woman looking out to the oceanWhen it comes to dating, we can take our freedom as a single woman or our connection in a relationship for granted. Here I offer 2 ways to appreciate what we have.

I adjust myself in an uncomfortable plastic chair in the urgent care, leaning my feverish head against the cool wall. It wasn’t my fever that brought me in – it was the crunchy sound in my chest, along with my laboured breathing that usually means pneumonia has settled into my lungs. As I fill out the form numbly and complete the space “who to contact in an emergency”

I’m reminded of the last time I was this sick. I had just gone through a rough breakup after a relationship ended. I remember being so ill I could hardly breathe, and when it came time to fill out the emergency contact section, I stared blankly at the page. My family lives across the country. I considered writing my best friend’s name on the form.

Then, slightly pissed that the universe seems to favour people in relationships, I left it empty. There would just have to be no emergency that required contacting anyone, I decided.

As the breathing treatment opened my lungs and the antibiotics began to kick in over the next few days, I began to feel human again. After a long month of being ill, when my lung infection finally healed I found myself smiling from ear to ear with gratitude for being well. I couldn’t help but wonder, what is it about losing something for a time that makes you appreciate it so?

And when it comes to dating and relationships, how can we appreciate things without losing them in the first place? Here I offer two ways to appreciate what we have now, whether it’s our relationship with a partner or being single, in relationship with ourselves.

Practice Gratitude

This suggestion has me rolling my eyes dramatically as being grateful seems to be a trending health habit these days. Sure, I’d think, listing things I’m grateful for will just turn everything right around. Psshhh! Then, as life would have it, I lost something very important to me. And for many months afterwards, my only goal became to get back to normalcy – eating, sleeping, focusing at work, thriving. What it taught me was that when life falls apart all we crave is to get back to everyday normal stuff and that it’s important to appreciate ordinary stuff every single day. When it comes to dating, practising thankfulness might look like showing appreciation for our girlfriend or being grateful that we have the space to focus solely on taking care of ourselves.

Practice Being Present

Just as I don’t want to be the girl who has to lose a relationship to truly appreciate it, I don’t want to lose myself in a relationship to appreciate my independence. I learned the most about how to balance this by spending time with my young nieces. On one trip, I flew across the country to spend a week with them, swimming, making up dances, and reading stories before bed. One afternoon, in between playtime and dinner time, I sat on the sofa and browsed Facebook. My brother came home from work, looked around the room at each of us; my oldest niece on the chair watching YouTube videos, my middle niece playing a game on her IPad, and my youngest niece playing a game on my sister in law’s phone. He simply said, “Aunt Kim comes from California and you all want to be in the same room on your devices?” There was amusement in his voice, not judgment. But I felt my face redden – it was a wake-up call for me not to lose sight of being present in each moment.

Gratitude is like working out – it feels awkward at first but practising it, especially during times when it’s difficult to find things to be thankful for, is a foundation for a healthy emotional life. Since I began a daily gratitude practice, I have found myself having more fun and being more present. Being mindfully aware of each moment may be the biggest life game-changer of all. Without it, we’re checked out, shut down, and distant from our own needs and others. But combining gratitude with being present in each moment is like the superpower of connection and can open doors to authentic love and growth, whether with a girlfriend or with ourselves.

What can be more meaningful than that?