Thursday, September 25, 2014

Love and the Introvert

I hate being too comfortable. I have since my earliest recollections, and from the earliest told stories of my character. It's in my heart of hearts.

I understand that I don't share this with everyone. This is perfectly understandable, and I feel no superiority or inferiority where this is concerned. But I do feel the difference. It's one of the things I've learned to assert more and more as I get older. It's also one of the various reasons I struggle to feel known or understood. Where would I begin?

But one of these misunderstandings comes with the ever-interesting subject of dating and love. And before I divulge some of my thoughts and feelings, I would like to offer that I know I don't have all the answers. If any of them, for that matter. I would like to suggest that I have much to learn. And yet, and yet, somehow some of the suggestions I get from people make me feel that they underestimate the depth to which these ideas marinate within me. Or maybe it's the scratchy discomfort of a one-size-fits-all prescription for romance. I understand that my ideas are strange and conservative and radical and somehow awkwardly out of place in our millennial generation. I seem to sit on no side of any fence, but off in the woods somewhere. I jokingly posit sometimes that maybe I'll be single forever, but I follow that with the supposition that it wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen to me. Allow me to try to explain.

First and foremost, I do not feel the need to be in love with anybody. I would like to, I will admit. I think that it is ultimately a desire of mine to marry, and to be the kind of wife that brings utter depth and joy and love to life. But I have absolutely no sense of hurry about these things, at least at this point in my life. I like myself. My needs for love and acceptance are met in Christ and in a tight-knit community of friends, mentors, and peers. I have interests and a very busy job that occupy my time and mind. Is this everything I ultimately want? No. But it's sure a great place to be for now. I am content, to say the least. But more importantly, I would a thousand times rather be in love with the right person than settle on a person for the sake of being in love. Love is not an end. Love is a demonstration, a commitment, an ongoing joyful choice that I will fall into when I have found the person who inspires me so.

But on top of the lack of hurry, there is something that rubs me the wrong way about dating culture.  And I don't want this to sound like a gripe, because I would like to empathize in theory with the idea that many people are in a hurry to find that special someone. But I guess I get this feeling sometimes like there is a great rush about dating. (I just met you, and this is crazy…) And let me say, I've been there. I've so been that person. But on the other side of that, the weight of someone else's (especially a near-stranger's) hopeful expectation is…uncomfortable. And I promise I'm not saying that to be mean or inconsiderate. Gentlemen, I appreciate the courage it takes to pursue a woman! Lucky for you, I think I'm a minority in feeling this way. It's just, when someone acts really interested when I hardly know them, it strikes me somehow as inherently insincere, and therefore untrustworthy. Inauthentic. And I don't mean to be harsh in that, it just puts off that sense for me, and makes me back away, even involuntarily.

It just feels like everyone's ready to reap the benefits of having a garden without ever taking the time to plant one, much less cultivate it. We have a grocery store mentality about our love lives. No one believes that good things take time. We're all just roaming around, taking what's in our reach. And this idea terribly saddens me. I can't trust a culture that can't wait. It strikes me as impulsive, immature, not fully healthy. And maybe this is personal. Maybe it strikes me so offensively because that's just not the way that I operate. In a microwave generation, I savor the slow roast. I take time, I take patience, and I don't think that I shouldn't. That's not to be demanding, it's just because I know myself and I value myself. I'm not convenient, and I pity a culture that believes that I (or any other woman) should be. I promise I'm not saying that with an arch in my brow. It's just, from my heart of hearts, we're worth more than that, you know. Every one.

(A small word to the gentlemen, I do not envy you. For every girl like me out there saying 'take your time' there are eight other girls giving entirely different messages about how to be pursued. It must be so confusing. Stay in the game. I would just encourage you to ask yourself what you really want, and to pursue that. Don't take shortcuts. Don't fill the time idly. In whatever you do, have integrity and be a man both you and your sisters would respect. And then, don't worry about what we say.)

But anyway, if that weren't enough to perpetuate my singleness, there is also the deep wanderlust and husky thirst for adventure. I don't, as I've said, want to be comfortable. The very idea drives me insane. I want so much to learn, and grow, and be ever-better, ever pushing the pace forward. I get it - that's too much work for a lot of people. I never said I was what everyone wanted! But how ideal to be with someone who also desires to learn. To travel. To explore. To drink richly of life and hold hands through the danger. To read together. Journey together. Hold deep conversations that tunnel into the evenings. To respectfully disagree. To push ourselves. To make the most of our short time on earth for something meaningful, impactful…raw and real. This is ultimately what I want - my introverted heart beats for it. Which is why somehow casual coffees and the idea of "meeting someone nice" are appealing and even enjoyable…but somehow still lacking.

Every so often I get the idea into my head that maybe love is ultimately picking one imperfect person out of the multitude of other imperfect people and committing to commit. I ask myself if I could bite that bullet, and sometimes I think I could. It's what generations ahead of us did. Marrying for love is a relatively new concept. Love used to come after commitment, not before it. There's something to it. Ultimately I believe love is a choice. And yet, in a culture and a time when I have been given the opportunity to choose, ought not I make the best possible choice I am able? Is it the foolishness of the young that insists on idealism?

So what am I even trying to say in all of this? I guess it's this: that from the deep and winding adventurous heart of an introvert, I wish the ideas of 'dating' and 'marriage' weren't so wrapped up in 'hurry' and 'good enough'. I wish we were comfortable in our own skin, invested in good communities so we didn't pour out our loneliness in seeking cheap intimacy, or rush to find 'the one' as if they will fulfill us. I wish we were a people who coveted learning and exceeding what is expected of us in life. I wish we believed love was more about giving than taking, and strove to repair the holes in our own character before scrutinizing that of others…And yet, I understand that these reflections are based on what matters to me. Thankfully, this isn't another one-size-fits-all, but a breath of self-expression. This is me, however I differ from those around me. It's an exercise in being authentic, and I don't think I can back down on it anymore without betraying my own heart, the one thing I have fought so hard to protect.