Last night I took some time to read through the diary I started when I was doing some counselling a couple of years ago. It was a time of self discovery for me, and with the aid of a fantastic counsellor, I was able to really define the things that were important to me - my values, the narratives that guided my life - and also to actually articulate the secret goals I had for myself. The piece of the diary I read last night spanned about 18 months and finished in June last year, the week of my birthday, when I was feeling at my loneliest, and yet also, my most hopeful, having been largely single for 4 years at that point.
I had made the comment that whilst all the advice columns tell single people to have a full and busy life, to not concentrate on finding a partner, that my own feeling was that when the rest of ones life was going well, as mine certainly was (eg great job, friends, hobbies etc) it was only natural to have a focus on the thing that wasn't. And I wasn't looking, I was just aware that this was the piece of MY puzzle that wasn't in place. Just as a niggly sore back might inhibit your pleasure in life, the constant reminder of being alone in a world of the coupled - my entire circle of friends at that time in fact - was painfully obvious to me.
Fast forward two years and nothing has changed in terms of what I want in life with regard to a relationship. I have had the absolute best of times - blissful is the word that comes to mind - and more recently the absolute worst. But those goals and dreams remain the same. To love and be loved. To form a future with someone who loves me in spite of my flaws and insecurities, and whom I love in the same way, in spite of theirs - and with a healthy regard but fearless optimism to face any obstacles that might need to be overcome. To delight in the company of another. To feel safe. To feel that I matter. To give someone else the security to know that they do. There's a reason that we refer to partners as significant others I reckon..and that's because we all want to feel ...well..., significant. The pain of feeling I am ''not enough'', for me, is the worst of all - and that has nothing to do with my feelings of self worth, which are strong and defined, but somehow plucks at the very heart of what vulnerability opens us up to.
I am keenly aware of my shortcomings - in particular, the fear of failure that all people who have experienced it before carry with them. The challenges that come with love. (I know that love might be easy but, relationships take work, and the older we are, the trickier it can be, for all kinds of reasons). The risks that are inherent with being vulnerable with another person are scary, no doubt about it. In fact in my diary I had noted that someone had told me some years ago ''you literally wear your vulnerability - men... can see it. You will be taken advantage of.''. Well, so be it. I would rather be vulnerable than hard, rather be open than closed, even if that does mean risking pain and or heartbreak. To be vulnerable is to give another person a gift, and trust that they will hold it carefully. And the day that I no longer trust will be a sad one indeed.
I don't care how many people pronounce that life is ''better'' as a single. Sorry, I don't buy it. Absolutely, it is a part of life that everyone probably needs to experience - in much the same way that one only appreciates good health after a bout of illness. And yes, I absolutely agree it is perfectly possible to be happy and fulfilled as a single person, of course it is - our own happiness should not be that tightly reliant on another person or it is bound to end in tears. Its that horrible cliche that says one must love oneself, and trust oneself before being able to love and trust another. But the risk of love (if that's what you want to call it), the gift of vulnerability, the stepping forward into an unknown future with someone equally as broken as me - I confess, for me, that's a good portion of what life is about.
To love and be loved. To be, and have, a soft place to fall. No, nothings changed for me.