Sobriety helps you peel off the layers (thanks @Ditchingthewine for the expression), and figure out who you are.
I just moved back to my home country after being abroad for 6 years, and it’s taking a bit of readapting. My brain has to re-learn a set of cultural norms, switch to another language, adopt new ways of thinking and behaving, etc. Understandably, in order to save mental energy, a part of me is tempted to resort back to old familiar habits, and just become the person I used to be. The problem is that would mean: smoke, drink, be a French existentialist philosopher, put on a cynical, pessimistic, rationalist mask and pretend you are indifferent, even invulnerable, to everyone and everything around you. Show no “weakness.” Hide your fragility, your needs, your vulnerability, your tender heart. Sigh. I simply am not that person anymore.
One pattern that is showing its face these days is the anxiety that flares up at the idea of being single. I have more or less always been in a relationship since I was 14. After that, I spent 15 years chasing love-drama, to feel desired, and worthy of love. But after 6 years in the US (and after working on myself a lot), I realize I am not that person either. I am no longer that desperate that I would take ANY relationship over being alone. I have changed, and grown to love myself.
I am still not a fan of the idea of being single for a long period of time, though. The prospect still causes distress and feelings of loneliness that I don’t experience when I have a secure attachment situation going on in the background. In other words: I am not anxiously attached when I am in a healthy relationship. But when I am single, the anxiety comes flaring up: What if no one ever loves me? Will I die alone? Will I become a spinster? How long will it take my cats to eat my corpse? etc.
But I am not desperate to find someone at all costs, like I used to be. I am now able to notice red flags. (In the past I ignored them and dove straight into drama-land, believing that getting the most unavailable person meant achieving the highest degree of desirability/self-worth. Sigh.)
So I’ve been on a few Tinder walks these days. In fact, I just got home from one with a very nice, kind and gentle classical pianist. I like the artistic / creative types (my ex is a jazz saxophonist). This person was really very nice and quite interested in seeing me again. He seemed eager. Same for Physics PhD guy I’ve seen 3 times already, who wants to have me over at his house for lunch soon. Same with Computer Science guy whom I met last week. So ok, there are guys. But here’s the catch. A part of me would be happy to be friends with these people, but just isn’t really feeling that spark when it comes to starting something romantic. A part of me is wondering, “are these guys too eager?”. I’m confused as to why I am not attracted to them: these are perfectly nice people, who are interested in me, and have nothing “wrong” with them. Is it that I still miss my ex (I do miss him)? Is it just a chemistry thing? Ooooooor, is it because they are actually interested in me?
And this is where Out of my League Guy enters the picture.
Ah, Out of my League guy… He’s a martial arts master, very athletic, very very smart, kind of a nerd, and INSANELY good looking, with buddhist tattoos all over his PERFECT body, kind of like if Apollo had dreadlocks and tattoos. Ahem, I digress.
We’ve been texting almost every day for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve clearly got a crush (at least, with the internet version of this guy). I’ve even caught myself in my old “anxious attachment” patterns, obsessing over my phone, waiting for messages, wondering why he isn’t asking me out or texting, etc. These patterns had not really flared up for the last 2 years, probably because my ex partner was clearly committed to me and therefore, gave me no reason to be anxiously attached (if anything, he was the anxious one and I was more avoidant).
But silly, silly Anne!
Why is it that out of 20 or so Tinder matches I pick out the most challenging, unattainable, possibly even emotionally unavailable, persont, and focus all my energy on him? Have I reverted back to the good old patterns of “If I can get HIM then I am lovable” mode? (for past-Anne, chasing unavailable men = compensating for lack of parental attention/affection/secure attachment style during childhood).
After two or three days of noticing myself reverting back into these obsessive/ruminative modes of being, I decided it was time to act. NO more of all that chasing unavailable men. That was for old Anne. New Anne has tools that she can use to refocus her attention on herself, and away from craving exterior validation.
So I did something drastic. (This is something that past-Anne would have NEVER done. Past-Anne would have elaborated a complex and covert military conquest strategy, lying in wait for the right moment, curating everything and constructing a fake image and patiently waiting until the person became interested, at tremendous emotional and energetic cost)
I figured = “OK Out of My League Guy. If you’re responding to my texts and looking at my instagram stories, SOME part of you must be interested. Well, I have no time to waste obsessing over whether or not you will ever ask me out, why you are not writing to me, whether you will later, etc. I have self-worth and I plenty of qualities to bring to the table, even if (unlike you) I am not supermodel hot.
So I gathered my courage and straight up asked him out.
I figured it was better to face with rejection now (this, past Anne would not have been able to do) instead of obsess over how to get someone to like me. I figured this was true courage: taking the first step, not being afraid of the outcome.
And guess what, he said yes 🙂 So we’re going to the park tomorrow.
This way, I can pop the bubble and get out of fantasy world of clinging and obsessing, I can escape the mental cesspool of doubt-insecurity and just see what happens in the real world.
In person, I will be able to determine whether I actually like him or not, not just whether he likes me or not.
I am a bit scared and nervous, because he’s impressed me not just physically but also intellectually (unlike the other men I’ve seen so far). But I’m mostly scared because the voices my head keep saying I am not good/pretty/interesting enough, and that he is not interested/as I am.
In person I will be able to see if he is indeed standoffish and closed, in which case I think I am mature enough to walk away instead of trying to chase/change him, like I would have in the past.
We’ll see how it goes.
I think I’ll just go into it like I went into my PhD defense: jump in, shed all preconceptions, see what happens. And no matter what happens (even if he hates me, makes fun of me, feels repulsed because I seem too eager or desperate), I will have learnt something. There is a teaching in everything.
And I think there is one right in front of my nose already: I probably need to explore the feelings of “repulsion” that I myself experience when I think someone is “desperate”. I suspect this is just a reaction stemming from my own shame. The shame caused by my own feelings of loneliness and desperation, that I am probably projecting onto others, who are just eager, not desperate. In the past I have spent a tremendous amount of energy trying to APPEAR independent, aka. not needy. Now, after a few years of therapy, I know that I don’t need to pretend to be indifferent. That it’s ok to be interested in someone, just like it’s ok if they are not interested in you.
But once more, it’s interesting to see old patterns reappear and anxious emotions be triggered once we step out of our comfort zone and try new things.
If anyone has any tips on how to “be yourself” and “be normal” on a date with an insanely hot person, I’m all ears 🙂
Wish me luck!