A little over a year ago, I wrote this post. I hadn’t been writing regularly at all (I’m still not…), so I didn’t expect that many people would see it. I just needed to vent, and I figured only two or three people were still reading my blog anyway. But within 24 hours, the link had been shared across the interwebs and I was receiving countless messages from people on similar journeys. One such message read, “Oh, girl, thank you so much for writing this!!! If I hear one more time that someday my prince will come, I might end up in prison. Why do people say such stupid things???” Well, dear reader, I’ve still not figured out why people say such stupid things. In fact, I’ve been seriously contemplating my next book, Stupid Crap People Say To Single Women. But first I need to finish my collection of bad date stories, Knights In Shining Foil: My Story Of Survival In The Dating World.
So I’m 32 now. And still single. When March rolled around this year, I thought back to my post from last year and considered writing “What It Means To Be Single: Revisited.” What’s changed? The truth is that, in general, nothing has changed. I would still write almost every word that I wrote last year, and I’m still always performing that tricky balancing act of desiring a family vs. being content & grateful for the life I have. But this is the difference as I ponder singleness this year: I’ve realized that being an introvert makes that balance so much more difficult with each passing year. I am an introvert, yes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like people. Actually, it’s quite the opposite–I love people. I deeply desire relationships, but I deeply desire relationships that are meaningful–relationships in which we give and take, laugh and cry, share and listen. No small talk, no surface relationships (I can’t stomach them).
Ten years ago I had a huge group of single friends. I had social plans every weekend, which included the movies or concerts or road trips or anything else we wanted to do–because we could. Now I can count the number of my close single friends on one hand. And I don’t even need all the fingers on that hand. With every birthday I celebrate, the majority of my friends are continuing to grow their beautiful families. I love watching their families grow and being a part of their lives. Love love love it. I get to be an “aunt” to so many amazing kids, and so many of my friends are incredible parents. I am blessed to even be alive, and I know it. Truly.
But being an introverted, single, 32-year-old woman in a new state with only one friend nearby…man, the loneliness just sneaks up and bites me in the rear when I least expect it. Take this past weekend for example. My plans on Friday night were canceled, so I picked up a gluten-free Domino’s pizza (blah) and rented a really dumb movie on my way home. I spent most of Saturday at the library trying to pass the time, and then ended the day with a couple more really dumb movies, all the while feeling the ache of loneliness. When my one friend was free to hang out on Sunday, I woke up too dizzy to stand, fell and hit my head, and couldn’t drive over there. So I spent the rest of the day lying down and crying and watching really dumb movies. I’m pretty pathetic, really.
I moved halfway across the country in August. I knew it would take time to make friends. I was prepared for the lonely days, knowing that eventually there would be less of those and more of living life with the people around me. I’ve never had a problem making friends before. But I’m realizing that the older I get, the harder it becomes to cultivate those deep relationships. I’m the type of person who is totally content to have just a few close friends, so I’m not looking for dozens of people to whom I can bare my soul. But how on earth do people meet people these days??? I’ll think that, hey, I’m strong! I can do this! And I’m a good friend! People like me! I can meet people! So I set my face like flint and determine to Make Friends.
Unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple with the whole introversion thing. Being in large groups of people makes me want to crawl under the floor, so I try to seek out much smaller venues and one-on-one (or two or three) interactions. I don’t do the bar scene. Online dating hasn’t exactly produced pleasant results for me in the past (full details coming soon to a book near you). Blind dates were even worse (yes, they’ll be in the book, too). I’ve visited church after church after church since moving here, and still have yet to find a place where I belong, or even one where I might kinda sorta belong. I’ve gone to coffee shops and bookstores and anything else I can think of that’s free.
So it’s not as easy to make friends at this stage in my life. But I won’t give up. And these lonely days are days that I can use to seek Christ, to become a better photographer, to practice random acts of kindness, to speak love and truth and encouragement to the people in my life, to make sock monsters and take them on wild adventures, to read and write and make music, and to be incredibly grateful for every hug that I do get and every kind word spoken to me and every moment I get to spend in relationship with others.
I’ll end with some thoughts I didn’t share last year. A large majority of my married friends have said to me at one time or another, “I’d do anything for just a few moments of solitude! You’re so lucky! Once you get married, you’re going to wish you had all of that alone time again, so don’t pine it away! Live it up!” I understand that you crave solitude when you’ve got children demanding your attention 24/7, you’re working to provide for your family, your spouse has left his or her underwear on the floor again, which drives you out of your already-exhausted mind, and you just want to be able to use the bathroom in peace. I get it. I suspect that, no matter which side of the fence we fall on, the grass always looks greener on the other side. But it still has to be mowed. I am under no pretense that marriage and/or parenthood will be a walk in the park. I know it will often be hard, grueling even, and there will be days when I won’t think I can possibly do it for another second. And it will also be breathtaking and beautiful and one of the most humbling & rewarding experiences of my life.
So if you have a single friend who longs to be married and have children of his or her own, maybe just listen to them instead of telling them how lucky they are. Know that when you go home to the arms of your spouse and children, your friend is going home alone again. When your friend watches you hold your children and tell them how much you love them, her heart swells–with joy for you, and with a bit of an ache because her arms are still empty. And if you have any extra hugs to spare, give them lavishly to your single friends–they may not have been touched for a while, and we all need that touch to survive.
As for the introverted-single-and-only-getting-older problem…well, I guess I don’t have any answers. If any of you can just go ahead and introduce me to Mr. Darcy now, I’d be happy to get this show on the road. In the meantime, I’m going to continue working on contentedness.