Updated: Aug 28, 2020
A mid-30s, moderately successful, (eh - mostly) do-gooding, God-loving, attractive single woman walks into Valentines weekend.
That’s it. The caption. The story. And the punchline.
It’s also my current station. I am all those things and four months post my most recent breakup. And thanks to therapy, good girlfriends, getting older and a decent prayer life, I sashayed into the weekend without a flinch. I’m the most chill I’ve ever been and not the least bit bah-humbug. At brand new 35, I’ve lived the gamut of Valentines Day experiences: the gotta-new-boo-so-what-exactly-do-we-do phase, the plush and deep overdone romantic weekend, the Galentines gatherings and of course, the sick and disgusted shut down sessions. They dotted my 20s and early 30s and made for good stories, fun pictures and melodramatic Facebook posts that I likely regret. To say it very, very simply: I’ve lived this thing full out.
Truth be told: I’ve dated for 20 years. Not in one fell swoop, but sporadically, in stints of several months to a couple of years. Different men, states and seasons. Relationships have been beautiful and they’ve been dumpster fires. I’ve experienced the depth of heart-revealing and God-honoring love and also the toxicity of narcissists and codependency, the trauma of deception and infidelity, and the tension of trying to do things the ‘right way’ with a ‘good guy’ while still battling the showdown between my Christianity and a libido that wants her way.
Real talk: Dating and the quest for forever love had been a secondary career of mine. I hinged nearly every life move on where it’d land me, and how it’d position me to be seen by my one-day husband. I moved from NYC to Dallas in part because I thought southern men might be more inclined to settle down. I’d venture to say at this point that my resume points to C-suite level. And perhaps, not so ironically, it feels like I’m back at square one at the same damn time.
I’m good though. Really good. And I guess that’s where I’m going with all this. I’ve come to understand and accept that navigating singleness can—and should be--freeing. Sure, I still believe in forever love, desire romance, want a partner and for sure want to know intimacy sans guilt. But, I’ve made the simple decision to live these days without the self-applied pressure. Yes, I’ll continue to meet men, enjoy their company, laugh at the try-hards, and roll my eyes at the ghosters. But I for sure am not making my marital status the center of my universe or the coordinate points for determining how accurately I’m doing life according to God’s will. I refuse to believe He wants that kind of stress for me.
I’ve been taught so much about how to use the single season, why there must be one, how to prepare for love, how to attract it and how to, once betrothed – make it last forever. There have been instructions about instructions that have heightened the love quest as such a point of emphasis that it’s almost a notch under making it to heaven. THIS has been a huge part of the reason that at one point or another, I elevated the arrival of a man as such an accomplishment. What I’ve realized though, is that adopting that kind of perspective limited the way I was able to navigate the other ways that love colors my life. It made every passing man and potential suitor an immediate subject for scrutiny and it took away what could (and should!) have been fun moments enjoying another human being.
The shift for me started when, immediately after a breakup, I was calculating the appropriate time to grieve that relationship before reemerging as date-able again. I saw myself trying to architect the process and realized that it felt conjured and forced. It also took away from what needed to be my natural evolution of assessment. In what felt like a race against time, I almost failed to ask myself what mattered most: what did I learn? how was I different/better/more clear? who was I now, on the other side of this and who would I become? I’d wanted to zoom past the essential soul work to be seen…again. And that’s when I realized that I’d become focused on the wrong thing.
Part of the pressure, I think, comes from the story we’re told and the idealistic images we carve out of romantic relationships. Personally, I’d equated the greatest affirmation with that of a man choosing to do forever with me. I saw romantic love as the void filler and the great loneliness escaper. I made it the biggest, greatest thing.
Where am I now? I’m dismembering the great ethereality of it all. While I believe there is meaning to our lives and the facets thereof, I’m no longer a detective in the case of singleness and why it is. Because the truth is: IT.JUST.IS. And it is in no way an indicator of anything other than that we haven’t gotten there yet. Period.
So, when it came to acknowledging love and celebrating it this year, I allowed myself to do that in the way that it made sense. I hung out with my girlfriends, I ate good food, I squealed at the texts and sweet details of a friend in new love, I took selfies and enjoyed the moments as they were, not as I wished they would be. I lived fully in the moments, relishing them and taking them slow, and chose not to lament over moments that hadn’t happened yet. It’s a simple focus shift that’s made my worldview so much brighter. Love has become a less pressured thing, and a more evident thing. I’ve learned to embrace the ways in which it appears, and have given it the space to bring me joy in the now.
And, that’s where I’ve decided to stay.