Sunday, 11 July 2010

What's the worst that could happen?

As I see it, there seems to be a preoccupation in our society with extremes – you’re either a drinker or you’re teetotal; you’re either a smoker or you’re a non-smoker; you’re vegetarian or you’re not, those of us who want to lose a few pounds go on a fad diet... (No finger pointing here, by the way, I’m just as guilty as the next person.) We seem to struggle if we can’t put a label on it.

What happened to balance? Why do we feel we have to swing wildly between black and white, or feel that we have to set up camp in one particular field?

Remember the old adage: “A little bit of what you fancy does you good”? I’ve been living by that rule for a few months now and it seems to be serving me well; I don’t feel at all deprived; life is feeling pretty balanced.

But, well, balance and moderation is all well and good isn’t it, for some areas of our lives? What happens when the thing we’re approaching has no half-measures?

Just like you can’t “kind of” do a parachute jump, you can’t “a bit” have children, and you can’t “sort of” quit your job to work for yourself – it’s all or nothing, isn’t it? And “all or nothing” can seem truly terrifying: it’s a total commitment. What in God’s name do you do if you don’t like it? You can’t float upwards and get back on the plane – once you’ve jumped you’ve got to deal with the consequences.

But what if all you’ve ever wanted is to experience that exhilaration of throwing yourself out of a plane? What are your options? Either you go up in that plane and you jump out – embrace the fear that, yes, it could all go horribly wrong - or you stay on the ground and know that you’ll never get to do it and, worse still, watch others experience what you crave.

How many of us shy away from something we know in our hearts we want, simply because we fear it may be the wrong choice? I’ve done that so many times. I fear I may mess it up or realise later that I made the wrong decision and it feels like there’s no going back. How often, though, is it REALLY the case that there’s no going back?

Well, this is where, again, we turn to balance – a balanced perspective. Yes, there ARE extreme circumstances where there’s absolutely no going back but really, they’re few and far between. What about what you’re shying away from? (I believe most of us are shying away from something, come on, admit it.)

Look at whatever it is you’re denying yourself because of fear and honestly ask yourself:

“Is it really an extreme circumstance? If I do this is there truly no going back, or is it something that potentially I could change my mind about at a later date if I decide it’s not for me?”

Dig deep and ask yourself,

“What’s the very worst that could happen?” and then, “If the worst happens, is that even worse than me leaving the earth having never tried it?”

If the answer is no, then you know what you must do.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Hearts for sale

The thing about online dating is that there are no guarantees. Unlike eBay or any other online shop for that matter, if the item you invest in doesn't turn out to be as described, there's no come back.

Still surrounded by baggage - physical and emotional - I fell into internet dating from a position of vulnerability. Another unsatisfying three year relationship over, another suitcase in another hall.

After I moved out on my own, when I wasn't making myself unsustainably busy to numb the pain, I'd be online, looking out for my next potential life-partner. A few guys said hello, I liked the look of some of them, too, but it all felt empty; none of them made me feel anything inside. That is until one evening, about a month in.

I'd trawled about a hundred or so online profiles, as I usually did, clicking one or two as "favourites" - maybe he liked art, maybe he was sensitive - but I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this particular one. I remember, I actually stood up and said, "Wow, I have got to speak to him."

"Relax, smile and be happy" his profile instructed me. That spoke to me, so I read more. You know when you're on a beach looking for pretty pebbles and one catches your eye and you're so delighted you reach down to pick it up? Well, this was no pebble - I believed I'd found a diamond, right there at my feet. As I read what he had to say in those few short paragraphs, all the emptiness was filled, and the agony I'd been carrying around for months just dissipated.

Within two weeks we had exchanged probably 50 emails and had arranged to meet. His online photos were slightly obscure so I wasn't certain I'd recognise him but as soon as we saw eachother we smiled, he scooped me into his arms and squeezed me. "It's good to meet you." It was. Instantly I was hooked.

We had an amazing first date, spent all afternoon together in the sunshine; we walked, ate ice cream, wandered the markets and canals, shared food in a cute organic cafe... Could any first date have gone better? I thought probably not. At the end of our date he walked me to the station and gave me another of his giant hugs. I hadn't known if we'd kiss but no, we didn't. Maybe it was too soon, there was time for all that.

His emails after that point dropped off a bit - always "manic" at work - but still we met for dates; five wonderful afternoons over the course of about ten weeks. The last time I saw him I felt we had become close. He'd mentioned previously that he hadn't been ready for anything serious so I had backed off and left him alone - neither was I, if I was really honest with myself. But after a couple of weeks he came back to me, wanted to see me again, and I was glad. He'd clearly been doing a lot of thinking and he told me his plans; his dream of moving back to his home country, a friendly community, sunshine, kids, beachside living; in a few years, after he had worked out how to make more money.

Why did he tell me this? Was he looking for my reaction to gauge whether I'd like to be a part of his future?

When I left him that day his words and actions told me we'd see eachother again very soon. That was almost two weeks ago. Since then it's like nothing has changed. He's again busy at work, no phone calls, few emails and no plans to meet up.

Why, then, is this extraordinarily beautiful and confused man in an online shop selling himself as potential relationship material?

I've decided today that I must move on from him for my own emotional safety. He's a risky venture and my well-being is at stake. I'm having conversations with some wonderful men who are very keen to meet me.

But what about my ten week investment? And far more importantly, what about that aching, gaping hole he left in my heart? I hope that one of these other wonderful men can help to fill it in, and soothe it better. But the thing about online dating is that there are no guarantees.