partly because I found a dream sweater at a nearby thrift store, and partly because I have a weird thing about borrowing things, where I worry that I might forget to give it back and therefore I will not be perfect, so I’d rather someone just take it back before I’ve even used it so I don’t have a chance to mess up even once!!!


I ended up spending part of every day over there, holding her granddaughter, who was an adorable little infant, and telling them I was um, kind of working on a book and that I, uh, sort of did comedy. Careful not to brag, but also, I do some kind of cool things and anyway, how’s the flan?


And I explored the city. I went to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s childhood home and cried the entire time, mostly about how much I identified with her my whole life, especially as I got older and realized this woman, who had inspired untold levels of romanticism in the hearts of so many through her novels, was also deeply depressed and lonely, a parallel with my own life I could not have predicted. Every room felt touched with magic. I even snuck away and stood in front of the Lake of Shining Waters and cried some more, gently singing to soothe myself and also as a celebration of how much joy I felt bursting from me, just by being that in touch with the hopeless romantic I used to be, and maybe still was. I took some flowers from the surrounding area and placed some in my hair, and later pressed them into a book. They now hang over my bed as a reminder of who I was, am, and could be again, if I could find my way back to it.


I went to Charlottetown (the urban part of PEI) and was surrounded by guys who looked exactly like the super-sweet, good-natured, super-romantic, and relationship-driven men I knew in my small town, whom I miss so much. And it felt so good to be flirted with by someone who you know full stop would’ve been so happy to get to take you to dinner and have even an hour of your time to make you feel special. My whole body just relaxed as I typed that—it feels that rare, healing, and refreshing.


I went to a large rec center outside the city where they had a pool and bowling and I went in to bowl. (I will always choose swimming or being in water over bowling, but I’d gone in the pool and a baby puked next to me, so I was given a bowling voucher and was, like, “Okay, sure.”)


There was literally no one there, but I was gonna lean into this manic pixie dream girl moment so hard. So I punched in all the players as Lane, Also Lane, and Still Lane. All three of us played two games and spoiler: I won. And it was so ridiculous and funny and super fun. And the teen who was manning the booth and definitely watching me play with three different mes, for multiple rounds and two whole games, was either identifying me as his future dream girl or keeping his hand on the button to call the cops if he needed to. Who can say which!


I went to see the Bottle Houses, which are a series of houses made out of recycled bottles. And when I went in to buy my ticket, the clerk said, “You’re driving around here all by yourself ? All alone?” and I smiled and said, “Yep.” And she said, “Doesn’t that feel scary?” and I smiled again and said, “Nope. I’m good.” Remembering all the times when I was alone before and I hadn’t been good, preparing me for this moment when I was.


I walked along the beach and made friends with a woman who lived nearby and petted her dog, who she said usually doesn’t like people. I love that. When a dog who doesn’t really like people immediately loves me, it’s the greatest compliment. That reassurance that someone can see your goodness from miles away. She told me you could eat seaweed straight out of the ocean and we did and it was the freest, most little kid feeling. Of knowing things could still be new, that there were still so many good things left to experience.


Before I headed back, Allison and I had deeper conversations about my past and this book. She held my face in her hands and told me, “You are so lovable. It’s just so evident. You meet you for twenty seconds and you just know how lovable you are. And I don’t say this lightly, but I’d love for you to be one of my kids. And I mean that.”


I had no clue what to do with this. It was the second time it had happened and I couldn’t get hurt again. She also told me about some horrifying things she’d experienced that she’d never told anyone about, not even her family, and I was so humbled that she was able to share that with me. I have always had that effect on people and it’s a true honor, but also often very heavy because I hate that anyone has ever been in any pain ever. And hearing it makes it real. And feeling powerless and unable to remove it from their heart is even more real.


The night before my return flight, she told me to come by the cafĂ© and she’d pack me some snacks for the flight because I “couldn’t take that trip without having snacks.” I looked around, like, “Uh, I could live off a sleeve of rice cakes if I needed to,” again stuck in that mode of “oh I CAN” instead of the newfound world of “but you don’t have to” that I was trying to acclimate to. She packed me tortilla chips and hummus and veggies and ginger snaps and I ate them up, emotionally first and physically later. While she packed the chips, I said, “And it’s great because you can just give me the crumbs too, so you don’t waste those!” and she replied, “Oh, I’ll give you the whole chips, and we do use those crumbs in our Frito pie!” Thankfully, she didn’t pick up on my vibe of “Feel free to give me the garbage!!!!! Look how easy I am to love!!!!! I’m like an unkillable succulent!! Just pay attention to me every eight months, but please take me home, any amount of care will work for me!!!”


Totally bizarrely, she’d also asked me about the rest of my Tinder Live tour dates for that month for the United States, and it just so happened I was going to be doing a show in San Antonio right when she was there. So when I got to San Antonio, she came to my show with her friend and it was the strangest and best thing. She’d grown up in San Antonio and was going back to see her mom the same weekend I was there. She took me to thrift stores with her and even showed me the house she grew up in. And I’ll remind you, this was just a diner owner I’d met a few times. But of course this was happening. Of course. Every time she hugged me or told me she was worried about me or wanted to make sure I’d have enough to eat, I’d wince and recede, when I desperately wanted to fall into her lap crying and expand.


When I feel like I truly have no one, I know on some level that’s not as true as it once was. And the way I know that is often because of that stranger luck. Or when I’ll get an email from someone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram, or someone who listens to It Was Romance, or someone who’ll tell me I wrote something that really meant something to them. Or that Tinder Live made them laugh more than they’ve ever laughed in their life, or made them feel less alone in dating. Or when I go on tour and people tell me they’d always wanted to meet me which is just . . . as a lifetime loner this kills me in the best way. At any given moment, there could be someone out there reading my work or listening to It Was Romance records, and very often they’ll want to message me so I know they felt seen, or that they see me and want me to feel as loved as I am. And I don’t know what to do with it, other than beam and feel so held in that moment by someone I may never meet, but I’m working my way there.


Being alone is not a life sentence. I know it feels like it at the time, but I promise you, you will not be alone for the rest of your life. And if you are—which I am not going to say that’ll never happen because I’m starting to see that maybe, in my own way, I will always be kind of alone—okay, let’s see what happiness can be found there.


I’ve realized that sometimes being alone actually truly is better than being around people, especially if they’re the wrong people. Sometimes you just need time to yourself and it doesn’t make you weird or wrong. It’s a sign you really like spending time with you, which is healthy as shit, so good job.


Giving yourself permission to hang out with yourself can absolutely be a gift if you can learn to see yourself as an ally, someone who got you through everything so far, whether it was totally alone or not. You know your whole story. You know everything. So believe yourself, validate yourself. Plus, even though movies and TV haven’t accurately nailed the portrayal of this yet, you can have so much fun by yourself. List the things you’d want to do with other people. Go to the museum? Not a doubles activity. Go to a movie? Such a great thing to do alone. Tennis? Play against the wall. Especially if you don’t have friends who make you feel safe and loved and heard and supported and special and great. It’s absolutely better to be by yourself than with someone you don’t even like, or whom you do like but they don’t make you feel super great. Man, the number of times I went to parties I fucking hated with people who were jerks, even though I knew I’d have more fun by myself, even if that fun just meant sitting in a room alone silently is . . . too many times.


While most people hate sleeping alone, it’s also important to note that sleeping in a queen- or king-size bed all by yourself is magnificent. Honestly, being able to sleep in any bed all by yourself is pretty fantastic, but in bigger beds you can really try some shit out. What if I slept diagonally so my whole body is across the bed? Ooooh. What if I slept so my head is where my feet should be? Ooooh. Man, I am good at having fun.


Bummed out about living alone? Here are some pros! When you are alone and living by yourself, no one cares if you do your dishes right away. Or put your shoes away immediately. Or really do anything involving cleaning if you don’t want to. As someone who has had, like, thirty roommates in their life, I can tell you, this is really a thing to value. Along with solo dance parties, which truly are the best, most cathartic dance parties. Unless you are the person I aspire to be one day, you’re never going to dance in public with the same reckless, carefree abandon that you have when it’s midnight and you’re in your room alone and your song comes on and you just go for it like you’re in a movie montage.


Also, don’t be too worried if you want to be alone a lot lately. Bamboo grows underground for three years before it sprouts up to thirty feet tall. Nothing blooms year-round, so if you need to be alone right now, that’s what you need. And even if you fear that you’re at the beginning of a depressive spiral that will ultimately lead to you failing at life because you can’t be around people anymore, you’re probably not. You probably just need a break and it’s okay to take it. Plus, seeing all your friends regularly can be a fucking hassle. Everyone’s busy, you’re coordinating schedules, people are flaky. There’s that one friend who always says, “We need to hang out!!!” and never tries or follows through and you’re just, like, “Why do you even exist?” (in my life, not in the world, but still). It’s so nice not having to worry about coordinating a bunch of other people. You want to go to an eleven a.m. movie? Just go. You don’t have to check with anyone about shiiiiit.


One of my favorite alone things is to let myself be as weird as I want to be. Let’s say I want to make the faces of all my friends using only potatoes and a series of Sharpies, while singing the entire My Fair Lady soundtrack in my underwear? I’m gonna go for it. Who’s stopping me? No one.


I know sometimes being alone feels incredibly shitty and not empowering and is the worst. That’s totally understandable! Being alone is sometimes incredibly painful. Feel how painful it is, know that feeling will pass, and you’ll feel great again. It’s hard to remind yourself of it in the moment, so just remind yourself of other times when life felt like way too much and like it would never feel great again, but it did, even for two seconds, even if it was just, like, “Oh, man, I love cookies.” That counts. That’s hope. Take it.


More than anything, know that you’re never totally alone. We’re all fed this idea that if we’re not with our perfect person, or the perfect group of Friends-like friends (they weren’t perfect, but you get what I mean) then we’re totally alone. False: You have waiting room friends, or you have coworkers you make jokes with sometimes, or you have that cool old lady at the grocery who smiles at you every time she sees you. And all those people are glad you exist, even on the most basic level. Especially Grocery Store Gayle.


And listen, if you don’t have IRL friends and all your friends exist on the internet? That’s cool! Having online friends totally counts as having real friends, and for almost my entire life, online friends have been my lifeblood. But as I expand and allow myself to see I’m safer than I once was, this is a new world, it’s okay, you can come out now, I see that all of the songs and jokes and shows and sketches and writing I’ve done has had a ripple effect. Because I wanted to help people feel less alone, they kindly mirrored that back to me by reaching out to tell me I wasn’t alone either. I basically live on the internet (I’m trying to change this, but still, I love it), so if you’re lonely, I’m probably posting jokes on Twitter or videos on Instagram because I love the internet and it is where my friends live, hooray the internet, etc.


That said, my internet friends often don’t live here, and I’m not exactly going to reach out to someone who sent me one message about a Cosmo article to be like, “Hey, girl, what’s up? Sooo I feel like dying. LOL for real, though!!!” In those moments, I cope in the ways I always have: putting on headphones and pretending I’m in a movie, or imagining I’m singing and dancing to the song onstage for fifty thousand people and we all feel connected for this one night. I go for “trash walks,” in which I walk around an affluent neighborhood while keeping one eye peeled for the luxurious trash they leave on the street. (Laugh all you want, but I have a Cuisinart blender and a four-hundred-dollar iron and a million other things, the streets are littered with gold.) I go on Craigslist “free” and comb the treasures there. I go to restaurants and try new foods. I go on the playground swings at night by myself and sing as loud as I can while swinging. I take “night walks” where I go to parts of the city where no one is and I sing and dance in the streets so I’m not bothering anyone, but can also sing as loud as I want and dance as much as I want.


I found a gym I love that has a million classes per month and I go almost every day, because it’s a quiet sense of community for sneaky weirdos. By that I mean, I go to all these classes, but I don’t have to talk to anyone, no one knows who I am, but I get to see the teachers, and they tell me “Wow, you really understand this work!” when I do planks and I beam like the little kid who wasn’t often told she was good at anything and laps up the encouragement like water on a 100-degree day. I love my gym classes because they focus on strength, not thinness, and most of all, I love that I can do things now in class that I couldn’t do a year ago. It’s a real-world confirmation that life can always get better, it can. Things that seem impossible for me to do or feel or have today could be totally different in six months. Knowing you truly can grow and change and be more than you think, in an easily measured way, just by showing up every day and trying, has been so healthy for me to see. I use the classes as an exercise in self-care more than anything, as a way to shift me from my pattern of “Do it, you piece of shit! Who cares if you’re in pain? Just shut the fuck up and do it!” into something gentler.


So when I’m doing exercises, and everyone else is holding the plank for what seems like two hours, and after a minute, I don’t want to anymore, I don’t. It’s the promise I made to myself when I signed up. That I would only do things that made me feel good and take breaks when I wanted to, no questions asked. And coming from a hard-core, lifelong, “bleed out on the street, or you’re weak” person, that’s huge. If I find myself getting in my head in yoga, I’ll notice other people struggling in class and send them thoughts like “You got this! Just hang in there!” and hope it helps them through class. And when I’m holding a pose and I think, “I can’t do this shit anymore. I’m gonna fuck it up!” I repeat, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” in my head to replace that other voice that I DID NOT INVITE HERE!!!!


Sometimes I’ll hold the door for people, or instead of grabbing one yoga block, I’ll grab one for me and the person behind me, but I’m also very careful to not do too much of this because then I’m backsliding into I HAVE TO BE OF SERVICE TO EVERYONE OR ELSE I SHOULD DIE and that makes me feel way worse. On those days, my challenge is to receive, to let the door be held for me, to let someone give me their block, and not feel like I owe them $12,000 or I’m evil.


I was at my friend’s house a few months ago and she offered me blankets on the couch because it was so cold outside. I said I was fine and didn’t need one, nope. About an hour later, while she was bundled in layers and sweaters and multiple blankets, she said to me, “Dude, there’s no way you’re not cold. I’m wearing way more than you are and I’m covered in blankets and I’m still cold. Take a blanket.” And I said, so terrified, “Okay.” Once I took it, I began to cry. I told her my feet had been freezing and my hands were blue and I hadn’t even noticed. That I wished I could be like her. She was cold, she got a blanket. She was thirsty, she got water. She had to pee, she didn’t wait two hours until she was in physical pain and couldn’t hold it anymore, which I’ve always done and only recently realized was weird when I told a friend, “Yeah, I’ve had to pee for, like, two hours,” and they said simply, “Why???”


I told her I wished I could need something and my brain would register that and immediately fill that need. She looked at me and said, “Lane, I’ve always wanted to have an apartment where people could feel at home. It means the world to me that I have this couch and these blankets to give you so you can feel warm and comfortable. Because I’m so glad we’re friends and I want you to feel at home here.” Having never felt at home anywhere, I cried again. This time, at the idea that one day, maybe, I will.


Instead of trapping all these needs inside me, what if I expressed them, to the right people this time, and they were happy to meet them? I realized that recently when I was talking to a friend, Mary, whom, of course, I met through Instagram when she reached out to me to offer her home to me when I came to Tacoma with Tinder Live. She told me she knew it was probably weird because she was a stranger, but she’d love to have me stay with her while I was in town and also had a bunch of vintage clothes she was getting rid of that might fit me. I’m sure most people would see that and think it was nuts, but this is where my “Eh, fuck it, nothing’s killed me yet!” comes in handy. This total stranger picked me up from the airport as promised, drove me to her beautiful house, and now we’re friends. It’s unconventional, but I think it’s dreamy. I didn’t get what most people got, sure, but man, what a cool, weird alternate life!


When we spoke recently, I was very depressed, and Mary asked what would help, and I said I didn’t want to say, but then decided I did. “People always offer to buy you a beer or something and I don’t want that. Can I be honest with you? Is that okay?” and she said it was. “I really just want someone to come over and brush my hair, or let me cry in their lap while they pet my head and tell me I’ll be okay.” And I cried harder because I felt so ashamed to want that from a friend, from someone who was not a romantic partner or a parent, because I didn’t have either right now, but I still wanted it.


We section off physical comfort and intimacy so heavily. We reserve it for partners only, and platonic friends can only chitchat and that’s it. How can you tell people to be okay with being single while also telling them they can only get the basic human needs of physical touch from not being single?


But then, TV characters cry in each other’s laps, and race over with ice cream and hair braiding when someone so much as drops their car keys. And we’re told this is normal and everyone but you has six loyal friends they see every single day. It’s incredibly frustrating. So you take physical affection when you can get it, almost feeling guilty when you do. You might sleep with someone just to get to the cuddling part, knowing full well if the cuddling had been on the table, you might not have even slept with them to begin with. You might get super happy when your yoga teachers do adjustments because having someone touch you in a safe, gentle way, even for two seconds, feels like it changes your whole world. I know I do. Partly because human beings are designed to be physically comforted by one another, but also because it’s soothing parental behavior I didn’t often get as a kid. So when I get it now, it’s the closest thing I can get to immediate happiness.


Mary didn’t pause before saying, “Lane, I bet there are a ton of people near you who would love to do that for you. And next time you’re in Tacoma, I would absolutely love to do that for you.” And my tears went from light rain to waterfalls that kill people. I’d voiced a need and she didn’t run away; she didn’t think I was weird or too much. I still haven’t asked anyone to do this, and my head remains unrubbed, but I’m a step closer than I was.


I watch people in groups a lot—at meditation centers, yoga classes, even my apartment building—and I know people want to work together. Our base nature is to be together, work together, help each other—and it’s only removed once we have been hurt or denied that help from others, or had that desire ripped from us. But I know it’s still there when people smile at you on the street, or hold the door for you when they didn’t have to. It’s still very much alive. So if you want to exercise that and feel close to people in a safe and slightly distant way, you can. Right now. Hold the door. Smile even though they might not smile back. Wish everyone on the train a good day in your head. Hug someone mentally. On the hardest, most brutal of days, even the smallest of kindnesses has gotten me through. So when you have the energy, do it. And in that, lonely as you may be in every other possible way, you are connected. Because I guarantee at least one person you affected will think of you all day, maybe even longer.


It may not be a Band-Aid, it may not be a salve, it may just be the equivalent of someone kissing your Band-Aid: an idea. A gesture. That, if you’ve ever put on Band-Aids yourself, with no kissing or well-wishing from anyone, can mean everything.


Be the person you’ve been waiting for. I know it sucks, but what’s the alternative? Complaining about it? As much as I validate that life choice and find myself there often, it’s exactly like falling down in the street and crying for someone to pick you up because you’re in pain. It’d be great if they would. But they’re your legs and you have to pick yourself up, or you’ll just stay there forever.


Around Valentine’s Day this year, I saw a posting online for an emergency foster needed for a rescue dog from Mexico and thought, “Hmm, maybe I could help this dog.” But given that that same day, I felt more like giving up than I had in years, I laughed at the idea of that. “Okay, Lane, you can barely take care of yourself, but you can take care of a dog. Jeez, stop adding people/dogs in your life you have to take care of! Take care of yourself, please!” But I sent the email anyway, just to see. I’d wanted a dog since I was a teenager, thinking that adding a dog who could live in the car with me would be so fun and it’d be the two of us against the world, like Oliver & Company, but way sadder! But I never did anything about it, other than constantly google dog breeds who might do well in cars, because I figured it wasn’t fair to the dog.


In the few months prior to seeing the post about the foster dog, I’d floated the idea in my own mind of allowing myself to have something I’d always wanted: a little sandy-colored Chihuahua in a denim vest with punk-rock patches who never barked and loved to cuddle but had super-mellow energy and was always super happy and never left my side. Everyone told me this dog didn’t exist, that this was insane to want, and I figured maybe they were right, but I kept the dream alive, why not.


The rescue organization wrote back, I’d been approved. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. I was not prepared for this. And with that, all of the reasons I hadn’t gotten a dog prior surfaced: What if I wasn’t rich enough to have a dog? What if I wasn’t well enough? What if the dog is fucking evil? What if my apartment wasn’t enough space for her and somehow she died because of that? What if I didn’t know enough about dogs to be the perfect dog mom? What if I messed something up and hurt her by accident? I couldn’t live with that! And what if, what if, what if. I called Mary, who has a dog, and she said, “Lane, if it’s not a good fit, you give her back and she finds another foster.” And I breathed deep and thought okay. I put a post online asking if anyone had any dog stuff because this dog was getting here tonight and I knew nothing, and people rallied. I went all over town to pick up bowls and toys and leashes and as much as I could before I went to pick her up at midnight from the woman who had flown her in from Los Angeles, after having been flown in from Mexico, where they’d found her at half of her weight, having been badly abused.


The girl got out of her car and handed me the dog carrier and I hopped in a cab with her on my lap. I wanted her to know she was okay, so I unzipped the top of her carrier and put my hand in so she could smell it, because then maybe she’d know I was safe. As soon as I put my hand in there, she laid her head in my hand like it was a pillow, like she was home. And I thought, “Oh, damn.” And I just told myself it was nothing. All dogs do that to strangers probably. That night she slept curled up on my chest and never stopped smiling. She never barked, always looked happy, and was just as happy to sit on the couch with me while I worked as she was to go outside and play (well, eventually. She was terrified of the city for a while, which, same).


The next day I went to work and my roommate texted me, “I’m going to start calling this dog Little Lane. She’s clearly damaged, but she’s trying so hard to be a good dog.” It was the truest thing said about me, and about her. Fostering doesn’t allow for months of care, so I had to decide quickly if I wanted to keep her or if they should put her up for adoption. Having thought I’d get a dog when I got married or had a proper yard, years from now, I began to panic. I took her to get microchipped and the woman at the rescue organization said, “Are you thinking about keeping her?” and I said, “I think, maybe,” and she said, “Well, dogs are a big commitment. How would you feel about having her for the next ten years?” and I said without thinking, “That’s not enough time.” I loved her already and it scared the shit out of me.


I came home that night and called everyone I knew, crying, panicked. Later, telling my roommate, “I hate the idea of anyone but me having this dog. She feels like my dog. But what if she’s lying to me? What if she’s secretly awful and cruel and she’s just pretending she loves me so much because she wants something? Like, maybe she just wants food and one day she’ll get comfortable with me and hate me and reject me and she’ll leave or be mean to me and I’ll be so sad. I know she’s always smiling and so it seems like she really loves me, but what if she just does that to everyone?” My roommate laughed at how nuts I sounded, projecting all my lifelong fears about people, and surely about Max, onto this sweet little dog. He replied, simply, “Lane, the second you leave the house, she stops smiling. And all she does is sit on your couch, staring at the door, waiting for you to come back.”


So I took a leap of faith that she was as great as she seemed. I took a leap of faith that maybe this unconditional love was as real as it seemed. And I adopted her. And I held her close and told her, “I am your family now and I will always be here, always, always. You have been through so much and you deserve the whole world. And I want to be the one to give it to you.” Words I hope I one day hear from someone as well.


And I named her Lights. Partially, because I love the musician Lights so so much, but also because she was and is a beam of light that was brought into my life when I thought my life was over. In true romantic comedy fashion, she found me when I wasn’t looking, and showed me true unconditional love I’d never known before.


Now she often sleeps curled up with her back on my chest, so I can put my arm around her little belly and spoon her while we sleep, smiling the whole time. Or with her back against my back, like she’s a second spine. While I’m working, she’ll just sit there and stare at me, smiling, while she watches me like she’s letting me know I’m enough and she’s so proud of me. When I work too much, she comes over and will push papers out of my hand, or press keyboard keys, like, “You’ve been working twelve hours, stoooop!!!”


I thought having a dog would be another example of my taking care of everyone but myself, but I quickly realized it was the opposite. All the things I give to this dog—the twelve thousand times a day I tell her I love her and she’s beautiful and special and perfect, all the belly rubs and dog massages I give her—are greatly appreciated, and that love is returned. And on the days when I can’t do that as much, or I get wrapped up in work and forget, I always think she’ll be mad at me, she’ll hate me now, she’ll leave. And she doesn’t!!! That’s a thing??? You can be not perfect and still be loved? THAT’S SO COOL!


Lights is everything I wanted in a dog, and people told me there’s no way a dog like that existed, but she does. Which gives me faith the kind of partner I want can exist too. Looking at her burns and scars from everything she survived before I found her doesn’t make her broken. I don’t think of her as someone who “got what she deserved,” I see her as someone who was around some very cruel people. She did nothing wrong, it was not her fault. And I am so honored that I get to make her feel loved and spoiled and adored every moment I possibly can for the rest of her life. And now I know it’s possible that one day someone will look at me the exact same way, like they are so thrilled to be able to give me the life I should’ve always had.


And every time I have to feed her, it’s a good reminder I have to feed myself too. Every time I have to take her outside, I probably needed to go outside too. A reminder to take care of her is a reminder to take care of myself. And to that end, I’ve started to, every time I tell her, “You are so beautiful, I love you so much, you are so special,” I will add, “And I am so beautiful, I love myself so much, I am so special,” because I need to hear it too. We all do.


At this point in time, I have no idea if I’ll ever be someone who is super close to people and has a friend family and all of the things I thought I’d have by now, but I do know that every morning I wake up and I try to let people know how much I care for them, even if I don’t feel like I belong to anything or anyone (except Lightsy, bless you, dog angel) in the way I want to yet, because I mean it. One of the perks of being alone this long, I guess, is I never want anyone to feel as awful as I have, even for a second. As long as I’m alive and breathing, I want to tell that girl in the park she looks beautiful today, I want to tell the girl who’s crying on the subway I see her and it’ll be okay, even if I can’t guarantee that. I want to tell my friends they’re special and deserve love and I will always be here for them, even if I’m not entirely sure they’ll always, or even momentarily, be there for me. To me, the closest I’ve been able to get to not feeling alone is, at the very least, my hope that I can help people feel less alone too.


I still have fears that maybe I don’t get a soul mate the way everyone else has them, maybe I don’t get to belong the way I want to, I fucking hope not, but I’m still recovering right now and it can be hard to believe in. And if in the end I don’t get that, then what? What is left?


And the only answer I have is that I am. Every now and then, when my anxiety takes me down the road of what would happen if I somehow lost everything, I remember that I am alive and I am free, even if my mind often makes me feel like I’m not. I get to eat really lovely food if I let myself. I can travel if I want to, even if it’s two blocks away. I could go to the botanical gardens nearby and it’s so peaceful and so pretty. I could dress up in some wigs and costumes if I wanted. I could sing at the top of my lungs or play one of my instruments. I’m alone, perhaps, sure, yes, but I’m here. I’m still fucking here.


And not in an “ugh, I’m still here” way, but in an “I am still around and there is still time for things to change” way. When I’m in a lot of pain, it’s harder to believe things can change radically. But I know that I’ve gotten to a place where I’m texting with Janeane Garofalo, who meant more to me as a child than pretty much anyone, and doing Tinder Live with David Cross (whose stand-up albums and Mr. Show episodes were playing in my ears for most of my life, giving me hope that one day I’d be making comedy with other people who were like me, one day). Debbie Harry has heard me sing (!!?!!) and at one It Was Romance show, Parker fucking Posey told me my voice is incredible and that it “breaks the whole room wide open.” PARKER POSEY QUEEN OF EVERYTHING SAID THIS TO ME IN REAL LIFE. Susie Lewis, co-creator of Daria, aka my childhood lifeblood, told me she loved my web series. Rachel True from The Craft and I text about probiotics and tarot and swap dating advice and I more than happily tell her as often as possible that I think she’s incredible, because one of the best things about getting to be friends with and meet my heroes is I get to tell them how much they meant to me before I even knew them. And it is so much. And if I’d have given up all the times I wanted to give up, look at what I would’ve missed.


I’m able to write things people want to read, and not only read like passive clickbait, but things that resonate with people and make a difference to them—the only kind of writing I ever gravitated toward, and the only kind of writing I ever wanted to do.


And career stuff aside, because maybe you’re like, “Well, shit, I’m not remotely in that position,” then throw that part out, who cares, it doesn’t matter. My only point is that, in my wildest dreams, did I think a lot of the shit I have in my life now could happen to me? Totally, but only in my wildest dreams. So wild I knew they were very far away and had no idea how I would get there, or if I’d be alive long enough to see it happen.


But my point is, I think that’s what you do. You book that trip for yourself, you take yourself to dinner and enjoy it the same as if someone else took you out. You take all that love you keep giving to selfish idiots and try to throw some of it in the general direction of your own heart and you pray even a little bit of it sticks there.


Maybe all that shit boomerangs around, maybe it doesn’t. I can’t know. But if everyone did it, we wouldn’t feel alone ever. So be the idiot who cares too much, be the weirdo who makes a difference, be the person who, even if you never know it, kept someone from wanting to die because you smiled at them on the street. And in that way, in the smallest of ways, you’re a little less alone. Because someone will remember you forever. In the way that I remember everyone who has ever been kind to me. I keep them all with me, so I know exactly where they are at all times.


But truly, as borderline depressing and kind of lame as it is, I’m a little less alone because you bought this book and you’re right there, right now, being alone with me. And you should know I’d hug you if I could. So, so much. And I would tell you that you are loved and you matter and you are trying so hard. And that you deserve love and that any love you haven’t received yet is waiting for you somewhere out there, and I know you’re getting impatient and you’re ready for it now, but it’s coming, hold tight. And to not let the world and how it’s been in the past make you cold and shut-down and scared, because it can just as easily be totally different tomorrow or the next day, it just could, just as I tell myself these things as often as possible.


There’s so much I left out of this book because there was just too much to say and I didn’t want to overwhelm you, or myself, in just one book. There are a comical number of personal traumas I couldn’t lump into one book, so know the story of my past up until now is far from over, just like the story of my future hopefully is far from over.


But last time an elderly relative sent me a birthday card, she signed it the year I was born, then a dash, then 2018, like this is the year I die. So who fuckin’ knows.

(Apparently she knows.)





ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Lane Moore is an award-winning comedian, writer, actor, and musician. The New York Times called her comedy show Tinder Live “ingenious.” Her comedy and her band, It Was Romance, have been praised everywhere from Pitchfork to Vogue, and her writing has appeared everywhere from The New Yorker to The Onion. She is the former sex and relationships editor at Cosmopolitan, where she received a GLAAD Award for her groundbreaking work expanding the magazine’s queer coverage. She lives in Brooklyn with her dog-child, Lights. Follow her @HelloLaneMoore on Instagram and Twitter or visit LaneMoore.org.


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SimonandSchuster.com

Authors.SimonandSchuster.com/Lane-Moore

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