The Long Weekend, Guest Post by Cara Strickland

Last week I wrote about practicing my shut ups. I got to thinking about what that would really look like, in my life, on my blog. Right as I was thinking about that Cara approached me about writing on singleness for my blog. YES! That is how I practice my shut ups, by letting other people have a turn. Cara writes honestly about things other people don’t want to talk about (but need to) at her place. 

By Cara Strickland

 

From elementary, through high school, my mom taught my brother and I at home. I never walked through a cafeteria line, or raised my hand to ask if I could use the bathroom. My knowledge about school (at least, school before college) comes from movies, Saturday morning cartoons, and the wealth of stories from friends, many of whom, like my lovely host Abby, are teachers.

 

There aren’t a lot of movies about home schooling. It’s not a sexy topic. As a result, not a lot of people had any idea what it was like to be home schooled. They asked me if I liked it (I had nothing to compare it to), they asked me why my parents had made the choice they did, and they told me that they couldn’t ever be homeschooled (or, they told me that they were jealous of all my time at home).

 

The high school students who longed to be able to wear their pajamas to school (like I did) had no idea how hard it was to try to make plans with people “after school” only to find them too tired to connect after spending time with their friends all day. There was no glamour in that life. But, honestly, where is the glamour, anyway?

 

I tried, as I got older, to tell my story in such a way that it let people in. As I grew to know their stories, I began to spot differences, and try to point them out. I cultivated empathy for the struggles they faced, and the experiences that had shaped them, and tried to ask for the same.

 

In so many ways, this process prepared me to be single longer than I expected.

 

I am used to being the one who doesn’t quite fit. It is less pointed now, and I am better at coping with it. But even at my lovely new church, the one where the passing of the peace is always long because everyone wants to greet each other with a smile and a hand squeeze, I still panic a little bit, wondering where I will sit, and who I will sit near.

 

I have parties and invite my friends. They come, mostly in couples, and I sit at the head of the table, presiding. Even though I know that there is no correlation between coupling and adulthood, it is still hard to feel quite grown up when surrounded by those who have joined a club I can’t seem to get into.

 

It is possible that my invitation has been lost in the mail.

 

I don’t mean to bemoan the single life. Like all other states, it is sometimes full to the brim with joy, and other times drained dry. These extremes occasionally happen in the same day.

 

I don’t presume to speak for single people everywhere. There are those who are longing for marriage, and those who would prefer to stay as they are. I am only one single voice, so I’ll tell you my story.

 

I am frank about my hope for marriage. As soon as I utter these words in the presence of a happily coupled person, I am usually met with a comment from one of these families: “Have you tried online dating?” (yes) “I’m so glad I’m not dating anymore. How do you meet people?” (let me know if you find out) or “You’ll meet somebody.”

 

Sometimes, they almost whisper: “You are so lucky.”

None of this helps, honestly. I know that these words are well intentioned (as are “what’s a wonderful girl like you doing still single?”), but they don’t help. What I’d really like, is to be heard out, and then held, in hearts, and prayers, and arms.

 

I have learned that most people have something that hasn’t come easy in their lives. Maybe children don’t come when they are expected, work is hard to find, or education is earned with tears and three jobs, if at all. For me, this great hope that I’m always giving back to God, is marriage.

 

I have a lot of friends who have walked through the pain of infertility and miscarriage. These have been dark, desperate times, and I have cried out to God in my car, with tears, for these friends. But I have been there to hear about the positive pregnancy test, I have held little fingers and heard whirring heartbeats fill the room. I have rejoiced first, always, and then, occasionally I have looked to Heaven and wondered what about me?

 

I am sociable by nature. I live with roommates now (and secretly hope that they will remain single while I do, so that I won’t be left alone). Just before three day weekends, a feeling of dread begins to overtake me. Around here, people go away for three day weekends. The city starts to feel hollow. I try to make sure I have plans for regular weekends, to ease the time alone. But three day weekends are harder. I usually find myself telling my life story to the produce guy by the second day, and flat on my floor by the third.

 

It isn’t that I don’t have plenty to do. My life is full to bursting with interesting events, people, books and projects. In fact, sometimes when I’m packing my weekends full, I long to stay at home and read a book. It may be surprising, but very few people want to come read a book in silence together in a room. I often sacrifice what I’d like to be doing, so that I am not alone.

 

I have a wonderful community. I know that I am loved, and that there are people who are holding me close in prayer. I know that there are those who are keeping their eyes out for someone whom I might like to meet. But at the end of the day, they go home to their families. Their kids and husband come first. They spend weekends and holidays and vacations together. They operate with a built-in friend, a partner, a companion.

 

When I was young, I was lonely. I spent time with books. Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables (among others) became my companions. I knew what I wanted, then, but I didn’t know how to ask for it. Now, I know, I ask, and yet, I have not yet received. Like that little girl I have been, I’m trying to tell my story, to give a peek into what my everyday is, to trade empathy for empathy. I can only assume that my hunger is not in vain, and keep walking.

Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know. Come say hi to her on Twitter. She likes making new friends.

cara profile

I think singles are often over looked and I have been thinking a lot about how to remedy that, especially as the holiday season approaches. Anyone have any really good ideas for me?

 

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28 thoughts on “The Long Weekend, Guest Post by Cara Strickland

  1. I think the complete lack of comments and discussion regarding this post speaks volumes about the subject. The church has no clue what to do with singles. And doesn’t really want to figure it out, despite the fact that singleness is lauded as the best option in the New Testament. Everything Cara said is true and I applaud her for speaking boldly about a lifestyle that the modern church treats as a disease. I don’t need the church to provide a pool of eligible bachelors for me to pick from. I don’t need my congregation to set me up with men because they need to fix me and my marital status. My singleness is not a problem. My singleness doesn’t signify my incompleteness or immaturity. It is a very real struggle to desire something that the Lord says “no” to giving you. And it feels horrible to admit that to women in a church group who just pat you on the shoulder and say “there’s still time” or “I had a friend who met her husband late in life, just wait.” Because what happens when the final answer is “no?” How about the platitudes stop and we start sharing real truths about how to live your life in submission to His will regardless of your own wants. Because the point isn’t that if you’re patient enough God will reward you with a husband. The point is that He works ALL things together for our good, and sometimes your good is not what you want and desire. And my good might mean staying single until I die. The church doesn’t know how to handle that.

    • I think you are right Jordan, I think we don’t know how to respond to it and we need to do better. I am so sorry people say hurtful things to you and I am going to try hard not to “marriedsplain” anymore. I hear you. I hear Cara. I am listening, and I am sorry.

    • Jordan,
      Thank you for your words here.

      This is such a complicated subject, further complicated by the fact that many of the single people I know don’t want to be the first one to say: I’d rather not be single.
      I know people who are happy alone, but many friends really would like to find someone to walk through life with, in a coupled way.

      At the end of the day, I don’t know why God’s answer to my consistently asked question is no. But I believe that God works all things together for good, as you said, and that I am not left alone, even when it feels that way.

      I’m so thankful that Abby was willing to open up this dialogue. Whatever talking we do about this is productive. I’m grateful to have an opportunity to break some silence.

  2. Dang. Cara, this is a beautiful post, precisely because of its unwavering honesty. And I echo the heart of Jordan’s sentiments above: Many of us don’t know what to do/say about singleness. We are tongue-tied and cliché-rich. We are uncomfortable with the unpredictable and the uncertain. … And I, for one, am sorry. With all my heart, I want to be that squeeze around your shoulders, as you said, “to be heard out, and then held, in hearts, and prayers, and arms.” Thank you for writing from the brutal place of rigorous truth, even when it’s hard to hear. Even when it makes people squirm. Because we need to know what life is like from your angle. We need to learn to listen. It broadens us and makes us better. … That is exactly how I feel after reading this post: what a beautiful widening it is.

    • Thank you, Kelli.
      I’m uncomfortable with the unpredictable and uncertain, as well. But honestly: that’s life, isn’t it? There is nothing truly certain (even as a married person) nothing predictable, truly.
      I thought for a long while about what I wanted to say here, because I knew that the squirming would happen. It’s the same squirming that I do with those who are facing grief, or illness, or great anger, or injustice. It’s been healing for me to learn from those situations, and just sit with those people.
      I am thankful for you, and for your desire to be widened. You are precious to me, friend.

  3. Oh Cara! This is beautiful. I’m so sorry, too, for being one of those people that sometimes has spoken comments to single people in one of those families you mention. All I have ever wanted in my sorrows is just what you have said, here–to be held in hands, hearts, prayers. Thank you for relating your story with such loveliness and honesty, as always.

    On a side note, can I come read a book with you, silently?

    • Thank you, Katie.
      Isn’t it funny how well we know what is really needed in sorrow? It is tempting for me to babble, or try to fix, or cook, when really, a warm hug and some quiet sitting and being and loving does the trick.

      So glad to have you here. Thank you for listening.

      Also: you’re welcome to come and read with me any time. I am so far behind on my booklist, it’s not even funny.

  4. I think I experienced singleness a little differently than you do, but the way you describe *alone-ness* resonates with me. Homeschooling and other circumstances of adolescence made me, too, wonder if so many of my invitations, as you put it so well, were lost in the mail, and occasionally that fear creeps up on me still. Thanks for writing this

    • Thank you for listening, Kate.
      I wish I could tell that girl I was that the ache would get better. Sometimes I think that the ache, and the fear, stay with us.
      I’m hoping it won’t always be so.

    • I echo Brenda’s response. I love how you widen and deepen the conversation, Cara. In the midst of my anger tonight (masking doubt and despair), there comes tears and a bit more healing.

  5. Lately…I’m having a hard time dealing with all the change and… all the things that stay the same in me. Finding a healthy way to weed through all these experiences. Thankful for a voice like yours that is dedicated to listening to God and practicing what he teaches you.

    • That’s a challenge for me too. There is change, for sure, but the hard things are often the ones that stay the same.
      Thanks so much for reading.

  6. It’s a strange feeling when you life doesn’t turn out the way you expected. I always expected that I would marry and have lots of kids. I’m heading into my late thirties and it hasn’t happened. I personally don’t have any regrets. I truly appreciate my uncomplicated life. However, it would be vastly different if I didn’t have my family around me, and especially my (also single) sister, who is my room-mate. I’m also an introvert and don’t need a lot of facetime or physical touch, so I guess I’m well suited to the single lifestyle. I’m also really really good at being alone: All by myself, thinking or reading or creating. It’s how I get re-energised. However, I have a good imagination, and I can see how it would be really difficult for someone with a more social and extroverted personality to get through the long weekends, or the long winters’ evenings or when you notice you’re so single in the mind of your family that they don’t even allow you a ‘plus one’ on the wedding invitation. (True story. For the record: how rude.)
    What gets me is the way sermons, inspirational speeches and church stuff in general phrase everything as if everybody who is adult is married. Not everyone operates within a simple nuclear family structure. Not everyone who is single wishes they were not. Not everyone who sits together in church are going to inevitably end up married to eachother– Men and women are allowed to be friends, #goshdarnit. You can be a fully functioning adult person without being somebody’s ‘other half’.
    So I’m not living my life in a holding pattern, waiting for a husband who may or may not exist. I make plans, go on roadtrips, take classes, learn new things, and enjoy being able to do whatever I want. I’m not saying I always had this outlook– I’ve had a lot of time to develop my personal philosophy– and I’ve watched other friends stay true and wait and wait until childbearing years are gone before they find a husband. I feel bad for them. I wonder if I will have regrets once I am sure I’ll never give birth. I don’t think I will, because I understand there are many ways we can be mothers, but you don’t know how you’ll react until you walk the path.
    My four year old niece told me the other day, once she’s figured out that I’m not married, ‘Well, you should go to The Wedding and *pick* a boy!’ It turned out that she was a little foggy on what weddings were, exactly, and thought there were ‘HEAPS of boys there’ and all I needed to do was go there and pick one (I envisioned holding pens, like at a livestock sale yard). I’m sure we all thought it would be this easy when we were children…

    • I chuckled about your niece. I once had a friend’s daughter tell me that I must be a mother because I had earrings.

      I so agree with what you’re saying though: there is no one size fits all. I feel the way I feel and want what I want, but I am only one person. There is a desire, I think, to make things fit within our own understanding. I know that I am sometimes guilty of that. But I think that everything is complex, if we really look and seek to understand.

      Thank you so much for being here.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this, Cara. It aches to be the one left out of the party; it aches to not quite fit. I’m so glad you shared this because we need to know each others aches, be reminded, even when there isn’t anything easy to do to fix the ache. I want to be reminded of these aches that aren’t often spoken aloud, so I can have compassion like you learned to have.

    • Thank you for reading, Heather.
      I so appreciate your heart in wanting to hear and hold those who are aching. It is amazing to me how infrequently these things are spoken aloud. Honestly, even when I do speak them, it doesn’t usually seem to make much difference. It can be very demoralizing to share deeply and vulnerably and not feel heard, or taken seriously.
      Thank you for honoring my pain, and similar pain in single (and otherwise) people everywhere.

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