There is one topic that I have deliberately avoided writing about on this lovely little blog, and that is romantic love. Yea, I know, I discuss it in the distant, vague, “god wouldn’t that be nice sense”…but I’ve avoided it because, for the most part, there really hasn’t been anything to talk about.
Aaaaand I’ve avoided it because this is a chronically problematic area of my life.
Aaaaand because I didn’t want anyone with less than kind intentions enjoying a nice bit of Shadenfreude (happiness at the misfortune of others, just in case you need a little refresher). Like my friend Samantha said to my friend Carrie in Sex and the City, “There’s always a contest with an ex. It’s called “who will die miserable.”
So because of the aforementioned reasons, I made it a rule somewhere between getting pregnant and, well, now, that I would just not touch the subject of dating, or trying to date or trying to find love, or whatever you want to call it.
That is until tonight.
You see the whole reason I started this blog was because I realized very early on in my path to single motherhood, that feeling alone is like a magnifying glass placed on any emotion..it just makes whatever you are feeling seem that much more consuming and daunting. And I learned today that there is actually science behind the urge to connect when you are stressed out. According a Ted Talk I watched by psychologist Kelly McGonigalit is not really stress that is so damaging to our physical and mental health, it is how we respond to that stress that is the really important factor. Apparently stress can make you social.
Oxytocin (you know, that cuddle hormone released during sex, breastfeeding and hugging), is also released during stressful situations – encouraging you to engage with others, while enhancing your empathy and prompting you to crave affection - ”Your stress response has a built in mechanism for stress resilience and that mechanism is human connection.”
Well sign me up because I could use a dose of resilience when it comes to romantic love. There are few more universal feelings than a bruised or broken heart…so since science is backing me up, I will allow the oxytocin created by the stress of failing yet again romantically guide my openness on the topic…
I feel like a complete and total failure in this department. Since this is not a score settling type blog, I will not be listing any names or actions here (although I know if I did, it would be far and away the most clicked through piece I have ever posted). And I am not playing the victim here…I take full responsibility for choosing and then engaging with (for waaaaaaaaaaaaaay longer is even remotely logical) the wrong men.
This all prompted a ton of soul searching, and out of that came a promise to myself (and to Ellie) that I wouldn’t get involved with anyone again until I felt like I had a good grasp on my new life with her, and what I wanted our live’s to look like.
I took myself out of the game for about 2 years. A guy would hit on me and I would literally laugh. No one could drag me back into those treacherous waters, no matter how much wine they supplied me with, or how many pep talks they gave me…a girlfriend would suggest that I turn to online dating and I would get sick to my stomach. A friend’s husband would tell me that they knew a GREAT single guy that I would “totally hit it off with” and I would politely decline. My Aunt (you know which aunt you are ) would suggest that a friend of a friend’s son brother was totally available and a doctor! and I would roll my eyes, breaking into a cold sweat.
No. No. No.
That is until last summer, when the universe intervened and gave me reason to believe that the good guy was out there, and that he actually could be looking for me – in the form of a run in with the very first, and most upstanding, boyfriend I ever had. Okay fine…we only dated for 3 weeks when we were 13-years-old, but let a girl wax nostalgic please. Despite how amazing he is, I live here, and he lives there, and a lot of life has happened in the past 20 years…so…the weekend was what it was, aaaaaaand…I took another year off.
And then one night, a good friend of mine asked me after just enough wine if I wanted to meet a friend of her husband’s…”casual, no big deal, beer…all four of us…funny, smart, someone to hang out with…no pressure”…and I said, “Sure.” without even hesitating. Not because I had ANY hope for this potential non-date…but because I just stopped caring…and this was the kind of non-date I could do…a group…other people to save me…a girlfriend that I knew I could have good conversation with if he totally annoyed me.
But he didn’t annoy me. Quite the opposite in fact. (Shocking, I know)
We hit it off in a way that I thought was entirely impossible with a stranger. The hours felt like they went by in minutes, and before I knew it I was having to pull myself away from the conversation to go home and relieve the babysitter. I fell asleep that night thinking, “Nah…this can’t really be something…don’t be silly.”
I was pleasantly proven wrong, and it quickly became something…something I realized I didn’t want to run from…something I wanted to lean into – despite my fear of getting hurt again.
Then, just as quickly, it became nothing…
I mean, I’m oversimplifying that statement. Although I don’t have total clarity on how we got from there to here (do we every have complete clarity when it comes to matters of the heart?), I can say that the timing just wasn’t right, and we couldn’t pick a pace that worked for both of us, and perhaps he was too “him” and I was too “me”…
Whatever the reason, here I am…just me. I played it totally cool for a good few days, and then had one of those, “Oh hell no…I am never, ever, ever, ever doing this sh*t again” moments, and I told myself and aaaaaanyone else that would listen, that this was game over.
I. AM. DONE.
WHAT. IS. THE. POINT?
I CAN’T. I. JUST CAN’T.
And then, on Tuesday morning, I caught Diana Nyad’s interview on Good Morning America, and I was totally captivated by her spirit. When talking about the media covering the story, she said, “Those people aren’t from the world of swimming, they don’t care about the the world record, it wasn’t an athletic event, it was a moment of human spirit…’Never, ever, give up.’
And I thought to myself, “If she can try to swim 110 miles without the protection of shark cage, only succeeding on her 5th attempt, fighting off poisonous jelly fish in order to reach her goal – then I can’t be this easily dissuaded from finding love …Come on.”
Yes. I want to give up. I want to protect myself from getting hurt again…but, if I did that, I can only guarantee one thing – I will never have the life I want.
She said she picked a mantra to help her get through the tough times, “The phrase I decided to use was…find a way. If something is important to you, then…and it looks impossible and you are up against it, just step back for a minute and say ‘really?’ Do I have the resolve to think of every nth degree to get through this? And most times we do. People give up too quickly.”
And those words resonated with me…”Find a way.”
Find a way to…meet new people.
Find a way to…be open to possibility.
Find a way to…still believe in love.
Find a way to…fall in love.
Later that day I talked to my Mom, and I went on and on about how obsessed I was with Diana Nyad, giving her all my favorite quotes, which she enjoyed.
Then she asked me for a romantic update.
I told her the update was there was no update, and she said, “Car…I know you will find him. I promise. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming”
There are no guarantees I will reach my goal of finding a great man to spend my life with, but if I don’t try…I know I definitely won’t.