Contributed by Donna Marie

Here I am at Da Andrea Ristorante. I chose to sit outdoors and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city street as they waxed and waned.  I ordered the Tower of Grilled Vegetables with Goat Cheese & Basil Insalati followed by Pan Seared Fluke with Sautéed Spinach as my Secondi Piatti, delicious options both!

While I sipped Montepulciano, an older woman stopped and asked, “Are you enjoying eating dinner on your own?” I say, “Yes” to which she comments, “That’s very nice.”  What this woman seemed to be questioning and appreciating at the same time was the fact that I was dining alone.

Being single doesn’t prevent me from doing something I wish to do and today was no different.  I had planned a Friday afternoon movie (I saw Beginners which was a winner!) at a friend’s suggestion and when the movie ended, I decided to go on a date with me—dinner across the street was the perfect place!

I experience the joy of being single as a choice, as an option but this was not always the case.   How did I get here?  It has been a process of many stages.

Finding Mr. Right

When I divorced, I had one agenda—to find the ‘right’ Mr. Right, my soul mate and live happily ever after or at least happy for a while (being the product of divorce, my parents and now me, this seemed more reasonable).  My search yielded very little and led to feelings of disillusionment believing that there were not enough available men out there.  As a lark, a friend suggested I amp up my search by placing an ad in New York Magazine (this was way before online dating!)  I received hundreds of responses to my ad which totally dispelled my belief that there were not enough available men.

With such a response of seemingly eligible partners, dating took on the appearance of a hiring process. I set up “dates” morning, noon and night almost every day for about a month.  I met some wonderful men, had many repeat dates but didn’t cultivate any partnerships.  Then, quite unexpectedly, while on the Metro-North, I met a guy who I dated for over a year, followed by another person I met while walking (for five years), followed by another I met at a mixer (four months).

When each relationship ended, I felt emotionally spent.  The pattern seemed to be same even if it didn’t look that way at the beginning. Very quickly I begun to feel the person’s unavailability, soon they wanted to move on or I wasn’t feeling fulfilled or they hooked up with someone else.  Whatever the eventual scenario, I felt horrible—rejected, unhappy, wondering why they didn’t ‘choose’ me.  Then I began questioning whether I would ever be in a relationship or whether I even wanted to be in a relationship (yet secretly I longed to be in a relationship).

Resigned to Being Single and Hating It

At this stage, I looked around at all the people I knew who were in a relationship and said to myself, “Thank goodness I wasn’t in one of those relationships.”  I was looking for justification for not being in a relationship and it wasn’t difficult to find.  Friends and strangers alike talked about how lucky I was to be single. Still I wished to be in a relationship and then I met a man who helped me discover what my truth was.  It did begin as many of my previous relationships did.  I fell in love with him, told him so and he told me he didn’t feel the same and it wasn’t going to happen.  I took his seeming rejection of me very personally for a long time.  Naturally I would since I had been living in the cloud of belief that I was never the chosen one.  Over time we established a friendship which did take some time emotionally yet in this time I took my search within.  In the process of writing a book about Freedom with a close friend, I discovered what was at the source of my resistance to being alone.  I thought I needed someone to love me to feel loved, accepted and chosen.  What I came to see was this need was an inside job!

Single and Loving It!

For a while now I have owned being single.!  I am grateful for all the relationships I have been in as they gave me the access to seeing my single status not as a way station to being in relationship but a place of fulfillment.  I am single and loving it!

Recently I had an aha moment.  After reading the post, Friday’s Culture Casserole: Lesson Before Love I commented to the question, What lesson did you have to learn about yourself in order to love yourself completely?

Here’s what I posted:

I used to think that I needed someone to choose me in order to feel loved. I discovered this search left me feeling sad & unhappy as no guy ever did enough to make me feel loved (secure & safe) or they ended up not ‘choosing’ me which felt like the ultimate rejection. After many (too many to mention) of those experiences I learned I had been rejecting myself … I couldn’t feel loved since I didn’t love myself. That’s when I went within and began loving all the parts of me.

As I saw my words in black and white, I was struck by the notion of ‘choosing’ and ‘accepting’ myself.  I’ve been doing this in the past few years yet I had never expressed it quite like this.  Seeing it in this way caused a shift inside me, further dismantling the conversation I had for most of my adult life and was on display when I’d been so busy hooking up with people, breaking up and feeling not being chosen by them.  The fact is this, as long as I put the choosing, accepting and loving in the hands of another, I was miserable.  I had essentially given up responsibility for my happiness and joy to someone else.  No other can choose me if I don’t choose me.  No other can accept me if I don’t accept me. No other can love me if I don’t love me.

The gift of this meandering journey to myself is this: by choosing and accepting myself, I have been present to the greatest love of all.  As Oscar Wilde put it,

“To love yourself is the beginning of a lifelong affair.”

Free to Be Single is a recurring feature focusing on being single without opposition to other forms of relating.  It’s about discovery and breaking through the societal walls of what should be when it comes to relationships.  It’s about celebrating all the options of relating available to us as human beings whether it is to be a couple or to be single or any other iteration.   It’s about embracing and being free to be where we are.  Free to Be Single reflects musings of how my life is unfolding from a place of freedom as distinct from the past when being single was a missing and I operated as a victim.