Just living that single life.
I’ve used that phrase about being single on numerous occasions throughout my life. Sometimes I said it with gratitude, but usually it came from a place of sadness or feeling alone. I had plenty of friends who wear “Single” as a badge of honor and I envied that. I hated being single. To me “single life” equalled “alone and no one loves you”. Not a great place for a woman in her early 20s to be, mentally.
What is a relationship?
So, let’s back up a bit. Where did this thought process about being single come from? Honestly, I spent a lot of my life in “relationships” starting all the way back in 8th grade. At that point, boys asked you to “go out with them” (which is funny because during junior high, we weren’t going anywhere!), and I “went out with” my fair share. In my mind, when you went out with someone, it meant someone cared about you, there was always someone to talk to on the phone late at night, someone waiting by your locker, and someone to pass notes to class. I definitely got my worth from whatever boy was into me that week.
In high school, things are taken up a notch. There are more levels: “interested”, “talking to”, “going out with”. All of this and learning too?! No wonder high school girls are crazy. I was no exception; my girlfriends would tell you I was the boy-crazy one of the group. It seems like there was always someone I was interested and more often than not, I was in a relationship. Sure we’d spend time together outside of school, but how deep did those relationships get? I really wasn’t interested in knowing the life story of these guys, I just wanted to know someone thought I was special.
Because of my choice to be in exclusive relationships so often, I always wonder what I missed out on during that time in my life. Instead of running around with my girlfriends most of the time, I chose to let the idea of being desired by a boy rule my life. Why was I not satisfied to be living the single life then? That’s when it was definitely easy and fun to be single! There have been times I’ve felt regretful about my choices back then, but I have to remind myself it was all part of my journey to get me to where I am today. And like I’ve said numerous times throughout this blog… the more painful the lesson, the better I learn it.
All this time I spent hanging around the opposite sex, you’d think I was pretty good at dating. But here’s the thing: I did a lot of “hanging out”, but not a lot of dating. I went out to dinner or to movies with boys when we were exclusive, so I guess you could say I went on dates. But did I ever actually DATE? I wasn’t sure what that even meant.
After a lot of self-reflection in my mid-20s, it was clear I never allow myself to be courted or dated. There are a couple of reasons for this, I think. One, our society does not encourage courting like it did when my parents were young. And two, I didn’t know how to ask to be dated. Therefore, I settled for less and ultimately, I was at a disadvantage because at 25 years of age, I freaked out when a guy I hardly knew asked me out on a date.
Normally, when I’m scared to do something, I just don’t do it. So everything in me told me never to date — to just be alone. Just live the single life. This also came after a string of rough relationships, always dating Mr. Wrong-for-Me, hoping to turn him into Mr. Right. And it didn’t work. At 25, I was done with dating and ready to live alone. A bit dramatic? Yes, yes I was.
The Dating Game
Thankfully, I’ve allowed a wonderful woman into my life. She loves me enough to hurt my feelings and really helps bring perspective for me on a lot of things. This topic was no different. When I told her about the guy asking me on a date, without hesitation, she told me to go. Seriously?! She lovingly pointed out I knew nothing about dating. That I had done plenty of hanging out and going out on dates, but no actual dating. Huh, now that’s a concept. So we discussed what dating really looks like…
I learned that it’s important to date to learn what you do and don’t like in a person. To learn how to have a conversation and get to know another person. And that just because I agree to a date does not mean I’m agreeing to marriage. That was the biggest eye-opener for me. One date doesn’t mean this guy is my boyfriend; it doesn’t even mean there will be a second date. And that is OK! Dating can just be a part of single life; it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I basically had to smash everything I knew about relationships with the opposite sex and start over. Again, this was at the age of 25! Not exactly what I wanted to be doing at this time.
Dealing with Rejection
So now that I’ve learned a few things about myself (basically that I’m consumed by fear, especially if I don’t know how to do something) and have been given some guidance for the dating world, I was ready. Or so I thought. After 2 dates with a very nice person, he let me know it wasn’t going to work out. I was devastated… My mind was telling me, “If this guy doesn’t want to be with you, no one will. You aren’t good enough.” I’m my own worst enemy.
Luckily I bounced back quicker than I thought I would. I continued to live my single life, but I also went on some dates over another year. During that time, I met some nice guys all of whom where completely wrong for me, but that’s ok. I let them be on their best behavior and treat me nice — it was great practice! (Also made me all the more grateful for a special someone who came later) I also met a lot of awesome women and began cultivating those relationships. The best part of this time was that my world was not focused on the dating part — I was living life and getting to know myself.
Alone vs. Lonely
The other part of this whole “single life” game was changing my thinking and feeling about being single. I talked about the idea of being alone, but what I started to see is that I associated “alone” with being lonely. I didn’t know how to be OK alone. Frankly, I really didn’t know how to be OK in a room with crowded people either…
When I got sober and finally started looking at my life, my patterns, my behavior, in black and white (rather than my special filter), I realized it was time to change. Finally seeing that I was depending on someone else to make me feel OK made me sick. How pathetic?! Something else I saw was that I was always ready for that person to leave, waiting for that other shoe to drop. Fear of abandonment and being alone ran my life!
Through all of the process, it became clear I had a feeling of loneliness that little can satisfy. Surely not a guy. This only became clear to me as I got my life on paper and I could step back and take a look at it all, with the help of my good friend. There was something bigger missing in all of this. It was clear I was chasing approval and acceptance all over the place that no boy could give me. It needed to come from within, from a relationship with God.
No Man is Right Until I’m Ready
My life changed drastically when I got sober (a story for another day), and I got a lot of gems tossed my way. But this one struck me to the core. “No man is right until I’m ready.” I remember being so annoyed when women would say things (either in movies or in real life) like: “I’m working on me right now” or “I’m dating me”. Cheesy! But this statement turned into my life motto. No one will be right until I’m ready for a real relationship. I’m the problem. I always have been.
I began working on me. At the time, I was working at a cafe whenever they needed me. If there was ever a Friday night they didn’t ask me to work, I’d start freaking out on Wednesday. Why you ask? Because of the money? No, because it meant I’d have no plans! Being alone was so scary to me. Even the thought of sitting home by myself made me so incredibly uncomfortable! It was baby steps. A couple of hours here and there. Soon, the quiet wasn’t as noisy as I always thought.
Luckily, God continued to give me plenty of opportunities to be by myself. Slowly, but surely, I became more comfortable and even enjoyed an evening with nothing planned. I got a cat. (I don’t even like cats!) Diesel was my do-nothing-buddy. Cooking and cleaning started to be fun things to do rather than just chores. Fitness became a top priority quickly. Soon I realized, I spent so much time trying to be the right person for whoever the “flavor” was of that week, I had no idea what I actually liked to do!
While I learned to date, I also learned about myself. Spending time with girlfriends with no boys in view was a new thing. And I found building relationships with women was just what I needed. I stopped going places and doing things because of who I might see there, or the potential to meet a new guy. These things may sound simple and elementary to many of you, but they were brand new concepts to me. I’d be doing life a certain way for so long, trying to change all of that at 25-26 was tough!
But God gave me some very special time, important people, and great lessons during this time. When I look back at that time from February 2010 to February 2012, I realize how short those two years really were in my lifetime. But they were some of the most important years of my life.
To Receive, Open Your Hands
It’s important for me to share this part of my journey. My changing in thinking and my focus on single-life. I believe it’s important for woman to feel OK on their own. I’m not saying you don’t need a man, I’m just saying you need to get your men in order. God has filled that hole in my heart that I continued to try to fill with approval from others, specifically men, after I stopped trying to fill it with alcohol. It wasn’t easy, and there were LOTS of tears. I pleaded with Him on countless nights asking why He was doing this to me?
While you are “in it”, it’s hard to understand that there really a greater purpose for all that is going on right in front of me. Some days I still felt the loneliness, other times I was content being on my own. I think that was part of this lesson — learning to be OK alone. Becoming “ready”.
All in His Time & Plan
One early morning in the summer of 2010, at the beginning of my single-life journey, I was on my way to work. Some country love song was playing that just struck my heart and tears rolled down my cheeks. I looked up at the stars when I pulled up to the stop light and shouted at Him. “Do you not hear me?! This sucks!! I don’t want to be alone forever!” In that moment, I was overcome with His presence and the thought filled my mind that maybe He was preparing the Mr. Right-For-Me, just like He was preparing me. A nice thought that I decided to hold on to in those moments over the next few years when I struggled most.
Two years later, while dating Seth, I learned his dad died in the summer of 2010 and it was the beginning of the end of Seth’s battle with running life his way. Stepping back and having this information just gives me goosebumps. And it makes the rest of the story that much better….