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.
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?