When it Comes to the Quest for Love, Be Your Own “The One”

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If you were to look to at my love life as following a trajectory, forming one neat and perfect line (ha), it would appear as if, since the tender age of 17, I were perpetually engaged in an active search for The One. With the exception of what amounts to a total of about a year and a half lost to housebound illness and heartbroken depression, adding in some month or two breaks here and there in between active dating, I have spent nearly 16 years of my life in serial monogamy, AKA some form of a relationship.

These relationships have ranged from the short-lived, failed attempts of one to three months to serious, deeply committed, live-in relationships lasting three to four years. In perhaps too many, I have turned out to be the heartbreaker, but I have also had my share of experiences where my heart had been utterly destroyed as well. Yet each time, I eventually dust myself back off, heading back into the adventures of love, though perhaps with my heart more carefully protected the next time.

My married childhood friends who thought I’d be the first of us down the aisle—as did I—observe my endless adventures with men with amusement and/or not-well-disguised pity. They wonder if I’m too picky, too flighty or, if they’re feeling generous, wonder when a truly great guy will realize just how amazing I really am.

“He’s out there,” they say, not really meaning to come across as condescending, I’m sure. “Be patient.”

Some of my perpetually single friends have expressed concerns that I at times might be too eager to be paired up with a mate, but I contend that desperation has been not my driving urge. On the contrary, I love to give and receive the sincerest form of love. I have been driven by the mission to find and keep that love—I know that is possible, at the right time, with the right person. I have seen in it very close to home, as my parents’ own love affair only grows deeper and more beautiful with each passing year. I know I want that too some day.

In my periods of self-reflection—which by the way can still occur in the midst of a struggling relationship, which as those of you who have lived there know can be even lonelier than being single—I have also come to a realization about love that relationship experts repeat over and over because it’s true. You cannot truly expect to really find and keep the genuine, enduring love from another person until you can learn to find and accept that same love from yourself.

Don’t roll your eyes at me. Think about it. If you can’t appreciate your own inner beauty, your gifts, talents, strengths and what you can bring to the table, not just in romantic relationships but to the world in general, how can you expect someone who may be starting off as a perfect stranger to you to learn to either?

Of course, a great partner can see beyond the b.s. you sometimes hold up as a mask to protect yourself from hurt. A great partner can be your biggest cheerleader and in the most loving and respectful ways encourage you to be your best self that is most genuine to the real you. A great partner can help you to open your eyes to that beautiful person you truly are inside and out.

But you can’t depend on a partner to do all that hard work for you. At some point you’re going to have to take a look in front of the metaphorical and literal mirror by yourself and say, “Damn it, I am an amazing person, worthy of love. I deserve happiness, wonderful friendships, a career I love, success and all the great rewards of life. Regardless of whether I ever find The One or not.”

Your quest for love should be directed inward first and foremost. Because really—you are your One. Anyone else is just bonus.

The Ah Ring

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Be Careful What You Wish For…It’s Bigger Than You Imagine

It’s truly amazing how easily you can talk yourself out of something under the guise of practicality or protecting yourself. If you play those games on your psyche long enough, you can talk yourself out of a good relationship, grad school or a great job you’re meant to have. It really is a pity because it truly is a ruse. It’s not practicality. It’s not common sense. It’s fear, plain and simple.

I think back to my first quarter of college. I was 3000 miles away from home. I had been to Europe for a couple weeks before, but it wasn’t the same as living somewhere else. My brother was out there, but I didn’t see him often enough, and other than him I was on my own.

I came from a small town where everyone knew who I was. Seriously. People I didn’t even know recognized me for one reason or another, for better or for worse. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to go to school so far away.

I wanted a fresh start. I wanted to be known for someone other than that cute, 5-year-old girl in pigtails, that 5th grader who could do a dizzying series of round off, back somies at recess like I was circus freak performer. I wanted to be known by guys at school, the cute guys I really liked, as more than just that really sweet girl who was a great friend.

Of course, I went away to school 3000 miles away to create a new life. Yet I found myself missing my best friends who were all going to college on the East Coast. I missed my parents more than I imagined I would. I missed having people know who I was. I missed having smaller classes where I was the big fish in a small pond. And I missed my boyfriend who had never gone anywhere outside of the state, who was wallowing in misery without me and wasn’t afraid to tell me so.

So when being a small fish in a big, choppy pond turned out to be more intimidating than I thought, I came home. I wrote songs and fiction. I went to school here and excelled. I had my boyfriend, who was infinitely happier with me within driving distance. I could see my old friends. I had my parents. I definitely saved money. And then I was unhappy.

Because the reason I left that big pond was not so much that I really wanted to be back here as much as I was scared to be on my own. I was afraid of failure in that big, murky pond. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make the kind of friends I had at home. And I was afraid of just moving on and growing. After I finally admitted that to myself, I sucked it up and went back out there.

I can think of hundreds of other examples. Being afraid of finishing the novel I’ve been working on for longer than I care to share here. What if it doesn’t keep the momentum of quality that it had when I first began it? What if I can’t find the perfect ending? What if people don’t love it as much when I do finish as they did when I started?

Being so afraid of passing time that I am unable to be patient in a long-term relationship. Not being able to just go with the flow and let time take its course. Listening to my close friend, well meaning but transferring her own past mistakes into my present love life by saying, “tell him to shit or get off the pot.” Putting a timetable on love, as if my eggs were shriveling up with each passing second. As though if I didn’t get married by the time I was 32 or 33, I was destined to become the old cat lady—I already had one cat baby. Sigh.

So what do I do? I push him away. He has this negative view of marriage with no positive examples in his close family or friends. I want marriage and kids—the whole thing, sooner rather than later. He doesn’t read, and I’m a writer. He’s exceptionally neat and likes everything a certain—I’m bordering on hoarding packrat who is more flexible in my expectations of others. He’s afraid of growing up—well, truthfully, so am I.

While he did need time to realize what he would miss without me and us, to figure out where his head was, as did I…time told me he loved me more than I ever gave him credit for. And time gave me the chance to see that he could be there for me more than anyone other than my parents at a time when I most needed the emotional and physical support.

I haven’t been above being afraid of a job. Either running away from one, finding faults in one that wasn’t perfect, only later to find it was infinitely better than the alternative. Or not going after the real prize out of anxiousness that I wasn’t experienced or skilled enough for it, thus losing out on the opportunity to see if I really was capable of getting the job done.

So I’ve grown sick of the fear. I’m sick of allowing myself to be a slave to it.

Out of nowhere (okay I did lay some groundwork without really knowing I was doing so), I found my dream job even when I didn’t know it was still my dream job, and I’m not running from it.

I’m writing the stories I want to write. They say no one wants to read long, feature stories on the web. Well, those are my most popular stories—go figure.

I have learned not to be afraid of calling strangers or going to meet strangers to get information from them that I want. I know how to be genuine enough to get people to trust me enough to share their stories. Having made a presence for myself in this community, I think deep down they realize I will do everything in my power to give their story, their words, their life justice.

I have learned to have confidence in my worth again. And that’s an attractive thing.

It shines from you inside and out. It makes you stand taller, smile bigger and love your life. The type of people you want to attract are drawn in by that glow of self-assurance. The people you always wanted to believe in you and be proud of you are doing cartwheels as your own personal cheerleaders and singing your praise.

It’s strange but a lovely feeling. Yet more important is the pride and love you start feeling for yourself again.

You’re finally getting what you’ve always wished for. Not without blood, sweat and tears—this isn’t a random strike of luck. You’ve put in your dues and your time, you’ve caught the wave at just the right moment, and you totally deserve this. You are finally here.