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Better Off Alone

The Art of Pivoting

By Jennifer Lancaster @jenergy17Published about a year ago Updated about a year ago 15 min read
Better Off Alone
Photo by Edward Ma on Unsplash

We drove up the snowy, winding road towards the cozy A-frame cabin. You’d think I would be excited but I couldn’t imagine spending another minute with my friend. How was I going to survive this weekend with her?

The snow was falling and it was beautiful. The trees were powdery and glistening, and the lake looked like a scene out of an enchanting fairy tale, one in which sugar plum fairies might do a dance on it. And despite the beauty, I was secretly thinking in my head “I told you so”, reflecting back to the fight we had at the Hertz counter the day before when I insisted that we upgrade to a 4 wheel drive. She thought I was overreacting and that we didn’t need one. It had snowed in Lake Tahoe for 3 days straight; of course we needed one. Our flight was canceled for God’s sake. It was an anomaly. Outside it was breathtaking and snowing; mystical and whimsical - yet inside I was in hell with Satan himself. What kind of cosmic joke was this?

I was on the right trip with the wrong person. Clearly. It had already been a nightmare up to this point. Well, minus the swat team convention. We couldn’t go to Tahoe our first night as planned and so we had to take a detour and stay in Reno for a night and there just happened to be a SWAT team convention at our hotel. So despite the detour and my friend annoying me, at least I had some delicious eye candy. Had we stayed longer, perhaps I would have figured out how to get myself into a pair of handcuffs. Especially after being on the receiving end of the worst, most horrifying ghosting experience ever.

This trip was a total last minute pivot. I was supposed to be hanging out with my new love interest driving up to this cabin, but he went MIA and ghosted me. And so I pivoted to a girl’s trip. I was thankful that my BFF of 31 years said yes but realized from the first minute how not on the same page we were. We hadn’t done an extended trip together in over 20 years. Last time we travelled together, we went to Jamaica to basically party and drink ourselves into oblivion. And that wasn’t who I was anymore. Now we were like night and day. It had never been so apparent. We were like apples and oranges. Oil and water. We were not jiving. We were clashing. It was beyond uncomfortable.

I felt like I was on a first date that I wanted to end; my body tense with anxiety. I couldn’t stop judging her. Everything she did annoyed me. Everything she said annoyed me. Just looking at her annoyed me. How could I be on such an epic trip with someone who was such a vibe killer? And everything I did annoyed her. She thought I was being too cautious.

I realized with each new situation how much I’d changed over the last twenty years and how much she had stayed the same. I had asked if we could stop and do the grocery shopping before heading up the snowy road to our cabin so we would have everything we needed and not have to go back out. However, she was adamant about getting there and unloading our stuff first. She said there wouldn’t be room in the car for groceries. WTF. We had an SUV and we were only going to be there for a weekend. Surely we had plenty of room in the vehicle. I was cooking dinner that night and all I wanted to do once we arrived was sit my ass in the hot tub and not have to go back out. Any sane human being would’ve agreed that my plan was more functional? WTF was this really about?

In the end I got my way but I had to almost throw a tantrum to get it which was unnecessary. When we arrived I used the code for the lockbox and replaced the key, at the owner’s request. She whined for me to just give her the key so that we could put it with the keys to the car rental. I said, “No, that's not how the owners want it done.” She huffed, as if I was being a goody goody.

“This airbnb is in my name,” I replied to her huff, “and I respect the owner’s wishes.” (What I really wanted to say was I”m not about to give the key to you when you lost your phone in the casino last night and rolled into our room slurring your words and couldn’t get your shit together at 4am. Clearly you can't be responsible.) I felt like I was on a trip with a negligent teenager. We had said we would get on the road at 10 am this morning to the cabin. At 10 am she was snoring like a truck driver as I called the front desk to ask for a later checkout and went down to the gym. Apples and oranges. Oil and water. I looked at her snoring in disgust hoping this would not be how the whole trip was.

When I came back from the gym she was finally up. Her shit was everywhere. How could someone make such a mess in an 8 hour period? I felt like our hotel room had turned into the apartment of Cristina’s from Grey’s Anatomy. The one she kept hidden from Burke. This was the beginning of why everything she did or said from this point on just made me cringe.

Back at the cabin, I made dinner; steaks and an incredible mushroom demi-glaze with loaded baked potatoes. I’m an excellent cook and it also connects me with my creativity. It is something that I love to do and love to share. I hoped it would calm me down, and cheer her up - after all steak and mushrooms had been her favorite. And yet when she was done wolfing it down, (chewing with her mouth open) she never even said thank you. I don’t need validation for my cooking because I know it's awesome, but I found that oddly weird. Any normal human being would’ve said thank you. WTF was going on with her? It felt tense and I could cut the air with a knife. We were NOT in alignment and this did NOT feel like vacation.

We went to bed shortly after, not really saying anything to one another. The next morning I got up and made french press and started breakfast. She declined my offer to make her some and so I made myself steak and eggs with the mushroom demi-glaze and enjoyed every bite. I put some music on in my headphones to try to create the atmosphere I wanted but I just couldn’t create it. I felt like I was in a room with pig pen from Charlie Brown. I was trying my best not to judge, not to snap. After all, I had wanted her on this trip. But I was really struggling inside with how much we were just not compatible on this trip.

I tried to switch my focus to the spa day I booked. I was going to have a coconut sugar scrub exfoliation for an hour followed by a hot steamy shower at the spa, deep tissue massage, reflexology, and a facial. My friend had decided not to partake in one for herself, and I was actually looking forward to some quality me-time. I decided that since I had been ghosted I was allowed to say yes to anything and everything to love and honor myself.

My friend was going to go explore and when my treatments were over the plan was for us to cruise around and stop at every beach and scenic view to get epic photos of the magical scenery.

As I stepped out of my remarkable spa day I envisioned us driving around discovering new and enchanting scenery that would awaken and restore our love and zest for life. I just knew it would inspire new paintings for me to paint. I got a whiff of my skin as I headed to the car and was intoxicated by the scent that my body was giving off. Cocoa butter mixed with coconut, fresh yet delicate and vibrant. I ran my fingers over my skin and I felt elated. My skin was so soft it felt new. I was all warm and fuzzy inside and on cloud 9 as I walked.

As I opened the car door it was as if someone scratched a record in a bad way and I was abruptly hit in the face with the stench of my friend. It smelled like an ashtray. I wanted to throw up. Was I really leaving my fairy tale spa experience to step into such a god awful malodorus nicotine infested space? I could feel my anger boiling inside of me like a cartoon character turning red and about to explode.

“I don’t feel well,” she said, although she sounded fine to me. “I have indigestion. I don’t want to go driving. I want to lay down.”

“Have you eaten today?'' I asked?

“I had a chocolate croissant at 3pm,” she replied. The personal trainer in me was judging. I said nothing, but all I could think was duh…. You haven’t eaten enough or nourished your body. Of course you have indigestion. Cigarettes and pastry aren’t going to make you feel good.

Fuming inside because my name was not on the car rental, yet trying to be compassionate I said, “There were tums in the bathroom drawer. I noticed them earlier.” We went back to the cabin. She took tums and crashed.

She said I could take the car but I refused because I am responsible. God forbid I get into an accident and my name wasn’t on the rental. The cabin was in the middle of nowhere and so Ubers weren’t readily available. I knew this meant another pivot. This whole fucking trip was about the art of pivoting.

Who up in the sky had I done wrong? I'd needed a personal talk with Jesus. All I had wanted was to see nature. At this rate, I could have stayed home. My heart was broken. I was broken. I was fuming and I couldn’t put out my own fire. I put my headphones in, and ate an edible. Then I made hot spiced cider and curled up with a book. It helped a bit but didn’t deliver what exactly I was looking for.

The next day we had planned a drive to Napa to embark on an extravagant experience at Silver Oak Winery - one of my bucket list items. A four course wine pairing with decadent lunch followed by a night in San Francisco. I had bought my friend’s ticket as a thank you for accompanying me and clearing her schedule with such a late notice. She was excited, and I felt a tiny bit of relief as we drove. This was a dose of medicine for me because we made friends with other people and it lightened the tension between us.

My anxiety eased further over a few hours but little did I know it would soon return, as we headed to our next destination: San Francisco. We arrived at our hotel at 4pm. My friend said she needed 30 minutes to decompress and turned on the TV. I told her I was going to go outside to make a phone call. I figured she would text me after about 30 minutes to tell me she was getting ready. We had talked about the things we were going to do in San Francisco on the way there so a plan had been established. We were going to find some live music, possibly a bar to play darts (something we used to do a lot in our younger years) and have one epic mixology cocktail.

An hour later there was no text. I felt my anxiety rise again. We had one night in San Francisco and I sensed she was going to end up being a bust and not going out. I returned to the room and she was still watching the TV with the volume up, and she did not look like she was in any hurry to go anywhere. I asked if she still wanted to go out.

“Yeah I just need more time.” she said, not looking up. Then she laughed out loud. “I love this scene” she said. I could feel my blood boiling and I was ready to erupt like a volcano. She was watching an episode of something she had already watched and could watch 1000 more times. There was this repeating pattern of “DISREspect”. Disrespect for another’s time. Disrespect for the airbnb owners property. Disrespect for the integrity of car rental. Disrespect on top of disrespect.

I stood to my feet and said, “It doesn’t feel like you are going to go out anytime soon.”

“I guess I don't want to,” she replied, her eyes still glued to the TV. I took two melatonin and went to bed angry. When I woke up at 5am I got dressed and went to find a coffee shop that opened at 6am, then a french bakery and did as much exploring on my own as I possibly could until we went to Alcatraz.

The next day we drove to the airport together. She was going on to Vegas to meet her sister, and we were adding my name to the car and I was going to get two final days to myself. She almost didn’t make her flight because we didn’t get there early enough. I wanted to get there earlier but she didn’t feel it was needed. Her plane was boarding and there were still 4 people in front of us in line. My I told you so voice was talking in my head. But it wasn’t my problem so I kept it to myself.

She started telling me about some sci-fi show and I started to disassociate. I wanted to say….I don’t fucking care. We got there in the knick of time, switched the car over, ironically at the very same counter where the trip had gone sour just a few days ago. I couldn't wait until she left. My heart was pounding and I felt my veins repelling her existence. I have never known this level of distaste. This was a first for me. I forced a smile and hugged her goodbye. I then drove the rental car to a quiet parking space and just sat and breathed.

What do I want to do first? I had 48 hours to turn this shit around?

I went back to the cabin, took the longest shower ever. I wanted to wash off all this outrage. Then I dried off, and slowly massaged lotion into my skin. I could feel myself calming down. I got dressed and headed to find a market to buy a split of champagne and a plastic wine glass. As I drove around the bend of each mountain the trees hovered over me so delicately.

I was playing my Hello December playlist in the car to create an even more Holiday feel This was what I had really yearned for for the weekend. Originally I had thought I’d be spontaneously exploring with the guy I’d been talking to. I thought he’d be showing me more of this beautiful majestic space that he called home. I thought he’d be taking me to breathtaking places and we’d be laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Then when he disappeared from my life I thought I could still create a memorable experience with my best friend in a different way but still doing similar things.

But I found the only way to get what I really wanted and needed was to gift it to myself. I stopped at a coffee shop that we had passed a few times that had been calling me. To my surprise, out back was an empty private beach. I asked if I could walk out there. It was mesmerizing. I took off my white coat and laid in the sand and took a selfie in my all black outfit. The sand was a dark charcoal color so the black felt like it went with it. I just listened to the water and breathed in the fresh air, savoring a double espresso. The owner of the coffee shop mentioned the best beach for sunset and it just happened to be next to the restaurant I had booked for myself for dinner.

I got all dressed up and headed to the sunset beach to have my champagne. I popped the bottle, filled my glass and said aloud, “HERE'S to ALONE time. May I never take it for granted ever again.”

For the next 48 hours I honored every cell of my being. Looking back I think that when I was ghosted I was afraid to be alone in the part of the country where the guy who ghosted me lived because I thought it would be too painful. I could not imagine being alone on what I had expected to be a romantic getaway. I thought I needed Sisterhood; and perhaps it would have been different had it been a more aligned Soul Sister. But what I came to realize - particularly in the last two days - is that you can’t put a pricetag on alone time.

Sometimes, there's nothing better than doing exactly what you want when you want without abandon. Sometimes you are really better off alone. Without the guy who flakes, without the friend who's getting on your nerves.

Sometimes alone time is the most sacred time.

Short Story

About the Creator

Jennifer Lancaster @jenergy17

Multidimensional Creative-preneur

Life Coach, Personal Trainer, Artist, Writer. Formerly in restaurant business for 3 decades. Soul expression is my ❤️ language. Spirituality,music, art, food and creativity fuel my life. IG @jenergy17

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  • Naveed about a month ago

    Awesome story!!! Loved it!!!❤️

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