It would be easy to stay.
Because the thought of me, or the sound of my voice, which he admits he sometimes listens to repeatedly in a voicemail, is a glinting light through his day. Because when I share my writing with him, he wells with pride and gratitude, and on the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death, he offers his support, checking in all day long to ask how I am coping.
It would be easy because he calls me darling, a word of such old-fashioned tenderness, it lifts the sails of my heart. And though he can be brash, he also possesses a poetic eloquence that stuns with its expression.
I can go on listing reasons, build of them a rampart to check the surging tides.
But I do not choose to stay. For No. 5, with a single casual admission, brandishes a worrisome propensity and it is, again, time for me to go. Of course, I am disappointed. With my adventures in Internet dating, this is the fifth man I’ve connected with who, ultimately, hasn’t been a match. Yet I can’t feel too disheartened. When he flared into my life, so boldly appreciative and adoring, I knew his attentions weren’t so much a sign of promising partnership as they were a reflection of the fullness of my worth. And for that I am grateful.
I am also thankful I didn’t linger here too long, that I didn’t fall for him only to be snagged and bruised by a trait he doesn’t think merits a severing of ties. But I am all too familiar with its potential for havoc, have spent more years than I care to admit trying to compensate for its thorniness in previous relationships. So I set my boundary, honor him for the gifts his presence did bring and close another door.
In the days that follow, I realize how much I want to love and be loved. Yes, I have been walking an ambivalent path since the beginning of summer, happy to date, happier still to have my heart yield to the sweetness of another to test its resilience in the aftermath of loss. But I am aware a part of me remains commitment-shy. It’s not that I am letting the past taint my expectations or that I am fearful of being hurt, of loving deeply only to lose once again.
I feel the tug of a vague unrest, a whisper that suggests my focus and energies would be better directed elsewhere. Love will not elude me, but there is something different waiting to fill this space — perhaps a calling whose time has come. And so if every connection I make wanes and sputters out, I know my own internal oscillations are partly to blame.
Still, I can’t deny the yearning that sweeps through me in quiet moments, the desire for a partner that ruffles an otherwise relative contentment. For an unabashed romantic, the pull is not that surprising. Having spent most of my adulthood — between sometimes-lengthy periods of being single — in long-term relationships, I know I am a woman who enjoys deep connection. That’s part of what fuels my passion as a wedding officiant and why I tend the friendships and family ties that matter to me with the utmost care and enthusiasm.
But for the first time in my life, even if I vacillate on the timing, I am consciously aware of my longing for a mate. Sometimes, I am surprised by how much I crave being able to spool out my day with another: to have that voice at the end of the phone, that person I reach for in the moments that baffle and frustrate me or fill me with pleasure, the one I can share my small daily victories with, who will laugh at the joke I just overheard, care what plans occupy my free hours.
Sometimes, I want only to hear the word “love” rolling off my tongue, the endearment I favor — when I’m not making up my own silly pet names — its very utterance plying a lavish kindness, a deep appreciation.
But I will not surrender my longing too quickly. I am OK sitting with it, with bearing the occasional pang, the prick of absence — for they will never devour my hope. I could have tried to keep No. 2 or No. 5, stacked all that was alluring against the traits that made me uncomfortable. Or I could have seized a particular quality I treasured from our interactions — the way No. 2 and I effortlessly engaged in meaningful conversations about our spirituality, the wildly romantic banter I had with No. 5 — as rarities never to be found with another. Yet I am past settling for anything less than I deserve.
And even in moments of being alone, I am rarely lonely. I’ve learned over many years to savor my own company, which seems a prerequisite for inviting another into that space. Until I am ready to do so once more, I will embrace my longing, make of it more companion than foe. For that hunger keeps me from resting in what is safe and steers me ever onward to the hand of true belonging that will be worth every detour and wait.
– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times