Solving for x is astonishingly easy, as it happens. If I am the x factor, then the x factor is me.
Simple, right? Almost brutally so.
What's particularly brutal is that I've known this for years. My brain understood. People told me, books told me, my reasoning skills parsed it out. But just because you understand something doesn't mean you know it. Just because you know something is true doesn't mean your heart or your emotions have any idea what that big gray lump in your skull is prattling on about.
I am the x factor. Not because I'm the reason dating hasn't worked, but because I need to focus my attention on me.
If I am the x factor, that means I get to put all of my time and attention into things that make me happy, instead of going out on first date after first date in a time-consuming attempt to play the numbers and manipulate the system into giving me what I want. I get to put my energy into what feeds me on a deep level, rather than spending my time trying to create some safe, loving space for someone else because I thought that if I make them feel loved, they'll make me feel loved.
Pro tip: That doesn't work.
Trying to force people to feel something - even if it's something we all want to give and experience - is a really bad bet. Good intentions, poor execution. People can feel it when you're coming from a place of need, rather than a place of "here, I have so much that I would like to share it with you." I can't name that place because I haven't found it on the map yet. I'm still looking.
In my efforts to find me in this new map, I have claimed this month. All of it. All of it is mine, henceforth to be known as Be Nice To Amber month. You don't have to be nice to me, but I have to be nice to me. Being nice to me means no dating. No online suitors, no constant checking of the apps, no wondering when he's going to respond. Unless some epic romantic comedy kismet slams into me at the grocery store, I will go on not one single date. Instead, I will focus on what makes me happy, rather than on what someone else is thinking or feeling. A month of fixing up the hobbit hole and going to yoga and reading Harry Potter in the fairy garden that was recently discovered near my house. A month of less caffeine and no self-recrimination. A month of things I rarely allow myself, like manicures and chocolate bars* and afternoons at the beach.
* Lies. I always allow myself chocolate bars.
My month began on June 11 and will end on July 11, my 36th birthday. Everything feels better already. Lighter, clearer, like I'm more me than I have been in a long time.
Maybe the best way to date is not to date at all.