If you were to ask me if I was happy with my life a few months ago, the answer would be an overwhelming yes. I secured an exciting, fulfilling job that affords me the opportunity to grow and heal, with a schedule that enables me to travel, a community of like-minded friends who are both challenging and supportive, in a place where the sun shines 300 days out of the year, and a tight-knit family, who celebrates my quirks. I’m also turning twenty-six and I’m still single, which, lately, hasn’t really bothered me. I knew that there were certainly times I felt overwhelmingly lonely, but I was so busy and filled with other facets of life that I ignored that longing. I tucked away my sadness somewhere out of sight and continued on with my feelings of gratitude and, to be honest, smugness that I had somehow outsmarted life’s complications and the pressure to pair.
Then I met someone who changed that.
How funny that just when we think we’ve worked through the kinks, gotten “a handle” on life, and predicted smooth sailing on all fronts, life flips us the bird and some unexpected circumstance jolts us abruptly from our complacency. Life is always presenting us with lessons and new opportunities to expand. She brings us people and situations that manifest as mirrors, showing us what we are either unable or unwilling to see, and where there’s room for growth. That’s what this man did for me.
Somewhere along my journey as a crusader of single-dom, I’d forgotten the subtle nuance of emerging relationships and the naive charm of their newness. I’d misplaced my belief in their magic and possible success, the sweetness of their soft uncertainty, and rejected the idea of commitment, staunchly attaching myself to the idea that single is better, somehow safer, equating relationships with the loss of independence and self. I’d convinced myself that couples were the ones losing out because they “settled” or were now somehow “trapped” because to fall in love is to risk losing. But this person’s arrival in my life raised the question, “What about to risk gaining?”
I was once told by a therapist, (a very wise one at that) “Every single man you meet is going to give you a precious gift. Each man will spark and draw out a different aspect of your self-expression. Even if your experience with him breaks your heart or challenges your capacity to trust, he has held space for you to decide how and if you will move forward with the new insight and blossomed elements of you.” And that’s what this new person has given me– a beautiful gift. An alcove in which I feel brave and willing enough to express my desires and to be unapologetically who I am; an endless space that we created together. It doesn’t matter if it was or will be fleeting because each interaction with someone who allows us to explore the depths of ourselves is infinite and marks a page in our journey. We walk away with newfound freedom, relativity, and inspiration.
We’ve become so attached to making love about the other, when really, it’s our own sense of joy, gratitude, desire, admiration, and understanding that we feel when we’re together that facilitates the cultivation of love and intimacy. If all of life is our own unique reality, then of course love is an extension of what we experience that reality to be. My intention is not to water-down or compartmentalize love. It is far too malleable, infinite, and tremendously untamed, for constricting labels. It is simply to highlight the importance of recognizing ownership of our own experiences within loving relationships in order to honor the other, and preserve our individuality– our sacred separateness.
This person helped me to see just that. There is nothing wrong with or weak about seeking relationships, just as there is nothing wrong with closeness or intimacy. It is when, no matter how close, we lose our ability to distinguish where you end and I begin that we fail ourselves. So, I’m deeply grateful to him and the secret space that we share, but this isn’t about him. Not entirely.
For me, his cameo on the stage of my life is a delicious reward for braving moments, weeks, and years of deep sorrow and loneliness in order to gift myself with the recognition that I am in fact worthy of another’s love and admiration, as well as the decision to pursue something luminous through a foggy history of heavy heartache, co-dependence, and neediness. This experience is a testament to how much I’ve grown as someone who is courageous enough to be vulnerable. The ability to give love is about cultivating it within and nurturing ourselves enough to grow into a place of openness in order to bestow it freely, and if we are willing to ride the turbulent waves of uncertainty and aloneness, eventually we’ll discover land.
Latest posts by Shannon Mitchell (see all)
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