I’m 50 years old and I’ve always been single. It makes some people uncomfortable and that used to bother me a lot. Now I see it clearly as a choice I made, just one that isn’t very popular in our country, where the American dream is equated with a a spouse and offspring. I always knew I wasn’t up for the latter.
But if I’m being really honest, there’s been a steady beat running through the song that is my life. This unspoken feeling that a man would hold me back from everything I want to achieve and the kind of life I want to have. To be clear, this has never meant I didn’t want a life partner and it still doesn’t now. But I want the kind of relationship that enhances my life, a man who can handle my strength and realize of course that comes with times of weakness. And I think it’s pretty clear I am perfectly willing to remain unattached until I have it.
Never have I been more aware of this part of myself than when I watched Oprah Winfrey’s re-airing of her 2010 interview with Whitney Houston on OWN this week. Oprah asked her if then-husband Bobby Brown was jealous of her success — right around when she had made her film debut in The Bodyguard — and Houston hesitated before answering yes. And acknowledged, after poignant followup from Oprah, that she had dimmed her own light in an effort to make him feel better, bigger. A nod to love that was really a nod to the demise of love. A man not at all emotionally equipped to handle partnership with a force the likes of this accomplished woman.
That spoke to me like I can’t tell you. I got that. You don’t have to be a singing sensation or national treasure to know that feeling that you’ve latched yourself on to a person who wants to take you down a few notches. And maybe in my heart it reinforced just a little this notion that it’s an either/or proposition. I’ve spent days asking myself if I really believe that at my core. I don’t think I do, but I confess to some fear that it underlies everything.
Watching Kevin Costner speak at Houston’s service in Newark, N.J. today, I was struck by how he described her fear of inadequacy as she embarked on her role in The Bodyguard. Another example of how fear can be the best possible sign that you are doing something that signals living and following your passion instead of staying in the comfort zone that is also a fear-free zone.
I suppose in my case that means having faith in the human spirit, that a potential partner does exist who wants to buoy and support rather than squash and diminish. And who will welcome and savor my love and support in return. For if that faith doesn’t exist within me, if fear swallows it, am I not in some self-constructed comfort zone?
All this applies to my life across the board, but honestly I have never doubted that my career path would be what it’s supposed to be. I am so much better at following signs, having courage and patiently riding things out in my craft than I am in my relationships. What I have found out time and again is that I am happiest when I am writing and unhappiest when I am not. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
My dating life is more of a puzzle. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time trying to piece it together rather than just exuding joy and pushing through pain and letting it unfold according to the Universal plan. Be. Just be.
And remember that I am living my American dream every single day.