It's hard to describe the mix of feelings/experiences lately. It's pretty pathetic to list some of it out, but as pathetic as the list is, it doesn't fully cover the feelings that go along with all of this. Then there's some amazing grace that has been present in the last months, that doesn't sound all that amazing in words, but the difference that I notice in the reality is, well, amazing. (I can see that this post is going to be REALLY outstanding grammatically and otherwise.) I guess I should try to explain what I mean instead of speaking in vague generalities. That will be difficult, but here's a quote from St. Francis de Sales that might help.
Make sickness itself a prayer.
Desire to be cured that you may serve Him,
but do not refuse to continue to be sick,
that you may obey Him.
Thankfully, I am not actually sick (unless you count the allergies kicking up my asthma- come back, oxygen, I miss you!), but it's a nice shortened version of a way to describe the state of being in my life. In a little conversation with a fellow blogger, we were discussing the states of singleness and infertility and how that worked with the call or vocation of marriage. My opinion is that much of the time singleness is not a vocation, and virtually all of the time infertility is not a vocation per se within marriage. Lemme 'splain. While I do think that it's possible and does happen that God may call some people to consecrated single life, for the most part I think singleness is not a particular vocation. I believe that I am called to marriage. I fully understand that I may never get married, but that doesn't negate what my calling is. I think that within marriage there is the call to fruitfulness, specifically through new life and children. I understand for some couples that will never happen, and that in no way negates their calling to marriage in general, to each other in particular, nor does it lessen the importance of their family unit as the two of them.
The fact that I have asthma does not mean that I am a sick person; in fact, I am one of the healthier people that I know (again with the grammar!). However, it does mean that in this imperfect world, I have some limitations. It means that I have to make choices sometimes that annoy me sometimes in their necessity. Do I take medication for it? When do the side effects outweigh the benefits and vice versa? Yes, I want to open my windows or do an extra long hike, but is that the best choice in this moment? Okay, sure work out, but maybe I need to modify my workout for that limitation, etc. It is a part of my life that I have to deal with. Being single while called to marriage is another one of those things that happen in an imperfect world that we don't fully understand.
Here's the the thing: It is not good for man to be alone. Those are words at one point that I didn't fully understand, but it becomes more and more apparent to me. I think I have talked before about the ways that being single in this current world does not just mean that I lack a partner in life (though that seems the greatest part of the tragedy to me). It also means that there is the loss of community in so many ways. I have barely rock climbed lately and I miss it like crazy. One of the reasons for this is that a lot of the people that I used to climb with are now climbing with their significant others, and sometimes they'll go in groups of couples, but I have been gradually forgotten. Not on purpose, and there are some other factors there, too, but it has happened. Not only have I missed the company of these people, and the joy of rock climbing, but I rarely get to join them on other excursions either. Also, I am not in the Mom's Club. Some people are fantastic about recognizing that even though I cannot fully understand what it is to be a mom (no one can without the experience) that I still have some capacity for empathy and understanding (and those of you that read this blog definitely fit that category!) However, many- and I would say most- that are in the Mom/Parent Club* will not always tell me about their experiences, or they will say things in dismissive ways like I could never possibly begin to understand. It's a million little slights that are hard to explain or understand if you haven't experienced them, but I would bet that almost anyone who has experienced it knows exactly what I'm talking about.
Then there's this hyper sexualized world that makes any great friendship something suspect. In my case, I feel the pressure to not do much reaching out to my guy friends once they are in relationships and of course they're guys, so they sure as heck don't try to keep in touch! So there's another loss. Not having a boyfriend or a husband, I miss out a lot on simple male companionship as well. Though one thing that helps with that is that when I am with girlfriends and their significant others, I do get a little more balance. Still, it makes it hard to go out and meet others in a friendship way as well. Now, hyper sexualized or not, I do think it's really important to have some good boundaries with friends of the opposite sex who are in relationships with others. I think it's only right to respect that and to make those efforts, so it's not all external pressure, some of it is making proper boundaries that respect the relationship. I don't begrudge that, but I do recognize how it interferes at times with friendships.
You add some of these factors plus the fact that some of my closest friends here have moved away in the last few years, and even things like blogging not being what it was, and these last couple of years have been a season of intense loneliness. Not just as a single person, but as a person who can't seem to find community. Now, for those of you who would like to comment on how I can fix things, please don't. If you're convinced that you obviously know how to do things better because things are working out for you, know that I am happy you don't have to deal with this, but I can about promise that kind of "help" will not be helpful in the slightest. Of course I have activities in church and in the community that I try to be involved in, of course I go to things where I can meet new people, of course I've tried the online dating thing at different times and on different platforms. Of course I try to reach out to other people in need. Could I do better? Sure. I'll keep working on that. But while I respect and appreciate your desire to help, I don't need you to help. Believe me, I know it's work for everyone and not just single people. Having gone through seasons where I have had great community, I do know how to build that, but it is partly about what you do and partly about how the circumstances are working out at the time. If you want to help, just listen. That's all I ask. Listen by reading this post, sure. Listen to people in your life that are hurting and just need someone to be with them where they are.
Anyway. The point being is that this whole thing about singleness has just gotten worse. I am no longer at a point where I try to say, "here's what my life is, let me try to get the best I can out of my circumstances". I have no strength left for that. I'm tired. I can't do it alone. We aren't meant to be alone. (Again, not strictly meaning that marriage is the only answer for this; community and family- broadly speaking, not just blood relatives- are a huge part of the answer. I will go so far as to say that even if I met the perfect guy this weekend, that without that kind of community and family, I would still have some of the same problems. Know how I know? Because a lot of married people do have some of those same problems with loneliness.)
In my desire to not be pathetic, I avoid the uncomfortable topic of how awful it is at times to be single; to come home to an empty house, to sometimes spend holidays or parts of holidays alone when family is too far away, to be sick and have to balance whether it's safe to drive to get food when you don't have any, and on and on. (Okay, I don't avoid that here. Here I talk about it ad nauseum. So sorry! When I avoid it in most parts of my life it comes spilling out somewhere.) I don't want to be seen with pity and have people start asking me how many cats I plan to get. On the other hand, I think that bottling it all up is what makes the crazy cat ladies crazy! My opinion is that singleness sucks, in an objective sense. Obviously, my views are not objective, but returning to the statement: It is not good for man to be alone, I think that we have to acknowledge the truth of that.
Now, what does that mean when there is this God, who is supposedly all good. Supposedly all powerful. Supposedly all loving. How would He call someone to marriage or children (or fill in the blank to any other of the bad things that happen- death, disease, tragedy) and let it not turn out. Seriously, we all have something of a prosperity gospel view, because we all assume that eventually it will somehow work out. If nothing else, we will eventually accept our fate and find the good in it. Right? Well, I can't speak to the eventualities of the coming decades, but I can tell you this. I am not used to being single. I think I hate it more every day. I think it gets harder every year. And I know that does not necessarily mean that God will swoop in and grant me the perfect life partner tomorrow. And I know that God is all good, all powerful, and all loving. This is the grace in the last few months that I barely know how to explain. How can I describe how I seriously just can't even; plodding through the days and the nights are difficult and sometimes seem impossible. Going to Mass is not exactly a joy. It's work to get myself to confession, and I'm failing on the Adoration front. I do pray, but I can't speak to the quality of said prayer. I go through my days, and there is good and there is hard. There is numb, which I hate, and pain that is at least better than numb. Yet, under it all there is no question that God is good, powerful, loving.
I do feel that if God were to allow my vocation to marriage to be fulfilled, I would perhaps be able to serve Him better. I feel that without someone close in my life I become sometimes more selfish and less loving. I feel that I need someone to challenge me and help me; and I need to have someone in my life that I can help. I would like so much to get more involved with other people around me, but some of it is not only not easy to do as a single woman, some would be inadvisable and not particularly safe. Perhaps that's all pie in the sky, but I ask those of you in a relationship; how much of what you do, do you think you could do without the support of your spouse?
Even though this post is already far too long, I feel like I'm cheating some of the nuances of what I mean, but the gist is this. I think being single when called to marriage is objectively bad. Just like bad health, death, disaster, and a whole host of other things are objectively bad. In a fallen world, they happen. They happen and there is not always an answer, there is not always a cure, even for those that love God the most. I do not think that God actively wills these things for our lives. He could not be all good if He did. But I do think that in the context of a broken world, He does will to permit these things, not because they are good in and of themselves, but because of the good that He can bring out of them. In the last few months, I have realized that I don't have the strength to make the best of this situation. I can't figure out the why of it all, and I certainly don't have a clue how to go on or what will happen in my life. But I also can't quite describe the grace of being helpless and being beyond the ability to persevere or do things the "right way". Because God is still there, and you realize even more how much it was all grace, how this right now is grace, and how whatever comes of this in the future is grace.
WAY back up at the top with that quote from St. Francis (which sums it up; you could've stopped reading then if only you had known!), that helped me to see some of that balance today. It's okay to recognize that this is not the optimal thing, but you also have to accept wherever God wants to lead. And, thankfully, (because it is entirely beyond me right now) there is the grace there to pray for the change and to accept the lack there of. And I love that thought of allowing that pain to become part of the prayer.
Blessed be God.
*As a female, I focus on the moms, because that's what I would be if I had children.