A Year in the Life: Week 3 – Letter to a Columnist

This week, the writing exercise from A Year in the Life was to write a letter to a columnist giving “advice” about something you’ve been through.

Since so many people seem preoccupied with finding “the one,” I wrote about how my romantic life blossomed after I’d decided to give up dating “for good.”

I’m writing to all those who are waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to come along.

I am thirty-two years old and have been married for one year to a wonderful, kind, stable, smart, affectionate man–he’s more than I ever dreamed.

In truth, my dreams about getting married faded somewhere around age 25. I was still a virgin, and in fact had never even been kissed. Sometimes I felt very anxious as I wondered whether I would ever “find someone.” But most of the time, I was too busy to be anxious. What was I doing during those years? I was keeping journals, writing novels, reading books, playing guitar, watching movies with my best friend, reading Tarot and working for an organization I was passionate about. I had strong friendships, and my life was full and satisfying. I was prescient enough to understand that this time of my life was sacred, this time with so much freedom, so much opportunity to explore. Over those years, I grew more and more into myself, and I started throwing out some ideas–like the assumption that I would one day marry, that I was straight, or that being single meant something was missing.

When I was twenty-seven, I started to date for the first time in my life. Before then, I always assumed that meeting the right person would just “happen.” But although my life was still satisfying, I was living alone at the time and came to realize how hard it was for anything to “happen” while I was always in my apartment.

I also needed to consider an idea that I’d previously rejected–namely, the idea that by dating others, you learn more about yourself and what you want from a partner or a relationship. I was convinced I already had a clear idea of who I was and what I wanted–but when I began dating, I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I used an online dating site with a matching algorithm, and I learned after several romances that didn’t survive “real life” very well that what I thought I wanted, and who I’d actually fallen for in my life, didn’t really match up. I met really wonderful people that reaffirmed my faith in dating in general, but none of them were quite right for me. My longest “relationship” during that time was three months, and I wondered whether I had “outgrown” falling in love (I was 28!) and thought that dating just “wasn’t for me.”

I decided to move back to my hometown due to financial issues and an opportunity to live in the country again. Before I moved, and as part of that decision, I spent a lot of time coming to peace with “letting go” of dating forever. I was moving to a small town where I was related to nearly everyone, and where I hadn’t really fit in while I was growing up. If I hadn’t been able to find someone in a progressive, artsy city of 85,000, where I felt I “fit in” better than anywhere I’d ever lived before, how would I meet someone in a town with a population of 1,300? So, I meditated, reflected, prayed, journaled, and came to peace with my new future–a future where I would be at the center of my life and sink into it fully–get a dog for companionship and protection, plant a garden for sustenance.

A month after I moved, I got an email from the man who would become my husband.

Thinking I’d gotten the “relationship thing” out of my system, I didn’t invest much in my correspondence with him. Plus, he had a lower “match” percentage (72%) than anyone else I’d dated from the site–and if those almost perfect matches didn’t pan out, how could this? There are three reasons that I decided to meet him anyway.

  1. He was persistent.
  2. He asked if I’d like to talk on the phone, and I hate talking on the phone … so I proposed an in-person meeting to get out of it.
  3. I figured that after meeting him, I could officially write him off and return to building the life of peaceful solitude I had envisioned.

Still, first dates stressed me out so much that, the night before ours, I vowed I wouldn’t ever do it again. And I wrote in my journal exactly what kind of person he would need to be to make getting over my relationship inertia worth it–

and he fit that description to a T.

My plan to “write him off” went horribly awry, and instead I found myself falling intensely, quickly, unexpectedly in love.

I had an inkling I would marry him after our first date, but I quickly wrote that off. But by the time we’d been dating for four months, I was certain. We were engaged on the one-year anniversary of our first date and married 16 months later.

Ivan isn’t perfect, and neither am I, and neither is our relationship. But most days, I’m still so deliriously happy that we found each other–letting go of the expectation of finding a partner makes having him in my life all the more sweet, as if I somehow got away with cheating fate. I don’t think I would have been able to be this happy if I was “looking” for him or “waiting” for him–because my mind would have been too tied up with fitting him into some idea of who I wanted as a lover and a partner to let my heart just laugh and enjoy the ride. That is the true beauty of letting go–that it finally lets your heart have its way.

Although Ivan is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, I’m glad I didn’t meet him earlier in my life. It’s because of all those years of solitude and exploration and learning that I’m able to love him now, fully, gratefully, and without resentment. My relationship with him has changed me–mostly made me softer around the edges–but I haven’t lost myself. In some ways, I’m more myself, because in addition to everything I learned about myself when I was single, now I’m learning about who I am in an intimate relationship, too. He’s allowed my exploration and unfolding to deepen and continue–not cut it off short like I always feared a relationship would.

And I’ve learned that so many of the cliches about love are true–

  • that it finds you when you stop looking for it
  • that everything really is “different” with the right person
  • that sometimes the one who’s right for you is nothing like what you expected
  • that you have to love yourself before you love others

But cliches hardly comfort when you’re lonely, frustrated, and waiting. So the three non-cliche pieces of advice I can impart are these:

  1. Let go, but don’t give up. Stay open.
  2. Don’t wait–live, enjoy, and cherish your life just the way it is.
  3. There are a thousand ways to be whole and happy–with or without a partner–and at least one of them is bound to find you.

3 Responses to A Year in the Life: Week 3 – Letter to a Columnist

  1. G says:

    Oh! This really speaks to me right now; I’ve been trying online dating for the first time–it’s been about two to three months. I found the whole idea of dating too unnatural and blind, but I just wasn’t clicking with anyone at work or in my social life. Either nothing, or worse, an unreciprocated something.

    Do you really think that your state of mind was the critical factor in your eventual success? What if you had happened to meet Ivan earlier, when you ‘wanted’ it more? Do you think you would have messed it up? Or do you think that if you’d found acceptance and serenity earlier you would have hooked up with someone else earlier?

    I’m challenging your thinking here, but I have to agree with the general observation that opportunities of all sorts seem to magically appear when one’s in a good state of mind.

    Someone once advised me that I should appreciate a woman like I appreciate a beautiful natural scene or music: I can’t posses these things or place any expectations on them; they are what they are. I do think craving gets in the way. But it can be hard for people to distinguish this selfish ‘craving’ from perfectly natural ‘craving’–lust, bonding, attachment, the stuff that merely expresses human nature. A lot of folk would look at you funny if you said to them, “stop wanting and just let it happen.” “Wanting is the point”, they might retort.

    P.S. I cannot make up my mind whether I believe in things like tarot cards–sometimes it seems like you get a striking prediction; other times it seems like seeing shapes in clouds.

    • You know, I ask myself that question a lot, whether I still would have been able to fall in love with and marry Ivan if I’d met him at a different point in my life. And I really just don’t know. The truth is, I’m glad I didn’t meet him earlier, because I wouldn’t have traded all that had come before. Perhaps, in addition to learning to “let go,” I had also come to a point where I had learned all I was “meant” to learn being single, and some new lessons were in order. And based on what Ivan has told me about his earlier life, I may not have connected with him if we’d met a few years earlier — he might not have yet been the person I grew to love, either.

      I do know this: deep down, I always did believe the adage that you had to “stop looking” for love to find you. And I always *thought* that’s what I was doing. But the truth was, through all of that, I was only “letting go” because I really wanted something to happen. In the back of my mind, I was always searching, dreaming, hoping that love would find me. Conversely, this hoping and dreaming was, at times, so pleasant to me that I didn’t want to “ruin” it by entering into a real relationship and having to give all that up. So I wasn’t truly “letting go,” nor was I truly “open” to love. That’s a complicated environment for love to grow in, for sure! (I did fall in love while I was in that kind of state, by the way, but it was, as you put it, an “unreciprocated ‘something.'”)

      Before I met Ivan, I think that was the first time I *truly* let go. I really thought my chances of meeting someone were nil after I moved, so I came to peace with it in a way I never had before, when I always believed that possibility might be hiding around the next corner. And when I dreamed (and planned), I dreamed and planned for a life that didn’t include a partner, which was also different from my dreams and plans of the past, when I’d always secretly hoped a partner would show up in them. At the same time, I had to have that little bit of open-ness to the idea, or I wouldn’t have given him the chance to begin with (although I actually wouldn’t have, if he hadn’t been persistent). But still, there was *something* that made me respond to his emails.

      I’m not sure that answers all your questions, but I guess there’s no way to have those answers. I like to believe that I would have recognized a good thing in Ivan no matter where I was in my life, but I do have trouble picturing myself with him if we’d connected at an earlier point.

      Good luck to you in your own forays into online dating. I often tell people who find themselves frustrated that I was on the site I used for a couple years before I met Ivan, so all is not lost if it takes a while for things to happen. 🙂

      I don’t really believe that Tarot cards can predict the future; I more see them as a conduit into our own inner psyches. I believe that we know all the truth about our lives already somewhere in our souls, and that Tarot is one tool that can help us connect wit that. So all they can do is help us discover what we already know.

  2. G says:

    ‘Letting go’ is a major theme in religious writing. I personally and directly know that it’s the key to fulfilment in life regardless of whether you actually get what you want. But it’s hard to do in practice. You can hear “let go” and take it / implement it in a million wrong ways.

    I think with some of the Oprah style pundits these days, they put the cart before the horse. They introduce someone like Eckhart Tolle, who says “let go”, but the sneaky thought is “let go and you’ll be in your power and able to get all the stuff you want.”

    Yeah, and thanks for for mentioning that it took two years for you–I’ve already caught myself feeling a bit How Soon Is Now after a washout date.

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