I don’t write much about my love life here. Long ago, in another blog far away, I used to write about it a lot. But that was back when I never imagined that I would be divorced for ten years and still live alone. The dating adventures were fun and made funny anecdotes for my goofy blog. Then, somewhere in there, it got sad. I met some guys that I really hoped to make a connection with, but it never worked out. There came a point when I realized that I wasn’t laughing at the anecdotes, I was just bitching. I didn’t stop trying to find love. But I stopped writing about it.
I’m a happy person with a full life and a lot of interests and accomplishments. The relationship piece is missing, and I feel its absence. It’s tricky because I feel so much gratitude for the life that I have. And as a feminist I feel ashamed when harping on about being lonely or feeling incomplete without a man. But I do feel incomplete sometimes. And there are times when I wonder why – exactly, why – it is that I wasn’t able to make something work with someone after all this time. My ex-husband is married with two kids. Meanwhile, I feel like I haven’t made any progress down that road since we split and went our own ways.
A few days ago I was catching up on podcasts and I listened to the first of a three-part series from Dear Sugar, an advice column which has transitioned to audio format. (I’ve written before about my love for Cheryl Strayed as a writer. Dear Sugar is her podcast.) The title was “Looking For The One,” wherein “The Sugars” (Cheryl and Steve Almond) discuss one of the most oft asked questions they receive, “Will I ever find the one?”
A quick re-cap… They related the stories of the askers, all women who are single but range in age from their twenties to their fifties, who are trying to come to terms with single-hood. They want relationships and they, like me, feel shame when they say they need a man. And like me, they also feel anxious about the complexities. What is wrong with me? Why her and not me? Am I going to be able to have children? I have a great life and this is the one thing that is missing, but if someone had asked me early on to choose between career and relationship, I would have picked the relationship. But I never got to make the choice.
I was sucked in, completely. This is my story! And they were talking about it in such a candid and empathetic way. I have been at a point where I am feeling pressure to come to terms with my situation in a final way and find some acceptance, and to hear this discussion and the letters of other women in my situation was meaningful to me. If I were to break it down to a list of the three primary takeaways (because let’s face it, I LOVE lists!), it would be these.
A). I’m not alone.
If this is the most common question that The Sugars receive, then that is informative to me. Perhaps it shouldn’t make me feel better, and I’m not sure it does. But five years ago, I had a lot of women in my circle of friends who were in the same situation. Now, there are still a few. But not many. It is good to be reminded that I’m not the only person who hasn’t found a chair this long after the music has stopped.
B). Of all the women who wrote these letters, most will find someone. And some will not.
Thank you! Thank you, Cheryl and Steve, for saying that! I can’t explain how much it made my heart sing to hear someone admit, “Actually, yeah – some of these women will not make this happen for them.”
I am so tired of reading that if I just keep trying and “put myself out there” and “never ever settle,” that I will find some dreamy and delicious relationship that was totally worth waiting for. Because it isn’t true. I could “put myself out there” and go on thousands of first dates and keep my heart open, and it still may never work out because frankly: I do not have control over the outcome.
Also, isn’t there a contradiction in telling someone to “keep their heart and mind open” and also, “never ever settle!”? At this point, after a decade of being on my own, I don’t need to be told not to settle. I have seen what my options are. If I do decide to try to make something that is less than ideal work, you can trust that I thought out that decision.
I have taken breaks from the search but, to date, I haven’t given up. I know that being alone for the rest of my life is a distinct possibility. But if it doesn’t work out, it wasn’t because I didn’t try. It didn’t work out because sometimes it doesn’t fucking work out.
C). There are many kinds of ‘life partnerships.’
There is a point in the episode where Cheryl makes a point of saying that they aren’t prescribing remedies or tactics for these women. But she did remind me that there are people in my life that have partnered with me for the long term. I have two sisters and a number of wonderful friends who are on this journey with me. They have witnessed and help me keep my history. They are loyal to me and know that I am loyal to them. They would have my back in a bar fight. Of that, I am certain.
Today is Valentine’s Day. There were years in the last decade where that little day would creep up like a bad flu and then it would hit and I would suffer through it. It wasn’t an issue this year. It was just another day. I mostly took note of it because I wanted to plan around the restaurant crowds (food: my other life-long partnership). In fact, when I got out of bed this morning I had forgotten it was a holiday. Then…
First thing in the morning, I had a text from my niece sending love and wishing me a happy Valentine’s Day. I was touched. People don’t give millennials a lot of credit when it comes to thinking beyond themselves, and yet that girl remembered to send a Valentine to the single auntie in her hermitage, and I appreciated it.
Then my friend Gina sent a message asking me to be her Valentine’s lunch date. She’s in a newish relationship and I know they had evening plans for the big day of love, but still… she carved out time for me.
My friend Stef then got in touch to ask me if I wanted to do yoga. We have a standing Sunday thing but I thought she might pass on Valentine’s to over plans with her husband. But she wanted to go. And what was I going to say? “I can’t go; I’m busy”? I went and it was great (especially when it was over).
I also got to talk to my younger sister and her son on FaceTime. And I even heard from my older sister’s family, even though they are camping and off the map for the President’s Day weekend. I didn’t expect to have either of those connections today.
I love. And I am loved. Not in a traditional Valentine’s Day way. But I don’t care. It is more than enough. It is profound. And I am full of joy and gratitude.
Don’t get me wrong; it would have been nice to get laid today. But I suppose that goes without saying.