Frog Hunting: Mistakes & Dates

I was out of town staying with some friends recently. The wife had an incredible gift for decorating. The placement of furniture and hangings on the wall. The use of normal household items and refurbished, re-appropriate items. 

As we sat around her welcoming and comfortable living room, I said,  “I wish you could come to my apartment and help me decorate.”

She responded that she loved helping people decorate. But she often tells people, when you look at a wall in any home, if you look closely enough, you’ll see there are a lot of holes. Sometimes you just have to hang things up to see if it fits. You have to try placing an item somewhere and then move it somewhere else if it doesn’t work. She also said she encourages people to buy items they like, even if they don’t know where to put it. If she comes over to their house and they have items for her to hang, she can place them, but if they don’t have anything for her to work with, then she can’t do anything to help them. 

Sometimes you have to put holes in the wall to see if something will fit.

Sometimes you have to make mistakes in order to see what works.

Sometimes you have to try things to know where you need help.

I have this habit. Well, I guess it’s more of a pattern when it comes to romantic interests. I have a pattern of liking guys from a distance and then filling in their personality without actually knowing them. Kind of like Sandra Bullock’s character, Lucy, with Peter Callaghan in While You Were Sleeping.Lucy was in love with a guy she didn’t know and never spoke to. Sure, she learned some things by observation, but she crushed on Peter from a safe distance. She dreamed of what it would be like to someday have a man like Peter fall in love with her. 

And if catastrophe hadn’t struck, she probably would have crushed on her imagined version of Peter until the day she died an old lady, never having done anything but work in a token booth at a train station in Chicago. 

This is one of the reasons I started the Frog Hunting series. I wanted to take some risks, makes some mistakes, and have some fun doing it. I wanted to change some patterns, but I knew I’d have to learn what those patterns were. And the only way to learn was to make some mistakes. 

I needed to put some holes in the wall to find out what would fit. Which meant there’d likely be a lot of things that didn’t fit. 

But old patterns die hard, and I found myself doing what I’ve done in the past. I crushed on a guy I barely knew. I filled in his personality with my imagination. While I dated other guys while I was crushing, I was mentally comparing the guys I was dating with the imagined version of my crush. 

Just like Lucy compared Peter’s brother, Jack, with the imagined version of Peter. Jack had a hard time competing with the perfection in Lucy’s mind. 

One thing did change for me this time, however, and that is, while I was crushing, I didn’t do the self-rejecting dance of thinking there’s no way he’d ever want me. I didn’t engage in the internal dialogue that told me I wasn’t pretty enough, or sweet and docile enough. The dialogue that told me I’m too opinionated and too assertive and too much to handle. When that chatter would start, I’d look myself in the mirror, tell myself, “You’re hot, and a total badass, and he’d be lucky to have you.” Then I’d turn on my heals and go conquer more of the world. 

But my positive self-talk didn’t lessen the pain when one day quite recently, I saw my crush holding hands with another woman. 

(It probably felt similar to the day Lucy realized Peter wasn’t what she thought he was.) 

Then I sank into sadness, realizing finally that crushing from a distance doesn’t actually keep you from getting hurt. 

My pattern came from a place of thinking it was easier to crush on my imagined version of this person than to crush on an actual person—because at least I had a crush on somebody and had someone I was looking forward to seeing. Like Lucy, while the crush existed, so, too, did the hope that maybe someday it’d turn into something. 

Now, I’m not saying the crush was wrong and there’s something to be said for letting yourself feel romantic things—even for a cute guy you don’t even know. But the pattern of crushing from a distance came from a place of wanting to stay safe. 

The distance crush kept me safe from other dates (because I had someone better) and kept me safe from him (because I didn’t actually know him).

 I always wake up and realize the Matrix is real. The world I am in is an imaginary land.

But something else was different this time. Because it’s not the first time I’ve followed the pattern of crushing on someone I barely know, I tried to change my pattern with this gentleman. I tried to put myself in his path and engage in actual conversation. I tried to get to know him—if only just a little. 

Sure it ended when I realized he was already in a relationship (indicator of how well I knew this person). But I did try. I wasn’t Lucy—hiding behind the glass walls of her token booth at a train station. Lucy had to leave the token booth to find out Peter Callaghan wasn’t her dream guy after all. 

And while, my Peter Callaghan turned out not to be what I thought he was (available), at least I put a hole in the metaphorical wall and hung a metaphorical frame. The frame didn’t fit, so it’s coming down. There’s a tiny hole in the wall, but at least I know the frame doesn’t fit. I can now try out the frame on a different part of the wall.

Or I can put the frame in the closet because I don’t want to put any more holes in the wall. I can go back to hiding in the token booth by shutting down crushes before they start or keeping myself at a safe distance from my crushes—filling in their personality with my imagination and never actually getting to know them. 

But then the wall would remain blank—and blank walls are boring. They’re safe and unobstructed, but they’re boring. 

Like Lucy, we’re not meant to live our lives protected by glass walls. We’re not meant to look at life through the windows. We’re meant to live it. We’re meant to take risks to see what fits. Outside of those glass walls, we’re not safe from the elements or the certain pain that comes from relationships. 

If you’re like me, relationships are the scariest places to take risks. Gosh, I’m not even going to sugar coat that one. It took a serious accident to get Lucy out of the token booth. Outside of the token both was way more terrifying then she could ever imagine. 

But outside the token booth was also the place she found love, and not just romantic love. She found friendship and learned what it was like to be a part of a real family. If things hadn’t worked out with Jack, she’d still have been way better off taking a risk than if she’d stayed behind the glass walls. 

I say that because I don’t want to indicate I believe if we make enough mistakes in dating, it’ll eventually lead to our dream guy. That’s not the purpose of Frog Hunting. Frog Hunting is about learning and growing and seeing what fits and what doesn’t. 

And crushing on guys from a safe distance definitely doesn’t fit. 

 Photo by Lexi L. Scott