Hi. I love you. I really do.
I would venture to say that 80% of friendships are with you and those relationships I count as some of my finest. I’m thankful each day to be associated with you, to learn from you as women, to grow vicariously through you as you share with me your experiences and struggles as a wife, a mother, a human being.
I enjoy your blogs, your Facebook posts, your Instagram feeds about the realness of your journey – the no sleep, the screaming children in Target, the messy homes and your sometimes messy heart; as well as the beauty you feel when you rock your child to sleep, when your husband leaves you a small love note, when potty training goes right, or your first born graduates from high school.
Your moments have helped me in my own struggles, they’ve made me laugh, they’ve made me happy for you, and sad with you. Thank you for sharing, thank you for being my friend.
What I hope to share with you, I do so without malice or a desire to hurt the complexity that is your individual experience. I share so you will see what I mean when I talk about wanting what you have. I share because I truly believe we are in this together and we are not all that dissimilar. I share to give you a different viewpoint on my journey for me as a single adult woman in this world. I don’t speak for all single women, only for me and from my perspective.
In order to do that, let me give you some background on me. I am a single thirty-three year old, active Latter-Day-Saint social worker who enjoys walks by the beach and an early morning run – – – yikes, sorry, for a moment there I felt like I was writing my Match.com profile. No, I don’t enjoy an early morning run, I will try it once a month but I will not enjoy it. Sorry, everyone, I often try to use levity when I’m about to bare my soul in a painful way, mainly as a distraction to avoid the inevitable . . . ok, here goes . . . as I said, I’m thirty-three, single, and hereismejumpingoffthedeepend: I have never had a relationship.
Never. Not one. This isn’t for lack of trying; believe me, I am not a Rapunzel, locked in some tower waiting for my prince to come rescue me. High school was the equivalent of hell for me – I wasn’t popular, I was quiet, I had a few friends but when it came to dating I was overweight and often bullied because of that, especially by boys. That pattern of not dating continued for most of my early twenties. It was during those times of loneliness that I decided I couldn’t wait for it to happen. I began going to horrifically awful (my words alone ) LDS young single adult activities and dances. I talked to guys, I asked some out, and I had friends set me up. Since then I’ve also tried online dating and the travesty that is the Tinder app. I’ve been on my share of first dates, a handful of seconds, one third.
I tell you all this, not for sympathy or pity but just for an understanding.
As human beings we are wired to run from pain – our own and that of others. Pain is to be relieved and fixed, not sat with, or looked at. Sitting with pain and looking at it is not wallowing in it. I find that people believe that if they are forced to look at their own pain or that of another for longer than a certain amount of time then they are indulging pain and that is wrong. But how long is too long? Who determines the line between wallowing in pain and moving from pain? Why do we need to label everything wrong or right? Can’t it just be, can’t it just sit?
I find it one of the most beautiful ironies of life that when we stop running from pain and look at it, honor it, we begin to heal from it. The hurt might last but the fear we had of it goes away and, to me, the fear is half the pain. So, to the wife or mom who feels uncomfortable or defensive when I talk about wanting what you have or feeling a certain loneliness in my life for lack of a spouse or children, can you just sit with me for a moment? Can you seek for empathy and not see my pain as something to run from or compare your pain to? I promise I will try to do the same.
Brené Brown said it beautifully when she stated that, “empathy never starts with the words ‘at least’.” Can I tell you the countless times I have heard, “At least you don’t have to be woken up by sick children at night,” “at least you don’t have to run everything you do by a spouse – you are free to do whatever you want,” or, “I wish I was still single, you don’t know how lucky you have it,” “marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, you just don’t get it,” “you get time to yourself, what I wouldn’t give to have time to myself,” “husbands are like having another child, feel blessed you don’t have to worry,” and on and on and on.
Please stop saying those things. I promise I know a lot of them are true. I do believe that most come from a good place, a place to show me the blessings of my life, but most of the time I come away feeling unseen, invalidated, and with my intelligence being insulted. I don’t express my desire to have a spouse or children without knowing that what I am asking for isn’t just roses and happy times. I am not naïve to an understanding that struggle and difficulty come with marriage and a family.
Remember when I told you that 80% of my friendships are with you? I have been a listening ear to the difficult moments – the children that keep you up all night, the spouse that doesn’t listen or worse isn’t who you thought they would be, the small arguments, the large ones, the pain of infertility, the feelings you might have of losing who you are because you are only seen as someone’s wife or someone’s mother, the pain in thinking you aren’t doing your best as a mom, the annoyance of the little things, and many other hard, difficult moments. Of course my listening to these moments is different than experiencing them and I would never seek to tell you that in listening I understand or comprehend what those moments feel like, I don’t. What it does do for me however is it teaches me that there is complexity and difficulty in the goal that I am continuing to seek after – that of having a husband and family of my own.
When I took economics in college, barely passing mind you, I remember a principle called “Risk v. Reward.” I just googled an easy way to explain it cause, hey, I am NO mathematician … basically, it’s used to express that investing money into the various investment markets brings a high degree of risk so the money you stand to gain needs to be big in order to justify the risk. I bring this up because just as the principle works in the realm of finance, it works when it comes to relationships. The risk is great when we seek for connection with anyone but even more so when it comes to romantic relationships. So why do we do it? Why have you done it? Why chance the heartbreak or pain or difficulty?
It’s done because we believe in this principle; we believe that the reward for which we are risking so much of our hearts and souls is worth it. The reward of love is always worth the risk of pain. I haven’t made it pay off for me yet but I won’t stop trying. I won’t stop trying because the reward is oh so sweet. I know this because just as I have been a listening ear for the difficult moments, I have been privileged to be part of the good that you, my dear friends, have shared with me. I have been to weddings and baby showers, I have heard about dates when someone first told you that they loved you, I have heard you talk about a child’s first step and the pride in your voice when you talk about witnessing your child be generous or kind; I have watched as you have taken your children to Disneyland and laughed with you as you have talked about the funny and wonderful things that they say. Thank you for letting me be a part of those moments, for sharing your reward and giving me the courage to still risk pain for love.
I wrote this post partly in response to a conversation I had with a friend, with a wife and a mother who was brave enough to tell me that she sometimes feels embarrassed for me when I write about being single, she feels like I talk about it too much and that she is afraid I think marriage to be a fairy tale. I love her for her honesty and courage in seeking to have a hard conversation with me. I will tell you what I told her: I don’t think I write about it enough. I don’t believe anyone talks about this pain enough.
I told her that it’s okay if she feels embarrassed for me but that I don’t feel embarrassed. To me, marriage and family is wired into our DNA, it is what I personally believe I was sent here to do. For the longest time I walked around ashamed to my core that I was failing at the only thing that ever made sense to me, the only thing I ever wanted out of life. I felt isolated in this shame and pain and tried to act like it didn’t hurt that I was alone. I talked about how great it was to be independent and that I get to travel and behaved how I thought I was supposed to. I felt that if I talked about my pain it would lessen my chances of finding someone. I was horrified that I would be seen as desperate, that was the last thing I wanted to have happen. I now know that talking about the pain of being alone does not make one desperate. I now know that talking about what hurts us is what helps us.
There is one more reason why I will continue to talk about the pain I feel in being single: other single women. As I have talked about the pain of being single, of being alone, others have reached out and shared with me that they too have felt pain similar to mine, that they too have felt alone in their shame. Alone is never what I hope another to feel because the true weight of that feeling has crushed my soul more than I would care to admit, so even if only one person feels a little less alone with my words, it is enough. I will not stop writing about it, I will not stop talking about it. It is in the writing about it that I am able to understand and learn from it. In a tear filled conversation with my brother about this topic a month ago he said to me, “Mia, you need to read what you write and actually BELIEVE it.”
So, this is me writing to connect, writing to learn, and most importantly, this is me writing to BELIEVE.
I will end this post as I started it: to the mom or wife that gets uncomfortable or embarrassed for me as I talk about the pain I feel in being single – I love you, I really do. If you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable for me, that’s okay. I just hope you know that I don’t, not anymore.