I’m on vacation this week. I always take time off in August. After a busy couple of months at work, I’m feeling fried and ready for some time away. This year, aside from a trip to the mountains this past weekend, I’m enjoying a “staycation” this week. No traveling out of town . . . just time for me and time with my family. I love how being on vacation breaks my routine. It offers a different pace; a different feel to the day.
Right now, I’m sitting at my favorite locally-owned coffee shop, enjoying some space to reflect. A change of location brings new perspectives. Being here allows space for insights I miss in my regular day-to-day settings. I love coffee shops. They’re like a microcosm of our lives. Serious discussions. Laughter. Business meetings. Conversations about new endeavors. Moms with kids. Singles. Couples. Working. Reading. A coffee shop provides a space for people to talk, listen, and be. It’s a shared setting that offers separate, intimate space for all. I so enjoy my time here (and, their iced skim chai latte is the best in town).
A friend and I went out to dinner last week and I told her there’s this space inside me that feels like it’s being emptied. She shared that it’s a space that’s reserved for romantic relationships. It’s one of many spaces within myself that, when taken as a whole, are the essence of who I am. Do you know those spaces I’m talking about? When relationships cease to exist, those spaces are left empty for a time. For a while now, that relationship space inside me has been held solely by one guy in my life. How easy it’s always been for me to jump right back into that space and reach out to him. He’s been the only one I’ve wanted in that romantic relationship space, so naturally, he’s the one I keep going back to when I want to pursue a relationship. Even though I decided to walk away this summer and not look back, I’ve considered breaking the spell several times by reaching out to him. At times, it would be easier just to backslide back into the familiar, even though it isn’t ideal. It fills some of that space that sometimes feels so uncomfortable being empty.
My recent shift from pursuing him to distancing myself from him is changing that space he filled. That space is being repurposed. It’s a place for God now. It’s a space that He wants to fill. It’s a space that’s no longer filled with MY wants and MY desires. The space is being filled with God and me and joy and life-giving relationships. The more that empty space is filled with God’s plan for me, the farther I walk away from that romantic relationship I pursued for so long. The less he consumes my thoughts. The less I want to reach out to him. The less I want to jump back in. It’s hard work. It’s still a struggle. It’s unbelievably freeing.
This isn’t about emptying the space only to quickly fill it up again with another romantic relationship. I don’t want that right now. I’m not looking for anyone and it feels really great. No pressure. No distractions. I canceled my online dating subscription last spring, but still get email updates of new matches who want to get in touch with me. I’m not ready for that. For now, I want God to fill that space. I want Him to show me what that space should look like. I keep jumping into that space without really knowing what He wants for me; without really knowing what should be there.
I get excited about this fresh, empty space that’s soon to be filled. I’m cleaning it out. I’m emptying the nooks and crannies. I’m reflecting and writing though the process. I’m making room for God and His will for my life. Instead of cleaning it up and tidying it up all by myself, I’m allowing God to come in and declutter it with me. He’s polishing it up and making it new. I’m opening myself up to His possibilities for me. I’m opening that space to His love and His desires for my heart. If He has someone down the road that He wants to join in that space, then I’ll know it’s His will for me. But, even if God’s love is all that ever fills that space, it will be more than enough.
For the life to which I was accustomed held me more than the life for which I really yearned.” – St. Augustine
A friend and I made a toast early in the new year. We toasted to unmitigated risk taking in 2013. This was a practice I carried over from 2012 when I had decided to become a bolder, braver version of myself. Risk. Moving out of my comfort zone; moving out of the routine; not continuing with the same old same old. I did and it was liberating. My risk taking hasn’t involved jumping out of an airplane or taking a hot-air balloon ride (although, these are two events that I must cross off my bucket list someday). Oh, but there was that mud run. A dirt-filled 5K + this girly girl = definite risk. No, my risk taking centers mostly on trusting others. Sharing who I truly am. The real me, without reservation.
Within the past year, I put my heart out there by telling a friend that I have deeper feelings for him than friendship. This was a huge risk because our friendship would forever change. It could fracture; it could blossom. It would certainly be different than before. It was a risk I wanted to take. I didn’t want things to remain the ‘same old same old.’ I wanted to tell him. I trusted him with who I am. I risked and things didn’t go my way. I have no regrets. God will always work my choices and circumstances for His glory. This experience, along with testing the waters of online dating, were two risks that helped me open up more to the opposite sex. I found online dating to be more reflection than risk. It always seemed so scary to me, when in actuality, with the light shining on it, became an outlet of self discovery. I would have missed this tremendous period of growth had I not risked.
Did I feel like I was in a bit of a rut and needed some excitement in my life? Did that prompt my sudden interest in risk taking? Perhaps. But, I’m not taking risks willy-nilly. I glean insight and direction from the Holy Spirit and move out of my comfort zone with faith-filled confidence. I run in the direction in which God leads. I am a different person today than I was a year ago. I have blossomed in confidence by allowing others in. It’s almost like I’ve uncovered another layer of myself. It’s a form of surrendering.
Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” – John 5:8
I believe that I’ve been my own inspiration for taking more risks. Taking a risk means making a change. Do I stay in the shade, or step out into the sunshine? Do I live in the sameness, or do I want to be set free? God doesn’t want me to stagnate. God is always on the move and He wants to take me with him. It’s necessary to move out of the familiar to grow and stretch and learn. I think I have always welcomed change and growth in school and work, but not in the areas of love and friendship. In those areas, I’ve always been cautious and timid, especially when it comes to sharing my personal life with others. I have a close circle of friends who know me….really know me. They know that I’m not this happy-100%-of-the-time-everything-is-perfect-in-her-life woman whom so many people believe me to be. I’m flawed; I’m broken; and I am humbled. But, I started opening up to more people several years ago and found that I learn so much from others when I share with them. The bond that forms from this shared trust is sacred. Taking risks by opening myself up to others has reaped beautiful blessings of deeper connections with others and within myself.
This blog is a risk. Yes, I hide behind some anonymity, and aside from a few close friends and family members, no one knows that it’s me. But, I am unapologetically myself in these entries. What I’ve gained from reflecting on joys, naming my struggles, and sharing in conversations with those who connect with my words, is the very reward of taking risks. I love the visual of a spotlight pointing down over top of my head. The light illuminates me and a small radius around me, but a step in any direction means stepping into darkness. Taking a risk is a faith-filled step into the darkness; into the unknown. The result is uncertain. It’s not always rosy. But I’ve learned that even if I take a risk and things didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, it was better to have risked and lost than to not have risked at all. The gain has been immeasurable. The gain is me really living.
So, I talk about wanting to be in love and feeling left behind. I’m certain that my 20-year-old self wouldn’t believe that I would be at this point in my life and haven’t found ‘the one.’ I guess I haven’t been brave. I haven’t put myself out there. I’ve been too shy. Well, that is, until a little over a year ago. That was when I went out looking for love. Intentionally looking for it. Last month, I ended my one-year journey with an online dating service. ‘Why would you cancel now? That seems like the perfect way to meet a guy!’ many people would ask. I joined because I was always curious about it and have had countless conversations with friends and colleagues who said they knew someone who met their boyfriend or husband online. I joined because I wanted to take a risk; I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I didn’t want to look back later in life and regret not giving it a try. So, I signed up.
It wasn’t an awful experience. It was exciting to meet someone new and see where it might lead, but I honestly learned more about myself than through my connections with my ‘matches.’ This was an unexpected result, for which I am grateful. My experiences saw three categories of guys: those I reached out to, but who didn’t reach back; those who needed an instantaneous connection with me and wanted to hear wedding bells within the first few dates; and those who were so socially awkward, I was embarrassed for them. I will say that with one guy in particular, I caught a glimpse of how I want to be treated in a relationship; how I should be treated. To be the one who’s chased, and not the other way around. It felt good. It made me feel special and wanted.
Even still, I had total peace about clicking the ‘cancel membership’ button. It was without a doubt the right decision for me at this time. I can define the reason why in one word – – authenticity. Online dating lacks the authenticity I desire. It feels so forced. I have no idea who these guys are. We don’t have any mutual friends; we weren’t friends first; we didn’t see each other from across a room or share a smile or conversation that drew us to each other. We are complete strangers who are brought together because a computer thinks we’re compatible. I just don’t think it’s for me.
Maybe I’m analyzing this to death. It really is just a way of meeting new people. I can choose to be as involved as I want to be. I can make it what I want. But, the time I spent trying these guys out was precious time taken away from the already-strong relationships in my life. Do I really want it THAT bad? Do I want to feel like I am consistently on the hunt for that perfect guy? I honestly don’t think I do. I want it to be an authentic experience. I want to be friends with a guy and then fall in love. I want it to feel natural and not feel like a dating service is in control of setting expectations for what it should look like. So, even though I bawled like a baby after clicking the ‘cancel’ button, I felt relief at the same time. I was sad that the journey did not produce the results I was hoping for, but I gained a deeper understanding of who I am and where my priorities lie. For now, I’m done with that time-consuming process, but not done with being open to finding love.
So, this summer, I’m focusing on those in my life who I already love and care for so much. Pool time, bike rides, coffee talk, dinner, movies with my favorite peeps. Giving up online dating is not a forever decision; just a right now decision. For now, I know that being present with my friends and family is what I need. That’s me being authentic, and it feels right.