Thursday, February 14, 2008

Quirkyalone Thoughts

Today is International Quirkyalone Day, according to Sasha Cagen, who created the word "quirkyalone" and formalized the concept in her book: Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. IQD is specifically not anti-Valentine's Day, but "just happens" to fall on the same day. Since I do happen to be single and quirkyalone on this particular V-day, it gets a post. Here's the basic definition from the beginning of the book:
quirk•y•a•lone n. a person who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than date for the sake of being in a couple. With unique traits and an optimistic spirit; a sensibility that transcends relationship status. Also adj. Of, relating to, or embodying quirkyalones.

The book fleshes it all out in much more detail, and I find, naturally, that there are some parts I identify with more or less than other parts. In the aggregate, though, it's a model I can relate to fairly strongly. The part that makes us "uncompromising romantics" is the part about not dating for dating's sake. We're picky, and we believe that there are truly incredible relationships out there, and thus we have little patience for anything lacking that magic. I was lucky in my last relationship to have a partner that understood this. We both realized that while the relationship could continue, it didn't need to, and so it made more sense (all things considered) to refactor ourselves back into friends.

As the definition clarifies, the "alone" part of "quirkyalone" doesn't imply that one is always alone or single, but merely that they can be alone without a problem. The "quirky" part helps with this. The more interesting and varied your life is, the easier it is to keep yourself entertained. The book also takes the time to distinguish between different forms of being alone, and I particularly liked this quote:
Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.
-Paul Tillich

Quirkyalones do get lonely sometimes, just like everybody else. But we also have a knack for experiencing aloneness as solitude instead. If loneliness is waiting dejectedly for the phone to ring, then solitude is being absorbed in creative endeavors, or being introspective, or otherwise independently directing our own lives without the need for other people. Some people need constant interaction to feel like they're fully living, but some of us have to have enough solitude to let us regenerate on a regular basis.

This independence also makes quirkyalones good at long-distance relationships. Once the spark is lit, our well-developed sense of romance helps keep us attached, but we don't necessarily need the constant physical presence because we keep ourselves so busy. (This isn't to say we don't miss each other or want to eventually be closer together, but c'mon, a little extra anticipation and longing just intensifies things.) I've certainly spent my share of time in this kind of a state, with many people not even realizing I wasn't single. Even in standard-distance relationships, attached quirkyalones (or "quirkytogethers") often have non-standard living arrangements, or other customized systems for maintaining appropriate amounts of independence within a committed, loving relationship. For a while, up until about a year ago, I was looking forward to figuring out how this would work once the distance shrank, but circumstances beyond my control have since closed down that particular life path.

And so, a tricky part of the definition for me these days is the part about "enjoy[ing] being single." While I can function perfectly well as a single person, and I certainly prefer it to various other possible states, I don't know that I'm yet at the point where I'm inherently happy with it. I have happy times -- it's not like I'm going around depressed all the time -- but I don't have an overall sense of rightness about my life, and so it's hard to feel truly happy as a real state of being. This could be simply because I haven't been single long enough to fully heal and realign. But I also feel that there's an essential part of my nature, the Knight of Cups part, that can't be expressed without a deep, romantic relationship. That's a hole that will take a while to fill.

Another issue for me is that I'm not only very good at being alone, but perhaps too good at it. Sasha Cagen's model of the quirkyalone lifestyle is still extremely social, just focused more on friends than couples. I make (close) friends as slowly and infrequently as I make romantic relationships. (See Wildflower Bloom for a good, relevant discussion about making friends.) That can mean that I don't always have a lot to fall back on when a relationship goes kaput, and it's aggravated by the fact that my natural defenses usually lead me to retreat farther into myself.

But I don't want to end on a down note. Embedded in the definition of quirkyalone is the "optimistic spirit" that lets us carry on come hell or high water. And so I will.

18 comments:

Rowyn said...

I'm glad you posted this. Happy IQD!

Lacey said...

Hmm, from your description, it sounds like I might be a quirkyalone, too. :) Not a bad thing to be, by all accounts, though I do tend to agree with your thoughts about unfulfilled capacity to love.

I've been reading The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, and, coincidentally, this morning came to the section on intimacy. We know, of course, that there are different kinds of intimacy, and that it's possible to be intimate with different people in different ways, but it was interesting to read the Dalai Lama's statement that, though he has never had a "romantic" intimacy, he has never felt lonely or alone. He talked about the importance of opening up to intimacy in other relationships to fulfill that basic human need for closeness. I know that's something I need to practice because, like you, I find it difficult to form deep friendships with any regularity. Maybe that can be my IQD resolution. :)

Trish in Mountain View said...

Me, too - definitely. I think it brings a certain sense of freedom when presented with relationship choices or issues.

Jeff (composer) said...

In response to lacey's comment: I quite enjoyed The Art of Happiness and do recommend it to others.

The most important part of today: there is dancing tonight! ;)

Margaret Powell said...

Thank you. Now I know what I might be :)
While it's way too late to wish you a happy IQD, it's never too late, I hope, to wish you a great life.
A fellow QA with similar gaps in her heart...

William Wren said...

i had a violent argument with my tv and fallen out with all of my books

Sam said...

Thanks.
I guess I have been a Quirkyalone too. But I have recently hooked up with my childhood Sweetheart, and we are enjoying life together. Both of us still respect each other's independence, and we get along beautifully. Plus I work crazy shifts, work a week, off a week, which still gives me and her time alone. Thanks again for your post.

Ink*Slinger said...

I am quirkyalone, too, and am glad to know there are more of us out there:)...thanks for the post!

tiger lilly said...

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http://tigerpassion.blogspot.com/

Bea said...

Well said. I am a content quirkyalone myself.

Mars said...

This was really great, G! I think about this lifestyle a lot too; as an only child, I'm pretty much used to being alone, and am happy with that ability, as a writer. There are, as you pointed out though, certain times that it hits harder than others. Nice to know I'm not the only one out there! Thanks (and good luck with your new endeavors).

almost there said...

omg...im so a quirkyalone..!! and iv been in a long distance relationship for a really long time now. in fact, im so quirkyalone that i tend to dump my longstanding boyfriend right before he comes to town every single time because im so scared hes going to interrupt my quirkyalone-ness..!

RoseDragon said...

Thanks for the article! It's really interesting. =)

Di said...

I'm definitely a quirkyalone, but I usually feel it's a good thing. The fact is really hitting me lately, as I finally found someone I want to be with, and I'm having a hard time transitioning to being quirkytogether. :-)

Haley said...

dropping by. I must read this book!

LoLa said...

My comment might be late but I relate to what you say 100%. I'm a single woman who chose to live on her own (or be single). I love the fact that I can make plans without having to consider another person. I go on dates from time to time.. and also have a fairly healthy social life. However, there are times when I’m hit by the "loneliness bug". I seem to have everything that I want at the moment but these moments strike when I least expect! The realisation that at some point, I will need that romantic intimacy that goes beyond a date is overbearing. Great blog!! :)

Ashita said...

I agree with what you about being happy alone. I feel like everything we do is surrounded by couples maybe it's just post V-day after lash but being able to be happy single would help alot of people not do stupid things...myself included.

Zhang Yang said...

i think i might be a QA too. i never knew such a thing existed before i read this post. interesting. great blog.