“Two halves have little choice but to join;
And yes, they do make a whole
but two wholes when they coincide…
That is beauty.
That is love.”
There are three things I used to do in the context of romantic relationships, from the first blaze of attraction to the bitter end. All of them contributed to taking me out of my own life, robbing me of the pleasure of my own company and leaving me in unnecessarily rough shape when things were over.
- When I was alone, I often fantasized that The Guy could see me, like I was in a movie. I would be driving on a summer day with the windows open, my hair blowing and Tom Petty blasting from the speakers. Or I would be at work, or sitting picturesquely on my couch with a book and a cup of tea, or doing noble things like finding the mother of a lost toddler in a busy store. I was seeing myself from the outside (which sounds totally crazy if you’ve never done it, but I secretly believe I’m not the only one. Please tell me I’m not the only one).
- When I was interested in a guy, I adopted all of his tastes and interests. Sometimes I did it when I was trying to get someone’s attention, believing that I could “get” him by paying close attention to what he liked, and then mentioning (casually, of course) that I also really loved Rilke, Monty Python or The Eagles. (I hate The Eagles). Other times, it happened in the context of a relationship—I listened to his music, read the books he liked, and generally erased all of my own factory settings in favor of his.
- I anxiously, okay, frantically, arranged my schedule so that I would be available to The Guy. This often meant refusing invitations from my friends, or saying “no” to drinks after work because if I was home, He might call me. (This was before cell phones. If they had existed back in the day, I’m pretty sure that I would always have had my phone out, giving half of my attention to the people and events around me as I monitored text messaging, Facebook messaging and e-mail).
I can look at those behaviors now and say all kinds of smart, hind-sight things. Things like “don’t do that shit because you are completely cutting yourself out of your own life.”
At the time, not so much.
So every time things fell apart, or failed to come together, I was left with an increasingly strong sense that there was a gaping hole in my life. If I couldn’t imagine someone else’s eyes on me as I strode down the streets of Boston, it didn’t really matter how beautifully the sun hit the water in the reflecting pool. I couldn’t imagine it through someone else’s eyes anymore.
I acquired music and books I didn’t necessarily like, and their physical presence in my apartment/car/life reminded me of failure and made me sad. Plus, I had wasted untold, joyless hours trying to get into Garth Brooks or Jackie Chan as if I’d been studying for an exam.
I had often distanced myself from the people who really cared about me, and I had to hustle to get myself back into their good graces. It didn’t always work, and I lost some great friends over the years because I turned down their living, breathing awesomeness in favor of chasing a romantic phantom.
Some of this might, might have been understandable and appropriate after the breakup of a real relationship, but I’m not talking about that kind of thing. I could launch myself out of my own life and into a Nicholas Sparks novel based entirely on a one-sided crush.
The operative and important words being “out of my own life.”
It’s a cliché, but it proved true for me, that the minute I stopped giving away all rights to my life, and began to live based on my own preferences and passions, I attracted men, including the one I married. I didn’t do it consciously, I did it by being busy doing things I genuinely loved. I was, although I didn’t know it yet, living mindfully.
I was not watching my life and adjusting it so it could accommodate some other half who would complete me. I was at its center, living in a series of “presents.”
I looked good because I loved the cut of a jacket or the oomph of a red lip, not because some imaginary man was looking at me.
I went on long walks for the sheer pleasure of moving and seeing the seasons change, not because I wanted to lose weight (although I did).
I learned that men were much more interested when I was a little feisty and had my own preferences and opinions on things instead of mirroring theirs. I read The Hunt for Red October because a guy said it was his favorite book, but it turned out that I really liked it and learned a lot about submarines. The same guy was also pretty politically conservative, and I debated him endlessly and energetically about everything from gun control to Trickle Down economics. (Reader, I married him).
I realized that it was infinitely more appealing and intriguing to be busy with my own stuff instead of perpetually available. And I went and did things where there was no chance of meeting a man, or seeing The Man, or (sometimes) seeing any men at all, and I laughed and I bonded and I came home sated with the rich, filling goodness of my own sweet life.
There is no hole in your life unless you create one and wait for someone else to fill it. You are whole right now. You need no one else’s adoration, approval or company to thrive, and every second spent pursuing those things takes you away from the gift that is your life.
I wish for you that you will understand all of this far sooner than I did, and that you’ll live accordingly.
And largely and joyously and juicily. And whole.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise