Single lady real talk
I was sitting at dinner with friends a while back, and this question came up: What would people discover about you only after knowing you for six months? It stumped me. While I’m not exactly an open book, I’m not so mysterious, either. Upon racking my brain and coming up with nothing, I reversed the question, knowing they’d have some insights about me. Sure enough, my friend soon replied: that you don’t have all the answers. How’s that for ironic. (Or perhaps appropriate?)
It’s true, I don’t. Yes, I’ve written about being fully alive and making a gift of myself and becoming a saint. Yes, I’ve shared some small insights I’ve gleaned in the course of my own vocational discernment. Yes, I’ve highlighted the need for self-knowledge and vulnerability and courage in navigating the ever-uncertain waters of dating. But no, I don’t have all the answers.
My preferred blog-writing routine is this: dream up a title, brainstorm a sketch of an outline, sit down to write furiously, arrive at a neat and tidy and happy and confident conclusion, post. Repeat. And maybe, just maybe, that mirrors the way I live my life, too.
Despite those aforementioned conclusions, there are some (many? most?) times that I’m simply at a loss. Try as I might, I don’t always see the single life as a gift, as a time for adventure and discovery and freedom. There are times when I’m just plain lonely, when I’d really just rather be settled in a happy marriage with a baby on the way, thank you very much. Times when I’d like to be known and seen and loved, and not just by my parents or sister or friends, as wonderful as they are. Times when I’d like to be chosen, singled out, preferred among all the rest.
When I’m tempted to throw myself a pity party, that’s often when I spring into action. A few years back, in a season of particular longing, I reached out to a few (six) of my favorite bloggers, all Catholic women married with kids. (Maybe later we can talk about how it’s not so helpful for a single woman to be spending ample amounts of time reading mom blogs and scrolling through pictures of adorable children as she dreams about her future. Not that that’s stopped me.) Here was my inquiry:
I want to spend my time as a single woman in a productive way that actually prepares me well for marriage and motherhood. I know there must be so many things that you just need to experience firsthand, but I also feel like there must be ways I could be living more intentionally, such as practicing particular virtues, in order to prepare me for my (potential) vocation as a wife and mother. I am wondering if you, as a seasoned wife and mother, have any thoughts on the matter? Are there ways that you did prepare or wish you had prepared for marriage and parenting in your single years?
I received six kind replies in return, all replete with gems of wisdom and encouragement. One kind woman even turned her response into a blog post. And I look back at my younger self with a touch of fondness, remembering my earnestness and eagerness. Yes, I’ll be productive! Yes, I’ll use this time well! Yes, I’ll ask the experts and enter my vocation armed and ready with virtues galore, prepped to the nines. Of course I still want all those things. But, to borrow a line from my 96 year-old grandfather, the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.
I don’t know if I’m even called to marriage. The door to religious life is still open. And, if I am, I don’t know when or how it will happen. Maybe I’ll marry a blind date, or meet him online. Maybe we’ll be friends for years first—heck, maybe I know him now. I don’t know if I’ll start dating someone tomorrow, or if it’ll be years. I don’t know if I’ll continue to (strive to) live life joyfully and purposefully, or if the expectation and longing will wear me down. I don’t know if I’ll be the last single one among my friends. I just don’t know.
I’ve always found it easier to put on a smile and claim—to myself, to my friends, to you, you anonymous reader—that I’m perfectly content. Yes, I’ve got this dream, but, look! I’m full of joy. I’m living for heaven. The goodness far outweighs the struggle. Somehow that’s easier. But, here’s the truth: sometimes, I’m not perfectly content. Sometimes, it feels as if my joy has very nearly run dry. As if heaven is simply too far off. As if the struggle is too much.
I don’t have all the answers, but I’m grateful. Grateful for the questioning and wondering and even suffering. Grateful that I’m not alone, that I feel deeply, that I have the gift of faith to see all this in the light of eternity. And grateful, too, for the freedom not to arrive at a neat and tidy and happy and confident conclusion. Because sometimes, the truth is, I just don’t know.