Sunday, May 26, 2019

You Get What You Deserve...Right?

I can't remember the first time I heard the actual definition of an introvert vs. an extrovert: the first one gains energy from being alone; the second from being with others. However, I can remember having a conversation with a long-time friend once who told me she thought I probably only really needed human interaction about once a week. Although that might be a bit extreme, it's true that I need a fair amount of alone time.

I've known for a long time that I am an introvert -- I can remember friends in middle school being flummoxed because I would constantly disappear at parties to be by myself for awhile. My introversion has become more pronounced over the years, and I think now that I teach after school Spanish classes a lot of the energy I have for social interactions is used up for work.

Over the winter -- when my introversion seems to get ever more pronounced and I hibernate like it feels like we're supposed to -- I started to think about dating. It's been a long time since I seriously dated anyone, and I decided to give it a go again. I set up a couple online profiles, then immediately started to stress out about the messages I got. I found I didn't much want to reply to these men who were writing to me; I found that I had enough going on and plenty of meaningful friendships. Trying to make room for a romantic partner felt like a huge burden instead of a joy.

Then I stopped a looked at that feeling. Why, exactly, was I trying so hard? What did I hope to gain? Certainly there are many things that a partner brings that I was missing...but was I actually missing those things? I am rarely if ever lonely -- in fact, I am much more likely to be excited to have a night to myself than I am by a lot of plans that other people get excited about. Intimacy? I have been working hard to have intimate relationships with a handful of people; I do not feel like I'm lacking in that department. Intellectual conversations? Same as the previous question. A need to care for another? I have a 13-year-old geriatric cat who loves to cuddle, plus nine classes a week of kids in my classes. I get plenty of caring in. Sex? Well, yes, having a regular sex partner would be great. I cannot argue with that, but it is only one of the many facets people seek in a romantic relationship.

When I really started to look at it, Invisible Audience, I realized something profound: I actually feel quite content. Certainly I have worries and fears and stresses, but when it came to deciding whether I wanted a partner, I discovered that the main reason I felt like I needed one was because people told me that I either needed one or that I deserved one.

Deserve. What a strange concept. I feel like I've lived most of my life following the rules, with the idea that if I did so I would deserve all the things I could possibly want: the perfect partner; a great job that you adore, that pays a huge salary and is meaningful; an effortlessly beautiful body; all the energy in the world; perfect children; financial stability; a happily ever after. I have spent many, many years resenting the fact that I have played by the rules and yet seem no further ahead than anyone else. In fact, if you're measuring my life by what I just named, I have been handed a shit sandwich instead. But life is not fair in the way that it has been laid out to us, is it Invisible Audience? I realized this winter that I had found a choice I didn't know I had: to resent that I hadn't found what I "deserved," or to step fully into a life that, actually, I enjoyed more than I ever thought I would.

As soon as I let go of the idea that I should have a partner, things got easier, Invisible Audience. I stopped being afraid I was missing a chance to meet someone. I stopped worrying about whether I was missing my one and only chance at happiness, wrapped up in another body that I had not yet met. And then something strange happened: I stopped wanting to socialize as much at all. I realized that, unconsciously, many of my interactions with others were based in the hope that through them -- or through being out and about, or meeting other people -- I would meet my invisible partner and my life could finally start. I stopped fearing that I was going to miss something and started enjoying what I didn't want to miss: blissful sunny afternoons in my hammock with a book; the sound of my feet on dirt paths climbing the sides of mountains; curling up with my cat for a long Sunday afternoon nap. It made my interactions with the people I did see even better, because I wasn't always looking around for that deserving man I had yet to meet.

Suddenly, I realized that I deserved to be happy, without it being wrapped up in anyone else but me.

Love and deserving kisses

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