Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Ten Year Drought (Past Revisited 4)

Recently I pulled out my journals and reread them. I started journaling when I was a junior in college, which, *gasp* was almost 20 years ago. Reading about different moments in my past was incredibly enlightening. And, because I typically journaled when I was conflicted, I read about many life-altering moments. Often I would go to the journal to organize my thoughts, put together action steps and identify my goals and dreams. Other times, I simply groused about situations and issues. As I reread these entries, I learned quite a bit about how I became who I am today. Periodically, I plan to share things I have found and learned from delving into my past.

Frequently, and interwoven into many of my entries was my love life – more specifically, my lack of a love life. For many years, I dated here and there. There were many potential relationships with men that I had pined for, which, much to my dismay, never developed. And, many first dates that were dreadfully laughable. Sometimes, dates turned into the beginning of a relationship, and then later fizzled and ended. There was lots of heartache – seemingly mostly on my part. In the end, though, what I experienced was a ten year relationship drought.

When I turned 29 years old, about eight years into the drought, I realized that those things that I thought would happen to me in my twenties, were not going to happen. That husband, my partner in life, was not on my radar screen – he was no where to be found! That year was hard. After a decade of watching all my friends get married, start families, and have wonderful relationships, I felt defective. I questioned myself… Was I capable of being loved? What was so unappealing about me that no one to wanted to be with me? What was I doing, or not doing, that’s caused me to be single for so long? Why me? Why was I still single? What’s wrong with me?!!?

I did not want to feel this way. I wanted my life to be complete without a man. I wanted the “Sex In The City” glamour that is expected of a mature, confident single woman. I wanted to be a strong, independent, career-loving woman who didn’t need a man. Did I need one? No. I had a great job. I was competent and hard working. And I had enough money to support myself and even got to travel and experience life. So, no, I didn’t need a man.

But, Oh, I yearned for one. Not just anyone. I yearned for a partner. Someone who respected me, loved me, cared for me, and someone who I wanted to live my life and have a family with, someone who wanted the same. I yearned for that relationship.

So I turned 30 – still single. Still alone. I didn’t have the answers. But after a year of trying to understand, and wondering what was wrong with me, I came to accept my situation. Yes, I longed to be in a relationship. But that wasn’t my reality. Instead, I tried to embrace the life I had, not wishing for something different. Sometimes, I was successfully happy with my single status, and other times I was simply sad.

Today, over ten years later, those questions from my 29th year, still do not have clear answers. While I do believe that I have a responsibility, I do not know what role I played in creating my long-term drought. Perhaps I was stand-offish and seemed unavailable. Perhaps I loosing weight would have helped. Perhaps I didn’t put myself “out there” enough. Perhaps I was only attracted to unattainable men. Perhaps I was afraid. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…there are so many potential answers. And in this situation, hindsight is not 20/20.

What I DO know is that being single, when I yearned for a relationship, was hard. It challenged and, at times, took huge chunks out of my self-confidence and self-esteem. It forced me to look at myself and ask some hard questions. I struggled with sadness and depression, which I masked with humor, food, and alcohol. Constantly, I battled against falling into the trap of being defined by my relationship status. Sometimes I won the battle and held on to the belief that I am a wonderful, lovable person. Other times I was defeated by my insecurities and the consequences of some bad choices. Despite all of this, I wouldn’t change my experiences.

Two weeks before my 31st birthday I met my husband. As we grew as a couple, I found that I was right – that I really am that wonderful lovable person that I desperately clung to. I am proud of how I dealt with the ups and downs of our emerging relationship and I know that my drought played a significant role in creating that person. I had grown in ways that I couldn’t have, had I been in a relationship. The time alone, forced me to really know myself and, when my husband entered my life, I confidently offered my true self – weaknesses and all – to the relationship. That authenticity, that we both presented, allowed our relationship to develop and grow into a marvelous marriage. 

So when I think back I remember that, it was hard, but, even the ten year drought, was worth it!

PAST REVISITED LIFE LESSON 4:  Hard times help shape a better person.
What have you learned from your past?

Today I am participating in Pour Your Heart Out Wednesday hosted by Shell at Things I Can't Say.  Check out other great posts here.

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