Sunday, December 9, 2012

All I Want For Christmas...Is You?

"Jesus is the Reason For the Season." As an innocent, uncorrupted 11-year-old, I used to wear an incongruous white pin on my chest, proudly displaying these words in the merriest of holiday colors. I would steal it from my mother's jewelry box for the next few years or so- that pure and chaste stage of life where I was old enough to know that Santa Clause did not exist but young enough to have not yet embarked upon my journey in existential angst and a serious questioning of the existence of any God.

Regardless of what anyone's religious faith may be this holiday season, we occasionally are reminded through bell ringers and toy drives that this time of year is meant to be one of reflection, gratitude and goodwill towards men. This, of course, is all in contrast to reports that people die on Black Friday from literally getting trampled by rampant materialism. 

I write this blog today as a reminder to myself about what this time of year truly is all about. To get back into the habit of appreciating what I do have rather than dwelling on what I do not. Because even though I tend to avoid those Black Friday crowds and am perfectly content driving a 12-year-old Subaru, my thoughts these days have seemed to be dwelling on the notion that I am seriously lacking a love in my life. 

I engage in self torture, whether it be in the fact that my favorite holiday movie is the hopelessly unrealistic romantic comedy Love Actually or the fact that I listen to far too many Christmas songs with the word "baby" in them (and no, they're not referring to the baby Jesus my 11-year-old self so adored). I caught myself picking up a tacky piece of mistletoe in a thrift store the other day, lamenting to myself that there was not a cute boy by my side to force underneath it.  I briefly thought about getting into the holiday spirit by putting up a Christmas tree this year, but that idea vanished when I realized I did not want to pick out a tree, ornament it, and enjoy its beauty all to my lonesome.

Years ago when I was living in Zambia, I would get asked whether I was married and I would proudly declare that I was not. Not only did I feel too young at the time to be attached to anyone, but I was also pleased with the fact that my remaining selfishly unhitched had provided me with so much opportunity and adventure in my life. 

These days though, back in the United States and over three years older, when asked whether I am married or have a boyfriend, I kind of hang my head down low as I shake it back and forth and wonder to myself how I got to be so old that an American asking me whether or not I was married was perfectly acceptable. 

Perhaps I feel sheepish saying I am single these days because I know that often times me being single means me being lonely. Especially as more and more of my friends seem to drop out of the dating pool and I become less and less interested in traditionally known single activities such as going out to bars for a night of drinking. At least in Zambia, a place where it is typically uncommon for a twenty-something year old woman to be all on her own, if I felt like coming home to read or write after a long day's work, I got to still partake in the company of the laughter of children and a family that would turn their lips up at the sight of me and offer me a warm-cooked meal. These days, I purposely choose to not live with my American family and the consequences of that is being greeted by the cold and dark cave of my studio apartment when I am craving a peaceful evening. 

Perhaps I need to reframe my life. I don't need (nor want) to move back in with my parents but perhaps I could re-engage a search for a future family of roommates. 

However, regarding the search for that special someone to come home to, I am unsure of what else to try. Online dating? Yes, I have. Forgive me for not being attracted to messages like the following: 

Backstreet Boys. People either have the BSB or the NSYNC vibe and you're rocking the "I Want It That Way" hard. Cool, public health. Anyway, you seem interesting, what's your favorite Disney movie?

Speed dating? Been there done that. In fact, a few months back I even somehow conjured up the courage to go to a "Yoga Speed Dating" event. For a few hours of my life, I answered the question "So, do you do a lot of yoga?" about 15 times before awkwardly engaging in an invasive partner yoga pose with the next guy in line. I left with both my spinal chord and my romantic life in need of a long, relaxing stretch. 

Somewhere along the way I got desperate enough to subscribe to an online magazine entitled "Find True Love in 27 Days." I seem to have spoiled the whole thing by reading the twenty-seventh day's entry first, which mandated me to find a silver box to fill with images of "TWO PINK PEONIES, FIVE RED BATS, AND THE DOUBLE HAPPINESS SYMBOL." I thought to myself that if I was single this time next year, I'd give those images of red bats another chance. 

I have even done the most strangest act of all for me- actually agreeing to go out multiple times with a nice, good looking boy from Texas who I had met through a kickball league. I came out at the end desperately wishing I could make myself love him but blaming whatever was blocking those romantic vibes on the fact that he had voted for a certain candidate for president that I did not agree with. This helped me ignore the real lesson that life was trying to teach me. That despite being single for the past three years, I still have some work to do with myself. Saving my readers the nitty-gritty details, I now know I will never be capable of loving someone else unless I can not love myself first.  

Part of my daily journey of self love is expressing gratitude. Despite the fact that being thankful for things might have gone out of style two weeks ago in mainstream media and culture, much like the folks who keep their Christmas lights on all year round, I am planning on making gratitude a daily habit. I start my mornings in my journal with "I am so happy and grateful that..." 

About a month ago, I was facilitating a training on preconception health and during one of the breaks, a Latina participant who appeared to be about my age approached me and struck up a coy conversation, leaving about ten feet of space in between us both. She asked me if I was married and I gave my usual frowned response, feeling like an old maid.  I then asked her the same. She proceeded to tell me how she was married at the age of sixteen in Mexico, declaring it was much too young and now she had lots of children. I could have been fooling myself, but something about the conversation seemed that she was actually in admiration of me for being unattached. Something about her body language and facial expression left me feeling pity for her. 

A few days prior, I listened to the story on the radio about how a Pakistani couple had murdered their 15-year-old daughter for the mere act of looking at a boy. 

I am so happy and grateful that I live in a country which allows me to flirt with whoever I want to flirt with and turn my shoulder to anyone who makes advances I am not comfortable with. 

I am so happy and grateful that I myself (and no one else!) get to be the one to decide who I will marry and date. 

I am so happy and grateful for potential and possibilities. 

I am so happy and grateful for my stubbornness and refusal to settle for nothing less than someone who leaves me feeling positively inspired to live my best life.

I am so happy and grateful for my continued journey of self-love so that I can one day love that inspirational person just as much as they love me. 

What are you happy and grateful for this season? 

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