Cupid's scent still lingers in the air post Valentine's Day, and each time I enter the drug store and walk by the wilting roses and cheap, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate now on clearance, I'm once again reminded of my longstanding single status. I've remained relatively single for over four years. I've dated many people, but I haven't found one mate to commit myself to entirely and enjoy a loving relationship with.
In my adventures in New York City dating, I've had many different experiences. There was the man I was very fond of, who finally confessed his love for me, then was never to be heard from again. Then there was the man that relentlessly pursued me, but my gut kept telling me something was off despite my attraction to him. He told me after he kissed me goodnight on our first date that he was married. There were many jealous and controlling men who raised red flags immediately. They reinforced my fear of being tied down and losing my freedom completely. I ended up finding comfort in the slew of men that were interested in casually dating but terrified of commitment, because I came to realize that I was no different.
It seemed to me that everyone on the dating scene played by their own set of rules. I found it common for singles to be dating as many as five people at once, and the more years they'd grown accustomed to this, the more jaded the hearts of these individuals became. I felt like I was swimming in a pool that everyone had dipped their toes in, but none of us knew what we really wanted or what it was that we had to offer. The dating game grew exhausting, and I finally threw in the towel and proclaimed my own heart jaded. My walls went high and I started becoming guilty of committing some of the same heartless acts that had been done to me, namely stringing men along that I was never going to fully commit to, just to avoid the pain of being alone. Ultimately, I collected a stable of emotionally unavailable men that I would keep at arm's length, just as they did to me. They provided me with some excitement and stimulation when I desired, and some fantasy that maybe one day we would both be open enough to have a relationship. Otherwise, there were no expectations.
The truth was, I was looking for a man to fill a big empty space within me. I had some unresolved issues from childhood, and a past breakup that had left my heart fractured. This rendered me emotionally unavailable to fully commit myself to another person out of fear of getting hurt again or losing myself in another relationship, as I'd done in the past. What I had failed to recognize in my four years of consistent dating and not finding a partner was that maybe there were some unconscious things going on inside of me that were preventing me from being open to accept love, support or, scariest of all, share intimacy with another.
It became apparent to me that I needed to learn to live with myself before I could expect anyone else to live with me. I needed to be solely in a relationship with me. And so I embarked on a mission to achieve solitude, and find the joy in being alone. I think many people confuse being alone with fear and sadness, but it truly can be a positive and constructive state. At the same time I was awakening to this fact, I started attending guided meditations where the mantra the teacher gave us to practice was a simple "let go." It seems so mundane, but "let go" became a daily ritual that I repeated to myself over and over, and sure enough I began cutting the cords of the relationships that were distracting me from peaceful solitude and giving me a false sense of security and self-worth. I started feeling a new kind of freedom by remaining loyal to myself. I got involved in spiritual communities that supported my endeavor and strengthened my spirit. These communities helped me identify and move through the negative patterns I had developed around my relationships with men. Doing breathwork such as conscious connected breathing was the most helpful tool in tapping into my unconscious emotions. I unearthed a lot of anger, hurt and resentment that I needed to let go of. I also had a lot of forgiveness to do on myself and others before I was ready to open myself to a healthy relationship. In my solitude, I felt like I was clearing old negative thoughts that were making my life difficult. I was also learning to have compassion for myself and getting clearer on who I was and what I really wanted from a future partner. To my surprise, with no dating I was actually starting to feel less lonely than I ever had before. My self-esteem increased dramatically.
I'm not claiming that this was an easy journey. There were plenty of weak moments and times I was tempted to engage in behavior with past partners that was unhealthy on my path of solitude. There are people we've had in our lives for many years that are very hard to let go of. They keep us in the destructive patterns that have been familiar to us our whole lives and activate emotions in us that very few others can. When this is what we've always known, severing these ties can be a real challenge. What got me through these difficult moments was a support system of friends, and knowing that if I complete the process of letting go, I could one day move on with openness to a new person, and have the healthy relationship that I desire.
Being in solitude rather than loneliness is a choice, and we are ultimately in charge of our minds. I believe that the freedom found in solitude will support love, and the more free space I clear in my heart, the more possibility I have for love in my life.