Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Being Open.

"When your heart speaks, take good notes."
~Judith Campbell

In June of this year, so six months ago, I started attending the Singles Ward.
For some time, I had been toying with the idea, and in the previous one or two months,
I really felt compelled to go, that it was where I should be,
that I should be doing something about meeting men and opening myself up to opportunities if I wanted to get married (which I do) and if I wanted to have a happy fulfilling life (which I do).

I never really used to consider myself a social butterfly or extroverted.
But in the last two years, after leaving the Young Single Adult (YSA) Ward,
I just have really begun to feel lonely, like I have no friends and certainly no dating prospects.

In a way, it hasn't bothered me too much that I didn't go on a single date in 2010.
(Okay, it clearly bothered me enough that I know that I didn't go on a single date in the year 2010.)
But seriously looking back, I don't think it really has bothered me that much because in all reality,
how could I have fit anything more into my full-time work/full-time school schedule...
especially the last year? It just wasn't in the cards and that was okay.
I had my sights set on a different goal.
Finishing school.
And that was a good thing.

But as graduation approached, I began to think of all the things I wanted to do with my free time,
how I wanted my life to play out; you know, just envisioning the future.
And whaddya know, my thoughts and gut feelings kept returning to "attend the Mid-Singles Ward", "attend the Mid-Singles Ward." So I finally listened and on Sunday, June 5th, the first Sunday after returning from my trip East, I got home from my family ward (which occupies the 9am-12pm time slot)
and suddenly decided to go to the Singles Ward. I quickly looked up the time (crossing my fingers that it was the 1pm-4pm time slot, which it was) and the address and ran and jumped in the car.

I felt happy to be there, like this was the step I was supposed to take.
I talked to my very good friend Sarah (the S of DandS) about my decision later that week.
She always seems to have excellent insights for me and since I made such a split-second decision,
I hadn't really told anyone about it.
So one night mid-run, I stopped in to visit with Sarah, who spent some time in the Singles Ward before she married Dennis, so she understands. She knows the people.
She knows the drill.
She knows what it means to be single, in your 30s, and Mormon.
She knows what the decision meant.
And she knows me.

Honestly, I don't remember all the details of our conversation
but I do know that I was there long enough to cut my run short and make a straight shot for home when I left because it was getting dark. (Keep in mind this was summer, so that meant close to 10pm, probably.)
I remember the feeling of significance associated with the thoughts expressed that night and the spirit that was there. I remember that Sarah seemed very excited and almost proud of me for making the decision to go.
She said something that really stayed with me.
At the time, I don't think I really understood what she meant,
but it's like my heart knew that I needed to remember what she told me.

She said that she thought my decision to start attending was "the best and the hardest decision" I could make.
I asked her what she meant by hard, and the thoughts that followed were all about
being outside my comfort zone,  being open, allowing myself to be vulnerable,
proving to God that I am open and ready and willing to lead whatever life he has in store for me,
and being open, being open, being open...

It's funny because I remember at the time thinking that maybe this wasn't such a hard decision and that it wasn't going to be that outside of my comfort zone. I mean, I was ready for this. Really.
I was ready to make new friends, have an active social life,
and not be sad that I didn't have anyone to invite to go to a movie with me. Right?

But as it turns out, Sarah was right; it was a hard decision.
Okay, so the decision itself wasn't hard, but the results and consequences of the decision were/are hard.
Being single and putting yourself out there is hard, no matter how extroverted and social you are
(which I have learned I am very).
And the being open part is really the thought that stayed with me though
and blossomed in my heart and mind, and still continues to.

I thought I knew what being open meant. But over the course of the next few months, I became acutely aware that I still had a lot to learn about being open. What does being open mean? What have I learned?
Being open means letting go of what's comfortable
and diving into what may be uncomfortable at first, and then continuing to swim.
Being open means being vulnerable.
Being open means I take my sense of self cues from God.
Being open means not setting limitations for myself or others.
Being open means saying hello to everyone.
Being open, for me, means unknowingly taking up the habit of waving and smiling at everyone new I meet.
Being open means considering something (or someone) I may have never considered before.
Being open means doing things that aren't my first choice just because they help me toward my greater goal or because I just feel like it's the right thing to do.
Being open means doing things that I consider to be scary.
Being open means embracing the happy in my life, of which there is a lot.
Being open means praying a lot.
Being open means giving up my will to God or more clearly, aligning my will with His.
Being open means searching and seeking for the best path to take.
Being open means having faith, lots of it.

I've been thinking a lot about how open I am to life, but especially how open I am to relationships.
Man, learning about yourself is hard. Painful even, at times.
But being open feels good. It feels hopeful. It feels bright and sunshiny.
Okay, I'll be honest. Sometimes it feel dark and scary.
But most of all, it feels like the right way to be.

So yeah, relationships.
I don't know what it is about my self-esteem or my approach with men, but for an otherwise confident person, I'm just not always that way around men that I have potential of being interested in.
I just don't even want to approach them. Because I guess I feel like who am I to win their affection
when they could have some gorgeous, thin, leggy girl with big brown eyes, laughing and joking with them.
I immediately assume that he would not want anything to do with me, dismissing his ability to be attracted to me when he has so many other possibilities in front of him.
Who am I to think that I could be "the one," his "Miss Right?"

And I know,
with that thinking I'm sabotaging myself from the get-go, assuming that they would have no interest in me.
It's not a woe-is-me attitude, it just is what it is. Reality.
It's not even that I think I'm unattractive or unlovable.
No, it's just that men don't usually choose me. That's the reality.
Now, I know that I can't say they never do.
I've dated several men, but I'm not one who can say that I've dated a lot.
I think I've only been on a handful (maybe) of dates that didn't turn into a long-term relationship.
A long-term relationship that (obviously) subsequently ended.
And even then, there have only really been six or seven of those.

So what is this post really about?
I guess it's about learning who I am. Learning about myself and improving that self.
Learning to be open.
I get discouraged sometimes and I'm trying to get over that part of myself and not let my heart sink into despair when I feel ignored or less than, and just have a little more confidence, but it's a little hard when my past dating life has set a precedent* of unrequited love.
It's a little hard when you have to start over again... over and over and over again.

It's hard to wait around for something you know might never happen,
but it's harder to give up when you know it's everything you want.
To keep putting myself out there is hard. But life is hard.
When I put myself out there, allowing myself to fall into the required state of vulnerability,
I seem to get burned one way or another. That's been my experience.
And yet, I keep going back for more.**
Because I'm open.

*And just in case you had a momentary lapse of intelligence, like I did, here is the difference between the word precedent and precedence. I know you were wondering.

**So I'm thinking that it might be okay to talk about TLB sometime soon. Who or what is TLB you may ask? He is "man without a nickname," ... and he's still around.

1 comment:

Shauntel said...

Beautiful. Both you and this post. That picture is stunning, and so are your words.