I’m nearly 40 and I have never been engaged and never been married. According to women’s literature and magazines, I am a mythical creature or perhaps a creature to be pitied. I can imagine, if you knew nothing about my life, you might glance at it and feel like I am a lost cause. The truth is, my timeline is just different. After many, many years of being alone, I am about to start dating as a single mom.
When I was in my twenties I was married to my career. Every part of my life was about the work I did, and there was rarely time off to do much of anything else. This was just fine by me because I was thriving on the electric energy of a swiftly moving and fast-paced job in the entertainment industry. I put the needs of my job above everything else and that included myself and my family.
In my thirties I was devoted to being a caregiver. My grandmother’s health and happiness were the most important things, and years went by where I barely left the house.
Sometimes I noticed feelings of being left behind. I wondered if there was a world out there where people were easily and happily coupling up and because I was on a different life journey, I was missing out, missing my chance. But I kept telling myself: If you want love, one day you will simply have to go out and find it.
While most of my friends found love and got married in their late twenties and early thirties, I am preparing for this chapter now, two decades behind the curve. I have a lot of anxiety about just the idea of dating; how to find a date is an entire panic chapter for me, but one of the things I am certain about is that I knew I needed to be in charge of my own prologue.
I recently read Jo Piazza’s piece about why she bought herself an engagement ring. If you are single or have single friends, you should absolutely read it! Piazza is the managing editor of Yahoo Travel and on a recent trip to Tanzania, she was inspired to buy a tanzanite engagement ring for herself. Piazza says, “It’s a commitment to myself and a reminder that I’m not wrong, or crazy, or flawed to wait for the right person.”
What I keep coming back to is the certainty that before I can ever dare hope for someone else to love me, I need to make sure I love myself. I also need to make sure that I know that if I never meet someone, I will be just fine. I am enough. My life is enough. The cliche of searching for a person “to complete you” is not anything I am striving for. I want to be at my 100% and any man I meet should be at his 100%.
Do you remember the “Aha!” moment in the Julia Roberts movie, Runaway Bride? Richard Gere’s character deduced that Julia’s character was never able to commit to marriage because she was never being completely herself with each potential groom. Instead she morphed parts of herself to fit around them. In the movie it was all about eggs and how Julia liked whatever kind of eggs the grooms liked. She never took time to figure out how she liked her OWN eggs for breakfast.
Clearly the lesson learned there is that I need to make sure I know how I like my eggs before I go off and have breakfast with anyone else. Or something like that. More seriously, I have realized before I date I need to take stock of who I am. I need to know that I am a catch. OH YES I AM!
I have been mentally preparing myself for dating for about a year now. I am sure it sounds silly to many of you that there would be such a lengthy prep time, but I have been single for a very long time. There has been a lot of work I needed and wanted to do before I could be ready to share myself and my life with someone else.
This part of pre-dating feels like a prologue, that bit before the story really begins. In my prologue to dating I have been working on many things:
Looking at myself in photos and the mirror and not flinching away.
This is something a lot of us moms need to work on and for me it has been a LOT of work. I still can’t look at older photos of myself and stop myself from saying something cruel. However I see recent photos and immediately see the moment, the emotion.
Looking at my body and seeing her strength and power.
If I can’t love my shape, how can I ever expect someone else to?
Getting more socially engaged in my local community and neighborhood.
Being single for so long has made me feel adrift and putting down roots is a way to feel more solid.
Accepting that meeting men and going on dates does not make me a bad mother or a bad daughter.
This is wrapped up in emotional stuffs for me, but yes, sometimes it does feel like giving attention to something like dating is taking away attention from my family.
Giving myself permission to have fun and not always control things.
Ha ha ha … still working on this one!
Most importantly, I want to accept that I will be 100% okay if I never get married. If I NEVER meet the right guy, my world will still be awesome. I am a full person and while finding someone would be nice, I don’t need anyone to complete me.
Image source: Dresden ShumakerMore On