It has been suggested I do not date for one year.
This should seem like a non-issue, considering just a few weeks ago I proclaimed I was not dating at all. I said I needed some time and some tools before I ventured back out there. That I have blogs to write and stories to pitch. Travel, cooking, dance classes and girlfriends to fill my days and nights.
That I never wanted to again find myself in the position I am in today – not fully self-supporting, and uncertain as to how I’d like to do that again. Unclear about my dreams, my desires, my trajectory. For so long I put all of that aside, under the guise of “I’m supporting my (now ex) husband’s dreams. My turn is next.”
So this time alone…this was “my turn.”
And yet, it feels entirely different having someone tell me, or at the very least, strongly suggest, I do not date. Even though this person has stood in my shoes. Even though I asked for her help.
Suddenly, I’m defiant. And I’m sad.
A part of me wants to say, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Or better yet, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Maybe I’m making too much out of this.”
Or maybe, “This sounds too painful. I’ll stick to feasting on crumbs. I’m ok with that, really.”
But I’m not.
And I haven’t been making too much out of it either.
Just ask my girlfriends – the ones who walked with me through my long, troubled marriage and my record-speed divorce. The ones who witnessed my brief, sweet, fairly innocent romances in the days that followed. And the on-my-knees fallout when they were over. None of them have hesitated in offering their support for this one-year dating hiatus.
It all feels strangely similar to my relationship with alcohol. For years I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew my experiences were different than those of my friends.
I’d start the day saying I wasn’t going to drink, but by 4 p.m. I had “changed my mind.” By 5:30 I was at happy hour.
I would “take a break” from drinking for a number of months, then decide I was fine – that I was “making too much out of it.” I wasn’t.
And God help anyone who suggested I had a problem. Even though I queried those closest to me on a regular basis, asking if they thought I should call it quits and put down the bottle.
A little over five years ago I did just that. One cold November morning, the person closest to me said, “I think you should quit drinking.” I’d been waiting years for him to say those words. I wasn’t angry. Just terrified. Because when he asked if I could stop, the only honest answer I could give was, “I don’t know.”
A friend suggested I seek help from some people who knew how to happily live without drinking, a day at a time. So I did.
I have sparse, somewhat cloudy memories of those first days without alcohol. I remember wanting to jump out of my skin. I felt like I was vibrating all of the time – not in a good way. I had drinking dreams that felt so real I had to ask my husband if I had drank. He would assure me I hadn’t and I’d ask, somewhat panicky, “Are you certain?”
And I couldn’t imagine going to Paris without drinking. Actually I couldn’t imagine going to dinner without drinking, but I was fixated on Paris. Thankfully, it was gently suggested I cross that bridge when I come to it. And since I didn’t have a plane ticket in hand, I didn’t need to concern myself at the moment.
I still haven’t been back to Paris. But I’ve been to Brussels. To Rwanda. And all over the United States. I didn’t drink. I didn’t even consider it.
I asked for help in relationships because I knew something wasn’t quite right. That I gave over my heart and my power too quickly, too easily. That I I held on to what had long ago ended – wondering what I had done wrong, rather than considering it may have simply run its course. That I accept unacceptable behavior.
Instead of drinking dreams, I have sex dreams. I fear I won’t have it again. Be touched again. Or that it will be a really, really long time waiting. I have difficulty believing the pain of being alone will be rewarded – that my relationships will be different because I am different.
So I bristle against this idea of not dating for a year. Even though no one is asking me out. Even though I’m not crushing on anyone. It still feels like possibility is being cut off at the knees.
I told this to my friend – the one who made the suggestion. She laughed, and ever so gently replied, “Lesley, if Paris comes calling, we can talk about it then.”
By then, maybe it won’t be Paris. Perhaps it will be Venice. Or Rome.