“Seeing anyone special?”
Kathy always asked me this when I would see her. I had known her mother through a centering prayer group, but Kathy knew me superficially. She had told me that she had met a really great guy online, and that I should consider looking online as well.
“Yeah, I’ve already done that,” I responded. “Twice, in fact.”
“Try it again,” she said. “You never know who might be out there. I gave up for a while and now I have a great guy.”
I smiled and thanked her. Her relationship with her “great guy” didn’t last long. I saw her a few years later.
“Seeing anyone special?”
“No,” I responded.
“I met this really special man,” she said. “We really have a connection. But he’s going through a divorce and has six kids.”
“Yes, six. So we’re taking time away from one another and doing fasting prayer. You’d be surprised how much clarity comes.”
I don’t know if she went back to dating him, but when I saw her a year or so later, she wasn’t dating him.
It always interested me, though, that she, along with many people, would first ask if I was dating anyone. It’s a question many single people are asked over the age of 25.
It’s natural, though. You’re done school, you probably have a job, so the next box to check is whether or not you’ve “found” someone. So for someone to remain single for so many years, it becomes unfathomable for those who prioritize finding a significant other.
One woman tried to analyze me, inquiring about my relationship with my father (it’s great — I love him dearly). She had been going through a divorce herself at the time, and she became a dating maniac. She would later analyze her own self, admitting her addiction to alcohol.
Another woman, again, going through a divorce, wanted to set me up with a “friend” of hers. She told me that she “prayed” that I would find someone to live the rest of my life with so I wouldn’t be alone. My guess is that she was projecting her own fear of being alone onto me, thinking that I was suffering like she is. I’m not.
Abandoning “The One”
In the past, I was always on the lookout for “the one.” I believed in romance and destiny and all that drama. But my radar was really broken, and I would always pine for men who either weren’t good enough for me or who were emotionally unavailable.
I eventually realized that I chose men who weren’t good enough because I didn’t think I was good enough. I would lower my standards to be with a guy who wasn’t right for me. Of course, having an advanced degree and being independent was intimidating for many of these men, and they would either belittle me or turn me away because I made them feel inadequate.
I would also choose men who were emotionally unavailable because deep down, I wasn’t really available either. Men who are emotionally damaged, either through a troubled childhood or a recent divorce, aren’t ready to have a relationship with another. I loved the emotional rollercoaster because it was almost as thrilling as the movies. But in reality, I would wind up alone in the end.
So I would sit alone in my apartment on a Saturday night sulking, wishing I could be out meeting tons of other men. Of course, I was living in a small town in Mississippi at the time, so there wasn’t an abundance of men over the age of 25 anyway.
I wished that I could cuddle up next to my guy with a glass of wine. I wished that I could wake up with my guy and we would make breakfast.
I eventually abandoned the idea of “the one,” mostly because of my friends. I had attended various bridal showers and weddings where they declared the other to be their “destiny,” yet their marriages have since dissolved. Are they better off than I am because they married? Is it true, as Tennyson had said, that it’s “better to have loved than lost than never to have loved at all”?
If you look at the scholarly research of Bella DePaulo, you’ll find that the previous research about “marital bliss” versus “lonely single” is dubious and outdated. In fact, one longitudinal study found that those who got married and stayed married were satisfied with their lives well before the wedding took place. In other words, taking vows wasn’t the cause of their happiness — they were already pretty satisfied with their lives.
What caused me to stop?
I can’t pinpoint exactly when my own desperation dissipated and the wishing stopped. Was it that I was heavily involved in triathlon, and I spent most of my mornings and evenings training? Was it that I was looking for a job out of town, so I didn’t want to further embed myself in my community? Had I become so busy doing what I loved that I had forgotten about the social norms and expectations of dating?
Maybe it was a combination of all of those.
I enjoyed my nights alone reading books and cuddling my dogs. I found that I loved waking up alone, and the blissful sound of my dog snoring was comforting. I really loved the simplicity of being on my own.
Rather than resist, I finally learned to embrace the idea of being alone. That was eight or so years ago.
I found a true freedom in being “me.” I no longer did things in hopes of running into this guy or maybe meeting a new guy. I was free to do whatever I loved. I took control of my joy.
I’m more present with others
What I found was that I had the mental and emotional capacity to truly be with people around me. They would get all of my attention because I was no longer concerned about waiting for this guy to call or text me. I wasn’t busy checking to see if he was responding to my post on Facebook or Instagram.
I became a better listener. I made a point to engage in conversation with others without any agenda. I found that every person you meet can teach something about life if you pay attention. I would have actual conversations rather than keeping to my own little cloistered community.
I found that every person you meet can teach something about life if you pay attention.
I also became more mindful and present. When I walk with my dogs, I am more receptive to my surroundings. They find so much wonder in the grass, savoring every scent they can. They taught me that I could savor each moment as well.
I have learned, truly, to embrace “alone.” I love the quiet in my own abode. I love that when I get up at the fourth watch that I’m not disturbing anyone, except maybe my snoring dogs.
My life, I can say, is very peaceful, although there is always room for improvement. Sure, it would be nice to have a little extra cash. Sure, it would be nice if my job wouldn’t suck the life out of me. Sure, it would be nice if I could have that extra 300 square feet of apartment space I gave up when I moved to the Northeast.
For that, I am still open to new paths and adventures. I’m always looking for new opportunities to grow.
Because I am single, I am free to explore.
This article was previously published on Medium.