def: the practice of gaining sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activity.

Okay, so there is going to be a certain amount of sexual energy when traveling alone for over two weeks. And there are self-regulating activities that can take care of the physical side of the longing. But emotionally, I am a little less certain of myself. It’s not that I’m looking to cheat, or interested in another sexual relationship. I’m not. But…

I’m in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Daily, I walk around dazed by the amount of excitement and quantity of people circulating New York City. And I’m here for 18 more days. Alone.

The night before we left my hometown, I had a minor freakout. I had been recording music all day, and was keyed-up when I got home. I had not packed. My girlfriend was, wisely, staying at her own place. I was frenetic. I felt sick. Scared. Unprepared. And too emotionally exhausted to imagine getting on a plane the next day for a long day of travel. I wanted to give up. I wanted to cancel everything and go crawl in bed with my girlfriend and just be quiet. That was enough, right? I didn’t have anything to prove. I just needed some rest.

I still need some rest.

My daughter and girlfriend came to New York with me last week. And we celebrated, showed, danced, and blazed with the vibe of the city that never sleeps. And then they were gone. And in the same breath of “woo hoo, now I can do anything I want to” I proceeded to nap my way through the next few days. Arriving at this morning. Today. With another 17 days to go, alone, in New York City.

Well, I’m not totally alone. I have Lilly. The Palmapoo I’m pet sitting, and the reason I’m here in NYC. And the other millions of people in the Manhattan area.

But there was a core of anxiety that arose the night before I left. A grip of fear that I can’t quite explain, that is still here with me, just under the joy and positivism that I bring to each morning, alone. There is an emptiness at being here by myself. Is it my fear of being alone again? Is it mere loneliness? Is it a longing for my wonderful girlfriend and the comfort and happiness she brings? It’s all of these things. And, perhaps, a bit of depression.

I’m not depressed. But depression is a funny thing. It’s like a little tincture that can get in the water. A blue feeling that arrives even as you’re eating ice cream, a generally happy moment. An ache. A longing for something else. I have a longing. I have a craving. And it’s not for some outward fulfillment. It’s not even really about being alone. I crave some sense… It’s hard to explain, this micro-depression. I am not sad. But, I am not happy either. Let me see if I can pull a few of the elements apart to examine what’s going on inside my slightly off-kilter soul.


    • I am alone
    • I crave closeness and contact
    • I’ve just come off a huge creative push, and the energy and creative fire have not reignited
    • I am in a city of millions
    • I feel the longing and I see the women
    • Somehow, I am not happy inside
    • I can be with the sadness and loneliness

Actually, nothing is wrong. I am just in a phase of my emotional sinewave. I rise and have powerful creative drives. I ride out the current and capture as much of the flow as I can manage. And then, as most artists do, I reach an ebb. I crave a nap more than a cup of coffee. Even in a city of electric creativity, I seek the covers and the cuddles of a tiny dog.

And something in my soul is seeking. It’s almost like online dating, except I’m not looking for a relationship, or a date, or a hookup. It’s similar to the river of online profiles that you troll through, when you’re single, looking for something or someone good. Some person to fill a bit of the emptiness. Some next relationship to help the recovery from the last failed relationship. It seems we’re always recovering from a failed relationship, in some way. And if we are single (which I’m not, at the moment) we’re again faced with the reality of life as a solo journey. Life alone. Single life. Life without a deep connection to another person. That’s how you spell depression in my book.

So, in fact, I am not alone or depressed, I’m merely feeling my aloneness. And as I walk the streets seeing the amazing variety of people, I am reminded of my time burning up the online dating apps and sites. I was hungry for “the next relationship.” I was too hungry. I was too eager. And, I’m a bit amazed that my current girlfriend was able to see through my urgency enough to give me a chance to calm the fk down.

I’m calm. I’m a bit exhausted. And I’m alone.

I am also in an exciting and new relationship. I am as far along the path of relationship as I could possibly be at 5 months. We’ve hardly met. And yet, I can’t don’t want to live without her. I am not depressed. I’m merely missing a wonderful woman.

I find my voyeuristic energy at times overwhelming. I imagine the young woman at the table next to me striking up a conversation. I see the potential. I feel the rise in my energy. And today, I am alone. But, there’s a huge difference in how I might have felt, say, 6 months ago. Today, I can dabble in voyeurism, because the real energy, the real relationship question is settled for me. I am IN RELATIONSHIP. That’s my happy place. So, I am feeling a bit sad at missing my sweetheart. I can feel the pull of other women passing on the street and sitting in coffee shops. I. Feel. Alive.

I am sipping on a tincture of depression, but I am not depressed. I am lonely. I am missing someone I love very much. In some ways, I am happy for having so much longing for this particular woman and not every woman on the street, or women in a dating app, swiping and swiping and hoping to find any connection. Hoping to find ANY CONNECTION. That’s the problem with dating again. We are alone. We are seeking a connection. And for some of us, most of us, we are looking for that connection that never ends.

I don’t want an LTR (long-term relationship). I want THE relationship. The relationship that doesn’t cascade into something less-enthusiastic. I want the love that never ends. I want the winner.

The Reframe

    • I am alone
    • I am loved by a wonderful woman
    • I can see and desire all the beautiful women passing by
    • It is only desire
    • Love is something different altogether
    • I have love
    • Today, I have love
    • I am alone in a city of millions of women and I long for my one woman
    • I am lucky and in love
    • I am not depressed
    • I am feeling my longing
    • She is there when I call her

It’s an amazing place to be, in love. It’s amazing to be away from your lover and feel the feelings of longing and pain. Remembering what it was like when we were not in a relationship. I crave being in a relationship. And today, I am lucky. I am loved and in a loving relationship. I am in my happy place, relationally, and in a longing place physically. These are both good things. I can feel all of it and not be scared.

I do not desire these millions of women passing by. I need no other adventure than the one I am on with my girlfriend. I can only process with one heart and my capacity to love is also only one heart. Even alone I am embraced by one woman, a mere 1,000 miles away. In the heart of a thriving city, of millions looking for some connection, I am connected. I am connected to my heart. And at this moment I can feel the happiness and sadness and just accept my human condition.

I am alone. I am loved. I am enough.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

To read more or discuss life coaching in Austin, Texas with John, contact him online at johnmcelhenney.com

And pick up John’s latest book: Single Dad Seeks: A Guide to Dating Again After Divorce on Amazon.

Epilog: When we trust with our open heart, whatever occurs, at that very moment that it occurs, can be perceived as fresh and unstained by the clouds of hope and fear. —Dr. Jeremy Hayward, “First Thought”

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image: street market buddhas, nyc 2018, john mcelhenney

Originally published at wholeparentbook.com