I remember the first time I came across Penelope Trunk’s blog about making marriage a priority. It scared the bejesus out of me. I was (and am) 31. I had never really considered that I was a ticking time bomb. I started dating 5 years ago. I learned how to hold down a job two years ago. In fact, I haven’t known enough about relationships and how they could feel until recently, and I still don’t know if that information is accurate. Each time I run into another article about choosing career over kids it kind of feels like society has pulled a gun on me but hasn’t given me the tools or enough warning to prepare accordingly.
The problem – as I see it – is that there are no answers. There is the typical advice: troll Ok Cupid, lose weight, work with a therapist, freeze your eggs. Be the person you want to meet! All good things, but not necessarily things that calm you down when you’re sitting at your desk blogging, when you should be working, and thinking about your barren life and the sad moments you will spend sitting on park benches in the future watching as children who look like their parents giggle and run by.
I’ve dated a lot of people. I’ve put in some work.
But what can we do that makes us feel like we’re making a difference in our search for a mate, without efforting?
Here’s my list.
1. I can treat each interaction with another human being as sacred. I can smile at strangers. I can force myself to make small talk. I can be on-time when I’m expected somewhere, and I can keep my commitments.
2. I can take care of my finances. Having your finances in order means having your mind at ease, which means having the energy to treat all interactions as sacred. (No. 1)
3. I can accept where I am right at this moment. Maybe my soft body is actually a gift.
4. I can take it a day at a time. How do I know tonight will just be another night?
5. I can write at night, finding clarity just by gripping a pencil and putting it to paper.
6. I can take pride in my work. And actually do work at work.
7. I can stop planning my life in year-long increments.
8. I can celebrate my friends who share news of their growing families.
9. I can pray. I can take more walks. I can make a list of affirmations, a vision board. I can go to church and do yoga. I can actively forgive myself and others. I can listen to the voice inside my head that already knows everything will be ok.
10. I can wake up each day with a goal to be vulnerable.
11. Ultimately, I can manage my energy so that it invites new people into my life.
We only have so much energy. If it’s true that we need to make finding someone a priority, then I want to do it by managing my energy, not spending that precious energy scaring myself. We forget there is someone on the other side, someone wanting to find us too, someone who is writing a similar list now…
Jo March was destined for spinsterhood but then Gabriel Byrne came to her, making her a happy wife and mom several times over, and it all happened as soon as she let her attachments and expectations go.