Do you know what you need?

The theme of this post might be a continuation of – or perhaps a contradiction to – my last post: “Why do we need love?”

I’ve found that with age and experience comes the importance of knowing what we need. It extends beyond just relationships or our search for a partner.  We try to seek out experiences that fill us, connect us with this world, and bring us closer to the life we want to lead.

But most of the time, we don’t consciously know what we need. It’s difficult to articulate a wish list that doesn’t sound silly or material, i.e. “I need a bigger apartment,” or “I need a boyfriend,” or “I want to quit my job and travel the world.”

We make the mistake of thinking we need “things,” or stop-gap measures like a break from our jobs, or the perfect relationship, to make us feel whole.

Before I was married, when my ex-husband and I met, there were three things I thought I wanted: A husband. A house. And to make it in the movie business.

Eventually, I got (and then lost) all three. And since then I’ve asked myself, did I really want these things? Well, maybe I wanted them, but did I truly need them? And is that why they felt off to me, as if I was wearing the wrong clothes?

I came out to East Hampton this weekend to stay with some people I know, and some people I don’t. I wanted a break from the chaos and claustrophobia of the city.  When I was told I would have my own room due to last minute cancellations, I had a momentary self-pity bang of “I wish I had a boyfriend to share it with.” Or even a close girlfriend to bring (most of my oldest friends live in LA.) I realize this might seem frivolous and ungrateful, but I felt anxious. Probably because romantic getaway cues were abundant and underscored my singleness.

But I forced myself to remember that being on my own is a good thing. It allows for spontaneity, new experiences and friendships, and if I’m lucky, creative growth too (blog material included).

And then I got a Facebook message from a woman I’ve never met. A mutual friend told her that I would be out here, and so we made plans to meet. It so happens that she is divorced and currently single too. Even more serendipitously (although the advertising world is small), one of the women at the house happened to know her too, so we all decided to go out together.

I must have forgotten that there is no better cure for the “I’m alone” blues than having meaningful conversations (and cocktails of course) with strong, free spirited women. Especially the kind that have endured (and learned from) similar experiences as you have. And a gorgeous summer night helps too.

On our drive back to the house around midnight, my friend made a sudden turn down a different street. When I looked up, I realized we were at the beach. I can’t remember whether I took my shoes off before I got out of the car, but with my long sun dress tucked into my underwear (it was dark), I found myself running to the shore line. I put my feet in the water and looked up at the starlit sky. And then a strange thing happened. 

I’m not a big Yoga fan (I pull muscles I didn’t know exist), but I’ve heard of women (the men probably don’t admit it) who after connecting with a core part of themselves, are overcome by tears.

I didn’t have to go into child’s pose in the sand to experience that kind of profound release. I just stood in the water with my hand on my chest and my head tilted to the sky, my ears filled with the rush of the crashing waves coming at me, and discovered that thing I had been needing.

Serenity? The force of nature? Awe of the expansive universe? The paradox of life like the rage then calm of the ocean? Whatever it was – because it felt too great to articulate – was all around me.  Or, maybe, I was a part of it.

I awoke the next morning feeling lighter. And more centered. The anxiety and misdirected energy that had filled me at the start of the weekend banished.

It dawned on me that what I believed I had needed – a romantic weekend or the comfort of an old friend – wasn’t what I needed at all.  And since I was unable to see it (although in hindsight subconsciously I must have been seeking it), the universe revealed it for me.

All I had to do was give us both permission.