all you need is love
Dating in your 30s is weird.
I recently decided I’m going to date people after our move to the Bay Area. (The timing here is not so clear since we have yet to locate long-term housing).
This is big, people. I’m not sure what even motivated it, exactly, but something clicked over a few days ago.
I have this theory about love. Love doesn’t go where it’s not wanted. It can blindside you, sure, but your heart has to be open. You have to be able to receive it. If you’re not, opportunities will pass you by. Perfectly good things will not happen–no matter how much chemistry and genuine affection. I speak from experience.
For me, the minute I decide to do something, the Universe starts slinging things at me like a short-order line cook at Pete’s. Usually, big somethings that always end up turning my life upside down.
I’ve never really dated. I know–that’s a crazy statement. I’m 36. Insanity.
I usually end up in relationships with friends who I’ve always liked that way, on some level–conscious or not. Or weird people I meet randomly. I’m lucky in that I love very easily. But this love thing hasn’t been easy for me. Like everyone else, I’ve had a lot of downs in that rollercoaster ride of thump-thump.
With my last relationship, I just sort of decided mid-way that it wasn’t working. But I was too whatever to actually talk to him about it, so I agonized and overthought and generally acted awful until it finally blew up. I can’t even remember how long ago it was, honestly, but it was a while ago. And since then, I’ve had that shit on lockdown. I would attempt to date here and there out of sheer boredom or some feeling of “I should.” Mostly motivated by aging and whatnot. But, every time, I’d find myself in this sea of just not it–not right–or flat out horrifying.
It wasn’t clicking. So, I took the hint and put it on the backburner. In retrospect, it was like I was wearing a set of deflectors like Wonder Woman. I was just not open to love. And I was not happy in this city. And I felt protective of myself and disconnected from almost everything.
The last few years were necessary, but pretty damn rough. I had a major illness, lots of health scares, a cat die, major insecurities that led me to give up finishing a degree, some money problems, increasing unhappiness, less drive for creativity, and feelings of being stuck. I worked so hard to feel better and be better. But I felt like I kept stumbling. And I was some shade of depressed without even knowing it.
I think it was like a healing crisis. I’d gone through some major wake-up calls. Namely–I felt like crap physically. I felt disconnected emotionally. All I did was work and not even for the right things. That isn’t to say I haven’t made a lot of progress. I got into therapy–which sent me tailspinning–often–as I found my way through it. I found good people to take care of my health. I committed to things I never would have committed to before. I did really well professionally and made a career change that really did suit my needs. It’s a challenge I didn’t anticipate–but a good one. I recognized my limits–and am now returning to finish that damn last class and my degree. I got some good direction for the future and decided to relocate to a place that will hopefully support me in all the good things. And slowly, my heart and mind and body are aligning. I really know this deep in my heart–that this time of healing and transitioning is opening up to a big new adventure. And I’m genuinely excited.
But until very recently, my heart was closed to visitors. I didn’t let new people in. I let old people fade away–sometimes for very good reason. I isolated myself–like some wounded animal. Because that’s what I was.
It’s an odd thing to not even know you’re depressed. I knew I was unhappy, but until the fog started lifting, I had no idea. There was just that growing realization that–“Oh, that’s what that is.” I’ve been here before, and really, it seems silly to even call it depression because it feels so minor compared to what others go through. My forte is disassociating, so depression isn’t this painful thing for me. It’s a numbness to everything–which is painful, I guess, but in a different way. It’s soldiering on and getting through. I do this better than anyone I know–which is an odd source of pride…but also shame.
I haven’t even been able to write about it. And I guess that’s another indication of the depression that set in.
Part of what changed recently was that a friend of mine died. Too young–too soon. She still was fighting to that last day. And it sucked. But it also sort of uplifted me. Reminded me of things and made me feel silly. And then other people I love got diagnoses, and I found myself staring down mortality.
It’s a familiar place for me. One that’s usually prompted major change. You think you know death. You get comfortable with it. It becomes a part of you. You think–because you’ve lost so many–that it can’t hurt you anymore. That you–of all people–would remember to live…to not take anything for granted. But–I’m sort of convinced–this is kind of a human thing. We get used to things. And we start getting too comfortable. And it goes to a backburner only to resurface when things burn up.
I seem to go through these cycles: horrible thing happens; I reel and overthink; I make sweeping changes that terrify me; I grieve; and then I adjust. And then I forget. And maybe take a few steps back.
In any case, that death thing kicked me hard. I almost immediately started reaching out to the people I cared about–apologizing in my weird way. And it reminded me–“Oh, I am connected to these people.” It was really good. And I’ve felt a lot better. And I’ve started to be brave again–with everything. I started remembering who I am and all the things I put on that damn backburner. Including dating.
I started being open to all possibilities–even stupid ones I have told myself are super bad ideas. Roads I’ve taken before. Roads I took halfway. Brand new things. Even things that make me want to stab myself. And I’ve bumped into the absurdity of life and discovered something interesting: What I thought I knew about myself, in this world, is utter BS. And it sucks because I totally didn’t see what was right in front of me. My worth had nothing to do it. It was not about me.
I was not inherently unlovable. I made choices that made me incompatible with some other people’s choices. That’s all.
That’s not to say it wasn’t frustrating. I’ve never dated, but I’ve done the whole trying to date thing–a lot. Dating is hard. It’s disheartening and soul-crushing at times. In my 20s, it was easier–mostly because people in their 20s haven’t really lived enough to be stuck on any one path. At least, it seems that way. I was always too serious (hence why I never dated!)–always laser focused on what I thought was the one. And when I focus on things, I normally am able to make things happen.
Dating in your 30s is like this crash course in humanity. Denver seems to be worse than other places for this. But I’m acutely aware of how old I am and the fact that I’m a woman when I try to see what’s out there. But it’s odd in that there is so much interest now–as long as I’m not clear about what I want.
The guys–the relationships–I want don’t seem to be here. I’ve known this for a long time, of course, but lately it’s been smacking me in the face.
Guys in their 30s are often divorced–which isn’t a problem for me–but it colors everything about them. They look like dads. I don’t mean that they are dads; they just look like them. I don’t know there’s this dad quality of not really taking care of themselves. There’s this role they seem to play of being the elder advisor. They’re bitter and too serious. Marriage is a crapshoot for them. Some want it because they’re sort of codependent. Most don’t because they’re terrified of being hurt. None of them want kids. They either have them already or see them as a nuisance to the lifestyle they want to achieve. They’re either established or they’re Peter Pan. The older ones now seem to think I’m fair game because I’m over 30 and have no options. They want to buy me a steak and discuss business partnerships. (No, I don’t want to see your clothing line). Younger ones want to tap into my wise, hot woman ways. And the more serious ones want to know my intentions–so they can decide if I’m worthy of them. With all, I’ve been sized up before I’ve even spoken. And I’m an option–not a person. I think I preferred being the whole 20s thing of just being a sex object. Of course, those still exist too. No–I do not want to trade pics on whatever gross site you’ve invited me to.
I know what I want. And it’s not any of the above.
I don’t want forever because it’s not mine to promise. I want now. Beautiful now. I want someone who cares about himself, but also gets that I’m a human being–and I need things–too. I want someone who treats me like a person that actually deserves to be heard and seen. I want to laugh. I want to think. I want to feel. And damnit, one day–I want to marry someone and have a kid. I want that. I deserve that. I may not get it.
Life happens. Shit happens. We adjust.
I was talking last night to someone I used to love. That I love still, probably, but not in the same way. I broke his heart, years ago, and it broke my heart to do that. And I did it in a crappy way because I felt like a cornered animal. Because I never learned to love in a way that’s good and healthy. I never learned to fill my own needs.
We’ve always had this relationship of dancing around things. Of skirting the real issues. I broke up with him partially because of that. He was too afraid to get dirty with me. Too polite. Too superficial. And when I finally let go, he didn’t fight. And most of our fights happened because he wouldn’t fight with me–but oh, how I pushed.
I had to make him the bad guy to finally stop that train. I’m not proud of it. I was mean and awful for a while. I didn’t speak to him. But he never gave up on me. He kept trying to be my friend. And I kept ignoring him and pushing him away. I guess it was my way of protecting him from me. Because I knew I’d hurt him and would continue to do it. Because I didn’t know how not to.
We each had our issues. And we’ve each grown in our ways. But lately–as we’ve reconnected and started talking again–we’ve leaned on each other more. So, that’s what happened last night. I was frustrated with the above dating horror–lamenting to him about it. We started talking really honestly about what happened between us. It was not superficial. It was the deep end. And I knew he had it in him. I always did. And I just thought–“why weren’t you like this before?”
I judged all his shortcomings so much back then. I took them personally and made them about me. He just wasn’t there yet. He tried. He just couldn’t. And me being so impatient and judgmental made him close up more. All I wanted was that easy conversation we used to have. Last night, it was like we both finally threw off our shields. The conversation was open and effortless. And fun. And went for the heart of all of it.
I’m not dating anyone now. I don’t really want to. It makes no sense to start anything with anyone when I’m about to move halfway across the country. But I’m open to it. I don’t have my arms up. I’ve done some really hard work, and the drama of my past love life seems pretty far away. I was scared for a while that I was one of the bitter ones. And I think–maybe–for a while I was all those things I despise in the guys I’ve met recently. Too serious. Too scared. Too defensive. Too stuck on requirements.
I feel like–last night–I just took a deep breath and stuck my toes in the ocean. It didn’t take a lot of effort to be right there–completely. It was easy to play in the waves. It was easy to own my shit. It was easy to say what I needed.
Yesterday was a great, historic day. For everyone who loves. Even me.