Like everyone else, I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I remember watching the planes hit the towers, feeling the fear when one hit The Pentagon and feeling absolute sorrow when the final flight crashed into a field. Like everyone else, I spent a good portion of today, the 10th anniversary, watching the dedication of the memorial, the old news footage and reliving my emotions from that horrible day. Every day, but today especially, I am grateful. Grateful that I am American. Grateful for my freedom.
I really contemplated on the concept of freedom today and what that means to me. That got my mind to wandering and I started thinking of what freedom means when you put it into the context of dating or a relationship. So I asked. I asked my friends. I asked my singles group. I even asked random people who were walking down the streets of The Reston Town Center. The results surprised me. Every single person that I talked to defined “freedom” as NOT being in a relationship. Specifically, not having accountability to someone. Not having to “check in” with someone or have someone inquire about your day, or your whereabouts or where you were/are going and what you were/are doing. When Aces decided to leave (that’s a blog for another day), he even said the same thing. During our break, he missed ME but he didn’t miss US. When I asked what about “US” he didn’t miss, he said “I liked not having to tell someone where I was going and what I was doing.” Apparently, the majority of people view “freedom” as being unattached. So then, can you really not be free if you are dating or in a relationship? Does a relationship cause us to lose the ability to be ourselves, unfiltered?
In thinking back over my dating history – whether casual dating or in a relationship – I was struck by the fact that I constantly curb my individuality in a dating/relationship situation. In those situations, I’m constantly concerned, and focused on, my appearance, both outward and inward. Concerned with my wardrobe, my physical attributes, what I say, how I say it. I’m always worried that I’ll look like an idiot if I talk about a certain subject or if I participate in a certain activity. I’m worried if I’ll “lose” the guy or that I’ll turn him off, or frustrate him, or make him mad. I’m completely focused on his perception of me and tailor my actions to meet what I think his perception is (or what I want it to be) – guarding myself and filtering myself from being “simply me”.
I was like this on Date #2. David suggested that we go golfing. I had never picked up a golf club until last May, when I enrolled in a session of beginner lessons and, since then, all I had ever done was the driving range. The last time I had done that was June. I said that I loved the idea of golf but had never played on a course, so perhaps we should stick to the driving range. David pushed that aside, reminding me that the purpose was to get outside of my comfort zone – and I reluctantly agreed. Immediately, I was flooded with fear of how I’d look to him while I was attempting to hit a ball (and failing), that I would frustrate him, embarrass him…I was not looking forward to hitting the golf course!
That fear was NOT made easier when I met David. David is extremely handsome, tall and can hit a golf ball like no one I’ve ever seen. As we warmed up on the range, I just KNEW that this was going to be a disaster. I was dreading the moment we stepped onto the course – knowing that once he saw the lack of golfing skills that I possessed, he’d NEVER be able to look at me as a potential “date” ever again.
The moment came and it was time for us to hit the course. I was SO self-conscious! I didn’t want to bend over the wrong way in case it was an “unflattering” position. I didn’t want to hit the ball and miss it. My mind was just a chaotic mess of thoughts and I was focused on everything EXCEPT hitting the ball. And my game suffered. Terribly. (Yup, that concern of how I appeared was really helping make sure that I didn’t look like an idiot. Again, insert sarcasm here.) Suddenly, I realized that I already “looked” like an idiot, at least a golfing idiot. There was really nothing that I could do at that point to mask that reality.
David was great. He was so PATIENT. And so kind! He let me fumble, fail and didn’t once get frustrated with me. Instead, after watching me hit a few holes, he asked if he could give me some pointers. He started showing me how to tweak my stance, my hit, the club I used and, as he did so, I found myself focused on the mechanics and the game – and forgetting that I was on a “date.” Basically, at that moment, I let go of all of my inhibitions. I was open to doing whatever it took to drive that ball clear across the course. The minute that I did that, I became free! Free to be myself. Free to play the game. Free to have fun! I hit the ball – and it FLEW across the course. Even David let out his surprise. And that wasn’t the only time I was able to drive the ball a good distance. I was having FUN. It was also at that moment that I realized that I hadn’t felt that free in a long long time. Well over a decade. I felt confident, I felt secure…and I didn’t need to cling to anything familiar (AKA the driving range) to feel that way!
“The secret of HAPPINESS is FREEDOM. The secret of FREEDOM is COURAGE.” – Thucydides
To try something new – takes courage. To let go of your inhibitions – takes courage. Once you have courage – you are free. Once you are free, you are happy.
To me, now, the concept of “freedom” in the context of a relationship or dating does not mean space. It does not mean being single or unattached. It means having courage. Courage to be completely at ease with yourself. Courage to remain independent. When you do this, you are then able to SHARE yourself with someone else (instead of being dependent on someone else to be someone yourself). You are able to find individuality WHILE maintaining a relationship (whether one date or many years).
David’s personality gave me the courage to be free which enabled me to experience something new! Not only did I have fun, but I gained a new golf buddy. David and I will absolutely hit the course again and, with my newfound appreciation of letting go of my inhibitions, he may have some serious competition!