What would you do if you knew you were going to be alone for the rest of your life?
This is the question Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant journal, posed to his readers. He answered it with something to the effect of (I can’t find the darn article, sorry), You would create an amazing career, read your favorite books, build an incredible tribe of friends, see some great films, travel if you’d like…
He asked us to think of the worst(?) case scenario and then work with it. It got my mind buzzing.
I am going to treat myself like I am my own amazing boyfriend. I’m going to be SO GOOD to me. I’m going to take me to the most beautiful places in the world. I’m going to say the most comforting words to myself. I’m going to feed me wonderful meals, and buy me wonderful books.
— Elizabeth Gilbert, Learn To Be Lonely
Life first, then boyfriend?
While sitting on the plane headed toward my parents’ home in Tennessee, coincidentally for Independence weekend, I made the decision to put myself on a dating moratorium. I’d been spinning my wheels for the last few months anyway. I’d either meet the nicest, most kind and hopeful men and not feel the chemistry I crave or I’d take interest in someone only to have them come on strong and then fade away without explanation.
I can be a better boyfriend than that.
Ideally, I want a loving partner to cherish, deep amazing relationships with my kids and a meaningful writing career. It seems I can only have two out of three. I’ve yet to score the trifecta. So maybe I’m meant to be a dedicated mother focused on her writing career.The romantic partner thing is for later. My dad seems to think so. While visiting with him, he imparted these words of wisdom, “You’ve got to have a life first Bren before you bring someone else into the mix.”
Ok. I agree. I’ve learned you have to be a whole person before you can join a partner in a relationship. Looking for someone to complete you is asking for trouble.
A reader recently asked me to write a post about why a person should love himself.
If you love yourself first, you know who you are. Your self-awareness gives you something to offer the world. By being genuine you attract meaningful work and people on the same page as you. A person should love himself so that he doesn’t need someone to fulfill him. Needing leads to searching and settling for someone to fill a void rather than someone to expand who you already are. I wrote about this here.
That explains the why part of loving yourself first, the rest of this post will explain the how.
A few rules
I started by devising a few guidelines for abstaining from dating.
Original dating moratorium rules:
3 months no dating. Period. Remain celibate, no kissing, no romantic leanings. Elizabeth Gilbert recommends at least 6 months but I know myself. That would be setting me up for failure. I like the company of men too much. I need to start small, so it’s doable.
Then I remembered that I already had plans to go see Counting Crows and Toad the Wet Sprocket with a male friend (admittedly someone I used to date) in a few weeks. I asked him to go because I really wanted to see the bands and he’s a big music lover. He’s also a great guy whose integrity and blue eyes I enjoy. We’ve been friends for a while. Hmmm.
Amended dating moratorium rules:
3 months no serious dating. Can see a particular man no more than once a month. Remain celibate, no romantic leanings.
Then a new male friend of mine asked me over for dinner. We are just beginning to develop our friendship and that requires spending time together. We are strictly platonic at this point. He is one of the most sweet and sincere people I know and he wants to cook me an incredible meal. I love kind people and I love food/cooking.
Amended, amended dating moratorium rules:
3 Months no serious dating. Can see a particular man more than once a month. Remain celibate, no romantic leanings.
How to be alone and excited to get up in the morning
Rules in place, I then set out to create a life that wasn’t all about “finding someone” but still gave me something to look forward to, something to get excited about.
I cancel my Match.com account. Unfortunately, it had automatically renewed itself the night before I pulled the plug (strange coincidence requiring an extra level of commitment to my new single plan since it meant $65 down the drain) so technically I still have an account but it won’t automatically renew again.
Kitchen Confidential. I imagine nights at home alone, when the kids are with their dad, reading and getting lost in the stories. My mind and imagination fired up by the new ideas and images. Each book offering inspiration for future writing.
I continue to grow my writing network by collaborating with more bloggers and entrepreneurs. Requests for my input and participation in writing projects keep rolling in. I dig deeper into the relationships and the exposure. My career and my tribe expand. I consider a world tour visiting all of my writing connections.
I think ahead to the holidays. I don’t have the kids for Thanksgiving this year. I always have the week after Christmas to myself. Where can I go? I had such a wonderful time with family over the 4th of July I would love to see them all again. Perhaps another trip to Tennessee. My stepmom wants to go to Memphis. My mom hasn’t visited Minnesota in a while. Perhaps she comes out over Christmas.
I receive information about a retreat in England next May for introverts. I love England. It looks breathtaking and perfect. Can I swing a 10 day getaway?
I look into a new fitness plan. In 2005 I started working with a personal trainer and it changed my life. I’m always looking for a new fun way to stay healthy. I check out my health club’s class schedule and find a perfect sculpting and restorative yoga class. I search for adult dance classes in the area and find a drop-in ballet class in the city. The novelty and potential to meet new people get me excited about getting fit.
I use volunteermatch.org to find volunteer positions near me that align with my interests. I know I can always help someone else out. If I need interaction and purpose beyond my everyday routines I know volunteering is an option.
I think about all my girlfriends and how I can spend time with them. We can go out to dinner, see movies, travel, go for walks, attend live music performances, help each other with household projects.
I realize my children have grown up and become delightful companions. They are still children but we engage in stimulating conversation and they serve as good co-pilots when we travel. I enjoy their company immensely.
This is how I love myself
All of the above ideas and activities are how I love myself. I give myself time and exposure to all of the extraordinary opportunities and companions listed. They fill me up, make me interesting and allow me to share love with others. I’m happy. Since I’m already full I don’t NEED a romantic partner but I know I ultimately want to share a lovely life with someone. I truly enjoy men, and when it comes down to it, they are part of my tribe. I have faith I will someday encounter my “soulmate” but until then I’m not searching for love, I’m leading a life.
Are you searching for someone to make you happy? What makes you feel alive besides an intimate relationship?
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*This post dedicated to reader Hopeful