Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thoughts on being single

So I'm on day six of my 40-day writing commitment and I'm doing quite well. I've managed to write every day so far, even if only for a little while. Three cheers for dedication! Now if only I can get back into that exercise routine...

Fitness aside, I've spent a little time reviewing some things I've written in the past. One, a piece of fiction I started last year, I've decided to put more effort into and see if anything comes of it. I also found the below, some compiled reflections on faith and being single that, at the time, I titled Vignettes (probably because it doesn't have a solid conclusion).

I wrote them in March of 2008 (and very proud of my quote usage I was, too, although I was probably reading too much chick-lit at the time), and was clearly intending to do something with it, although I can't recall what. References I make to "not too long ago," are now three years in the past. It made me laugh, though, as I reread. I liked it when I wrote it and I still like it now. I probably didn't post it to this blog (which has been around quite a while now, even if I've only been more consistent posting to it recently) because I wasn't brave enough, and (gasp!) someone might actually read it. Maybe it's a symptom of being a few years older, but I care less about what people think, in terms of my writing, than I once did. I also received some positive reinforcement about it from a friend, who thought it was worthwhile to put out there as well.

And while I'm sure that, having had three additional years of single life go by, I could add to the piece, what is here still stands on its own, I think. So, barring a few tweaks and an update or two, here 'tis:

“Someone will come along someday. I hear Florida is a good place to find wealthy widowers … Of course, I hear they go pretty quickly. Both to marriage and death. Better hurry!”
From “What a Girl Wants” by Kristin Billerbeck

You know, if only the man I wanted was a wealthy, or even remotely well-off, widower, I would have my pick. The roads, stores, restaurants at 4 p.m. and indeed the very ground in Southwest Florida are thick with them. As my cousin Carrie once said to me jokingly, “If you wanted a sugar-daddy, you’d be all set.”
But I don’t want a wealthy widower. With all due respect to the retirees, I would prefer to date a man who’s closer to my age range than to my grandfather’s. The only problem is, there don’t seem to be any unmarried ones here.
Not too long ago, my friend Lance suggested I join a grandmother’s group at my parish.
“Maybe they’d have some grandsons your age,” he said before his wife Nicole slapped him playfully.
Well, even if I was that desperate about being single at 30, I couldn’t join a grandmother’s – or any other woman’s group – down here if I wanted to. They all meet during the day, sometime between 10 and 2, when I’m at work. So much for ministering to young adults, huh?
As far as single’s groups at area parishes go, there are a couple. But I don’t qualify for any of them, seeing as I’m under 45 and all.
And as for the potential grandsons, I very much doubt that any of them live here. They’re probably in Boston, New York, Chicago or Saskatchewan.
One of my college roommates, now a youth minister, used to go to a number of conferences. She would always come back and say something like, “I met this great guy. He’d be so perfect for you! Only he lives in Arizona.”
I’d scoff at her and say “Well, what good does that do me here?” I used to think that God would plunk a man into my lap wherever I was and that would be that. Nothing like that has happened yet.
But God certainly works in interesting ways. My friend Amanda joined one of the Catholic dating Web sites. She started sending messages back and forth with a man who lived in Massachusetts who volunteered with FOCUS ministries. Before they even met officially, they were dating. She said everything was so easy…but she still had doubt. “God is crazy…but in a good way,” she’d tell me. After five and a half months, tons of phone calls, Internet chatting sessions and flying back and forth to see each other (not to mention the fact that it turned out he’d known a friend of hers at Steubenville), he proposed. A little more than a year after she’d been mourning the loss of a relationship with a man she thought was the love of her life, Amanda found the true one (2011 update: they’re now expecting their second child).

I think sometimes that, for those of us who are still single, we lack the faith to believe that God will do amazing things like that for us, or that we are somehow less deserving of love like that that seems to just appear out of thin air. But that’s not the case at all. I have to remind myself that God is working in me and molding me for that other person, and vice versa. My best (now very happily married) friend and I used to think that love would just come. We both thought that we’d go to college, meet the man of our dreams, graduate, land a fabulous job and live happily every after. Looking back now, I know that didn’t happen because I wasn’t ready. I still don’t know if I am, but I do know I’m closer. My faith tells me so.
“(He) was the constant ray of hope in my life. The Omnipresent Potential. A reason to buy new clothes. It was the hope I was addicted to.”
 From “What a Girl Wants” by Kristin Billerbeck

Hope is a heady thing. And it doesn’t take much to feed it. An e-mail. A sentence. A word of greeting spoken in passing. I will readily admit to having spent countless hours overanalyzing nearly everything a crush has said to me. Sometimes, I brought a friend along with me in these trips to happily-ever-after land. In fact, it was better that way, because you had someone to gush to. And if she happened to have a crush of her own to analyze it was even better. It was like crack.
More often than not, my crushes didn’t live in the same city as I did. There was the brother of a friend I met on a retreat. A crush who finally asked me to dinner the night before he moved across the country for work but then maintained a nearly three-year correspondence with me. Another who was the classmate of a former roommate at a different university (you follow?). I lived for their e-mails, imagining they were the modern version of love letters. The distance made it even easier to imagine different meanings to the words they wrote to me.

Even Charles Dickens commented on this once. I came a cross a quote in "Nicholas Nickleby" that reminded me so much of this. For some reason, it surprised me to no end that Charles Dickens would know what I felt 150-odd years later.
"Mystery and disappointment are not absolutely indispensable to thegrowth of love, but they are, very often, its powerful auxiliaries. 'Out of sight, out of mind,' is well enough as a proverb applicable to cases of friendship, though absence is not always necessary to hollowness of heart, even between friends, and truth and honesty, like precious stones, are perhaps most easily imitated at a distance, when the counterfeits often pass for real. Love, however, is very materially assisted by a warm and active imagination, which has a long memory, and will thrive for a considerable time on very slight and sparing food. Thus it is, that it often attains its most luxuriant growth in separation and under circumstances of utmost difficulty."      

Dickens had a sense for human nature. And that doesn’t change much.
And it seems like most of these relationships that experienced “luxuriant growth” were the ones that didn’t have a concrete ending. There was still some kind of a connection, or no closure. For myself, and for some friends, those are those are ones you carry with you. The ones that make you think, “what if?” For far too long.
A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the first night of a two-night presentation by Christopher West (who I was able to meet with briefly—I had him sign a book for me). He spent that evening addressing the women in the audience. Being a reporter, I of course took copious notes, and I’m glad I did, since I’ve gone back to read them several times. One of the things he said that stuck with me (and there were many) was that when we as women look to men to satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts, we commit idolatry. I’d never thought about it that way before, and thinking about all the time I spent worrying/wishing/wasting time thinking about and overanalyzing the relationships that almost were, well, that’s what I was doing. West said man can only be “a faint glimmer” of what Jesus can do for us. God will woo you if you let Him.

“The date was nothing like I expected it to be. Not that I knew what to expect. But I did have the odd imaginary scenario in my head, ranging from dreadful (he doesn’t turn up; it turns out he’s a Nazi) to fantastic (we end up … on a speedboat on the Thames and he asks me to marry him) …”
From “Can You Keep a Secret” by Sophie Kinsella

Not too long ago, I agreed to meet with a man I’d been exchanging e-mails with on a Catholic dating site. He was going to be visiting the area to meet with his spiritual director (so I figured he couldn’t be an ax-murderer, right?) and wanted to meet for coffee. After finding out his last name (so I’d know what name my friends should give the cops in case I turned up missing), and talking on the phone, I said agreed. It had been years since I’d had anything remotely resembling a date, but I offered it up to God and His will, figuring He’d cover me.

And in one way, it was a successful date. No, he didn’t sweep me off my feet and propose we jet to Scotland for a lavish wedding in a castle, and there wasn’t even a love connection, but I was confident and myself. In fact, I was so confident, I think I made this man nervous. He was having a hard time coming up with things to ask me about. And although the conversation was ok when it got going, there wasn’t a love connection. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

The imagination weaves other storylines, too. In lieu of an actual date, the mind creates idiotic scenarios that could rival some of the best of Hollywood’s “meet cute” plot lines. It’s usually completely unrealistic, ridiculously detailed and takes place in a locale that the other person would either a) never show up in, or b) a place you tend to frequent, making option A all the more likely. Something like this:

“‘I meant to call you,’ he would say, as I swooned glamorously over his arm, defying gravity in the best of all possible ways. ‘But I was [hit by a cab; gored by a wild bull; in hospital with cholera]. Come to dinner with me and I’ll make it up to you.’”
From “The Deception of the Emerald Ring” by Lauren Willig

Imagine if the brain power we women wasted coming up with these scenarios was used for good, or even constructive prayer time, rather than silliness? What couldn’t we do?

“Truthfully, this is the fabric of all my fantasies: love shown not by a kiss or a wild look or a careful hand but by a willingness for research. I don’t dream of someone who understands me immediately, who seems to have known me my whole life, who says I know, me too. I want someone keen to learn my own strange organization, amazed at what’s revealed; someone who asks, and then what, and then what?
From “The Giant’s House” by Elizabeth McCracken

I have a desire to be wooed. Most women do. I’ve tried pursuing before, which is what the world tells us we should do, but that didn’t work. It didn’t feel altogether natural, either. And sure, there’s a definite allure to the whole love at first sight thing. But being friends first takes time. It takes patience, which a lot of us pray for, but don’t have. We can’t wait on our own. We need God’s help.

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