Well, this post will probably get me a ton of dates…and it somehow seems appropriate for Valentine’s Day.
Sometimes I worry that I’m broken; I worry that, after being in love with the same person for more than a decade and a half, my capacity for romantic love has been diminished to the point of uselessness and ineptitude.
Of course, in the last 3 1/2+ years since my breakup, there was necessarily some time required for healing. How long? That’s difficult to say. I’m satisfied that I’m well past my ex (and am elated she has found a partner and is happy), that I have worked on myself as a person (though that is never-ending), and that I have come to a place where I, at times, am open to not just a relationship, but actually falling in love…in my mind, at least.
And what is it I want? Oh, not much…just true, deep, passionate, intimate connection. The last real love of my life. Despite how some of my other posts about dating, mid-life crisis, my recently-passed 50th birthday, and Christmas and New Year’s spent alone might make it seem, I’m not desperate.
Okay, maybe what that should say is “I’m not willing to settle.”
Over the past few years, I have met some wonderful people, even spent a bit of time with some. When I look back, I see clearly that the reason none of these developed into anything more has nothing to do with the women involved; there have been a few who were beautiful, fun, strong, intelligent, and emotionally available, and I’m sure would have made wonderful partners. But each time, there’s been some bit of connection missing for me. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to identify what that was, other than simply saying I wasn’t in love. Why I wasn’t is beyond me, other than to worry that I no longer have the capacity.
The worry that I am broken.
There are some basic, surface issues that are easily identifiable, and I’m sure common to many people in my position…I don’t pretend for a moment to think there is something special and unique about where I find myself emotionally, that I am spelunking some new cave of the human condition. And the main issue is this:
As distressing and hopeless as the prospect of being alone sometimes feels, the thought of being empty of emotion is often more appealing than the possibility of being filled with pain. Anytime you put yourself out there emotionally, the chance you will be hurt exists. Every time you pry open your rib cage and invite someone in for a stroll, there is the possibility that–carelessly or purposefully–they may grind your heart under their stiletto heel.
And therein lies the dilemma. When I was younger, I was in love–or what I thought was love–a number of times, as often happens when we are young. Since I’m not with any of those people, they obviously all ended in heartbreak, sometimes because of me (most times, really), sometimes through no fault of my own. And those hurt, in the way a broken heart always does. But the thing with age is that all that pain and heartache builds with time, layer by layer like a callus, protecting your heart, hiding it, toughening it.
Perhaps leaving you feeling broken.
And those of us with our callused hearts are left with decisions. Keep our brokenness to ourselves? Reach out to friends who invariably have their own hurts and issues? Open up to someone new and risk being hurt again?
Don’t fool yourself, that risk is very real. When everyone in the dating pool is in the same place–they’ve hurt and been hurt over and over again–the possibility of finding someone compatible on all levels, and open to really connecting, seems to decline exponentially.
‘There’s too much risk in loving.’
The young boy said.
Said the old man.
‘There’s too much risk in not.’
— a t t i cu s
Of course, there’s more to it than the simple fear of a freshly bruised heart, but what that is varies from one damaged soul to the next. I’m still trying to figure it out for my own part. When I do, I’m sure I’ll let you know.
In the meantime, some days I’m the young boy, some days I’m the old man.