Like world peace, enlightenment and unicorns, romantic love has always eluded me.
I had a very brief and disastrous relationship with my daughter’s father. He now (thankfully) lives over 7000 km away in another hemisphere of the planet. Since then, I’ve tried online dating, offline dating, younger men, older men, single dads, bachelors, and I’ve even managed to have a few short-lived relationships.
Throughout, I’ve had this general apprehension of having to always be one step ahead of the game to keep a man interested for just one more date. I had to be the prettiest, fittest, smartest, best dressed, classiest and the most fun – or else someone was bound to whisk him away.
Meanwhile, the majority of the men I’ve dated were disheveled, rude, irresponsible, unhelpful, arrogant and ignorant, and seemed to have a slew of women pursuing them. Desperate to please them in my pursuit of romantic love, dates became a strategic mission impossible, and I routinely tolerated unacceptable behaviour from them with a smile.
I used to find it hopelessly frustrating, especially witnessing a plethora of friends that graduated to this inaccessible blissful world of coupledom. Yet, long-term relationships have their challenges, frustrations and pain, that I may be better off without. In addition, marriage is an enormous investment that may be incompatible with modern lifestyles and lifespans.
Surprisingly, I found quite a silver lining of truth and beauty through all this. I now find it exhilaratingly liberating to have finally begun to understand that true love has nothing to do with an idealistic pursuit of romance.
My boyfriends were not the ones who taught me how to love – and I don’t know if the problem is me or them! In reality, the people who have given me so much love and support through the years are my daughter, my parents, my family, my friends and even my cat. I’ve learned about love through pregnancy, childbirth, raising a child alone, having family and friends care for me and show me how to love so I can give it back.
My 7-year-old daughter has always had an inherent capacity for love, kindness and compassion. Most of all, having a child showed me the depth of my parent’s love for me, and the sacrifices they have made – and continue to make for my daughter and I.
My mom and my dad were the pillars of strength through the trials and tribulations of life. My mother accompanied me for the birth of my daughter and suffered through 20+ hours of labor with me. Even if they don’t live in the same city as my daughter and I, my mom is like a second mother to my daughter, and my dad is her main father figure.
I’m extremely lucky to have witnessed my parents in a happy marriage for close to 40 years together. I’m also fortunate to have my dad and brother as strong male role models in my life. They have demonstrated constant responsibility, courage, diligence, honesty, intelligence and love.
I also have a handful of loyal, caring friends; I don’t know how they even tolerate me, but somehow there’s a lot of love. My friend Annie stayed with me for a month after my daughter was born, has babysat on many occasions and invited us for many dinners and picnics. Sandra called me every day when I was working full time, breastfeeding and caring for a baby who would wake sometimes 5-6 times per night. My friend Gen, also a single mom, has helped put my wiggly insomniac daughter to bed countless times. Afternoons at the park are a joy with my friend Alexandra and her son. And it goes on!
Then there are my animal friends; I’ve never doubted their capacity to love. My cat, Lucky, has been my constant companion for fourteen years through thick and thin, and although he sometimes meows very loudly for food when I’m trying to sleep, he is very considerate, affectionate and entertaining, and is always down for cuddles.
I now know love is not about romantic dinners in expensive restaurants, drinking champagne and taking tropical vacations with your boyfriend.
Love is taking care of someone who is sick,
Love is listening to a troubled friend,
Love is playing with your child with enthusiasm when you are exhausted,
Love is visiting your grandmother at the nursing home and making her feel special,
Love is staying calm while your toddler has a meltdown,
Love is saying no with kindness when necessary,
Love is sleepless nights caring for your baby,
Love is treating your work colleagues like family,
Love is caring for aging parents,
Love is patience, love is compassion,
Love is loving yourself.
This valentines day, it doesn’t matter if your single or married, love is everywhere and love is within. Stop searching for love.