One thing I am learning from dating at this stage in my life is to be in the moment.
One of the side effects of growing up in whitewashed upper middle class suburbia of the 1960’s and ’70’s is a learned lack of emotional expressiveness. In other words, people did not discuss their feelings. In fact there was considerable effort in educating me to keep my feelings to myself rather than teaching me appropriate ways of expressing them. My mother would say things to me like, “That is not nice,” when I would express negative feelings rather than directing me to a better way of phrasing them or some other way of communicating them appropriately. This taught repression of feelings manifested itself in me as a formidable stubbornness and a nasty streak of judgementalism.
After my last serious romantic encounter, which ended more than a year ago, I discovered that I had lost countless hours of my life “waiting”. When I was in my early thirties, I had a falling out with my father. I felt that during my first divorce he had favored my ex-husband over me and I was angry. I cut off much of my relationship I had with him and began to wait for the right moment to tell him how I felt and re-connect. I over a decade for circumstances to be perfect to have our little talk and make amends and it never happened. He died before I deemed the environment “right” and I never made one iota of effort to create that environment. When I discovered that H2 was an alcoholic, I waited for years for him to get sober so we could have a “real” marriage. Finally, after eight years of waiting, I gave up, unable to tolerate the anguish of watching him kill himself slowly and noticing the effect of the disease on our family. Then I fell madly in love with a man who was simply unavailable to me. Again, I waited for years for circumstances to be just right so we could start having a “real” relationship to no avail. I interpreted my ability to wait until things were just right to do “whatever” as patience but in reality is was me putting a block in front of true connection. I was stubborn in that things had to be my way first before I would give an inch. I was judgemental in believing that my way was the best way and things had to be the way I wanted before they were “right”.
The seeds of anger and resentment find purchase in the fertile soil of stubbornness and judgementalism. Anger and resentment further prevent us from connecting with others and retards our emotional, spiritual and mental growth. German film maker, Volker Shchlondorff, even explores the idea of the arrest of physical development caused by these two emotions in his 1979 film adaptation of Guntar Grass’ novel The Tim Drum in which the main character, Oskar, decides to stop growing at the age of three after learning that his fate has been pre-decided for him. Buddhists believe that growth is our purpose in our earthly existence and therefore it is super important to obliviate any obstacles to our growth. A Buddhist answer to eliminating the obstacles of anger and resentment is to live in the moment rather than the future. When one engages in waiting, one is attached to an expectation of the future. Attachment is suffering. The future is non-existant therefore it is fantasy. The only reality there is is the present moment. So in order to grow and eliminate as much suffering as possible one must release attachment- particularly attachment to non-reality (as in the future).
I strive to release attachment and thus minimize the suffering in my life. In terms of dating this is excellent advice. If I am locked on an outcome of a dating situation, then I am certainly stuck in non-reality of a future expectation and cannot fully appreciate the beauty of the moment or truly get to know another person (which is essential in assessing them as a potential long term mate).
So from now on, I will effort to be present in the dating moment. To enjoy the process of meeting people and noticing how I feel when I am around them, engaged in conversation and participating in whatever activity we have chosen to get to know each other. Other than keeping in mind that I want a committed long-term relationship, I can relax into my heart and get the hell out of my head and make decisions about who I spend time with based on the reality of the moment and what my heart tells me. (My wise heart, not the stupid one.) 😉
“The stubbornness I had as a child has been transmitted into perseverance. I can let go but I don’t give up. I don’t beat myself up about negative things.”