About 6 months after my husband and I separated, friends, family, even acquaintances began to ask, “When ya gonna get back out there?” What they meant was, “When are you gong to start dating?” What I heard conjured images of manual labor, hard labor that left me sweating and smelling-pouring concrete in August, re-shingling a roof-also in August, tarring the road…
With those pictures in mind my response to these inquiries came easily, “Why would I want to do that?”
But their question got me thinking…
What if I did date? What if I dated myself?
I knew I needed to introduce the 23-year-old me that married in 1981 to the 46-year-old me that was starting over. We were strangers…there were black holes in me, places of emptiness, that I needed to understand. This time, however, not distracting myself from myself with a new partner but by looking myself in the mirror. Long and hard. I needed to see ME. In order to find my life, I had to look first at myself.
Always up for an emotional roller coaster, I decided to “get back out there,” with me. I just wasn’t sure how. What that would look like?
Expensive dinners for one?
Movies with no one to talk to?
Long drives in the country with an empty passenger seat?
If those were my choices my answer, again, came easily, “You seem like a really nice person, but no thank you.
So I created some self-dating criteria. * Nothing that made me feel lonelier than I already felt. * It was okay-actually a requirement-to make it all about me. * If it wasn’t fun I could leave. * If it was fun I could stay. * When I said “NO” I listened-no explanation needed. * I didn’t have to entertain myself, only listen. * Send flowers, pick flowers, buy flowers, but always have flowers.
Since it had been soooo long since I had dated, I googled “Questions to ask on a first date.” I stopped before, “Wanna come in for a night cap?” I wasn’t ready to go there quite yet!
Top Google dating question…TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF(MYSELF)?
I journaled everyday to answer this. I talked to myself. I looked at myself in the mirror, really looked, so I could see who I was talking to. I listened to what I was saying. I paid attention, close attention, like I would if there was a potential love looking back at me. Because, actually, there was, and she was me.
My journal entries were no longer about my sadness of an unfulfilling marriage, but of my excitement of meeting me. I began to release my habit of using the marriage to determine my happiness, value, or contentment. At the same time, I noticed how convenient it was to blame the marriage for all of my discomfort. Without the marriage as my “problem” to fix I found my next question…
WHO AM I?
I never really understood this question, I made jokes about it, it seemed redundant somehow, until it hit me between the eyes. Then it wasn’t funny anymore. I went back to the mirror. I looked. Looked some more. And then again more.
Like Robin Williams in the movie, Hook, the lost boys were trying to determine if the adult Peter Pan was really the Peter Pan they knew. After many test questions that Peter answered correctly, one of the Lost Boys approaches Peter. He places his hands gently on Peters cheeks and begins pulling in different directions while looking very deeply into the face before him. Finally, after what feels like a long moment, he exclaims, “Oh Peter, there you are!”
My “Oh there I am” came gradually. And is still coming I might add. I have found this is a fluid question worthy of regular visits. Some of my answers I was pleased and proud of, I am ambitious, I am courageous, I am creative, I am persistent.
But equally important, were the not so attractive truths. I am insecure, I don’t believe I belong, I am picky, I am judgmental.
I knew if I was ever going to be happy I needed to befriend these parts of me. Accept them. Understand them. Forgive them.
I also knew that until I did this for myself I could never do it with another. I would project my disowned parts onto my partner instead of owning them for myself.
Finding me after all these years was thrilling, challenging and humbling. And I knew I wanted more…of me.
So when someone asked, “When ya gonna get back up on that horse?” I could honestly answer “I am having the ride of my life!”
Stay tuned in for part 2!