Love In Quarantine: Liz Benitez

Art by Sam Liacos.
We’ve been faced with unforeseen circumstances in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing us into social isolation and reflecting on our relationships–past, present, and future. Our new series #LoveInQuarantine focuses on how couples are loving while in lockdown and how (or if) singles are dating during these times.
Words by Maria Mora. Illustration by Sam Liacos.

What was going through your mind regarding your love life when it was announced that the nation would go into lockdown? 

It’s funny because I had just made a dating profile on Hinge right before the lockdown happened. It was interesting to see the shift in convo dynamics and even just going on dates in general.

I don’t think I thought about my love life when the initial lockdown happened. It wasn’t until a few weeks in that I began to process, and the emotions surrounding my love life were starting to get heavy. I caught myself thinking so much about what intimacy is or was to me. Everything that I thought I knew wasn’t what I “thought.” If you pay attention, it’s amazing what is revealed when time and the world stand still. The conversations with some men weren’t connecting as much, but I’d always been so comfortable settling that such little attention or interest meant the world to me. It felt different this time, though, unsettling almost. Months in, I was yearning for closeness, more profound than physical, some honesty with a side of mutual desire.

What feelings did you have about dating before the pandemic, and have those feelings evolved since?

Oh, wow. My feelings definitely evolved. It’s honestly been a whirlwind, but I’m finally free from the attachment I had prior. It’s layered. I can probably write a book about it, but here’s a short synopsis.

Before the pandemic, dating was a priority to me. A little background about me –If you ask my friends or primas, they’ll tell you just how important it was for me to be with someone. I was that girl [Laughs]I never knew how to “be single.” 

Dating used to be my least favorite so-called “game,” only because I would always lose. I’ve been with men that never honored their word or had a sense of self-awareness. I took “I’m just going with the flow” as an excuse for lack of accountability, a lot of bullshit and abuse.

I’m still a hopeless romantic, but now, I recognize my worth in full-spectrum and recognize that dating isn’t a priority (hallelujah). After so many mishaps, pain, crying and therapy meetings that made me stare in the mirror long enough to break it and put it back together (figuratively), I accepted that dating is only a learning experience about human connection. It’s also exciting how much you learn about yourself while getting to know someone else. I had to learn how to reconstruct my boundaries, redirect rejection and understand how to better listen to someone’s spirit. It can be a rollercoaster, but a learning experience, nonetheless.

I’ve learned to release expectations, fears and attachments. This has allowed me to know that I can honor myself, even while getting to know someone.

Currently, dating isn’t my top priority. I do know what type of relationship I desire, but I’m not in a rush. 

The longings come and go, but I welcome them. Instead of sinking in them, I swim with them, give them time to breathe. I ask myself, “What can I create or give to myself while in this space?” One day it’ll be a poem, the next day, maybe a new meditation routine, or a trip to the coast to watch a beautiful sunset.

I’ve also accepted that I don’t think I can ever hate dating; I’m learning how powerful words can be. I avoid any negative thoughts about dating and honor what I’ve learned from past experiences or even patterns. I affirm that I’m open to it, honor my boundaries and mutual connections. I’m open to new experiences that come my way.

You mentioned you’ve discovered a more profound sense of self during quarantine. How did the state of social isolation lead you to that personal achievement, and what do you love most about it?

It was probably one of the most challenging experiences of my life–many heavy days, tears, running out of an emotional and mental capacity to be present. I thought I had gone through these ego deaths, but I now understand that it’s all ego transcendence. I mourned what once was, what I was once. In that same space, I was able to celebrate what was and ask myself how I will release. How will I show up for myself? I’m still digging the roots and reaching new levels. I used to run from it all, but now I’m running towards it. I’m grateful I can do it with an open heart. 

I had to transition from a state of awareness to a state of acceptance–with my pain, behavior patterns, changes that needed to be made to move forward. 

I love that I don’t carry pain like before, that I know how to make peace with my triggers, and give myself grace when I feel like giving up. This new sense of self transformed the way I love and the way I can show up for the world.

Everything that’s occurred this year has left many of us to cope with living in the unknown. How are you coping, and how have you applied that to your love life?

I think one of my favorite clinical advisors said it best, “You can look at the unknown as a place of fear and loss. You can look at the unknown as a realm of possibility and progress. The reality is, it’s both.”

Accepting the unknown’s duality has allowed me to create a rhythm with life from a place of surrender. It allows me to realign with my strength, faith, and willingness to understand my fears. It challenges me to be more thorough with my actions–in just about every aspect of my life, especially my love life.

A practice that has been getting me through new seasons is self-regulating, identifying and articulating my feelings. Journaling has been key to me; it’s like my sacred space. 

I’m going to share some questions I meditate on that everyone else can use as well (in regards to the unknown in their love life, or just experience in general): 

– What do you really want?

– What do you want to build?

– For whom are you responsible?

– What do you have going well for yourself?

– What are your most significant challenges?

– What do you have control over?

– What do you absolutely have no control over?

– Where do you need to fight?

– What do you need to surrender?

– What are your strengths and weaknesses individually and with a potential partner?

Here are a list of books that have helped me during this time:

All About Love – Bell Hooks

The Untethered Soul – Michael A. Singer

The Body Keeps The Score – Bessel van der Kolk

The Seat of The Soul – Gary Zukav

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

100 Love Sonnets Pablo Neruda –Liz Benitez, Orange County, CA

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