Oh, the hundreds of seemingly similar conversations I’ve had surrounding this topic. The countless friends I’ve sat with and asked all the same questions over and over and over and over and over [you get the point] again. The tears, the disappointment, the sadness, the grief, really the loss of something. Really the loss of so many things. Things hoped for, dreams, longings and expectations — still left unfulfilled.
I’ve been asked if I want this topic to be “my platform” as a writer. In the past, that question has always been met with a pretty immediate “no.”
Not for me. I didn’t want a platform, and I didn’t want to write about singleness in my 30’s for the masses to see my broken heart on display. That seemed, well, a little pathetic, don’t you think? I’ve shared some of the depths of my heart in writing but when it came to my marital status, I wasn’t saying a word. In fact, I got to a place where I was tired of even bringing it up to friends anymore. Who could relate?
I’ve never been able to pinpoint why it’s so hard for me to put pen to paper on this subject. I think it’s more pride than anything. And, let’s be honest, a bit of shame. This topic is pretty unchartered territory. There aren’t a lot of books out there talking about singleness (not many good ones, at least). It seems you’re either one way or the other in the public sphere with the topic. You’re either really open and vocal and everyone knows where you stand, or you stay quiet, do your best to “be OK” and just don’t bring it up too often. No one wants to be that girl. Besides, who wants to hear a single girl talk about her sadness? Show me all the wedding photos and baby announcements but please, keep that stuff to yourself.
Some of us have put up false walls of security in an effort to not look pathetic and the emotions of singleness have become a secret life.
But here’s what I’ve realized, and here’s why I’m writing this:
Singleness is not who you are, it’s where you are. And we’ve got to continue to fully show up there.
If we can’t be honest about where we are in this life, then what are we doing? You are not pathetic. It’s not a death sentence, a disease or something that makes you any less than your happily married friends who might have five children and be approaching their 10-year wedding anniversary.
Life is moving along really quickly these days. This year I’ve watched so many close friends who were “in it with me” for so long “cross over to the other side” and find their person. There’s a sense of renewed hope that’s stirred up in my soul every time I stand beside a dear friend on her wedding day.
At the same time, my heart breaks. It’s not a matter of not being happy for others but alongside that happiness, living right there in the same place in my heart, there’s still a very real, very deep sadness within that I’d be doing a dis-service to myself and the world if I neglected to mention.
If you’re single, I’m writing this for you…
I’m writing to tell you that it’s 100% OK to be sad about your today. It’s not what you would have chosen and, quite honestly, it’s really, really tough. There you go. I said it. I think I’ve decided to say it in case no one else does. Your hardship is valid, not pathetic.
You see, you don’t have to choose between being happy for others and tending to your own sadness. It’s not a way to live. If we neglect what’s happening in our own hearts, it will only be a matter of time before it catches up to us.
The reality is, I’m not God. I can’t promise your future or know if there is someone amazing coming your way in the days ahead, but what I do know is that life is way too brief to wait until that happens to start living. If you’re older, I’m sure you stopped doing that long ago. Take the trips, form deep friendships, make the move, buy the house, heck — buy the Vita-mix for crying out loud.
Go on random dates. Get to know people as humans without worrying if they’re The One right away. Relax. Allow yourself to be ok. Soak up the freedom. From what I hear, when it’s gone, well, it’s gone. Enjoy the amazing things life has to offer and most of all, give. Give to the people you love, give to your family, give to the needy, give to yourself, invest in the things you love… Give to make the world a little bit brighter.
As you find joy in the everyday, it’s equally important to learn to embrace the feelings of sadness, hurt, disappointment, anger and confusion. Sit in these emotions. Cry. Ask a trusted friend if they’re up for sitting here with you for a little while. Talk it out, yell it out, do what you need to do. But don’t stay there. Give yourself a time frame, then get up, keep living your life, pursuing your dreams and loving the heck out of people. Those walls we’ve built up surrounding singleness? Well, we’ve got to create space to let them down.
As you live and move and love and celebrate others, let them love you back.
For the marrieds wondering how to love your single friends, I’m writing this for you…
It’s not as complicated as we’ve made it out to be. I always go back to one simple act. Acknowledgement. Ask your single friends this question, “How are you doing with singleness?”
Not once a year (not every day, either) but when you find time for a good catch up, when you get a sense that something is off, make it a point to ask and acknowledge this part of their heart. It will go a really long way, I promise. You may not be able to relate to their exact pain but what you can do is be present with them in it. Avoidance isn’t doing anyone any good.
When we avoid asking out of convenience, we give way to the lies that the emotions surrounding singleness are a burden to others or something to be ashamed of.
I believe acknowledgement is the key to so many things. When we take the pressure off of ourselves to have the answers or the quick-fix and take time to listen, allow our hearts to enter in and sit in the uncomfortable for a while, it makes all the difference. Listening is where love begins and avoidance is the culprit to letting assumptions get the best of us.
If we don’t ask or acknowledge, we’re not doing our part in relationships.
I believe there’s balance in everything and I want to find that balance. I want to contribute to this conversation in a way that brings beauty, empathy, encouragement and understanding.
Here I am, writing about singleness for the first time. In an effort to put my pride aside, show up with my whole heart and remain true to where I am.
So. Who wants to hear a single girl talk about her sadness? Well, I do. Your pain is not your weakness. It’s actually what’s making you one really strong, incredible woman. Let the pain do its work in you, give yourself some grace, allow your emotions to co-exist and be honest with yourself and others about where you’re at along the way.
Single friends, your pain is real. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. What might make you feel less than today is actually building more in you than you ever saw coming.
Don’t sell yourself short. Singleness is not a measure of who you are. Who you are is one incredible, strong, talented, amazingly whole person.
You are loved and you are certainly not alone.
Images via Kayla Gale