I try and be pretty transparent and vulnerable on the ol' blog, but that's one area I generally avoid publishing to the online world except in general terms, for many reasons, not least of which is that it includes other people's privacy as well. But it's something that's been on my mind a lot lately, so I've been pondering a way to blog about it without it seeming dramatic...emotional...what-have-you. You know.
And here's what I've got.
I remember a few years ago, bright-eyed and eagerly enjoying the adventures of single life, when I would meet people a few years older than me who said, "Dating is different when you're a little older." I'm turning 27 next week, and let's be real, I still hardly think that classifies me as "older," but I can say......I know exactly what those people meant.
It's different. It feels different. The challenges are different, the approach is different, priorities are different, thinking about merging two independent, complete lives together is a *totally* different ballgame than it used to be, and so on. I went through this frenzy in my early 20s where it really bothered me that I wasn't married. I didn't like the feeling of, heaven forbid, graduating from college without a husband. And then inching closer to 25 (and then past it) without a husband. *yikes*
So then I swung the other way. I finally started living my life....for me. I got happy being single. I started having my own adventures, pursuing my own plans, traveling my own travels and being my own me. I stopped waiting for my life to start and started living it. I didn't swear off dating, I just began forming an identity and self-worth that wasn't tied to a ring on my finger or an arm around my shoulders. And I liked myself a whole lot better for it.
But even with that growing independence, there was still a bit of frenzy to the dating portion of my life. A bit of temptation to fight for a boy's attention, to change just a bit (or a lot) to be noticed, to cover up my less desirable traits and magnify the appealing ones. Sometimes, even, a plan to not-focus-on-dating but secretly thinking because-that's-when-you-meet-the-one. Always an agenda.
What I still had in my head was a big fat SHOULD.
I should be interested in that music/movie/whatever, because so-and-so said he likes it.
I shouldn't be interested in that music/movie/whatever, even if it moves me, because wait-is-that-kosher/attractive/appealing?
I should go to that party, because I never know what opportunity I'll miss.
I shouldn't wear that outfit I really like, because what if he's not into that style?
I should like cooking more than I do, because boys like girls who can cook really well.
I should probably not hate grocery shopping then, right?
I shouldn't shy away from crowds of children like I do. It's not motherly, right?
I should say yes to every date, even if I'm not interested.
I shouldn't stay in on a Friday night, even if it makes me happy sometimes.
I shouldn't want to skip parties to chill at home or go to a movie instead.
Should, should, should. Shouldn't, shouldn't, shouldn't. Because that's what you're SUPPOSED to do, right? What I say is...I want to do what makes me happy. I want to pursue a life that makes me content and calm, whatever that means, and not feel like I'm violating some rule, timeline or plan that isn't my choice. I want to read this article about what doesn't suck about being alone, leave it open on my browser for a week, and keep coming back to it because it just really, really gets me right now. And I want that to be OK.
It's not that I'm against dating, relationships, marriage, etc. I don't want to let bitterness crust my heart or vow to leave love-and-all-its-nonsense in the dust. What I DO want to leave in the dust is the rat race of it all. The frenzy. The rabid hunger in my own eye to end the occasional bout of loneliness, and the target-on-my-back feeling when I feel like I can't give myself permission to just say no to all of it. Because sometimes love is pain. And sometimes it is joy. And when it is pain, I want to be allowed to say no sometimes. Because I can. Not because I should be saying keep at it, yes, carry on, fists in the air, keep marching, don't be a quitter, because-you-never-know-when-it'll-be-the-one.
Because the problem with the Don't Quit attitude is that it allows no room for something I'm realizing is really important: Surrender.
Surrender. It's the word I finally put today, to all of it. To the "I'm done" feeling pulling at my gut stronger and stronger with every little heart squish and man-I-had-my-hopes-up-and-got-rejected or I-had-to-hurt-someone-else-and-really-really-hated-it disappointment. Surrender. Not surrendering like giving up or throwing in the towel, it's surrendering like....letting go. Letting go of every should and shouldn't, every timeline, every agenda, every plan, every gut-wrenching hope of maybe-this-time but that's-ok-I-guess-there's-someone-better-out-there. I want to weather the inevitable storms with a grace that I no longer think comes from tying myself to the mast of the ship, for better or worse, and taking it right in the face, but a grace that comes from knowing when it's just-plain-OK to go below deck and ride through the swells with a dry head and a peaceful mooring in my belly. A kind of surrender and grace that almost look like one and the same emotion.
What I want is a happy, calm life. A happy, calm life that sometimes skips a night out on the town, but other times goes to every party and doesn't feel obligated to come out of them with that-guy-got-my-number as my biggest gauge of success for the evening. A happy, calm life that sometimes goes months without dates, but other times smiles at the bearded fella on the subway because yeah-you-just-never-know. A happy, calm life that gives myself permission to do it my own way. A happy, calm life that allows me to know exactly what I want out of a relationship and be confident and empowered enough to say no to the ones that don't fit, birthdays rolling by or not. A happy, calm life that still believes in lightning striking and happenstance-love-on-street-corners, but also believes in slipping out the side doors of parties now and again because sometimes it's just easier to breathe out in the quiet street or back patio than it is with my back against the wall of a crowded room, hoping-and-hoping for just the right pair of eyes to meet mine. A happy, calm life in which romantic relationships are a welcome bonus that come naturally and easily, not the end-all-be-all primary game plan or frantic key to success.
So, I choose surrender. Because I can. And therefore I should.