The Beautiful Already
There is a refrain I’ve noticed in my life over the past few months: I don’t have enough time. I am a passionate soul and there are a great many things that I want to do, from catching up with friends to reading my ever-growing to-read list, trying new restaurants and crafting a piece out of every single writing idea that I jot down. My house is still new enough that I can say that I’ve “recently moved,” and there are things to be done to organize, clean and settle in. But the mad rush of unpacking and getting the bed fit to sleep in are over. I am left with the normal chaos of work, and home, and the world.
It has only been in the last few weeks that I have begun to question the fundamental validity of a phrase that I have heard over the entire course of my single life: you need to put yourself out there.
My life is lovely. It is filled to the corners with good words, people, food, and light. I am employed in meaningful work which I enjoy. I live in a beautiful area of the world. I am caught up in delightful adventures often enough to suit my spirit. I am (usually) at peace with the person I am and am becoming. I am doing the good, hard work of therapy. I have good days and bad days and blah days, but for the most part, my life feels good, from the inside.
When people say “put yourself out there,” they usually mean that I should consider dating online, frequenting bars (“or wherever it is that people meet these days, where do people meet?”). They mean that I should take a class in improv or tole painting or Brazilian jiu-jitsu. They mean that I should volunteer.
I have listened to these words for a long time.
I have joined clubs and online dating sites, attended classes and signed up for volunteer opportunities. I have read books in coffee shops and gotten dressed up and gone to bars with friends. I have forced myself to go to parties and “mixers” and potlucks where I knew only one or two people, all in hopes that I would meet someone. These things in themselves were not bad, but I did not want to do them. The effort has been exhausting.
This past week, I threw a party. I invited people that I love into my home and cooked for them. I did some writing, took a day trip, and went to an upscale outdoor movie night, among other things. I spent my limited time on things that I wanted to do. I did not “put myself out there.”
On my way home from my Friday night movie, I drove through downtown. I watched pedestrians congregating around bars, walking from one to another. I kept driving, looking forward to getting to bed before midnight, thankful for the way I had chosen to spend my evening.
People I’ve loved have always changed my life, a bit. I am not so naive as to think that the addition of a romantic attachment would not alter the way I go about my life. Still, I have always been a person who enjoys settling in for a movie or a book after dinner in the evenings, a leisurely walk near a body of water, a ramble in a used bookstore. I have always liked restaurants more than bars and cloth napkins more than paper. These things have remained constant, whether or not anyone has asked me my opinion.
I don’t want to pine away for more writing time, or the chance to try the new dinner spot my favorite sandwich place just opened because I am sitting in a dark, loud hotspot with sticky floors. If that is what “putting myself out there” requires, I will pass.
I’ve found that so much energy and time and life goes into something that I don’t usually enjoy and that doesn’t seem to be very effective. More than that, I wonder if all of this effort is giving off the wrong vibe. I want to meet someone who would enjoy quiet evenings together, who would appreciate my idea of a vacation, who wouldn’t resent my natural inclinations.
God often speaks to me through my writing. He frequently uses comparisons that relate to crafting a sentence or a story, these passions which run at a depth comparable to my desire to meet a romantic partner.
I have wrestled at length with an understanding of the sovereignty of God. I am goal-oriented and I like to think that my effort is commensurate with the results. But in writing, I’ve learned that my work and consistency are only part of the story. There are also those seemingly serendipitous meetings and conversations, emails out of the blue asking me to write something for this or that, an invitation to submit, shared on social media. Beyond that, there are stories that happen to me, unsought, which beg to be set down. I try to be there with the pen, but so much happens that I don’t control or seek out.
If my writing life, a life that means at least as much to me as my romantic one, has been a beautiful combination of my effort and the movement of the Holy Spirit, why should I think that my love life will be different?
I have continued to be myself as a writer, often having to remind myself of that fact. I have not “put myself out there” in the ways that some have suggested. I have done it my way, in my own time, with my own stories. I have been honest from the beginning about what kind of writer I wanted to be. I have grown and changed a bit along the way, but those core beginnings still form the foundation of everything that I do.
Inspiration, like manna, continues to come, there is no scarcity. Opportunities to write and to connect with other writers are still happening, they have not dried up.
So, I have decided to read the books on my Goodreads wish list (many of which are sitting, lonely, on my shelf). I am saying no to bars most of the time (unless I really want to go). I am cooking myself dinner in my sunny kitchen, cleaning my house on the weekends, and cultivating relationships I care about. I am living the life I’ve always wanted instead of waiting for it to start. My God is One who brings rivers unexpectedly cascading in the dessert, whenever He wishes. I know that He can bring whatever and whoever He chooses into the beautiful already of my life.
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