Let me tell you about my friend Julie. She has a quick laugh that comes fast and often, she swims with a power kick and a smile; she is a world traveler with a bustling career, she is close to her family, an ace aunt and has a loyal circle of active friends. She is a heart full of Yes and to be in Julie’s company is to bask in the pixie-dust of her joyful energy, grounded nature and wise outlook.
Julie and I share something in common other than our love of swimming. Each of us knows what it’s like to live as independent, single women during the years when most people pair off and have children—at the very least marry. Being single can be an incredible gift of time, energy and discovery; and it can also be alienating to watch the world around you live as couples and families.
I wish I had known Julie during my single days! Unfortunately for me, my single years didn’t overlap with Julie’s; I’m 10 years older, and our friendship developed right after I met my husband at 47. I married him at 49 (first time!). Julie would have been another joyful, thriving companion-force for what felt at times like the endurance event of being single.
The trouble with being single is the potential to fall into a state of being in constant search. Always looking for something--that something being a someone. The problem with living in this state is it pulls you away from the life right under your nose. From the calm and clarity that comes from being present. The search--for a date or husband; a job, a home, lean muscles, the right running shoes--naturally pulls you away from inhabiting yourself and the world RIGHT NOW. And now is usually a lot better than we give it credit for. Even if the joy of now resides in the skinniest cracks of light shining through dark wood planks (have I mixed enough metaphors yet?)
Life hums at a more level tune when your energies are in one place, rather than strewn all over town and dating services looking for a partner.
While I would sum up my solo years—a stretch of about 15 years that included a few relationships—as a very fortunate time of growing into a person and having experiences that delighted me, there was also the loneliness, pangs of longing, periods of heartbreak and as much as I hate to admit, an occasional bout of waiting.
Waiting was my passive way of searching when I took myself out of the dating game, and refused to define myself as a dissatisfied single woman looking for love. I got on with my life and achieved some moments of greatness but all the while, crouching inside me, between a couple sticky vertebrae was a Gollum voice mumbling, “When I finally ________ I’ll be able to ________." While I’d like to think we all have our __________s, I don’t think Julie does. She fills in her blanks. I fill in most of my blanks.
One Saturday morning this past winter Julie came over for a post-swim coffee clatch. We sat in my salmon teacup chairs drinking lattes and talking about the uninspiring landscape of the dating mill, because I brought it up. Julie shared her stories, I shared some of mine (relieved and conscious of the fact that they’re behind me). After we moved on to the topic of a trip Julie was going on with friends, then to the new townhouse she had bought, I complimented her for doing things that many single women, even some modern-day indie-women (like me) might put on hold until they had a partner.
“Bloom where you’re planted,” Julie said to me. “That’s my motto.”
What a beautiful portrait of scooping up life from exactly where you are. Right here, right now. I know this is a saying, but I hadn’t heard it before.
“Bloom where you’re planted.”
What makes it even better is that Julie is truly living it. She blooms like my dahlia garden in the summer—magical plants that remake themselves and multiply over and over!
These days I let the phrase, “bloom where you’re planted” circle my ecosystem. I chant it to myself as I chart my days through a professional and creative transition. It gets too easy to put things off because, well, I"m riding the crest of uncertainty and I'm not sure yet about . . BLAH BLAH BULLSHIT BLAH.
To bloom where I’m planted is the visual reminder I need that there’s no reason to put off _____ until _____. I don’t have to “wait until” _______ before I can enjoy/appreciate/step into _______. Today I can bloom from the soil I’m standing in right now—even if that soil is waterlogged or a bit dry.
For example, I can tell myself: Write a blog if you want to be "published"! Reach out and ask someone "How are you feeling today" and see if you can offer a shoulder blade of support and encouragement.
Julie and I were roommates recently on a SwimTrek trip to the British Virgin Islands. A dream vacation for me with my Mermaid posse. Six of us traveled to a magical world where we spent five outrageous days swimming in the Caribbean over coral gardens and tropical fish.
Every day on this trip, in every moment I whispered, shouted, hollered to myself and sometimes anyone else within earshot: “We’re here, we’re here! The coral gardens! The yellow striped fish!”
Not searching for anything—except maybe a turtle or two.