Wednesday, January 22, 2020

On Dating Men and Staying Intact

I have cried over one man who did not deserve my tears. I have cried over one man who did. 

It is literally 6am. I’ve been awake since 5:16am, fumbling to get back to sleep. I’ve decided to take my own advice from my upcoming Instagram post that features the writing prompt, “Just breathe. Just write.” So, here we are, 6am, breathing and writing.

I never really talk about dating publicly, or really, outside of my very tight knit circle of close friends. I do think it falls into the category of what is broadly considered private life, but the lines between public and private have been smudged quite seriously with the rise of the ultra-open-door, I’m-just-like-your-best-friend social media influencers. Anyway, given some recent events, my mind is taking me towards a free write about dating and the ego.

I think of the ego as one’s sense of self and how we differentiate ourselves from other people and objects in the world. You are you, I am I. I also think of the ego as a mechanism of protection. The ego keeps us from putting ourselves in situations that will destabilize our sense of self because with a destabilization of self, the world will surely end. 

Enter: Dating.

The process of “trying to get to know someone” and you “letting your guard down” to either end up in a state of blissful partnership or wondering why you ever responded to that DM in the first place. For a long time, I thought dating only ended in one of those two ways: great or worst decision ever (each bad dating experience becomes the new worst, naturally). Now, I see a third option: it is not the best and not the worst, but just an event that happened; maybe something was learned, but maybe not.

Our ego serves to mediate our sense of reality, keep us safe, let’s our subconscious fears, hopes, and aspirations bubble up and “help” us in our conscious minds make decisions. I really began to ponder the ego while in yoga teacher training because it is the same mechanism that makes your voice shake while teaching a yoga class. It’s the thing that tells you it’s time to return to your mat in the back of the room and that maybe you’re not good enough to be an instructor. It’s the thing that keeps you from trying to do a handstand in class for fear of embarrassment. It’s the thing that keeps you from *trying* at all. It’s trying to protect you!! How can it protect you when you decide that it’s okay to maybe make a fool of yourself in front of 30 strangers? In short, the ego is a big, scary beast to tame, mostly because we are not conscious of it all. 

When I was younger (lol, I’m only 24, but bear with me) in college, I made lots of decisions in relation to dating and boys (they were men, but...iykyk) with my ego. I needed to run the show, they were lucky to be with me, I was everything they could have ever asked for. Beauty? Check. Brains? Double check. Booty? Triple check (I kid). Seriously, what more could they be looking for? I was the full package. 

I will never knock a healthy sense of confidence, but I can now distinguish between confidence and self-centeredness. The self-centeredness is the narrative of “I am everything they could ever want.” Of course, that narrative coursed through my mind without actually ever asking, err, what they wanted. I always tell men that I’m not crazy, but, boy, looking back, I was crazy. 

My ego said I had everything and more. So, the actual act of navigating men and dating and feelings was tumultuous. It meant that when I encountered men who did not think I was everything and more, it was destabilizing. It is this sense of exceptionalism that can prove to be soul crushing. If you live your life thinking, “I’m different, he would never treat me the way he treated shorty over there.” So, then, when he does, you have to come face to face with the possibility that you and shorty over there might have more in common than you have ever wanted to truly consider. Talk about shaking the table. Talk about coming face to face with who you really are. It’s a big, break the earth in half task. 

We have to make a project out of continuously and consciously knocking ourselves from the center of the world as we see it, otherwise we will live in a constant churn of hurt, instability, and identity crises. This is turning your best friend’s cooing of, “this is not about you” after the next break up into something that actually means something to you. She is always there to help you reframe the narrative so that the experience does not break you. Internalize that sort of talk and see how your world view shifts.

So, when I saw a recent fling crumbling right in front of me, seemingly out of nowhere, I was surprised that I was not more shaken. I have a sense of how much I’ve grown, particularly post yoga teacher training, but it’s not until I get into these tough moments that I actually get to answer the what-would-you-do-if questions. 

What would you do if he ignored you for two days?
Three years ago: I can’t believe he’s ignoring me. I am that b*tch! *anxiety*
Now: Maybe he’s still processing his own thoughts or just isn’t interested in talking to me. Whatever the reason, it’s his reason and not mine to wonder or be anxious about. He will reach out when he is ready, or not at all. Either way, I am fine.

Let me tell you, three years ago, I would not have even reached out to a man who seemingly decided I had done something so terrible I should be ignored. I would not have reached out for fear of rejection, for fear of him telling me who I was, what I did, how I ruined things. Now, I have a fuller sense of self. I am able to better distinguish between projection and truth. Every confrontation with a man is not an indictment of who I am. 

This latest relationship fail feels like a karmic test. An opportunity for me to revisit something that I did not handle so well in the past and see if I’ve really grown. And, let me tell you: nothing feels better than growth, real freaking growth, where you begin to live in alignment with who you are *and* who you want to be. I think I am currently passing this test. I think the test is still ongoing, like is dude gonna hit me up or nah? Though, I also think this blog post could be the nail in the coffin that ends the relationship for good. But here’s what I know: he won’t be getting any tears from me. And, that, is liberating. 

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