Little boy in apron playing with a hand blender in kitchen by Jacob Lund from Noun Project
Romantic/sexual relationships have always been challenging for me. I remember having a conversation with Gabor Mate a few years ago about this, thinking this was some kind of deficit in myself. “How can I have so much clarity in other areas of my life- particularly in the work I do with clients- but can get disconnected from clarity in these dynamics?” He smiled and assured me what I already knew through my years as a somatic therapist: this is common for most humans on the planet, whether we are conscious of it or not. Let’s face it, intimacy and vulnerability is just hard territory for most of us. Throw in romantic/sexual dynamics and things can be really messy, especially if we didn’t have healthy attachment styles growing up (which most of us in this culture did not).
A few years back it became clear to me that it was time to detach from my attachment to being in romantic/sexual relationship and find some clarity. I’d been partnered in one way or another for the past 25 years or so, and as hard as it would be to do, I knew I had to get off the romantic/sexual relationship ride to see what I wasn’t able to see.
It was not easy. A woman in her mid-forties choosing to be single- and not just single, but also celibate and disengaged from even flirting. In a way, I gave up some of what made me me- identities, strategies and ways of being. One of the first things I discovered were the deep layers of societal programming inside me- what I now refer to as the oppressive dominant narrative. This narrative proclaims so many oppressive narratives about women, being female, and being a single middle-aged woman in particular. For those of you reading this, who have also done this, you’ll know the courage it took to move beyond the societal tropes and stay committed to my path. Indeed, it is courageous to choose to be single and celibate in a world that often measures and judges by one’s romantic partnerships and sexual status.
I discovered so much during that time; an aloneness I hadn’t known, fear and insecurity I’d not connected with, and wounds I didn’t know existed. I also discovered emotional sobriety, right relationship, sovereignty, resourcing, and a deeper and more direct line with Source than I’d ever known was possible.
When it was time to come out of that, and back into the world of “dating” and whatnot, covid19 came, and I decided to postpone. It was a bit of a relief, to be honest, as I’d come to love the simplicity of being single. Awhile later, all out of excuses, I saw that it was time to detach from my attachment to being single.
Out of the Womb
I didn’t realize that stepping back into the world of romantic/sexual relationship would be like coming out of a womb of sorts. Or perhaps said better, I didn’t realize that it would be wise to treat this stepping out as if I was coming out of a womb- newly born. Instead, my mind innocently referenced back in time and space to the Lisa who I used to be, and the ideas that that Lisa had, including the persona that that Lisa had through strategy, identities, and ways of being. Luckily this was short lived.
I quickly learned how traumatizing it was to my system to inflict a past self upon my current self. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, and I needed to be cognitive and somatically conscious of my newborn status. I couldn’t let ideas of the past inform me, as they did not match the current me. And yet, without those ideas… who even was I? My little girl self wanted to know how I would get my needs met, be safe, and in control without these ideas driving me forward?.
As I stayed with the question, more layers of trauma arose to be met, as did an extreme sense of disorientation, rawness, and lostness. Knowing this is a part of growth, and having an amazing support team, I stayed slow, committed to my practices. Over time I discovered more space, curiosity, and groundedness in that state of not knowing, and a depth in what I did know: my wholeness, my connectedness, and flow with Life.
Staying With the Unknown
As I write this, I continue to give conscious space to the not knowing. Who am I, on this dating path? The truest answer is twofold: I don’t know, and I do know.
What I don’t know is slowly revealing itself. The way the personality works is to act as if it knows it knows everything! The dominant oppressive narrative encourages this illusion of knowing, as it is very much married to binary perspectives of right and wrong/ good and bad as well as tied to binary identities- all of which attempt to have fixed certainty and control. Also emphasized in the oppressive dominant narrative is fixation on outcome and agenda: the subtext of that is avoiding what you do not want while trying to get what you do want. Within all of that are so many ideas and fantasies, most of them rooted not in truth but in wounds.
We are all flooded with so many subconscious ideas and fantasies when it comes to romantic/sexual relationship- all influenced by social media, by books, by movies, as well as by past experiences. So many mind tricks, and mental wars, in an innocent attempt to have control. Oh, yes, mercy to the human.
What I do know is also slowly revealing itself. In many ways I am like a new baby in the world, with an old soul. As such, one of the invitations, it is to lean into the knowing of my old soul, who knows so much, while simultaneously discovering the new unknown playground of life that is before me, and discovering how they weave together.
Zen Buddhism has a term for this: Beginner’s mind. This path of letting go of expectations and preconceived ideas, is calling me forth, over and over and over again. I am grateful for my history of somatic inquiry, which has taught me the profundity of slowing down and asking curious questions, because if there ever was a time for it, it is now. Slowing down is essential, especially when there is uncertainty and the space of innocence, where the personality can be like a hungry ghost- wanting to fill the spaces of unknowing and discomfort with whatever will most immediately satisfy. I know this territory well, and I also know that slowing down disrupts the patterning. Slow walk, as one of my teacher’s says, has become a new way of life, in all the areas of my life.
Questions to Lean Into
I have so many questions these days: Who am I without the ideas/fantasies that sell me false truths? Who am I without the ideas/fantasies which promise me safety, but don’t actually give me safety? Who am I without the ideas/fantasies that promise connection but don’t actually give me healthy connection?
Who am I without performing to keep people around, to make people want me, or to be desirable? Who am I without performing to make others feel safe, comfortable, and connected? Who am I without performing so that I will feel safe, comfortable and connected?
And then come some questions that really enliven me: How would it be to not fit myself into a binary system, that is oppressive at its core? How would it be to discover who I am in the moment, and then move from there? How would it be to let myself be super fluid and dynamic, based on what is calling me, in that very moment? How would it be to not constantly try to land, but let myself continue to discover, over and over and over?
I don’t have any answers to these questions, but I feel the space and grace of their existence as I lean into the opportunity of discovering myself. The questions keep me connected with my somatic field of awareness as they reside in curiosity and mystery, as opposed to certainty. I feel their expansiveness. I feel the depth of this invitation of living in the space of uncertainty.
As I often do, I come back to the power of community. I am not alone on this journey of discovery. I have teachers and friends and clients and students… and we all work together to learn. We share our “old soul” wisdom and our human struggles, and we explore deep and we explore wide. I will keep asking questions. I will keep learning. And I will keep discovering with my community by my side to support me.