An excerpt from my new book, How To Do Single With Dignity and Grace:
After Paisley said what she said about looking for a soulmate and getting in your own way of finding one, we talked some more. We concluded it’s not just soulmates. It’s a lot of things. When you constantly want something, and you’re constantly looking for it, or even worse, trying to make it happen, you are unlikely to be successful. Always striving for something puts you in a constant state of lack. When you’re always looking at what you don’t have, you risk not seeing a gift when it presents.
Don’t do what I did for so much of my life and attempt to manufacture a long-term romantic relationship. My need to hold onto my fairy tale romance notions had devastating consequences. I didn’t know how to let a relationship flow, how to let it play out as it was intended.
That’s not to say I fucked everything up. I didn’t. We all make choices based on the information we have at any moment in time. I didn’t see it, I didn’t know. It's only in last few years I’ve figured a lot of this out, and I’m 58 years old! I’m a different person now. I’m more whole. I’ve healed and grown and changed. I’m so so so much better. Plus, I like myself a hell of a lot more.
I resist the temptation to view those years of suffering as wasted time. No time is ever wasted. You always learn. Always. It takes as long as it takes, but once you’ve got hold of the truth, you can never unknow the truth.
I’ll tolerate a bit of bullshit at the outset of a relationship, but if it’s steady, I walk away. And I walk away pretty much right away. I didn’t used to walk away because I didn’t think I deserved to be treated with kindness, dignity and respect. Now, I know I do. But it took a long long time to get hold of that truth, and I suffered greatly. It’s in the lookback we recognize the areas where we can make healthier, more self-respecting choices moving forward.
I used to fantasize about going back to those places where I believed I’d made a wrong choice and choose differently. Only in the last while, I’ve come to realize I’d likely find all new ways to mess things up! None of us has the luxury of circumventing messy ugly painful stuff. Shit happens. But it’s the messy ugly painful stuff that changes us and allows us to mature and gain wisdom.
Make the choice to push through a painful experience. That’s really all you need to do. And when you’re out the other side, honor yourself for persevering. We all experience heartbreak, yet not all of us weather it successfully. Consciously decide to push through, put one foot in front of the other, and stay open to the lesson. Just know, once you’ve knocked out one life lesson, there’s always another waiting to ambush!
The good news is, you have control over how you frame everything you do and everything that happens. You are the one who decides to attach “good” or “bad” to the choices you make and the experiences you have. I’ve come to accept the bad times, because I’ve learned the bad times don’t last. But I’ve especially gotten hold of the truth: THE BAD THINGS MAKE ME BETTER.
Emotions may hit you hard initially. You may act out in ways that are not only self-sabotaging but may make the opportunity for civility moving forward highly unlikely. You may negate your chances of ever having closure, and that’s been the most painful outcome for me. So, here’s another thing to remember: NO SUDDEN MOVES!
If you’re able, if you’ve come to understand knee jerk reactions aren’t smart, wait a day. Then another day. Then, perhaps, a third day. Longer if it’s prudent. Give yourself a bit of time. Let your mind do the work for you, let your mind process the event and begin to come to terms. After the tumult has settled, take another check on your heart and decide what you want to do. You may decide no action is the best course. I guarantee you, if you allow your emotions to cool, you will make far more self-honoring choices.
Always remember, you get to choose how you frame an event and what significance it has in your life. You have control over that. It might not feel like it for a very long time, but you do have control over that.
So, take your time and don’t assume you have to heal up fast. There are stages of grief; getting over a great loss is iterative, not linear. Yes, time heals, but wounds can reopen. Reliving the pain of loss may feel like a setback, but it is not.
Be patient with yourself, it takes as long as it takes. And that is right and good.
“People should not judge failed love affairs as failed experiences, but as part of the growth process. Something does not have to end well for it to have been one of the most valuable experiences of a lifetime.”