In Which I Re-Start, a Dating Tale
I know it’s only August, but it’s already been a long, interesting year.
I’m amazed when people say that Time Flies. I don’t find that to be true (although I also say things like that from time to time so you can imagine the intense self loathing that happens here). At least I don’t find that to be true now.
In my sobriety, I’ve learned to really take the time to enjoy the little moments that happen each day, the little events that sometimes slip through the cracks. Because of that, I think the year seems to be moving more slowly. Or maybe it’s because I’ve laid out some rather large goals that simply time the passage of time (with some action) to come to fruition.
The Year of Health and The Year of Friends has really helped re-configure my life’s priorities. I’ve can feel how my life could be if I just keep moving forward. The Brad@40 plan is already helping me get my act together in the next few years.
The one thing I haven’t really done this year – other than a couple mis-steps – is date. I’ve purposefully removed myself from the dating pool, focusing on getting my sobriety and life in working order. Something I’ve never really done.
Now, though, it feels like it’s time:
I haven’t talked much about my decision sometime late last year to take a break from dating, which is weird for me. For some reason, stories about my addiction and damage I’ve inflicted – and tried to fix – are easy to type. Stories about writing are simple. Travel, that’s just fun.
My personal life, though, has always been something that’s a bit off-limits. Maybe that’s left over from my drinking days. There was much to be hidden.
I suspect it’s something greater than that.
Several years ago when my long-time girlfriend – Film Girl — and I were breaking up, she said this: “There’s always been another person in this relationship.”
And it’s true. There was. Or more accurately: there were. Because it wasn’t just one ghost. I’d trapped The Muse and The Girl in my head. I’d built a mythology around my writing and the travel that nobody could rightly fit.
In order to keep that fantasy alive, it’s important to horde facts and information lest it get out and burst the bubble. This, I’ve found, had disastrous results on my dating.
My closest friends, the ones who have known me the longest, reacted mostly with skepticism and giggles when I told them about my decision.
They were supportive, it’s important to note, the idea – when spoken – just brought up an interesting point: Since I was 19, there’s hardly been a time when I didn’t have either a girlfriend or some casual form of casual relationship.
It’s an odd juxtaposition since I’ve always been a bit of a loner. (The question as to whether cognitive dissonance kicked in and made be believe I was a loner is not a subject worth getting into here, although that general idea is one I think it’s probably true.)
However, you hear the same refrain from your friends enough and it’s hard to ignore the story.
Which got me thinking.
Since I’d spent so much time drinking, living in this self-created world while avoiding any real long-lasting connections , maybe I never really figured out who I am.
And more importantly, who I wanted to be with.
In the last 10 months, here’s some of what I have learned about the partner I’m looking for:
- Not having children isn’t a deal breaker. I’ve always wanted children, and I think I’d be a good dad. But I’ve met a few women in the last few years who were dead set against the idea. That has not been the deal-breaker I thought it would be. I’ve found some peace with that. I’m surprised by that.
- I am not a man of the gods. The last year has taught me that my partner needs to have that same – or similar – disposition. I’ve grown weary of hearing that my lack of belief in the gods somehow makes me unworthy.
- I love traveling, but more importantly I love adventure. I love the road. I feel at home there, but I’m realizing the road doesn’t need to be 5,000 miles long. Adventure is a state of mind.
- It’s probably important that my partner understand the amazing-ness of F. Scott Fitzgerald, graphic novels, Tron, weird technologies and other nerdy things. I’m nerd-like. It’s probably important that my partner get why the Crisis series is awesome and why Batman is clearly the superior superhero. Being nerdy is brave. It’s being fiercely you. I want a nerd in my life.
- Oddly, I’ve grown to love the outdoors but I’m nearly completely worthless there. The indoors are starting to bore me and I think I’d rather be camping someone, or in a cabin, or hiking.
- I have fallen back in love with running. I love physical activity again. I want more of this.
- I’ve realized that I just simply love women who are artistic and arty in their daily lives. It’s part of that adventurous, active life.
- Getting sober and seeing life differently has calmed me down. I don’t get too worked up about life unless it is truly work-up-able. As we say in the program: Easy does it.
And just as important, I’ve learned this about me:
- It’s important that I continually remind myself not to filter the life of my partner through me. Nobody needs that. The addict in me wants to take control, to hide things, and I need to always be conscious – in every conversation – that what is being said isn’t about me.
- Never let my ego get between me and the right thing. Another daily battle. I created this picture in my head, the addict’s art, about how my life is supposed to look. When it doesn’t conform to that, I sometimes lash out. Which is a total dick move. The Amends process works best when I don’t have to make them, but it’s important to remember to (as Crash Davis said) “Be Humble.”
- Adventures go both ways and it’s important to be reminded that every person wants to experience life. A good partner wants you to experience their life with them. So do that. Happily.
- When you say something, mean it. I was told once that I’m very good with pretty words. It was not, as you might imagine, a compliment. Words have a power we don’t realize, and I try to remind myself each day not to say something – even small somethings – that I don’t mean.
- Be there. Whenever I called my father, he answered the phone. No matter what he was doing. Of all the lessons he has taught me, this is the one I have spent the last year trying to live with my friends.
- Shut up. Sharing sometimes means listening. I clearly missed that day in Comm Studies back at Miami.
- Time. No matter how quickly you want to push things forward, each second is just that and there’s no sense in trying to make it any bigger than it is.
What does it all mean? I’ve got no real idea. It’s uncharted territory for me.
I know I won’t be blogging about my dating experiences here. I’ve always tried to be protective of the people in my life. They didn’t ask to be friends with a writer, particularly one who lives publicly. I try to write simply about my life.
And I find it unexpected that I’m more uncomfortable preparing to hit publish on this blog than anything else I’ve written. When I described getting sober to my ex-therapist, I said it was like taking a wolf, turning him into a sheep and releasing him into the world. The sheep knows exactly how his end will come.
The decision to date again – and to talk about it – feels very similar. But I’m told those moments build character.
Besides: life is just a grand adventure, and it sure would be nice to find someone who wants to go on that trip together. It’s time to get busy living or get busy dying.