Making memories is a process like nothing else. In the long run, some of your very true favorites were never planned. Those certain tastes, touches and smells, the moments and monuments, and the movies and the songs, and the hand-holding, and the tears, and the laughs, and the kisses on rainy street corners in the shadows of New York's greatest architectural structures. They all just happened at the exact right minute, and place and time. Even if you didn't realize they'd happened until months or years later. They sometimes secretly burned themselves into far corners or pockets of your mind. For me, my very favorite hidden memories are made up of words.
When I was 23-years-old, packing up my car and heading off to my first job in television news in Oak Hill, West Virginia, my father gave me some love advice. He told me, "It's better to be alone than lonely with someone."
Who wants to be alone? My dad's words made no sense to me at the time. And it's a sentence that can be absolutely mind boggling to a lot of people, right now. The idea of walking into a restaurant and saying to the hostess "Just one, please" is daunting, terrifying and depressing. Movies alone. Shopping alone. Entire weekends alone. It all just sounds and feels terrible.
Until it doesn't.
I've been through a very public and painful divorce. And I've been through a very private and equally painful breakup. In the immediate aftermath of my marriage, I sought out an old flame. The polar opposite of my ex-husband, but a man who was no better for me. In other words, I took one toxic path in order to avoid repeating an old one. I did it because I couldn't stand to be alone. Actually, I couldn't stand to be alone with myself.
The truth is we are not afraid of physically being without someone, but that we are often afraid to be alone with our thoughts and our feelings. We are afraid of what we may discover about ourselves we don't like, or, worse yet, our fears and vulnerabilities will surface and we won't be able to cope with them.
My time alone was impossible at first. I would do anything not to be by myself simply because I believed I was not going to be able to deal with all of the thoughts and feelings I was working so hard to suppress.
It wasn't until I was coming out of those two brutal break-ups did I even begin to realize exactly what my father was talking about. I had been lonely with two someones, but I had refused to see it.
I swore I would never love again. In fact, I regularly said that I no longer believed in love.
But then I thought about and talked to my dad.
My father found out the hardest way imaginable what it means to be alone. I watched him lose my mother to cancer, but go on to raise two kids on his own, and all the while, never give up on love. He is forever a believer.
He's so strong that he never has to be lonely, but the world forced him to be alone. At least for a while. Years later, he found Carol, his new wife. To this day, he calls her his bride. He trusted in his heart and soul that true love exists and passed that message onto me.
My dad, Jim Fadal, taught me true love. He taught me how to love, why to love and why it's okay to love again. He is proof that I will love again and I'm working on it every minute. I try to live his words and his faith daily so that they may take me to the same place of happiness he has known, including his life with my late mother who never had the chance to see me grow into a woman I hope she would be proud of.
Daddy, I'm so grateful for your wisdom and your words.
This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Gratitude, entitled 'The One Thing I'm Most Thankful For.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here To contribute, submit your 500 - 800 word blogpost to firstname.lastname@example.org.