I was 22 when I met my now ex-husband. I had thought it was going to be my last first date. For a time I feared it was my last first day. I feared it during my marriage (as in feeling trapped) and then again after my divorce (as in feeling unlovable). Those fears were replaced with the simple fear of facing the uncertainty of romance. Nervousness and thoughts of rejection certainly don’t disappear with age. I’m understandably more apprehensive now than I was back then at that young naive age.
I’ll revisit life in The Healing Lane this last week by sharing a little more of my recent experience. It started with the question exchange though the dating site - which is kind of random but I guess it is a starting point and avoids the awkwardness of "pickup lines". Following this (which btw, rarely happens) and a series of back and forth exchanges, we decided to move to private emails. I found this gentleman rather entertaining with his witty sense of humor and a willingness to banter with me on a number of subjects. It became apparent that at some point within exchanges that we were going to have to meet face to face before we moved much further in our communication. One of my dear friends, experienced in this line of dating, strongly recommended that we meet for coffee or for only a short time to avoid the awkwardness of an extended date when there is no attraction. So I recommended we meet at Whole Foods.
His response to this suggestion was comical because he admitted that he would never hear the end of it from his friends if our first date was to a grocery store! He persuaded me to meet at a restaurant and that we would only order beverages. After a short time, he would ask if I wanted to order dinner and I could politely decline (actually he had a very funny list of three options that had me laughing hysterically) or accept. So I agreed to the dinner. By the way. It was a late dinner because our schedules were limiting our mutual availability.
I share all of that context because I mostly want to reflect on my recovery and how it showed up. Once the date was set, I had just a few hours to make necessary adjustments and arrangements so I didn't allow for obsessing over my hair, makeup, clothes, pedicure, manicure, jewelry, conversation topics, accessories, whether my teeth were white enough, and any and every way to present myself in a favorable light. No, I just had enough time to shower and do the basics. I was going to have to go “as is” without any special dolling up. That’s the point, isn’t it? How do I feel about myself? How comfortable am I in my every day, normal run-of-the-mill self? Do I like me and do I like how I present myself to the public? The answer was surprising, even to me. I decided I am ok. Am I conscientious about my weight, my age, and other pieces of me? Well, certainly I am. The shift is that I am aware I have stopped carrying around the blanket of shame. I no longer hold myself in a place of feeling disgraced by my size, lack of income, age, marital status, or that I am an addict. This is the gift of recovery. This is the gift of learning that God of the Universe created me to be loved and to love, and that as I am right now, I am as lovable as any other time before now or to come.
So on my first, first date in nearly 28 years, I showed up authentically, my perfectly imperfect self. I smiled and conversed. I listened and shared about my interests, my passions, my family, my lessons. I even shared about my recovery; it is a very important part of who I am today. I enjoyed the company of a gentleman and he enjoyed mine. We spent about four hours talking and smiling and sharing. He did much more of the listening and I nervously kept talking. I was reminded that some things don’t change with dating. The part about putting oneself out there…that remains. We each get to decide how “out there” we want to be. Do we want to show up authentically or do we want to project some version of ourselves that protects us, or we think will protect us.
I have learned that not only do I want to show up authentically, but that it gets easier and easier to be that. When I get a sense that a response to my inquiry or comment is not healthy, I know to uphold my boundaries and to protect myself. That behavior is rooted, nurtured, and blooming recovery! It’s much like being an adult (she says with a smirk) and what a wonderful world to live in the present.