It all started with my project, 20 dates in 20 weekends, when I began to understand the value of the date, the value in really listening to another person, and maybe catching a glimpse of the world through their eyes.
It was one of the darkest times in my life; I was on the edge of deciding to call it a day and just wait for death's approach in a small and uninspired apartment on the edge of Portland, at a job I hated, with two cats I openly resented.
Then, out of the blue the idea came to me. Go on dates with complete strangers and try to get my life back. Not conventional, but I thought, worth a try. It was a risk. I lost friends over it. But at the end of twenty weeks, I had gained myself back, and this very small beginning was an important step that would open up for me later on in life. I had no idea, but I was on the path to a life of absolute liberation.
I actually grew to love dating. Not because it always worked out for me, but because it gave me experiences through which to struggle. In order to handle the rejection and ultimate un-predictability, I had to really connect with myself, I had to know that whatever was going on outside of me was okay, that I would be just fine no matter what type of strange man I might happen to be interacting with. Over time, dating ultimately became a spiritual practice.
There was one down side. Whenever I started a relationship with someone, that practice had to end. I always felt a little sad when I knew the dating was going away. I liked the relationship, but felt ultimately that I was giving up a bigger opportunity in favor of a specific type of comfort.
After several relationships did not work out, I decided that I would be single for the rest of my life, just so that I could keep dating, keep connecting with people on this very important and sincere level. Then, several years later, someone asked me to be his girlfriend, and I really wanted to, but I just couldn't. I didn't want to give up what I had come to know and love as my dating life. But he offered me something no one else had. He offered an open relationship. I had never considered it before, thought it was a fringe lifestyle and dismissed it without knowing. He offered the opportunity for a commitment with the opportunity to date within it. I figured, why not?
That was rougly ten months ago, and while I cannot say it has been the easiest change I have ever made in my life, it has been the most challenging, the most rewarding, and the most revealing. Within this relationship, I get to work on stuff I never would have had I decided to remain single, had I decided to go with a traditional type of closed relationship.
I am not writing this in order to persuade. But what I have found is that meeting people and developing genuine connections with them is something that has brought great joy to my life. I am much more outgoing, more comfortable in my own skin, and in general, more grounded and confident. I am also more open, and the relationship I am in is a more honest one than I have ever been in.
Will this last forever? Hard to know, hard to say, but it does feel like an evolution. It feels like my path is taking me to places I did not know existed,
Dating is part of a larger spiritual practice where I can wrestle with my insecurities, my doubts, and the stories that I tell myself. It is the place I can question everything. It is the place I can keep my options open. It is the place where I can keep finding myself, where I keep surprising myself. It can be great, it can be horrible, it can be liberating and it can be confining. I am finding, more than anything, that it is what I allow it to be, and that is something I never realized I could do. I never realized that I could have this kind of adventure of a life.
A lot of people hate dating, they can't wait to find someone so they don't have to do it anymore. Me? I hope it never ends. I hope I never lose access to that deeper side of men. That is a beautiful place. I am lucky to be there and grateful to be allowed entry.