Below is an example of how an apparent misfortune for the human is a gift from the Gods for the writer.
Last evening, I worked up the courage to attend a Singles event. It had been recommended to me by a discerning friend who had also been single for many years, but who had recently met a wonderful man with whom she was falling in love. They had both been referred to this event. I took it as a sign.
The write-up on the website described it as an evening for adults over 40 “looking to share their gifts with a significant other” or “with a spiritual calling to find harmony and balance in their relationships.” The quote by Rumi – “Your Task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” – resonated with how I have tried to live my life and to deal with my confusion, emotional clamour and cynicism in the realm of love, and so I was looking forward to meeting others with a similar intention.
Having managed to find an attractive, age-appropriate yet playful outfit, make room for the confusion, emotional clamour and cynicism within, and be open to what the evening had to offer, I felt pretty relaxed as I drove for 45 minutes through the last remnants of rush hour traffic, crossed a couple of bridges, and found my way there. Doublechecking the address, I saw that yes, it was indeed the Unity Church, which I tried not to be put off by. I have nothing against the church or its adherents, some of whom are dear friends, but I confess to having judgments about it being spiritually vague, precious, New Agey, and female-dominated. What guy is going to want to come here? But I told myself to set my prejudices and raging cynicism aside and just be open and curious. I walked in the door. It was eerily quiet…like a church. A serene space with beautiful artwork on the walls, but not a lot of laughter and no male voices. A sweet young woman, well beneath the 40+ age limit for whom the event was intended, collected my $35 and gave me a self-sticking name tag.
I walked into the room and saw about 12 people, all women except for one man, sitting in a circle. One of the hosts, an attractive woman in her 50s or 60s, saw me and said, heartily, “Don’t be shy. Come and sit down.” (In that moment, the clamour of emotions didn’t include “shy.”) I filled a paper plate with salad and some pieces of sandwich, and joined the circle. The host made a comment about how the men would come in droves if they saw a picture of “all of you beautiful women here.” I look around. There weren’t too many happy faces. The lone man assured us in his nasal reedy voice, “I could take you all on!” perhaps intending to be humourous and ironic and inject some much-needed male energy.
As I choked down my spinach salad and bits of smoked salmon wrap, I tried to tune in to the conversation. The hosts, who never introduced themselves, knew some of the people – it seemed as though some (including the man) may have been therapy clients – and they were talking about things and events comprehensible only to those in the facilitators’ immediate circle. Neither of the hosts asked my name or made any attempt to include me or anyone else whom they didn’t already know. I tried to contribute something to the conversation but it was ignored. Mary, the woman sitting next to me, a Celtic storyteller, tried to interject the odd droll comment, but was also ignored. I felt like asking if she wanted to escape and go for a beer (I don’t even drink beer) but the second facilitator, who seemed stern, but was perhaps just uncomfortable that this “singles event” was such a bust, was sitting next to her.
It was 7:30, I was almost finished my salad, and was wondering how I was going to make it to 10:00. I felt as thought I was trapped at a bad dinner party to whom I had been invited by a man with whom I was in a relationship that I knew perfectly well was doomed. I went to the washroom, acknowledged to myself the obvious – I wasn’t having any fun and didn’t like the people (except for Mary) – and made an executive decision to leave, even though it would be absolutely obvious to all, and even though the pleaser within was aghast. The sweet young woman well under 40, who had collected my $35, smiled and asked me if I had had a good time. I mumbled an obvious lie about a family crisis, asked her to make my apologies to the group, and left.
I’m still puzzling over this statement on the facilitators’ handout given out that night: “Our aim is to answer the need of communication of friendship facing adult singles today.” Huh? The good news is that I didn’t stay, thereby vaulting over what I have discovered over a lifetime of experimentation to be a significant barrier to love – trying to please people who could care less. I think Rumi would have approved. Too bad he’s been dead for 736 years and probably not available.