Tag Archives: single

First Dates

A couple of friends recommended watching First Dates, a television series that films real first dates in a London restaurant. I’ve since watched the entire first season and it’s totally addictive.

As I binge on this hilarious reality TV show, I laugh a lot. But I also shed a few tears.

I can see the beauty in every single singleton. The daters differ in appearance, creed, age, personality and life experiences. But they’re so similar too.

They’re all self-conscious. They all have fears and insecurities. They’ve all lived through hardship, be it heartbreak, illness, loss or rejection.

And they’re all holding on to hope. Hope that they’ll finally find connection, affection, partnership and love. They all want to share their lives with that special someone.

One man, who’s been single since his diagnosis with HIV five years ago, admits: “I just want to be loved.”

This heartwarming show highlights how quick we are to judge our potential partners. I don’t like his receding hairline. I prefer women with smaller bums.

Interestingly, we’re also quick to judge ourselves. I’ll lie about my job because I don’t want to put him off. She’ll never agree to a date because of my height. I’m punching above my weight with her. I’m not as skinny as the other girls.

I believe that when we stop judging ourselves, we cease judging everybody else. When we love and accept ourselves, we become free to love and accept others.

I also believe that we get what we give. So when we give love, we receive it.

I have a friend who loves her dogs more than anything. Recently, I spent an evening at her home. One of her dogs burrowed his way into my arms. Later, he lay on my friend’s lap, his body splayed open, as my friend hugged and kissed him.

It struck me that this dog is full of love. He’s open and trusting and loving. And it’s such a good feeling to have him in your arms.

And my dog-loving friend is perfectly at ease with herself. She’s open and happy and loving. And when I’m around her, I am too.

It’s so easy to give love to a person who’s open to receiving it. And when someone gives love with unconditional abundance, being a recipient of that love feels effortless and unselfconscious.

It’s when the fear takes hold and the thinking starts and the barriers come up, that we block the love. We’re afraid to give love in case it’s thrown back in our faces.

But my advice now is to give love. Give love to yourself. To your friends and family. To your pets and your plants. To everyone you encounter.

Be yourself. Be open. Be present.

Laugh. Flirt. Have fun.

Give love. Accept love. Be love. And I guarantee that you’ll experience love.

So I’ve rejoined Tinder. Again.

P.S. When searching for an image for this article, I browsed the internet. Suddenly, I realised that I’d forgotten to type “Love” in the search bar. “Have I put love in?” I asked aloud.

Have I put love in indeed.

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Open your Heart

A dear friend sent me a link to an interesting TED talk on love and relationships given by Mandy Len Catron. The theme of love and relationships had already been playing on my mind.

After watching the clip, I confessed to my friend that I long to share intimacy and affection with someone of the male variety. I quickly added that I’m just feeling impatient and that I should simply be present.

My friend replied: “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a special connection with a man. What you mustn’t do is ever make yourself feel bad because that want is there. It’s human nature.” It was nice to read her words.

Mandy Len Catron’s TED talk came about because Mandy, in the midst of a breakup, turned to science to better understand love. While researching the workings of the heart, Mandy discovered a study undertaken by psychologist Arthur Aron 20 years ago.

The study involved having two strangers ask and answer a series of 36 questions designed to make the participants fall in love. Six months later, the participants were married.

One evening, Mandy described Arthur Aron’s study to a university acquaintance. He proposed that they put the questions to the test. And they promptly fell in love!

Mandy went on to write an article about her experience for The New York Times. Since then, she has received endless calls and emails from people who all want to know one thing: Are Mandy and her university acquaintance still together? And the answer is that they are.

This may seem like the happy ending that we’re all hoping for. But what Mandy learned from this incredible experience is that there is no happy ending. There is no ending.

Falling in love is the easy part. The challenge lies in the decision to continue loving each other through the good and the difficult times. The hard part is to allow yourself be vulnerable and to give your heart to someone who may or may not choose to love you back.

These are the parts of love that many single people forget about when we crave a relationship. We want the smiles and the glances, the cuddles and the kisses, the electricity of attraction and the rush of romance.

However, closeness with a partner can really trigger you and bring all your issues to the surface. The choice then is to succumb to the temptation to close your heart and retreat (or defend) or you can deal with these issues and expand, both as a human being and as a couple.

It’s exciting and scary to open your heart to another human being. Being loved can make you feel blissful and secure one moment and out of control the next.

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Today, I told another friend about all of this. She excitedly suggested that we ask one another the 36 questions. “Imagine if we fell in love,” she laughed.

My friend and I answered all 36 of Arthur Aron’s questions. The questions encouraged us to share our life stories, embarrassing incidents, favourite memories, fears, problems and dreams. We were also invited to tell each other what we liked about one another.

Did we fall in love? I can honestly say that my heart was bursting by the end of the exercise. In truth, my friend and I already love one another.

However, this exercise highlighted how much we have in common and how much we value our friendship. Being let into my friend’s life in this way deepened my love for her. Answering these questions also reminded me of how far I’ve come, how great my life is and how wonderful I am.

How do a series of questions make people fall in love? I believe that these questions inspire you to share yourself with another human being openly and honestly. This vulnerability allows someone to get to know the real you. And this can greatly speed up the falling in love process.

I’d definitely recommend completing this exercise, preferably with someone dishy. It may just make you fall in love – with your friend, your partner, or an attractive stranger. It may also make you fall in love with your journey, with your life, and with you, the real you.

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Other People

Yesterday, I texted a few of my like-minded friends to share my most recent awareness. The importance of other people.

Relationships (with a partner, friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances) accelerate our growth and teach us more about ourselves than all the spiritual retreats, self-help books, and hours of meditation and counselling ever could.

Other people serve as mirrors. They reflect back to us how we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we’re holding about life.

Every single person who enters our lives is there for a reason – to show us all the barriers we’ve placed around ourselves. Once we become aware of these barriers, we can remove them and open ourselves to love.

In Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Loveshe writes about the two main emotions we experience – love and fear. Fear closes our hearts. Love opens us up to an easier, brighter, more wonderful world.

Up until recently, I had assumed that I preferred to be alone. I’d spend most evenings on my own, reading, writing, and watching TV. I walked alone, jogged alone, cycled alone. I meditated and did yoga alone. I took myself for coffee. I wandered alone in nature and took pictures. I holidayed in the west of Ireland. Alone.

I’m proud of my independence and I’m content in my own company but sometimes a stray pang of loneliness manages to slip through my carefully constructed armour. I realise now that I was confusing strength with a refusal to budge out of my comfort zone.

I really believed that I did better at life when I was single. Romantic relationships seemed to blaze into my world. They were quick and exciting and dangerous.

They were so out of my control that I feared I’d be engulfed in their flames. Then they died out, leaving me to tend to my burns.

I missed the warmth and beauty of relationships but I also felt blessedly relieved to be alone again. Alone, I was in control.

My longest romantic relationship was with my now ex-husband. Everything since then has never made it past the four-month mark.

I led what I thought was a balanced life. I had oceans of time to work on myself. I grow more when I’m single, I convinced myself.

And I’m glad of the time and space I’ve had to heal and to flourish. I agree that one must love oneself and have a full and happy life before one is ready to enter into a healthy relationship.

The thing is, I kept waiting for one (i.e. little old me) to become perfect, conscious and enlightened. I forgot that this life is a journey. And on this arduous yet rewarding adventure, we’re constantly learning, evolving and recalibrating.

It’s nice to share some of that journey with our fellow travellers who can also feel lost and who are also searching for meaning. And there’s more laughter and intimacy to be had on a path walked with more than one set of feet.

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After living alone for four years, I now have two housemates. I’m also spending more time with my fabulous friends. And I love meeting new people. How different we are fascinates me. How similar we are humbles me.

I understand now that living involves other people. For what is a life without company, support, affection and passion?

Other people highlight the areas we need to work on so that we can peel off yet another bullet-proof layer. It’s so much lighter and freer to let go of these heavy burdens that weigh us down and close us off. But it’s scary to be so exposed, so vulnerable.

I know that I have difficulty letting people in. Asking for help and believing I deserve to have my needs met is a challenge. But it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

Communication is also an area I’m working on. Recently, I detected a pattern of mine. When the going gets tough, my instinct is to bolt. To get out that door and never come back. But where’s the maturity in that? Where’s the learning, the growing, the compassion? Where is the love?

Other people have an amazingly frustrating knack of triggering the emotional reactions that I used to resist and get angry about. Now, when someone does or says something that provokes me to feel hurt, annoyed or defensive, I remember to breathe into it.

I feel grateful for this issue that I need to deal with. I look at my feelings about the incident, which leads to an understanding of why I’m feeling the way I do. Then, I let go and bring myself back to the present moment.

This is a very new practise for me, by the way, but it’s a revelation! I highly recommend it.

Today, I’m more open than ever before. This translates into a heightened enjoyment of life, a deeper appreciation of beauty, and more fun, peace and connection.

I am, thankfully and in Melody Beattie’s words, codependent no more. Nor am I locked in a distant land of me, myself and I.

I’m travelling on this awe-inspiring path called life. And it’s rich with billions of souls from whom I can learn so much, and with whom I can share a luminous journey.

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Moving On

I walk out of the Life Coaching session beaming. There is something about saying things aloud to someone I trust that shows me how strong I am and how well I’m doing. I see myself as he seems to see me – competent, insightful, brave and proactive.

So much has happened in the two weeks since I’ve last been with him. I’m leaving unhealthy situations. I found a beautiful house to move in to. I started a new course. And I’ve taken a few steps to further my career.

The Life Coach points out that I’m starting to have a healthy sense of entitlement. This means that I know that I’m entitled to have my needs met, in my living environment and in my relationships. I’m thinking more of myself now. And I’m believing that I deserve good things in my life.

I tell the Life Coach that I can really appreciate how I am now because I used to feel so bad. I was anxious. I worried that I wasn’t good enough. I compared myself unfavourably to others and beat myself up on a fairly constant basis.

I also landed myself in less than ideal conditions. And I didn’t even question them. Because I didn’t realise that I deserved better.

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Up until very recently, when I spotted a good-looking guy, I’d immediately think: He’d never look at me. Talk about placing huge invisible walls around myself. Invisible but impenetrable nonetheless.

I’d feel intimidated if a man seemed to have it all together. The men I did feel comfortable with often had so much baggage that it was no wonder the relationship couldn’t go far. Slap my baggage on top of that and we couldn’t move at all.

At twenty-three, I married a man who tried to change me completely. When I first started seeing him, he lived in a rough part of Bilbao. Prostitutes and drug dealers hung out on the street corners. My ex’s flat had mice and boarded up windows.

But I was in love. And nothing else matters when you have love, right? I was defiant in my love for him. Who needed money or common beliefs or a partner who thought you were lovely just as you were?

I didn’t think enough of myself to expect nice dates and holidays with my boyfriend. I didn’t even think enough of myself to expect to be treated with respect and acceptance.

What did it matter if he was pressuring me to change, pressuring me to marry him? I had such a low sense of self that I was okay to bend to his will. Until one day I wasn’t.

So I left him but I went on to date addicts and emotionally unavailable men. Why? They say like attracts like. It was all I knew.

Recently, something big happened in one of my closest relationships. I had to make a tough decision to change my behaviour. I had to break free.

This comfort zone was no longer comfortable. Although it felt impossible to cut the ties of this codependent relationship, not doing it was a scarier option. So I did it.

The guilt and fear threatened to push me backwards but I forged forwards anyway. In order to do that, I had to let go of some of that baggage.

And now I’m moving into a gorgeous house in a lovely little village. I’m surrounding myself with people who think that I’m awesome. I’m doing things that nourish me. I’m meditating, exercising, reading and writing. I’m stepping out of that comfort zone and I’m proud of myself for it.

This morning, after the Life Coaching session, I decide to treat myself to a soya latte and a gluten-free scone with strawberry jam and cream.

I walk into the café where an attractive man catches my eye. Out of habit, I duck my head. Then I remember who I am. How amazing I am.

The smile comes from deep inside. I raise my chin. It doesn’t matter whether he likes me or not. Because I like me.

And my healthy sense of entitlement is telling me that I want to be open to all the wonderful possibilities that are staring me right in the face.

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VulnerAble

Do you ever feel lost? Unsure of your next step? Hesitant about which direction you’re going to take?

Will you move house, emigrate or travel the world? Would it be more sensible to start your own business or remain an employee? Should you go after this guy or that girl or concentrate on your own growth?

Well, I’m feeling pretty lost right now. I’m all over the place. And I’m angry with myself for thinking so hard and not being present.

I’m impatient too. I want to find all the answers immediately. I need to make decisions. And I worry that I don’t have the luxury of time.

But I’m afraid. Should I take the risks and trust that it’ll all work out? That it’s already unfolding exactly as it’s meant to? That I’m okay just as I am?

Today, I opened up to a friend about all this. She reminded me to tell myself that even though I don’t know what to do, I love and accept myself. Even though I feel shame and embarrassment, fear and anxiety, anger and annoyance, sadness and grief, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. She got me to tap on the feelings that arose as I spoke these words. As I tapped, I remembered this quote:

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

I can find beauty and despair anywhere. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Ireland or Greece, Thailand or Australia, if I’m in my current flat or a quiet house in the countryside, if I’m loved up or single (I can be loved up and single too of course).

All I have to work on is myself. Once I feel inner peace, everything else will fall into place. I must raise my own energy and the right path will beckon.

Right now, I feel vulnerable. Shaky. Part of me is too proud to admit this. To show my weaknesses and risk disapproval. But I’m doing it anyway.

Here I am in all my naked glory. I’m not perfect. I feel scared and uncertain. And that’s okay.

I could ask friends and family for advice. I could make an appointment with a life coach. I could listen to my acupuncturist’s words of wisdom. And I’m tempted to do all of those things. But I know that I have the answers. I need to take time out, switch off my phone, be in nature, sit in stillness and listen…

I still don’t feel good. But these emotions, events, deadlines and ultimatums are mirrors that are reflecting back to me the things I need to look at. They’re presenting me with an opportunity to make changes for the better. And I’m grateful for that.

It might seem like doors are closing but that shouldn’t limit me if I see the world as my playground. So instead of shutting down and resisting, I’m unlocking and allowing.

I have cracked open and that doesn’t feel safe. But it feels right.

anais nin

Eat Pray Love?

I am hesitant about spending three days on my own in a mostly closed-down seaside village in March but I know I want to get away and I also know that I have to do it alone.

I have had a bit of a rough time of it in the last while and I need respite from the storm. As I drive from east to west Ireland, I head straight from a metaphorical storm into a real one.

I expect to feel lonely but I am quite content in my own company. Upon my arrival, I go out to the beach. I walk against high winds and watch the crashing waves. In the evening, I take my laptop to a hotel and peek out at the ocean as I sip on a glass of Guinness. That night, I nibble on chocolate as I watch a movie from beneath a mound of blankets. And I have the most wonderful sleep.

On the second day, I complete a college assignment and jog down a quiet country road. I make a “chillax” playlist, light incense and candles, and get drunk in the bath on a glass of red wine as I delightedly tuck into Elizabeth Gilbert’s endearing memoir Eat Pray Love.

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That night, the wind shakes the rafters and the rain pelts down. And it isn’t the kind of rain that appears on many a relaxation CD; it’s the kind that makes you worry for the house (and for yourself).

On the third day, the loneliness descends. I feel too depressed to make food or leave the house so I give myself permission to close the curtains, put on a movie and eat chocolate. The sun shines annoyingly from behind the blinds. I feel guilty.

Earlier in the day, I had finished Eat Pray Love. Elizabeth Gilbert had found pleasure, peace, God and love, and I am happy for her, but now I really am alone. Even the nice, fun self who got drunk with me in the bath has left and been replaced with a demanding, insatiable self who reprimands me with all the fervour and righteousness of a school-teaching nun. I haven’t signed up for this. I’m on holidays. I can do what I want.

Halfway through the movie, I decide that I’d actually quite like to spend some time in the company of the sun and the ocean so I drag myself out of bed and embark upon a cliff walk.

The wind whips me in several directions. The ocean is beautiful but frightening as its waves roar and rise higher and higher, its spray landing on my face. I wonder if it’s safe to walk so high up, to be so close to such fierce unpredictability. There is nobody around. Am I alone in my insanity?

At one point, the wind grows so strong that I have to hold on to a railing. Then, there is no more railing. I could turn back but I’ve come so far. I just have to get to the peak and turn the corner. I’m stubborn in my insanity too.

Suddenly, a stone hits me in the face. I march to the top and turn the corner. Only then do I raise my hand to my cheek. I quite enjoy the sting of it. Tears spring to my eyes. Am I a masochist? Do I think I deserve to be hurt? No. It is simply because I can understand physical pain. Physical pain allows me to lift a gentle hand to my cheek to check if I’m okay.

As I move onto safer terrain, I ask myself why I’d been scared. In case I died? With a jolt, I realise that it isn’t death I’m afraid of; it’s more suffering. If you’re so afraid of suffering, a voice from within asks, why do you keep creating more and more of it? Why not put an end to all the guilt, the shoulds and shouldn’t haves, the only ifs and whens? Why not stop the exhausting drive for perfection?

If I’m serious about ending the needless suffering, I need to peel off the “good” and “bad” labels I put on everything. I have to stop the judgements. I also have to stop being so dependent on outside events, on other people and their opinions, and on my own thoughts and feelings.

I’ve been so dependent on a variety of people, things and invisible forces that I’m like a small child perched on one end of a see-saw, always waiting to see who’ll sit on the other side, before I can know how high or low they’ll take me.

How I long to connect with that inner stillness I’ve been reading so much about. That pure, perfect, beautiful, unconditional love that’s apparently a part of me. If only I could know, really know, that the essence of who I am is like the clear blue sky, then I wouldn’t be so disturbed and even altered by the lightning and the storm clouds.

All I have to do is accept myself exactly as I am. And accept others for who they are. And accept situations and feelings just as they are too. All I have to do is accept graciously and love unconditionally. But how do I get there?

I guess the first step of all this acceptance stuff is to accept that I don’t have all the answers and that I’m just not there yet.

And so I start to run. The wind settles, the sun beams down from a clear blue sky, and, I shit you not, I run right underneath a rainbow.

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Gone fishin’

Online dating is becoming more widespread and accepted. If you’re single, you will no doubt be advised to set up an online profile. I’ve heard (and experienced) many heartwarming, hilarious and outrageous stories about the wild, weird and wonderful world of the online dater.

Online dating can be fun and exciting. But it can also be fickle and disappointing. The thing about popular dating website Plenty of Fish is that there are, quite literally, plenty of fish floating around cyberspace. And all these little fishies are hoping to fall hook, line and sinker (sorry, I couldn’t resist) in love or, for many, in lust.

The frustrating and often confusing aspect to online dating is that you could be exchanging flirty emails with a potential partner when he/she suddenly stops replying. You may have even arranged a date only to receive a last-minute cancellation text.

On the upside, there’s so much choice. The flip side is that you have no idea how many other fishies your charmer is chatting up and even simultaneously dating.

If you’re dabbling in online dating and are feeling fed up and let down, why not change tactics? Take all the good stuff on offer and use it to your advantage. Follow these seven tips to make the most of your online experience:

1. Be grateful that there are many interesting, attractive people out there who are single and oh-so-ready to mingle.

Also, give gratitude for t’internet. What a quick, easy way to meet new people. You’ll save yourself time, money and manys the hangover using this method of finding someone.

2. Have fun on your trawling expeditions. Think of your browsing sessions as shopping sprees. And if you happen to make a special connection with somebody, then happy days!

3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s not just men who feel the pressure to follow up and settle down. First dates with a stranger can be nerve-racking. Will you fancy them? If not, should you give them a chance anyway? Will they want to meet you again? What if they try to kiss you or attempt to get you into bed? How will your in-laws get on? [Yes. Your mind manages to reach crazy levels of hypothesising if left unchecked.]

Take the pressure and expectation down a notch by mailing lots of different users and going on dozens of dates. It does get easier. And, even if you do like your date, it doesn’t mean you have to marry them. Now’s the time to enjoy and get to know one another. There’ll be plenty of time to get serious.

4. Enjoy meeting new and interesting people. If you stay present on your dates, you’ll see (and enjoy) how magnificent the situation is. Regale your friends and family with hilarious stories. Heck, write a book about it and make some moolah!

5. Give yourself a good pep talk. Eleanor Roosevelt said: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” It really isn’t you, it’s all about them. It only becomes about you when you react a certain way. They don’t know you so they can’t reject you. They may have met someone else more suitable to their current taste. Or you may just not be their type. We all have different preferences, thankfully. It doesn’t mean that you’re not gorgeous, loveable or perfect for your perfect partner. Also, if you think about the big picture, this perceived rejection could have spared you a terrible date or left you open for something better to come your way.

The other day, I had to stand in a long queue. Two toddlers met for the first time. Loudly and excitedly, they shared scooters and hugs and told one another that they were best friends. When one had to part, they cried and wailed. One minute later, a new toddler joined the line. The other child stopped crying, walked right up to the new kid and asked: “Will you be my best fwend?” Moments later, they were playing and laughing enthusiastically. We could learn a lot from kids, eh?

6. And finally, keep living and looking offline too. You could still meet the love of your life in a sweaty nightclub or in the café you’d always daydreamed about. Just because he/she isn’t carrying a banner including their stats and an ‘About Me’ section doesn’t mean they’re not available. Be sociable, live life and have fun. You’re most attractive when you’re happy with your life and who you are. So keep smiling.

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