I’ve been willfully single for a year now, and it’s been very good for me. There have been other times in my life where I’ve been single, but this time has felt really different. Since I was 16, I largely allowed my identity to be defined by whoever I was dating at the time. And I was a serial monogamist most of my adult life. When I was with someone, I was reacting to them. When I was single, it was more like I was reacting to their absence until the notion of that faded enough for someone else to catch my eye, and for the cycle to start again.
This past year, I’ve had old flames looking to reignite with me as well as new ones. But something in me had grown very weary of the cycle I’ve repeated so many times. For awhile, I forged a platonic friendship with a guy who the timing was off with initially. This time around, we were both available at the same time, but I didn’t feel like I needed another trip on that merry-go-round to know that I didn’t want to be on it again. Sure, we once had mind-blowing chemistry. But that’s not so appealing to me anymore.
That’s been an interesting experience. Instead of giddily going for it and getting all wrapped up in the butterflies, I’ve gotten to know people in this very level-headed, platonic way. And I’ve had a wide variety of experiences with people that wouldn’t have been possible had we entered into a sexual relationship. At first, I was proud of myself for setting boundaries and sticking to them. But after several months of this, I started to wonder if the sexual being in me was lying dormant temporarily, or indicative of a larger change. Hormones, maybe? I’m a woman over 40, so that seemed plausible.
I just wasn’t feeling attracted to anyone that way, and it started to feel a little too normal. It’s been beautiful getting to know people and enjoy so many other aspects of them besides sexually, and my perspective has been forever changed. I no longer see the monogamous sexual relationship as the pinnacle of relationships. It took this year to reveal how many biases I still had to that effect. And I’ve gotten a lot more clear about the kind of relationship I DO want to invite into my life.
I’m finding that to be vulnerable authenticity. Being more of that with myself as I peel back the layers that years of losing myself in a series of others have plied me with has been equal measures of challenging and rewarding. In every interaction is a choice of whether to be honest, real, and vulnerable, or deflect and hide. But there isn’t much magic or sparkle in deflection. It’s more of a lonely place where you decide that the person you’re with probably can’t relate to your situation, so why make them feel uncomfortable?
Well, maybe feeling uncomfortable is what prompts them to expand their perspective in some way. Or maybe they can relate better than you imagined. There is so much that we don’t know about ourselves, much less other people. Being ruled by a notion of what makes people comfortable is incredibly limiting. I’m doing my best to bust out of that container whenever I notice myself shrinking to fit inside it.
A few weeks ago, I noticed someone in a way that I haven’t before. I say that, because the me who noticed him is different from the me who has noticed others before him. It was an interesting set of circumstances that put us in the same place at the same time, and I had to step well outside my comfort zone to acknowledge him. He responded a bit. It was enough for me to feel the part of me that I felt was dormant, and maybe gone, is still very much alive. And more like a Ferrari sitting in a garage, fueled up with battery charged than a bear coming out of hibernation. Someone stepped in, checked the gauges, admired some of the details in the stitching on the seats, shifted into neutral and revved the engine a couple of times before putting the handbrake back on and exiting the vehicle.
It was good to want to be seen. It was also good to recognize that my standards are far higher now than they’ve ever been, and I won’t be dropping them again. There will be no more settling. <3