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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Setting the Bar

Some years ago I heard about an absurd, but intriguing, dating ritual called "Speed Dating" organized with the intention of introducing single adults to each other in the most bizarrely perfect way. It was musical chairs in 5-minute intervals. I dared myself to make a reservation for a session taking place in about 2 weeks near me. It was a stretch for me to try something like this on, but I wanted to be brave. It was on my calendar!

I had second thoughts, doubts, outrageously stressful moments leading up to the event.  It was all so unnerving. I was petrified about meeting 15 or more people all in one event. I wasn't the outgoing, extroverted, social butterfly that could walk into a room full of strangers and feel comfortable introducing myself and striking up random conversations. That's who I wished I could be. What if no one wanted to meet me? What if I froze and couldn't speak? What if I wasn't interesting enough, pretty enough, smart enough? I was self-conscious, nervous... and curious. What if?

I decided I would go by myself, opting not to bring the supportive friend to join me. I would be completely on my own in a singles scene for the first time. It felt like I was taking a stand for my independence in life, in finding love, and trusting myself.

Those weeks before the event when I was preoccupied with uneasiness,  I reminded myself there'd be booze and men so I wondered, how different could it be from the usual dating scene? Perhaps instead of talking to just one awkward guy, I might have an opportunity to talk to 15 of them! Just kidding... that's not really what I thought. I believed that there was someone out there for everyone, a soul mate, a forever partner, and I was hopeful - worried and anxious, but hopeful.

The closer the calendar inched toward the event, the more clear I became in creating a strategy for handling these feelings. I remembered reading somewhere that when you're nervous about a meeting with someone else, to shift your thinking to being aware of how nervous the other person might be about meeting you. In shifting your focus to making them feel more comfortable, you would be less able to focus on your own anxiety. It's a simple game of distraction. If you're thinking about one thing that is contrary to the other thing, then the other thing loses it's power. There just wouldn't be enough room to entertain both ideas simultaneously. It was about choosing one over the other.

Based on this philosophy, I imagined taking it a step further and examining who I really wanted to be when I sat across the table from each new person. I discovered that I believed that everyone, each and every person, was worth 5 minutes of my time. I wanted to be able to relax a little, be comfortable in my own skin so that I could be gracious, engaged and curious about each new person I'd be meeting for the first time. I let go of the notion that I should expect to meet someone to fall in love with and instead I wanted to fall in love with meeting people that I might not otherwise have an opportunity to meet. The deal I made with myself was to say "yes" to people I found interesting.

I arrived on time and checked in with the hostess who was smiling and encouraging. She explained the procedure and asked if I'd like to get myself a drink before getting started. The bar was two people deep and all but a few of the chairs were turned, like a gallery, facing the event about to commence. It was the optimal place to be for supportive friends and gawkers to watch the show unfold and lend encouragement to those approaching the bar with a subtle wave for the bartender signaling "another one, please" between shifts. I ordered a glass of wine and stood by waiting for my first table assignment.

Our instructions were to introduce ourselves, find something to talk about and start to get to know each other, ever so briefly, establishing first impressions about the person across from us and then presto! It was time to stand up while the partner stayed seated, and move to the next table to the left. We were to sit with that person for 5 minutes and do it all over again, and then again, and again. I tried on my new idea and each new meeting came and went pretty smoothly. There were score cards to write notations but before I'd get a chance to make any notes, it was already time to switch it up and move over to the left again. Next!

Some felt like our time together was cut short, for others it seemed just right and for a couple I honestly thought 5 minutes was waaaay too long. That was a little surprising for me - 5 minutes was definitely an exercise in serving time in an awkward situation but it was less painful knowing that it was almost over.

The gift in this experience wasn't in meeting Mr. Right, or even Mr. Right Now - it was that it changed how I meet people - forever. Being the person who is focusing on the comfort of others has calmed my nerves and helps me enjoy the wonder of it all, that our paths are crossing. My expectations aren't to immediately know how to assign anyone fitting into any particular role, I just enjoy letting things unfold, naturally.  I don't set an intention to meet someone for this or that, just to meet someone interesting, and that's all. And that's enough.

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