This summer I remember thinking, “I hope I’m not single again for the holidays.”
The anxiety of being single two years in a row, as my youth slowly ticks away (age is a death sentence in the single scene of Los Angeles), combined with the inevitable scene of everyone who truly loves me asking, worrying and advising me about my love life was too overwhelming to handle.
Thanksgiving arrived before I realized it.
Typically, an ex boyfriend who had supposedly changed showed up. After three casual meet ups, it was clear the only thing that had changed was his hair style. He was the same handsome, charming, emotionally unavailable person who claimed he wanted a serious relationship three years earlier. Closing this revolving door of, “hope for a better future” forever was a no-brainer. Being friends with him was no longer possible and, finally, it wasn’t desirable either.
When I got severe food poisoning two days before Thanksgiving, I was miserable. Being unable to work and starring in my own version of The Exorcist for too many hours to count reminded me how sucky it is to be single when you are sick. The pity party was only enhanced when I had to show up at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner as the only single person, again.
It’s Christmas soon.
Then, New Year’s Eve.
As the holidays descend, I can feel the embarrassment, panic and hopelessness creeping in.
I console myself with mindfulness meditations, activities I enjoy and reality checks. I know all too well the games the mind will play. It is said that “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” However, I learned in a workshop on neuroscience, psychology and yoga a few weeks ago that the mind wandering is the cause not the consequence of unhappiness.
My mind loves to wander into a place of desperation when it comes to my love life. Desperation has gotten me into trouble in the past.
Hunting for love on a diet of desperation and fear is an explosion waiting to happen. Avoid desperation dating at all costs if you don’t want to have to clean up the mess afterwards, especially now.
I really do have mad love for the holidays though.
Even when I have to drag myself metaphorically kicking and screaming to celebrate them.
There have been times when the three wise men have been, grief, despair and hopelessness manifesting themselves in my body like 50-pound weights. When my broken heart or broken spirit desperately tried to swallow me whole and say, “Bah humbug!” or “Screw this year!”
I somehow always manage to rally despite myself. And it has taught me to appreciate what I have.
I have been ending each and every yoga class I teach with “Being ever so thankful for what we do have,” for the last decade or so. Appreciation and gratitude are not meant to ignore the pain or struggles we are in. At this time of year, many of us feel our pain even more magnified as we review our lives.
It’s okay to allow ourselves to wish things were different, or even spend a moment or two in self pity (especially when we compare ourselves to other’s seemingly charmed lives on social media). But it’s a fine balance. Appreciation can keep us from getting submerged in our pain and disappointments.
Appreciation is understanding there may be no concrete solution or a clear path to resolution for our problems right now. Appreciation is the starting point that allows us to be with life as it is while we slowly work towards change. It reminds us to never completely shut the door on the light that is always trying to come in even when our backs are turned toward it. Appreciation is a journey that requires time for quiet self-reflection as well as friends or family who know when to hold our hands in just the right way when we really need it.
And so, in the spirit of appreciating what I have and what I’ve been through, and despite myself, I have decided to give online dating another chance sans holiday desperation and with a much clearer heart and head.
Having been here before and failed, here are some tips I am reminding myself of as I navigate dating during the holiday season:
>> Be clear, in a factual, non-judgmental way about what you want. What are your deal breakers and compromises? Holiday hook-ups will be on the rise this time of year. In the same way gym memberships surge following New Year’s resolutions only to die out a month or two later, holiday dating has a similar pattern that ends after Valentine’s day.
>> Clear the deck! If you really want to find that last relationship ever, get rid of any “friends” where the boundaries are blurred. Staying hungry in the hunt for love and intimacy as opposed to being partially satiated could make you more persistent and less likely to give up. Meanwhile, allow intimacy to thrive in the non-romantic relationships, like friends and family, so you don’t become too desperate and starved.
>> Get current and positive. Write down and focus on what you are looking for, not what you aren’t. Write down all the negative thoughts and experiences about online dating. Are they still current given who you are today? Are their pearls of wisdom from the past to be used to prevent repeating negative dating patterns but not as fuel for your newest quest?
>> Slow down. Holidays always bring a sense of urgency. Remember, they will come around again next year too, waiting with open arms for you to celebrate them with someone you love.
Whether we are looking for a holiday hook-up or something more serious this holiday season, knowing ourselves will be our greatest asset.
This is more than a cognitive and conceptual phrase that all too often sounds like, “I think I know who I am.” Having intellectual insight into our past experiences doesn’t necessarily create changes in the current and future ones. True wisdom lands in the body, the mind, the heart and the disciplined actions we then take.
So, to all the delicate hearts out there, including those of you who believe you are strong, date wisely.
Author: Heather Dawn
Image: Penelope Dullaghan
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren