I am writing a book about the loss of my father in January, 2019. You might wonder, what the heck does that have to do with dating? It’s a fair question. And so, as I work on completing the second draft today, a May 1 deadline looming, I am reminded that we can always be certain life will give us a good kick in the ass, whether we expect it or not.
Just as I did not expect my dad to die just five days after he was admitted to a prestigious hospital in Arizona that Sunday, none of us expected to be sitting in quarantine nearly five months into what was a year filled with hope and goals.
We all had plans for 2020. Airlines tickets that were booked and paid for to go visit an incredible destination, a graduation to attend, a milestone birthday to celebrate with close friends or family, an epic opportunity at work that was so close your chest was bursting with excitement, and of course, you had plans to date and fall in love.
And so, with all of that stripped away, we are left with a choice. A choice to suffer from what life has thrown us, or a chance to embrace that suffering and use it as a vehicle for transformation. To go from lonely and exhausted and feeling like you are at the wrong end of the life circumstances that are going on around you, to feeling empowered and at peace and in love…even while you’re sheltering at home.
Which leads me back to my book. Let me share an adapted excerpt from page 184. I write…
“Fighting the bright fluorescent light of the hospital restroom I squeeze my eyes tightly, remembering when my mom died, what my dad had written shortly afterwards on his blog. He had said that if you let the door close, every time, there is another door that can be opened. He had written it down, precisely. He had written, ‘let it close.’ He had written, ‘open the door.’ Be in action. ‘That’s the way the world works,’ he wrote, ‘But if we let it, life goes on and we find new doors that we can open.’”
He had taught me that even in chaos and crisis there is opportunity, love and happiness. His mom had picked herself up when her husband, Mooney died. He had picked himself up when my mom died. “We just have to find it,” he had told me. “Say goodbye to what must be left behind as best you can, there’s always another door, a chance for new success and happiness.”
And so, there is an opportunity for you too to use your pain and suffering, the loneliness and isolation, as a reason to find the opportunity that is yours waiting behind the closed door. Here are four ways you can start right now:
- There is a quote that says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” To start, realize that it makes perfect sense that you are in pain right now. Even if you have a home to live in and food on the table, or maybe you still have your job or money in a savings account, it doesn’t mean you don’t get to be sad and angry right now. Drop the guilt and allow yourself to feel exactly what you are feeling. Without many of the things that have been stripped away from all of us, whether it was the big plans you had made or even something as simple as your routine, they are no longer there to distract you. As a result, it makes perfect sense you feel the way you do. The truth is, you have an opportunity to see something magical on the other side of it if you give yourself permission to be sad or mad, first. Give yourself the pity party. Have a good cry. Then, talk to yourself out loud, as if you were comforting a good friend or small child, acknowledging the pain and sadness that naturally comes from grieving what you have lost.
- Once you have given yourself permission to suffer, be open to changing the lens in which you are viewing the Pandemic and dating. On the other side of the sadness or anger is a gift; something that you might not have been able to see without this experience. Perhaps it is that the things you thought were most important like the gym or your career are suddenly less important, now. Perhaps now you have an opportunity to reexamine your values and priorities and begin now to make changes to adjust your life. Like my dad said, be in action of what it is you really want. You have a choice. You can use your time to watch every episode of “Friends” for the twenty-third time and bake sourdough, again, or be in action of the goals and dreams you had at the start of the year. It’s important you don’t let circumstance dictate your dreams.
- Get into action! Create a list of all the beliefs you have about what you can and can’t do in a Pandemic and ask yourself the question, “how true is this, really?” If one of your beliefs is, “I can’t date now,” or “dating is too hard right now,” or “it’s uncertain when we will be able to meet in person, dating is a waste of time,” get curious. Look for ways that these beliefs might be a similar version of a story you have been holding on to for a long time about why love is out of reach for you. Look for patterns. Be honest with yourself. If you notice that it seems there are always reasons why you aren’t moving forward intentionally with your desire to be in a healthy, loving, intimate relationship, acknowledge it and make a plan to break the patterns and change your beliefs. If you are not ready to date yet because you feel you need to get over an ex first, or build more self-confidence, get out a journal and write down five ways you can begin to take action now so that you don’t stagnate. Wherever you discover a stuck spot, use your suffering and pain to do something new to transform yourself. If you are efficient and strategic, in a few weeks you could be ready to launch!
- Say goodbye to what has been left behind, and find acceptance and peace in what is. Once you are able to embrace the opportunities at hand, start actively looking for your open door. It is there if you look for it. You have an opportunity right now to access the deepest level of healing for you in your transformative journey, and, as I wrote about here, dating online has never been better or easier. Soothe your nervous system by giving yourself permission to suffer. Take an honest inventory of what is the common denominator in all of your failed relationships – you – and take specific action to change what you can. Smile on the inside. Smile on the outside. And, as my dad said, in this chaos and confusion, you will find opportunity, love, and happiness.
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