“We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not knowing is part of the adventure…” Pema Chodron, The Places that Scare You
I’ve spent the better part of the last six months trying to control the uncontrollable, trying to find a new romantic partner, trying to find my way back to comfortable and safe and secure. But good things happened when I let go of the quest for a long-term partner. For starters, I felt myself calm right down. There is nothing worse than online dating for creating a sense of hysteria in my life. No! Not this one! Not this one either! This one? Close, but no cigar!
I also felt the pressure in my life lifting away. It was wonderful to give myself permission to stop looking, acknowledge that I wasn’t ready, and allow myself just to have a bit of fun for the summer without turning it into the next great romance.
I remember learning about shifting perspective when I was training as a personal coach. It’s so easy to get stuck in a particular perspective. This spring I was stuck in the perspective that I have to find Mr. Right. That perspective was a choice and it wasn’t serving me well. Neither, come to think of it, was it serving the men I blew through all spring. A is for Adam: Nope. B is for Ben: Nope. … I had to get to S is for Stefan to realize that I needed to change some things about me rather than blow off any more perfectly lovely men.
I had to step out of the perspective of “I have to find Mr. Right” and I had to find a new perspective from which to work. The thing about perspective is that there are so many to choose from, but it’s hard to see those other approaches when we’re stuck.
I could have chosen “I don’t need a man in my life at all” or “I’m looking for Mr. Right Now” or “I’m just dating for the next few months.” Any of these would have provided a new approach.
As it was, a man with a sailboat asked me, “When are you going to start having some fun?” And that helped me step into a new perspective. I realized that I didn’t need to find Mr. Right to enjoy my summer. I realized that it was possible to suspend the search, enjoy my summer, spend some time with the man with the sailboat, and not even think about September.
And here’s what happened: I got on with having a really great summer without worrying about finding someone to share it with. I made my own plans and took off camping with my kids; I arranged an amazing kayaking adventure with my friend Ian; and, when it worked out for both of us, which wasn’t all that often, I got together with Dan and went sailing.
And are we ever having fun! Because there is such a clear understanding between Dan and me that this doesn’t have to go anywhere, it takes all the pressure off. We can both be ourselves. We can share our stories honestly. We don’t need to impress one another or change ourselves to make the other person happy. This is who I am. Accept me as I am.
And we can accept, because we aren’t looking at each other through that “Long Term Partner” perspective. We really can “just be” together. And that is one liberating experience.
It’s hard to know where this will go. “Let’s just have fun” is probably not a sustainable relationship model. The sailing season won’t last much past September, and once his shoulder has healed, Dan will resume his search and rescue commitments in his community (which is not at all near my community).
Beyond that, I know that one of these days I’ll be ready for a relationship that’s about more than just having fun without any commitment. Is it possible to move from “Let’s have fun” to “Let’s just be friends”? Or to “Let’s see what might happen next between us”?Perhaps there are other perspectives I can’t even imagine at this point.
It’s clear that at some point, Dan and I will have to have some hard conversations. And at some point, we’ll both have to abandon “Let’s just have fun” for new perspectives that will serve each of us well in the next steps of our respective journeys.
But for now “Let’s just have fun” is working. And the uncertainty, as Pema Chodron points out, is part of the adventure.