The other day while driving down the freeway with my children to some adventure to another, we started chatting about life, and somehow landed on the topic of relationships.
Having been a single parent for the last four years, this has been an ongoing discussion for us.
We talk about what it means to date someone, why people date and what kinds of relationships a person can have at different ages and stages in their life. My son usually asks logistical questions like, “What do you do on a date? Where do you go?” He’s apparently thinking this whole scenario through on a practical level—such a detail oriented boy, that kid.
My daughter, though, the planner’s daughter, asks instead things like, “So, when you start dating someone, how do you decide how long to date? Like, when do you know when you’re all done?” Apparently, she’s got it in her head that dating is some sort of contractual agreement, with a clear start date and an pre-set agreement for the term.
I started thinking about why she would think that, and what role I may have played in shaping that perception for her. I had just started to consider the possibilities, and then she hit me with this:
“Mom, when you like, find the guy that’s like, just right or whatever, and he’s ready, and you’re ready, and you get married again, then mom, we’ll have a whole family again.”
I was speechless. Silently writhing in pain as she looked at me, eyes pleading, wistful, hopeful, observing my reaction. Waiting.
Apparently, the job I thought I was doing, being a strong and independent woman who doesn’t give a f*ck about white picket fences and societal expectations of a single mother in her thirties, is still subpar. So, despite the fact that I’ve worked my ass off to embody strength and grace, how to find your own inner happiness, and let my children bear witness to a personal growth that they benefit from on a level they may never, apparently, understand, was not actually enough to counteract the alternative message that:
To be happy, you are supposed to be in a relationship. That makes you whole.
Dammit all to hell.
My heart is grieving to see my babies struggle with such an emotional load. I can only imagine how confusing it is for them. It brings tears to my eyes to know they are hurting. And that I’m a part of that hurt.
It registers with me a deep and visceral level to know that while their friends represent the full range of modern families, parents with separate homes, blended families, single parents, same sex parents, adopted parents, foster parents, grandparents, and the occasional traditional family unit, what they crave, in the end, is some stability. Some “normal,” some conventional.
Two parents. One team.
I thought I was doing a decent job here, costumed in my cape, boots, and crown. I’ve been careful not to make my single status a “thing.” If I go on a date, they aren’t made aware of it. I don’t discuss my romantic life around them. In fact, in the four years I’ve been screening potential Mr. Wonder Woman candidates, they’ve only met three men.
Three. In four years.
I’m trying to do it right this time.
They see me tenacious and alive. Secure. Capable. Confident. Happy. I know they do. And yet, somehow, I have still managed to portray that I believe I’m not enough. That I’m not complete. In one way or another, or many maybe, I’ve relayed to them that I believe I’m missing an essential part.
This is not okay. Unacceptable. I refuse to allow this message to continue to sound.
I’ve got to dig deep here, really deep and figure out what messages I am really sending? What energy am I really emitting? What do I really want? What do I really believe about myself?
Do I think I’m incomplete without a man?
But, well, I guess on some level, I must. I’m supposed to say I don’t, right? Because I know better. We are responsible for our own happiness. I get that. I teach it, I preach it, I walk it. I live it, every day.
I know I can be fulfilled, just like this, just us in this beautiful life we’ve created together, our family of three.
But, I also know, it could be better.
There are things that a romantic relationship provides that are different than friendships. Different than what comes from self-actualization. Different than what you can do on your own. When you find a person who empowers you to be the best version of yourself what you can do and be seems limitless.
So, there’s that truth, right there, out on the table for the world, and me, to see. Well, now what?
Now I go within. Now I ask the bigger questions. I consider, what basic emotional needs does a relationship provide? Where and how else can I meet those needs? What do I have the capacity to bring into my life right now, right here, with the puzzle pieces I have at hand?
I can listen to my intuition, and remember I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I can shut down that tiny voice that keeps saying, “You can almost have it all, but just not quite. You can have most of it, but not all of it. You don’t get to have what you want, so just be happy with what you have instead.”
I’ve been thinking all along that I couldn’t have it all. That I didn’t deserve the kind of happiness I saw in others. That failing in my marriage meant I really couldn’t ever have a successful relationship with anyone.
How have I been carrying this in my heart this long and not realizing it? No wonder I have felt so heavy.
Done. Gone. That is not my truth. That is not my story. That is not my destiny. I will not take that baggage one step farther. Not one.
So I say to myself, and I say to my children, whether through action or word:
I am enough. I am whole. I am the one I’ve been waiting for; it’s me, I complete myself.
A relationship won’t fill in the cracks, it will simply seal in that which I’ve already taken action to place within them.
If I want something I must first give it away, fully and completely, no hesitation, no half-assed attempts. My fullest expression. The law of attraction is at work, always, and in every way. If I believe I can’t have it, I can’t. If I perceive it as not mine, it won’t be. If I believe I am not whole without someone else, then I’ll be eternally incomplete.
And so, today I will be what I want to receive. I will be whole. I will be love. I will be full.
Today, in the words of Rumi, I teach my children to
“Shine like the whole universe is yours.”
Because it is.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Mike Kniec/Flickr