07/21/2014 12:59 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2014

Love Lessons From a Little Clam

Tetra Images via Getty Images

While walking along the beach recently, I came across a small, closed clam shell. I picked it up and put it in a bag with the beach rocks I'd collected. During the drive back home I looked at it, and, well, things didn't look good. There was a brownish ooze seeping out of the two shells.

When I got home I filled a jar with water and dropped the clam in. The next morning, the shells had parted, the actual white clam meat looking healthy, the water smelling of the ocean.

I asked a friend what I should do next (and wondered whether keeping a small clam was less or more sad than having, say, a pet rock).

"It's a good sign that it opened up," she told me. "But I think it's looking for something."

Her statement struck a chord. It seemed to me that my little clam had a lot in common with people looking for love. There are some -- I'd dare say many -- people who want love, but who close themselves off; their shells are closed. For a long time I counted myself among them. Then finally, after some personal growth, a few relationships or any other combination of things, we find ourselves dunked in the kind of situation that makes us finally open up. What we're looking for becomes clear to us and we realize the only way we can find it is to crack open that little shell and show our vulnerable insides to the world.

My friend seemed to think the thing my clam pal wanted was food. It hadn't occurred to me that clams even eat; a quick Google search revealed that clams filter in plankton for nourishment. Unfortunately in my New York apartment, plankton was in short supply -- by which I mean, no supply.

Without the thing it seeks, my little clam was sure to close up again for good. There was time limit to how long it would stay open.

Are we the same way with love? If we open our hearts to what we want but don't find the kind of relationship/love/connection we're looking for, will we eventually close up again?

For me, it's been going on two years since the end of a short-lived but intense, significant relationship. It's only been in the last six months that I've felt my own shell really open and have felt that my heart is truly ready to open up to someone again. But despite my openness, there's been disappointment. The lackluster dates, the non-starter connections, speed dating, singles events. Some nights during that worry zone time of 3-5 a.m., I've wondered whether I should just give up, if maybe some people are just meant to remain single despite an openness and a desire to find a lasting relationship.

It's been several days, and my clam is still open despite my inability to give it exactly what it needs. The clam is stronger than I thought.

I think I should follow its lead. Despite the bumps, I'm not willing to close up again.