Dating in my 20s: “Ugh — he lists his favorite authors as Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski, and Jack Kerouac… Probably a misogynistic jerk. No, thank you.”
Dating in my 30s: “Ooooh — this guy seems literate!”
Not-so-brief update: Still going on dates. I notice that I either feel a.) grossed out and can’t wait to go home (I almost run away, dodging end-of-date kisses or hugs), b.) bored but manageably so, or c.) pretty excited. I try to only have second dates following third-category first dates, but they are rare. I’d rather be alone than bored. I’m finding that more men than you would imagine who are on dating websites are not actually single. This is frustrating and hugely disappointing. They are in “open relationships,” “recently separated but still married,” “actually living with someone who is not just a roommate,” or “trying to figure out if we can stay together” (read “seeing if there’s anyone I like better before I risk actually being alone”). That’s real nice (not at all). I’m slowly getting better at sniffing these things out. We can file it under skills I’m sad I’ve had to develop.
But I don’t date 24/7! I am working a lot — in an inpatient facility and in a tiny private practice I’ve been working to build for the last few months. I love most aspects of the work, save: bureaucracy and office politics (never my fave, so this isn’t surprising), and dealing with insurance companies. But the heart of the work? The therapy sessions and getting to know what makes a person tick and then helping them get closer to being who they want to be? It’s is pretty much my favorite thing to do, and I’m so glad I’m doing it.
A few months ago I decided to stop drinking completely — probably for about a year, maybe for longer if I decide to. I’ve already had an exception — craft cider at my cousin’s wedding and sips of other people’s flights of beer at breweries on the same trip, but otherwise I’ve been alcohol-free since late spring. It wasn’t that I had a big problem (at least compared to so many stories I’ve heard and read). I didn’t hit any sort of bottom, and no one told me I needed to stop. I was just feeling like it had become the go-to elixir to handle so many emotions: sadness, anger, anxiety, stress. Even positive emotions: celebration, or as a kind of lubricant to express joy. Let’s face it — drinking can be fun!. It just wasn’t feeling right for me — it felt like alcohol was moderating all of these feelings that maybe I needed to experience in an unadulterated way. I have been known to engage in long, emotional confessionals when intoxicated — not usually harmful, but say professing my love for a favorite friend, reaching out to someone I haven’t seen in a while. I look back on these with a tinge of shame (even though I doubt most people were aware of the context if they were written). I realized I’d been confusing disinhibition with intimacy. They’re very different. What if I didn’t need alcohol to say all of those things? Would I still say them?
I’m finding that I do still feel and say what needs to be felt and said. I’m living pretty sincerely, and I like that a lot. Alcohol, certainly when I overconsumed but even in “normal” amounts, was putting me on this emotional roller coaster of feeling really, really great in the moment, then crashing and getting really, really down on myself. It’s nice to feel more stable in that way… It’s not that I don’t still feel down on myself now and then (I’m kind of a depressive, you guys!), but it’s a lot less frequent and a lot easier to deal with. When I express my emotions now, it comes from a more solid, thoughtful place, instead of spilling out everywhere.
And I’ve been pouring a lot of energy into running. A couple of friends got me running in 10ks last spring/summer, and I’ve signed up for a half-marathon in Las Vegas in November. Every other weekend I run the farthest distance I’ve ever run — 11 miles yesterday! It’s been challenging and fun and a little painful. I’m slow, and I’m doing it, and it feels so, so good.