Do you remember when I was talking to my dear friend Seth over Indian food, and espousing the glories of singledom? And then it occurred to me that being in a relationship wasn’t what had been keeping me from feeling the peace and happiness that I had recently been experiencing, but instead the fact this newfound joy was a result of me finally focusing on and taking care of myself?
So, about that. We had a hurricane here on the east coast last week as you may have heard, and it ended up being the perfect reminder of the true purpose of this project.
When the hurricane started, I was not weathering it very well. (See: wailing that I had picked the worst time ever to swear off men, and this self-imposed hiatus was stupid, stupid, stupid.)
Then, thanks to a friend’s reminder (“Isn’t this part of the detox? Getting through things that you would normally ask for help with?”) I took his advice, and snapped myself out of my funk, Love Detox style. By which I mean I put on a gown, lit a very expensive candle, and made an apple raisin bread pudding while listening to “This American Life.”
However: I will admit that upon receiving his prompt, I wasn’t exactly grateful for the reminder, and it took me awhile to get on board. At first, I sort of glared at his text before throwing my phone toward the foot of my bed. When you are feeling deeply sorry for yourself and are on the verge of a tantrum during a natural disaster, there are few things more annoying than someone reflecting your own words back to you. Even if they’re right.
It wasn’t that I was necessarily frightened—yes, the wind was howling and shaking my building and it occurred to me that I hadn’t done any of the smart hurricane preparation things like stock up on food, batteries, and wine. But more than anything, what bothered me was that a hurricane seemed like a time when you would want to be coupled up, and I wasn’t. (My friend Natalie’s friend wrote a great piece in the Huffington Post about this very thing, and she captures is perfectly.)
I didn’t need to have someone there, but in the initial few hours, as the storm gathered and the wind increased, I snapped into default mode—I should have someone to share the worry of this potential disaster with. Or at the very least someone to snuggle up with, because isn’t that what you do during a natural disaster? Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?
As mentioned in Reminders: Part 1, I am the unfortunate host to a lot of constructs, which means I have many ideas about how things are “supposed” to be. This is the case for both getting through a hurricane—which, it turns out, I was very good at once I got out of my own way and reframed it—and how I view relationships with men.
I had two conversations on the same day last week, and while neither would typically have warranted the mini-epiphany I had, together they merged and congealed into a New Big Idea.
Conversation One: My friend Caitlin made a comment about viewing the pursuit of love as a noble challenge:
“If you have great friends, family, hobbies, and a career you love, it’s perfectly noble to pursue a relationship, too—why wouldn’t you?”
And then later that afternoon, I was chatting with the same friend who had reminded me that getting through the hurricane alone was perfectly on par with my Love Detox, and he said:
“You know, dating is supposed to be a relaxed, fun thing.”
In that moment, I happened to be looking at the wheel of his very fancy bike, and suddenly these three things snapped together in my brain: his comment, his bike wheel, and Caitlin’s words.
Here’s the thing, and this is most likely going to sound embarrassingly simplistic to most of you, but: I had never considered a relationship to be just one spoke in the wheel that is a life. I always thought that I had to make the relationship my entire wheel, or else it was somehow mean and selfish. It never ever, not once, occurred to me that the person you were with was allowed to have an equal or similar weight as the other parts of your life and it was allowed to be relaxed and fun. I thought it was my job to make them my absolute priority, no matter what—which explains why I stayed for as long as I did in situations that were so obviously bad for me.
And so, this shiny new toy of an idea merged together with the conversation I had with Bethany in Part 1, and I realized: the point of this Love Detox is not swearing off men entirely—which is a pattern-rific black and white extreme, and not at all grey-embracing—but instead recognizing and strengthening all of the other parts of my life, so that if I meet someone I find interesting, I can learn how to let them be just one of many spokes, and not take it all so seriously.
That last part? That’s the key: not taking it so seriously and learning how to date like a normal human being, which is to say dating and not necessarily falling in love, and certainly not moving in, and absolutely not promising my life to someone by way of very expensive jewelry and/or legal contracts, which I’ve always done before—I’ve never just dated someone and I’m 30 years old.
And so, this is a very long way to go about saying: I am going to allow myself to learn how to just date—if something compelling happens to come my way—while remaining fixed on the goal of getting to know myself outside the context of serious relationships. I am going to get to know myself as a whole and complete person—a person who may or may not be dating someone, but who isn’t even remotely defined by either.
Alright. I hope you’re ready to come along with me on this new part of the adventure?
Because: here we go.