Saturday, December 13, 2014

Open Your Heart

Image Courtesy of Helen Green
It's the time of year when the streets are lit up with twinkling lights, people spend entirely too much money shopping for others (rather than, or as in my case as well as, for themselves), travel plans are made, and families and friends come together. "Elf " is on almost every day, sappy holiday romance movies fill the Hallmark Channel, and tears may show up at any time because, like the Grinch, our hearts are growing three sizes too big. It's Christmas time. Holiday time. Winter break.

This post is about romance, dating, and love. It's about getting up again after having been down for a very long time. It's for those who like the feeling of their heart swelling and tears showing up in the corners of their eyes. And if that's not you, you should probably read this. Because this is most definitely for you.

Over the past two months, I started dating someone. He is the first person I've consistently dated in a very long time and after having been in an on-again, off-again relationship with someone who pretty much committed every sin one possibly could against the person he supposedly loves. That relationship ended for good when he told me he'd had a child with someone three years prior. (Yes, while we were probably "off", but when we got back "on", he still waited three years to tell me.)  And that relationship was one of the most heart- and gut-wrenching relationships of my life. That person seemed to be my soul mate, we understood each other, and we knew each other inside and out. Very intense.

When I moved from upstate New York to the Washington, DC area, I had done a lot of cleansing. I got rid of a lot of old stuff, including my old bedroom set from when I was married. I wanted a clean slate in every part of my life, including my love life. I decided, just three months after finally settling down with a new apartment and new job, to go online and see if I'd meet anyone. I found a free trial for a popular dating site, and was pleasantly surprised to see that I had gotten several emails from men in the area. I started corresponding with a few, but some were duds, one was overzealous (he offered to wash and blow dry my hair and arch my brows!), but one seemed pretty humble and unassuming, and he was respectful. He actually caught my attention because he made a reference to one of my photos that told me he paid attention to national news and politics, which is kind of one of my obsessions. We met after corresponding for a week or so and had a nice conversation. It went well and he said that he wanted to see me again.

Interestingly enough, my ex surfaced around that time as well, asking if he could come and visit. I didn't say no, but those plans ended up falling through, so I was able to meet Mr. Nice Guy.  Why didn't I say no, you ask? Because when it came down to actually going out on a date, I thought I couldn't do it. I thought that my ex, Mr. A-Hole, was still too present in my heart. He was talking about trying to work things out and starting over (as usual), and although I knew that it would never work between us, I still had a teeny glimmer of hope that maybe things could get better, if I gave him another chance. Truth be told, I was so used to Mr. A-Hole, and I was scared to meet someone new. God, fate, and destiny did not allow us to reunite, especially during a time when I was attempting to start fresh, and I learned a huge lesson after these past two months.

A couple of days ago, after six dates with Mr. Nice Guy, things ended. Mr. Nice Guy, it turns out, has some difficulty dealing with life when it doesn't go exactly as planned. I wanted to like him because he was nice to me. And then he wasn't very nice to me. We went out a couple of times in DC to see some very nice Christmas shows, and during the entire time he found things to complain about, and he seemed to "jokingly" put down my suggestions, though he is not much of a decision maker. He didn't want to walk two blocks to the theatre from the parking garage. After the second evening of listening to him complain incessantly and blame me for his having to walk, including pretty much cursing me under his breath, I told him he had a choice, and he never had to go anywhere with me again. He dropped me off, and that was the last time I heard from him.

On one of our dates, I asked Mr. Not So Nice Guy why he was single. He seemed nice and he wasn't unattractive. He said that he doesn't meet a lot of people he can relate to (I was one of those people) and that, having been alone most of his life, he doesn't think very many people would be willing to accept his habits. After our last date, I knew why he was still single. He refused to open his heart up to anyone. It showed in how inflexible he was and how much he complained when he was out of his comfort zone. It showed in how he didn't want to get close to me at any point in our relationship. Every time he would kiss me good night, I could see how hesitant and awkward he was, how much thought he had to put into it. Even sitting in the theatre with him, I could see that he felt uncomfortable if our shoulders touched. He didn't want anyone sitting next to him, and as I watched other couples hug and kiss and be romantic, I knew that would never be us, no matter how many more dates we went on.

I find it interesting that the men I've come across, once hurt, find it so difficult to allow someone into their lives. I've been hurt, and I've felt utter loss, in the same ways the men I've known have. I have thought that I would never love again. I have felt betrayal and broken trust so deeply that I spent years not wanting to open up again. And yet, I know how alive I feel when I do open up, even just a little.

I'm sad for Mr. Nice Guy because I knew he was excited to meet someone he could talk to, who liked some of the same things he did. He seemed so used to things ending the way they ended for us a few days ago, as if that's how it usually goes for him, as if being "forever alone" is supposed to be his default status. If he had opened up to seeing walking a few blocks as an opportunity to explore, to spend time with someone he liked, to even have a romantic walk in DC at Christmas time, the night could have ended differently. Instead, he only saw things as an inconvenience to his comfort, and blamed me for his discomfort (even though he was driving and could have chosen a different place to park). So Mr. Nice Guy will go back to being alone, which is his comfort zone.

I'm happy for myself, because as I stated earlier, I learned a huge lesson about love. Although I thought my ex had a pretty firm grip on my heart, dating Mr. Nice Guy taught me that I could move on, that I could be treated the way I deserved to be treated, but also that I could determine when I wasn't being treated well and speak up for myself. It taught me that I could start over, that I could give love a chance, and that taking the risk of opening up feels better than withdrawing into my shell and freezing everyone else out.

My prayer is that Mr. Nice Guy learns that lesson soon, too.