|June 1, 2011||Posted by revelation under Features|
“Why don’t you ask one of your guy friends, are they single?” my mother’s voice sang a familiar refrain (like a tune I did not want to get stuck in my head).
“Mom, I know all of my friend’s friends pretty much, and really… I don’t care.” I said and I meant. The pleasant point of my period triggered a smile. And with that I knew I had finally reached the last and most important stage… Acceptance.
It’s well known and understood that the mourning process takes one through gradual and progressive stages. Until recently, I had not realized I was actually moving through those shifting stages myself. My grief involving not someone in particular, nothing physical, tangible, just the complete loss of a romantic notion of love. The very simple idea of boy meet girl, boy and girl fall in love and get married, boy and girl have little boy and girl. Throw in a yard, a puppy and some blueberry pie. That’s basically it. ‘Why is this so immensely difficult?’ I kept asking myself, beating myself, torturing myself with the evasive simplicity. A pinball of never ending possibility, popping back and forth between what could be and what wasn’t. Only in retrospect am I able to fully grasp that I was dealing with the inevitable death of something that maybe never existed in the first place. But now mid thirty, I can look back and see the obvious manifestations of each phase of grief.
First stage: Denial
Breaking up with someone I thought I would marry during my transition into thirties was tough. A long drawn out process where I just couldn’t tell if I was more miserable with or without the person. But ultimately hope (aka denial) prevailed and I latched onto the former idea of romantic happiness and giddy glee. Of explosive chemistry ad profound partnership. In moments, I reminded myself this breakup was really a disguised opportunity (and not to say that it wasn’t, but certainly not for the reasons I thought). I was now free to explore the farthest reaches of love’s potential. Plenty of men just waiting, hoping for what I was hoping for.
Second Stage: Anger
What I found in the dating world was progressively absurd. I don’t know what had misguided me into the assumption that men actually pursued women, or were sane, or trustworthy, but I felt myself suddenly stoned with a batch of bad eggs. I had broke dudes actually steal my bank card, I had rich CEO’s give me advice on how to do my hair, I had the Jack-in-the box, now you see me now you don’t guys, the “oh, I didn’t mention I had a girlfriend?” guys, the guys who love you too soon, leave you too fast, and spend a lot of quality time in a state of suspended indifference. I felt like I was playing a game of operation, trying desperately not to rub up against the stinging edges of reality that were surrounding me, waiting just on the periphery of each dating experience. But as I couldn’t quite extract those precious bones, I became angrier and angrier. ‘This is ludicrous!’ I thought… ‘It just can’t be. I see people getting married!’ (and divorced) ‘I see good guys being attentive to their wives needs!’ (and their sidepieces as well) Nooooo, there have got to be good men out there who are at least somewhat fun and smart with a relatively good job (or slight earning potential).
Third Stage: Bargaining
Was I simply asking too much? I used to have a long list of desirable qualities of a mate. Intelligent, fun, charismatic, caring, honest, confident, athletic, considerate, traits which when paired in real life were always oxymoronic. So I wheedled it down to a top 5 to strive for, then chopped to top 3 (intelligent, caring, good job). But the dating game was so bad, I really ended up with just a general sense of “I hope he’s nice.” That’s it. Just nice. Too much to ask for?
Everything was so far removed from what I ever imagined, that I started to figure it had to be me. All me. Maybe I’m just attracting the wrong kind of men. But wait, if that’s the case, then why are so many of my friends going through similar experiences? Well, they’re my friends after all and we’re reflections of each other, so maybe we’re all doing it. But wait, if that’s the case then why is the divorce rate so high? Why do we constantly hear about men cheating, etc.? Well, maybe my own experiences are just coloring my perceptions of men. Upon serious reflection, I concluded that it was partially my fault (at least 30%) but this is enough to tip the already disproportionate scales WAY out of balance. My only chance was to have a 0% fault margin. So I tried. I changed my attitude, my behavior, stretched my openness and patience to their limits. And…
Fourth Stage: Depression
Life as lifeless. Relationships as gray. The ‘nice guy’ patience rolled flat and the edges burned black with resentment and passive aggression. Goodness turned sour and hope burned quickly. Bad boys burst, and nothing settled in between. Cold bed lingered on and on into a cycle of inevitability. Everyone and everything was an outsider. Marriage and family around me was like a t.v. show, and I was the lone dummy in the audience, waiting… waiting… waiting for what? I finally realized one day, what am I waiting for? I thought I wanted a man/ boyfriend/ husband so that I could be happy? But why? Historically, the men throughout my lifetime have brought me pain and misery, and now I was miserable waiting for one? Just what kind of oxymoron am I?
Fifth Stage: Acceptance
It was a decision. A mere decision. I decided to be happy. And the more I committed myself to that, the more it came. And the more it came, the more I realized that being by myself actually allows me to be happy! Who knew?! Acceptance has come with such freedom. I’m not saddled with the burden of checking my phone, wondering about his whereabouts, pleasing anyone, being ignored or offended, having to do things I don’t want to do… and that’s not saying that I don’t want a positive, healthy, supportive relationship one day, but until then, I am truly enjoying MYSELF! I’ve accepted my antiquated romantic notion of love may not exist, that chivalry is dead, that so many men I’ll never be with lie, and cheat, and tell you how to do your hair. It is what it is. I’m not going to settle for that! Just to ‘be with a man.’ Never. Love or bust. The real thing, or nothing. And until then, I’m happy and free with myself.