Learning to Date by Dating

I’ve been working hard to be open. Open and kind. Open and smart. Open, vulnerable, strong, and honest. Open, with a fence, with a gate, a few keys, and a padlock. It is the most incredibly uncomfortable and terrifying thing, while simultaneously having all of the magic of the Divine wrapped into it. In short, it is the Amazing Mystery of Love Trumping Every Single Fear, But Only Slightly.

Last week a friend asked how I was. “I’m somewhere between a panic attack and great. So I think that means ‘okay’.”

“As long as ‘okay’ is in quotes,” he said.

I was sitting under my desk at work, listening to music, taking a break and making the world feel a little smaller and manageable. I do this (rarely) when I can’t get to a coffee shop or park bench to give my brain a break from the everything-is-moving type of feeling. Or when I need a nap.

To put my life in context: I am dating. That is to say, I am going on outings with strangers, or friends, or whatever you call the grey space in between. I am saying “yes” more than “no” and it is everything I can do to be “okay” and not tell the universe to fuck off. Some days this is all really annoying; as we all know, being self-aware can be exhausting and feels quite overrated.

So, dating—the intentional gender paring for a few moments over food or drinks—is scary, at least for me. Partly because I’ve done it poorly before; I believe “epically failed” would be the proper terminology. And partly because nothing quite prepares you for all this expansive human interaction except for the doing of it, both feet in, standing fully in your boots, looking into kinder eyes, wondering what the hell you are doing, and how you became an adult without your knowledge. Or maybe that is just me.

Either way, I keep saying over, and over, and over again, “This is me. I am here. Right now. Let’s give it a shot,” also, “Please and thank you,” because I have manners. Being present is one of the greatest gifts I can give another human being. Even if there is no spark, no stickiness, no attraction whatsoever, we are doing human together, and that is something.

Penelope Gunterman once shared with me an old Buddhist saying: “Life is full of one thousand joys and one thousand sorrows.” I’ve breathed in that truth.

Being human involves getting deep into the still-forming mosaic. It is all the issues, failures, baggage, and goodness forming Life; it my past and present and all the goodness of today. It is the joy, but also the sorrow.

When I was in Rome, a slender Italian man with gray hair and a large smile asked me, “How long has your heart been busy?” I was dating a tall gentleman at the time, and my new Italian friend had wanted to know for how long. His words were everything.

The heart. The gentle almost-always guarded heart I carry around is looking to be busy, busy with a kind of strength and vulnerability that has always been a fight. It is a fight worth having, but a battle nonetheless. My friend Shaylynn knows this. She is part of my Sanity Support Group. She has a lifetime membership. Last week she wrote me, “You’ve been through a lot, love hasn’t been a fair balance for you. But you are beyond deserving.”

And that is the gift of humanity, I suppose: whether or not it—love, vulnerability, joy, compassion, strength—comes easy, you are beyond deserving.

And if that ever gets to be too much (because I promise you it will sometimes) there’s always room for you under my desk.

  • You have such a way of putting humanity into words. Truth, pain without pity, awkwardness that’s relatable. It’s always a pleasure to read what words you’ve so carefully crafted. Thanks.

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