I’ve been wanting to write a post for a while about what I’ve learned from my own relationship low points about how to move forward when bad things happen- a point obviously not limited to relationships. I thought the best way to introduce the topic would be to share a series of posts I wrote a few years ago when I briefly had a dating blog (briefly because shortly after starting it I met my current boyfriend… I’ll get to that story soon).
It started two years ago when my then boyfriend, who for some bizarre reason I was madly in love with at the time (he’s the “douchbag” from my ukulele song video), broke up with me out of the blue. I wrote the following story shortly after when I was going through the painful process of starting to date again. Not being one to half-ass things, I didn’t just dip my toe in the water, but canon-balled right in and became something of a marathon dater. I wrote this post after going on six dates in just over a week, where I reflect on my breakup and how I hoped to grow from it:
MARCH 12, 2009
Six Dates in Eight Days, or How the Dating Ninja Came to Be
As I alluded to before, I didn’t get to be the ninja dater I am today by sitting at home on the couch on Saturday nights, eating bon bons and watching Lifetime movies. No- I’ve been out in the world. And while I’m the first to admit that six dates in eight days is somewhat excessive (and kind of exhausting), it was also a lot of fun. There was the TV writer, the sports writer, the screenwriter and the entertainment investor (this is LA, after all). There was the hot-nerdy computer consultant who seemed to have an aversion to picking restaurants (I chose both the first and second date locations). And there was the nerdy-nerdy philosophy professor who had the unfortunate quality of seeming bored by the sound of his own voice.
Those of you reading at this point (Hello? Anyone out there?) may be wondering, Isn’t she a medical student? Shouldn’t she be off… you know, saving lives or something? My schedule is busy, but I’ve found it’s possible to make time for the things that are important to you. While part of the reason I date so much is that it’s a fun anthropological experiment, the bigger reason is that I know how awesome it is to truly connect in a romantic relationship, and it would be amazing to experience that feeling again.
Let me share a personal story with you. Several months ago I went through a pretty traumatic breakup when my then-boyfriend decided I wasn’t the right one for him. Actually, saying it was traumatic is like saying the Empire State Building is tall. It was, without hyperbole, the single worst experience of my entire life. I cried every day for a month, and not the “I have something in both my eyes” type of crying, but the visceral, heaving, pathetic type of sobbing that if you’ve ever seen someone experience, you can’t help but feel really, really bad for them. I lost almost 20 lbs, much to the horror of my Greek-Jewish mom, who spent the entire week I was home over winter break force-feeding me beef stew. I became intimately familiar with the Elizabeth Kübler-Ross stages of loss (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance), each with it’s own story. When I was sad I told myself, it’s all my fault, I failed, I’m a horrible person, no one will every love me. When I was bargaining I told myself that maybe, with some time to reflect, he’d realize he still loved me and ask to get back together. When I was angry I told myself it was all his fault, he was a self-absorbed asshole with major issues, that if he kept his patterns up he would continue to fail in all of his relationships. While some of these narratives were more based on reality than others, they all missed the essential truth that for whatever greater purpose in the universe, we can’t always have what we want.
We can’t always have what we want. It seems so simple, but have you ever wanted something so bad, with every fiber of your being, and not been able to have it? If so, you know the profound sense of loss I’m talking about. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it feels as if someone close to you has died. And coming out of this experience, understanding the finality of the end of our relationship, and realizing that at some point, I would have to start dating again if I ever wanted to experience that sort of connection ever again… well, you’ve got be fucking kidding me! You want me to go out and DATE again, after I already just had an awesome relationship with a guy I was insanely in love with? You want me to start from scratch? Not. Fucking. Interested.
But after a couple months, and about 100 cycles of the Elizabeth Kübler-Ross stages, I decided I was ready to get back out there. And I realized that I could a) take every lackluster date as a sign that I would never meet anyone else, or b) have a little faith that things will work out for me in the end, and have some fun with dating between now and the time I meet the guy I end up with. After all, I’m young, I have a lot going for me, and I’m in a city with an abundance of interesting people to meet and date. I decided to go with option b.
And after reflecting on my last relationship from a distance… well, I can definitively say I’m glad it’s over. While my ex had his share of good qualities, he lacked some pretty key inner virtues that I would hope to find in the person I end up with. And while it would be fun for me to use this blog as a forum to describe the ways in which he turned out to be not as awesome as I had originally thought, that’s not really my style. He did the best he could with who he was at the time. So did I. Onwards and upwards.
I don’t necessarily believe in fate or that everything happens for a reason, but I believe you can find meaning in whatever it is that happens. I’m learning that when bad things happen, it’s an opportunity to face the ways in which we’ve made our own happiness conditional. Do I like myself only because of my external achievements and successes in my personal and professional life? Do I depend on the reinforcement of others to feel worthy as a human being? Well, there’s nothing like falling flat on your face to show you that it’s better to build a sense of self based on compassion, understanding and patience than it is to be motivated by fear.
The story has a very happy ending. Stay tuned for the next series of posts, where I’ll share some more writings from that time and talk about what I learned about dealing with setbacks and moving forward.