Until the past couple of weeks, there haven’t been many changes in the way I view relationships since I first started dating more than twenty years ago; first boys, then men, have been a means to feeling (temporarily) happy, filling up my free time, boosting my self-esteem, believing I was attractive, or a million other things — none of them being even decent reasons for entering into a relationship with someone. Along the way I perfected the art of getting men to fall for me — and fall hard they did — as well as leaving as quickly as they could say “I love you.” Mostly I’ve left before I could get hurt, causing more than a few exes to call me a hurricane, or typhoon, or whirlpool they’ve been ravaged by or sucked into.
But lately my sponsor has been emphasizing the practice of doing things differently, of making choices I never would have considered in the past — whether it was out of fear or ignorance or just a lack of life skills — because the only way we really change spiritually (the cornerstone of recovery) is through such action. This is, I believe, one reason I’ve felt nearly paralyzed by the situation with The Tan Man; the Old Me would have known what to do (manipulate, deceive, control, obsess, connive, infatuate), but all the New Me knows what to do is, well, what not to do. Oddly, though, this is serving me well.
It’s been sudden and rapid and unexpected — i.e., exactly how every other spiritually meaningful experience has occurred since I entered recovery — but the past few days (and behaving differently than I would have before) have spurred me on to a deeper understanding both of what I’m looking for in a relationship and how I need to conduct myself if I don’t (and I don’t) want to compromise all of the growth I’ve made. And it may sound ridiculous (or obvious) but what occurred to me is that I’m 35 years old and haven’t changed the way I conduct relationships since I lost my virginity (at age 14). And that’s a long, long time to be acting like a teenage girlfriend.
Maybe all of this is due to the fact that The Tan Man is 53 years old, with a beautiful apartment and a career and an entire life he’s built that is hardly dependent upon me (or anyone else), which caused me to realize that I have exactly the same things. I’m not a twenty-something girl exploring the world anymore; I’m a grown woman, with a life, and children, and a career, and all sorts of experiences that have made me who I am. I’m past the point of dating someone to grow up with them; I’m in the realm, now, of dating someone so we can share our lives. And you know what? It feels pretty darned awesome to come to terms with all of that.
I don’t know where — if anywhere — these realizations will take me, but they feel significant tonight. For years I’ve been wondering when — if ever — I’ll feel as though I’ve finally grown up, I’m finally an adult, I’ve finally passed some threshold. As with everything (it seems), it’s taken time and a deeper understanding of myself, my motivations, my past mistakes, and my future hopes. It feels good. Really, really good. Namaste.