Distractions have an uncanny way of preventing us from seeing the truth about ourselves — without us even realizing it.
The majority of our distractions are critical to maintaining our preferred way of life, such as a career, family and friends.
But what happens when important distractions, such as these, gradually disappear or are taken from us? How do we cope?
For the past 15 years, I had focused on building my career, nurturing my son and connecting with family and friends. The thought of dating had occasionally crossed my mind but I had never actively pursued it.
Then everything changed when the eight publications I wrote and edited for were sold, and I could not find work in my preferred profession for more than two years.
One of my main distractions — my career in the news — had been yanked out from under me.
During that time, I underwent some personal transformations through which I came to the unexpected realization that I was ready to meet someone and … well … date.
Dating expert Jean Smith has mentioned that many people fail at online dating because they are not in the right frame of mind.
“Sort yourself out first, then look for a partner. Then you’ll find someone who’s going to be a good match for you.”
I essentially “sorted” myself out through a painful yet revealing introspection to discover that I could open myself up to love in my life.
No time for or interest in online dating
Dating, particularly online dating, didn’t seem to dovetail with my lifestyle — at least, that was what I convinced myself of.
My news career demanded much of me. An average workday was 10 to 12 hours, not including the commute, which could add an hour or two one way.
Some weeks I worked five days and others, six. Some weeks I worked in the evening and others, during the day.
My son held dominion over my time when we were home together.
Because I lived with my parents until Joseph turned the age of 7, we took care of each other.
When my son visited with his father during alternating weekends, I found solace in the company of my friends. We would enjoy dinner and drinks, engage in discussions of the heart and mind, and laugh … a lot. These distractions were my opioids for the pain I endured during my son’s absence.
Afraid of meeting another crazy person
I began to question my judgment since meeting my son’s father.
How could I have missed the red flags?
How could I have been so foolish?
Could I ever find love?
I was fearful I would attract another man who would hurt my son and me physically, psychologically or sexually.
Joseph and I had been suffering tremendously from his father’s abusive and controlling behavior.
Not only could I never bring another man like him into our lives, but also I could not bring an innocent man into this quagmire.
Eventually, I had to listen to my gut and hone my instincts as well as distance us from his father so Joseph and I could heal from the abuse.
Career before dating
The past few years have forced me to take a hard look at myself.
Like many people, my career had defined me. I was an editor and writer, a manager of people and projects, and a mover and shaker. My opinion had weight. My knowledge shaped ideas. My determination moved mountains.
But the media industry has been contracting because of mergers, closures and budget cuts, particularly since the Great Recession. And competition among reporters and editors for the remaining, few slots has been increasing.
Being a woman, I knew I needed to work twice as hard to advance in my career. I took chances, seeking new positions with greater responsibilities. I was too ambitious and impatient to wait for someone to quit, retire or die and pursue that coveted slot.
Out of work and lost
I had been making headway in my career until it stalled when the publications I worked for were sold.
The scaffolding of coworkers, organizations and professional duties was no longer there to help define and support me.
I sent my resume into the world and interviewed for various positions only to face rejection after rejection after rejection.
For several months, I was consumed with anger and frustration over the dismissals and fearful of my professional, personal and financial future and that of my sons.
Eventually, a friend hired me to work for his business, helping him with social media, marketing, administrative and accounting work, and customer service. I cannot express to you, dear reader, how grateful I am to him for creating this opportunity.
But it was not the work I wanted.
Embracing my self-worth
I observed so many people performing to their strengths and growing in their careers, while I struggled to reconcile my current employment situation with my unyielding ambition to be an editor and writer.
As the rejections piled up and the silence from potential employers intensified, I began to realize I would need to fashion my own opportunity where I could edit and write rather than wait for a position that welcomed my professional abilities.
However, sharing my talents with the world was a bit more complicated than I had anticipated.
It required that I make a commitment to myself.
I had to overcome the pain from the countless rebuffs I had experienced.
Then, I needed to recognize and embrace my self-worth as a human being and acknowledge the caliber of my skills.
My inner strength and self-confidence eventually became the new scaffolding that helped me bring my ideas to the world through this blog, dear reader.
This arduous, psychological journey was not easy. So many days, I would cry or scream in sheer vexation!
Yet, I knew I would not find any peace until I wrote and edited.
Being vulnerable and wanting to love
The process that eventually led to me sharing my voice through writing and editing had an unintended consequence.
It had allowed me to safely explore my own vulnerability. In doing so, I stumbled upon the loneliness I had buried under endless distractions for more than a decade.
With so many of my distractions slipping away, my loneliness was waiting for me.
I knew I would have to confront it one day, and for years, I had been afraid to do so.
So much pain lived there. So many betrayals. So many heartbreaks. So many lost dreams.
Yes, but it was the pain of the past, the pain others had subjected me to.
Was I going to let other people hold me back? And prevent me from finding happiness?
If I wasn’t going to allow people to dictate my value as a writer and editor, why would I allow these men and lovers from the past keep me from finding someone whom I could love and care for?
This awakening within myself astonished me. I hadn’t realized until that moment how comfortable I had become in that lonely place in my heart.
That was not a life I wanted for myself. That was not a life I wanted my son to believe was acceptable for himself or his mother.
I wanted my son to see that love and happiness are possible with another person — and I could show him.
So, I am starting a new journey in my life, one in which I am meeting some wonderful men and seeing how these encounters evolve.
As Jean Smith stated earlier, I needed to sort through my life, embrace those aspects of myself I value and overcome the pain inflicted by the cruelty of others before I could make way for someone in my life.
And I’m looking forward to the adventure!
On Thursdays, I share a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every fourth Thursday, instead of a personal post, I put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send any comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter @parentsonurown and can be found by searching #singleparentandstrong.