Okay, this is long and I’m sorry…
I’d have to say that these last few months have been some of the hardest, best, and most eye-opening yet. It seems like ever since I returned from Yellowstone, life has been giving me fairly steady groin kicks with some face punches thrown in there for good measure. However, I’m no stranger to such circumstances and find that I can move through them with relative ease. It just takes time and perseverance. One thing that I’ve been grappling with lately is being single at 37. Not a huge deal but it can wear thin at times, especially in Fall. Fall is a lonely time if you don’t have anyone to carve pumpkins, get lost in corn mazes and go on hay rides with. Luckily, I have Petunia to keep me company and she’s the best company a gal could ask for, don’t get me wrong. It just seems like this past month or so I’ve been getting an increasing number of pesky (and sometimes rude) questions like “So you don’t have a boyfriend? What’s wrong with you?”, “Don’t you think you’d like to settle down and start a family?”, “Your biological clock is about to run out, what are you waiting for?” I don’t feel like I have much control over any of these issues so I’m not sure why people ask. I will say though, that for the past three or four years I’ve been purposely single because I wanted to focus more on myself. However, these last few months the concept of dating has grown on me and I feel like maybe it’s time. I finally feel like I’d be an excellent, caring, and compassionate partner who has a lot of offer. I didn’t always feel that way though. I needed those years alone to really gain that perspective. I’m from the you have to love yourself before you can love someone else camp.
These days, I’ve found that dipping my toe into the dating waters has become more complicated than I’d once remembered. Someone recently told me that I have to remain “open” and “not so closed” and then the “perfect” person will miraculously come into my life. What the heck does that closed/open crap even mean? I’m open. I’m friendly. I’m outgoing. I just told the world that I’m cool with dating. How much more open can I be? Plus, I’m not out to meet someone “perfect.” And I’m not from the you have to wait for something miraculous to happen camp. I’m more from the make it happen camp. (Lot’s of camping going on here, sorry!)
So a few months went by with nothing exciting to speak of. I tried going out to bars and events. Nothing. Flatline. I just felt disinterested in every possibility. Something wasn’t sparking. Am I dead inside? Have I lost the ability to deeply connect with another person? Perhaps, I was too intertwined with one of my closest friends and maybe I fell for him on accident? Maybe I’ve cohabitated with Petunia too long and I’ve turned myself into a dog? Truthfully, all of this began to freak me out. I began to wonder if I was closed off in a way that I was unaware of but which was blatantly obvious to the general populace. Maybe people can smell it on me–like pheromones that scream EMOTIONALLY UNAVAILABLE! Needless to say, for the past month or so, I thought there was something wrong on my end. I even went as far as re-labeling my several year dating hiatus from being an introspective journey to being a cowardly attempt at not wanting to be disappointed again.
Then it all hit me. Last Saturday, I received the perspective I so badly needed. It came in the form of an adorable, much younger, fella I met at the farmers market. We’ve been best buds for the past few months and as I sat there (on his lap, sharing his food) I realized that this adoration and affection is what I’ve missed. This is the connection I’m looking for. It’s like being a kid again–before you had to deal with all the baggage that you and others bring to the table. This is like being at a table with no baggage, just shared food and only one chair between the two of you. No fears of being hurt. No fears about showing someone you care. No one is embarrassed to tell the world that they’re with you. Heck, they’re proud. That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for in another person. I need someone who isn’t afraid to love me–goofy quirks and all–and who isn’t afraid to show affection. Sadly, there’s a catch 22 to all of this (one of my favorite books, by the way). This albeit temporary, yet eye-opening, little crush made me realize that most people my age are completely afraid to love (I’ll exclude married folks in this generalization because clearly there’s at least some lovin’ happening there). And I can’t blame them. By the time you’ve hit 37, you’ve taken some pretty hard knocks. You’ve been emotionally crippled at least once. You’ve earned your wounds and display them proudly like a badge of honor. Heck, they probably give you much-needed comfort and serve as a constant reminder that you will never let yourself be hurt again.
So to quote the great band Heart, “What about love?” You’ve been there. Done that. You’ll never “open yourself up” to making the same mistakes again. But I think my girl, Brene Brown, indicated something to the effect of (and I so clearly paraphrase): you can’t have love and happiness if you’re not open to all of the other not-so-awesome things that may come with it. (See this “open” and “closed” concept coming around to bite me?) I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve spent the last several years working through and ditching my baggage. I’ve said this before, but I feel completely baggage free (apart from being perturbed by our inability to open and honestly communicate with one another). I’ve learned my lessons but they don’t own me. And they certainly don’t govern how I treat someone else. I won’t measure someone with same yardstick as someone who has hurt me in the past. Everyone deserves a clean slate. And everyone deserves to enjoy that giddy little school girl/boy that you once were. The one that was completely unafraid of all the bad things that may never happen. But sadly, I look around and I don’t see the same in others. Instead, people are guarded and some even overcompensate by being almost predatory. We’re too afraid of everything and everyone now. Perhaps that’s why I’m finding it hard to connect with people my age. And perhaps that’s why I was able to connect with someone who is younger, unguarded and unafraid.
So am I saying that I’ve embraced my inner cougar? Not necessarily. (Although I do see a pattern developing.) All I’m asking is that we take a moment to ask ourselves if the shit we hold on to is really doing us any good? Are we afraid to be unafraid out of fear? (Like that sentence? I think I just committed so many grammatical errors that it’s mind-blowing!) Are we holding ourselves back from connecting? And if so, don’t you think it’s time to work on that? Do you want to realize what you’ve missed out on when it’s too late?
Look, I’m not going to end up with that young fella and that’s not the point. I won’t see him for the next few months, if ever. Plus, he has other lovelier and younger ladies to occupy his time. That doesn’t change the fact that his unconditional affection was a gift. He gave me mutual adoration during the most romantic season of the year. And for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t so lonely. It’s not about sex. It’s about showing someone that they’re not alone in this sometimes isolating world. It’s about letting someone know that they’re cared for, unconditionally. This is a feeling and a gift we can all give to others if we only allowed our ourselves to do so.
I know that you’re thinking that this tirade is extremely long. Well friends, it’s going to get a smidge longer because I want to say that I love Kris Carr. Just putting that out there. And for those who are uncomfortable with the idea of love and affection and are in desperate need of some baby steps, here is her blog post on How to Show Your Love. Now you have no excuse!