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Lions Roar : May 2019
kiss. They ended up talking and holding hands for hours. “It was the best date I ever had,” says Alicia. As they said goodbye, Alicia told him, “This was a great first meet.” But Mark corrected her, saying, “No, this was a great first date.” Alicia laughed recounting this: “I tried to not be invested, and then I had the most romantic, tender date ever. It’s like the universe rolled its eyes at my trying to be detached, and threw this at me, saying, ‘Let’s see how you respond to this, Ms. Robot.’” But soon Alicia’s brain started voicing doubts: “Maybe he only liked me because he was drunk. Maybe I imagined he was into me.” As a result, Alicia had her guard up on their second date. The conver- sation was stilted, there was no physical affection, and she had what she called a “silent meltdown” in her head, asking herself, “Why isn’t he as flirty? What did I do? Am I only attractive in a drunken haze? Why does this happen to me all the freaking time?” Then something clicked. “I realized that he didn’t know what I was thinking,” she says. “So I said, ‘Could you just hold my hand?’ He said, ‘Yeah, sure!’” The two cuddled in hammocks on the boardwalk, and Mark said he didn’t want the date to end. But, still feeling anxious, Alicia insisted she had to go. “I judged the whole evening harshly after that silent meltdown,” she says. “The story became bigger than what was actually going on. I was completely aware of doing this, but I had no control over myself.” Later that night, Alicia got a text from Mark wondering if she had enjoyed the date. “I realized I actually did enjoy it,” Alicia says. “I didn’t notice the sweet tender moments of throwing our heads back laughing at nothing. My cautiousness played a huge role in what I had interpreted as no vibe. He was try- ing to read me, too. When I asked to hold his hand, I could actually physically see he was relieved. Then the date really happened.” Alicia asked for a third date. Mark agreed, but had to cancel due to exhaustion. “At first, I was okay,” Alicia says. “I could make other plans. I am woman, hear me roar!” Then her insecurity reared its head, telling her he didn’t like her enough for a third date. Alicia’s ego tried to make it all better. “I messaged him that I was going out on first dates with other guys, but he was the only person I wanted more dates with,” Alicia says. “It was a mixture of trying to pump my ego up and still saying he is great. But I knew what I was doing.” Mark was upset. He responded, “I think I’m wait- ing for someone to spend their time with me and not hedge their bets or weigh other options.” Alicia tried to backtrack, saying she didn’t know they were exclusive, and while Mark appreciated her honesty, he said his style is dating one person at a time. He wished her luck and said goodbye—he had decided to delete his profile. Online dating wasn’t for him. Alicia knew she had messed up. “We each had the rare experience of meeting someone who was com- pletely present, and there was a real space of emo- tional intimacy. So Mark assumed we were not going to date other people.” Alicia understood. “A few years ago, I assumed exclusivity, and someone did the same thing to me,” she remembers. “Now I’m the one who’s terrified and finding fault and running—because I actually liked him.” Alicia ended our interview by saying, “Really, Lindsay, I know we’re all secretly hoping for it, but I don’t think this article is going to have a ‘riding off into the sunset’ kind of an ending. We’re all a bit too wounded for that.” I asked our experts, “How do we disrupt the stories we are telling ourselves and be present with what actually is?” “One of my favorite Buddhist teachings is some- times called the Arrow Sutta,” says Melvin Escobar. “According to this teaching, the first arrow of pain strikes us all. Yet, the deeper suffering happens with the self-inflicted second arrow, which represents the stories we tell ourselves about how things could have been or should be different.” To disrupt our stories, Escobar says we need to practice awareness of our inner discourse and see the ways we are clinging to a limited version of our- selves. “We get to know how our own stories influ- ence us when we are in relationship with others,” he says. “Our stories, especially deeper, older ones, tend to get replicated with people we are in relationship with. There’s no magical formula to interrupt this dynamic. It always comes back to our practice, to cultivating the spaciousness to distinguish between the first and second arrows.” Yael Shy says there is no better practice for catching the stories we tell ourselves than meditation. “In fact, meditation is literally sitting and watching the mind construct stories over and over again,” she says. “The LION’S ROAR | MAY 2019 60