(Photo Source: For the Love of Frida 2017 Calendar, artist Aunia Kahn)
Soon after my divorce, I was fortunate to be able to visit an exhibit about Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist who empowered herself through art and who continues to inspire women today. As I started the 52 First Dates Project, I wanted to emulate Frida’s strength. She had suffered through physical pain and heartache, yet she still managed to live life fully and find joy.
While I was at the exhibit, I bought a calendar that featured art and quotes inspired by Frida. The following quote has guided me through the ups and downs of the dating project.
Know yourself fiercely: Nothing helps you become the hero of your own story like knowing yourself authentically. Be true to your passion and transparent with your motives. Seek the unknown and bring it fiercely into the known. Frida modeled the way for all of us, literally and figuratively, by becoming her own model. As Frida once said, “I paint myself…because I am the subject I know best.” (Source: For the Love of Frida 2017 Calendar by Angi Sullins)
I learned early in the project that a knight in shining armor wouldn’t just magically appear to save me from the perils of online dating. The only way I would ever survive would be to shape my own story by my beliefs and actions. I have fiercely approached this project with the determination to rediscover my own passions while also trying to determine what I want out of a relationship. In order to explore these passions, I had to recognize what drives me and makes me feel whole.
Freedom is perhaps what I value the most. When I was married, I lost myself to struggles of trying to financially maintain a household while also attempting to keep my marriage alive. It was exhausting and my freedom was stripped away. My ex wasn’t controlling, but freedom simply didn’t exist because after all my responsibilities, I had no time or energy left to be creative which to me is an integral part of being free. As I began dating again, I knew that I would need a partner who could respect my need for space. I need a partner who allows me breathing room to follow my own passions. Too many times people become codependent in relationships and that actual stifles their individual creativity.
Adventure is vital to my happiness as well. I grow bored very easily and new experiences fuel my creative side. I realized that I need a man who has this same hunger for living life. This has been important while going on first dates. I have tried to arrange first dates that offer more than the typical dinner or coffee shop dates. And, I’ve been fortunate to have some incredible first dates including seeing a Broadway show, dinner and a belly dance show, a romantic rendezvous at a speakeasy, an opera concert at an art museum, and a six-mile hike through a state park. Adventure dates reveal a lot about a date’s character and provide a platform for more interesting conversations than the typical “job interview” dinner date.
Finally, I cannot deny the importance of sensuality in my life. I went from feeling sexually dead to a cat in heat. The combination of my new-found freedom and raging forty-something hormones has recharged my sexuality. I knew that sex would be a part of my project. I wasn’t going to sleep with 52 men, but I allowed myself to become intimate if it felt right. I have had and continue to have the best sex of my life, and I credit that to knowing myself fiercely. I have become empowered again, and that confidence has been apparent. One of my dates (whom I didn’t sleep with), told me, “You ooze sexuality.” Yes! I own it and have allowed myself to immerse myself in sexual pleasure.
I share all of this because I want you, my readers to reflect upon yourselves. Do you know yourself fiercely? Are you being authentic to your true self or are you wearing a facade? Are you living the life you desire? If not, the good news is that you have the power to change your story, to shape and mold your narrative into what you desire. Maybe you are afraid of what change will bring, so you instead decide to remain complacent and accept your life as it is. It’s normal to be afraid because change is often terrifying. Don’t let that stop you. Think about what you want in life and fiercely move forward.