A Very Good, Very Single Life

It’s a new year, I turn 27 at the end of the month, and I am (still) single. Just as I have been at the beginning of every other year, and heading into every other birthday.

When I was in high school I attended a wedding of people who were 25 or 26, and I remember thinking, “I’ll definitely be married before then.” In the community I grew up in and still live in, marrying young is normal, almost expected even. Younger versions of me were foolish and prideful in many ways, but this–my assumptions about how a relationship would factor into my life–has proven to be the most glaring example.

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Photo Credit: WEB AGENCY

A while back I read a post by the blogger Leigh Kramer that’s made me reconsider how I approach my life. She wrote, “I began dreaming about what my ideal single life would look like. Taking a future husband out of the equation entirely: what would a happy, whole life look like for me? What would need to be in place for me to feel I’m living my best life?”

Planning out my days and weeks on my Google Calendar has become essential to me, but even the phrase “life plan” nearly makes me ill. I like small bits of time to be planned ahead, but not big expanses of time. Yet as I considered Leigh’s post, I realized I’ve always been resistant to the idea of envisioning or planning for my long-term future in terms of being single. Months ahead, maybe even a year, sure–but to think much beyond that felt like giving up hope of things ever changing. Except when I look at my life, as good and full as it is, but very much lacking any reasonable prospects of marriage in the near future, I have to wonder if it’s more damaging for me to not think of my future in terms of being single. It’s all I’ve ever known, and it might be all I’ll ever know.

I’d be lying if I said that even typing those words wasn’t painful.

But it could be true. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure, or less than, or unworthy. It just means I’m single, and might always be. I can’t plan on my life becoming something it very well might not.

So how do I accept that, or at least as well as I can? How do I continue building a good, full life, even though it’s not the kind of good or the kind of full I imagined?

There are some obvious ones for me–despite my at-times complicated relationship with it, faith is always my utmost priority, even when I don’t do a great job of actually making it a priority. I know I’ll have no business getting married if being with him doesn’t make us both able to better love, serve, and glorify God because we are together than we would if we were apart. A tall order, but an important one.

Then there’s the people. I may not have a someONE, but I do have a lot of someoneS. The ones I share DNA with, and the ones I don’t but who have no less significance in my life just because we don’t find each other on a family tree.

Those two are easy, and while the order of the someones might have to shift a bit should a someone come along, they’d both still be there. But they don’t comprise a whole life. They might be priorities, but there’s a lot of living to do in all the other time.

I have no concrete answers for this yet. Will I learn to be okay if things don’t ever turn out the way I had hoped and imagined and prayed they would? How will I not just get through life, but fully embrace it for what it is?

What does a very good, very single life look like for me?

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What does your vision of the good single life look like?

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Looking Back for Thankfulness

Last year at this time, I was not feeling overly thankful. A variety of situations, most of them entirely out of my control, had spiraled me into a place of frustration and discontent. Looking back at my journal from that time, the resounding theme was, “I don’t know what to do.” Getting out of that place required difficult and what proved to be wise yet un-fun decisions, combined with the simple but irritating solution of time.

 

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Photo Credit: Andy Chilton

Comparing our past with our present can be a dangerous game, because things don’t always turn out to be greener on the other side, and while memory lane is a nice place to visit, it’s an impossible place to live. This year though, looking back is giving me a fresh perspective on my reasons to be thankful. It’s both a general and specific thankfulness–I’m thankful life is going better than it was last fall, though much of that isn’t my own doing so much as the circumstances around me happen to different. And specifically, I am so thankful to have a place of my own to call home, a place I chose, I bought, and that I will get to decide when and if I move out of it. After the past few years of moving frequently, it feels like an immense gift to know next fall, unless something really goes haywire, I will still be living in the same place. It’s beginning to feel like real home, and to know I get to continue to build that sense there is deeply, profoundly comforting.

While much of my thankfulness stems from an upturn in life circumstances, there is a spiritual component to it as well. For an undetermined amount of time, I’ve felt an uneasy distance and strangeness in my faith. Though I’ve come to see it as a natural part of being in any sort of long-term relationship, I’ve never welcomed it or been particularly at peace with it. Maybe the season is beginning to change in my relationship with God, or maybe I’ve grown used to this place enough that it doesn’t bother me anymore, but it doesn’t concern me like it used to. It’s not a giving up, walking-away-from-faith kind of change. Instead it’s a peace, however still unsettled, with not fully understanding how the ebb and flow of a relationship with an unseen God works.

None of this is permanent, none of it is guaranteed to be the same (or even better) next year, and there are still plans and hopes I have for life that haven’t shown as much of a glimmer of turning out like I thought they would. Those things don’t go away, but I can choose to not let them detract from this, here, this place and time where I am thankful for what is instead of so caught up in what could be. 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What has looking back made you thankful for?

I Didn’t Ask to Be Human

Being human can be so frustrating–in big ways, certainly, when bodies don’t work like they should or relationships are fractured or big plans fall flat–but in a thousand tiny small ways, too. The little, everyday messes that pile up until suddenly, I’m about to snap.

Photo credit: Flickr User Macro-roni, Creative Commons

Photo credit: Flickr User Macro-roni, Creative Commons

And it occurs to me: I didn’t ask for this.

None of us did.

We didn’t have any say in whether we wanted to be born, to come into this world with all its heartache and storms and irritations.

Yet, here we are. Moving through our days in all their chaos and joys, the dark mixed with the light.

My initial reaction to when I feel like I just. can’t. anymore. is to run away. To remove myself from the situation, set it aside, avoid it until maybe I have the strength to deal. Hibernation has often seemed like an appealing concept. This says something about who I am and how I’m wired, I imagine, though I’m not sure of what, exactly.

Sometimes it’s possible to escape, and arguably even healthy. But I can’t protect myself from all the frustrations of life. Even if I could, it would be unwise, for as much as I don’t want to be, I’m learning here.

We’re all just learning to be human the best that we can, really.

Figuring out how to navigate through a life we didn’t ask to live, but have been given anyway, and now have to–get to–choose what we do with. Escaping from my irritations is an appealing option, but someday there will come a time when I’m faced with a similar situation with no escape possible. How will I know how to handle it, and that I can handle it, if I avoid it now?

So instead, I have to choose to actively engage with all those frustrating bits about being human that I’d rather avoid. I didn’t ask to be human, but I can try to do it well anyway.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What frustrates you about being human?

Happy 4th Birthday!

Four years ago today, I started blogging here.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Shyn Darkly, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Shyn Darkly, Creative Commons

Those first few posts aren’t exactly masterpieces, and at times I’ve been tempted to take them down. But I’ve realized they’re part of a story, the story I’m telling with my life and with all of the words collected here over the past few years. Those posts, and all the other “subpar” ones I’ve published and will publish, are part of something bigger. I’ve catalogued much of my journey of graduating, my continuing joys and frustrations of singleness, the ups and downs of faith, and so much more. Blogging often feels as much for me as it does for anyone else, which I suppose is kind of a good thing.

There have been, and will continue to be, times when I consider quitting. Objectively speaking, there’s really no “outcome” of these words I continue to throw into cyberspace. In my better moments, though, I’m reminded that sometimes the value is in the doing. Which is why I’m still here, typing, deleting, typing again, publishing. Four years down, who knows how many to come.

Thanks for hanging out with me.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

25 Lessons in 25 Years

I recently turned 25. It’s not a ton of years, but it doesn’t feel like nothing, either. I’ve done some stuff. Gone some places. Learned some things. For this post, 25 things, to be exact.

25 Lessons

  1. Know what you’re about. What is the central, driving force of your life—not just for this moment, but for this season and beyond?
  2. Love what’s in front of you. As Mumford and Sons sing, “I will learn to love the skies I’m under.” Life doesn’t come with a fast forward button or a rewind, so be where you are and find the goodness in it.
  3. Things that are not fun while you’re living them (throwing up into a plastic bag at a London Tube station, for example) can make great stories later.
  4. Learn to let go.
  5. But also learn how to hold on fiercely, even when it hurts.
  6. Learning to tell the difference between the previous two is so, so important. And sometimes really hard.
  7. Good music can soothe your soul. Also brownies.
  8. Life can be as exciting—or boring—as you make it be.
  9. Read. Fiction, nonfiction, classics, children’s books—read it all. Read what you’ll love, read what you’ll hate, and everything in between. Read books, Facebook posts, magazine articles, tweets. You will travel, you will learn, you will cry, you will laugh. Read.
  10. As much as possible, don’t burn bridges. People may reappear in your life many times over, and you never know when it might happen or in what way.
  11. God is big, and good, and wildly confusing sometimes. Stop trying to completely figure him out. You won’t.
  12. But don’t stop chasing God. Yes, he’s confusing, but so much more than that, he is loving and good and in the end, worth it all.
  13. Don’t buy the cheapest plunger at the store. You will regret it.
  14. Write it down. Whatever “it” is. Thoughts, feelings, actions, hopes, dreams. Words will sort your brain out in ways you didn’t think possible, show you where you’ve been and sometimes clarify where you should go.
  15. Find the good people. They are out there, and they will color and shape your world in extraordinary ways.
  16. Eat well. Have some cake, a steak, the queso you love. Not as often as you might want, but not never.
  17. Stop trying to control everything. It won’t ever work the way you want it to. Ultimately, God has it. You may not like the way it looks, or the timing, or the exact way it all happens, but he can be trusted.
  18. Determine whose opinion matters. Most people’s opinion doesn’t. But for those ones, the good people, the people who love you and care for you and truly want what’s best for you—listen to them. Sometimes you cannot see clearly what’s right in front of you.
  19. Both figuratively and literally, life is too short to read crappy books.
  20. Make room in your life for the best things, even if it means getting rid of good things.
  21. Yes, it’s true you only live once, but don’t be a moron about it. Only living once is not an excuse to live recklessly with no thought of the future. It’s probable you have more days ahead of you, so make sure you can use those ones well also. Not just today.
  22. Love comes in many forms. Appreciate them all.
  23. Show up, both physically and metaphorically.
  24. Never stop learning. Learn about yourself—take personality tests that put into words things you’ve felt but couldn’t explain, be open to what other people observe about you, don’t be quite so scared to change. Soak in knowledge about any and everything, wherever you may find it.
  25. When faced with the choice between getting a good night’s sleep and going on adventures, pick the adventures. “I remember the day I was really well-rested” is not a story.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What lessons would you add?

A Season for Frayed Edges

I’m tired. Not in a way that going to bed early one night will clear up, but a deeper, heavier tired; a tired that’s as much, if not more, to do with my soul as it is my body.

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Photo Credit: Flickr User Frankenmedia, Creative Commons

 If I had to draw a picture of myself, I would have frayed edges. Still whole, intact, but unraveled a bit.

It’s not as though I’m falling apart, though I’ve felt that way before. It’s not even anything specific that’s brought on this feeling. I’ve been busy lately, traveling twice within two weeks and keeping up with all sorts of various church and family commitments and generally filling my life with a lot of good things.

Sometimes though, even the good things can become a bit overwhelming.

That’s all this is, I know–I’ve had times where there is a deeper, more sinister type of tired lurking around the edges. This fraying is not breaking, not jagged edges and sharpness, but a gentle weariness.

I think it’s a reminder that this is how life goes, really. There are seasons of busy, some of it bad but hopefully more of it good, and that busy is often followed by weary, which is a reminder to rest and quite possibly to do busy differently the next time.

So I’m pondering what got me here, to this place with frayed edges, and taking what I know about myself and figuring out what it will be to keep the edges from fraying more–but also knowing that it’s a season. And as they do, this season too will change.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What do you do you seasons of frayed edges?

Out of Control (aka, My Life)

Until this past year, most of my life has been planned out in a big-picture way. It has been largely dictated by the school calendar and its breaks and busyness. In April, I freaked out as I graduated, sort of figured out what I would do for the summer, freaked out again because I didn’t know exactly what my fall would look like, got that settled, and now am looking forward to the next season, both calendar-wise and life-wise.

The other night, as I lay in bed thinking about what the next few months of my life may look like, I found myself not being able to come up with much.

“If I could just get part of my life under control,” I thought. “One section, or maybe two, maybe I’d feel a bit more settled.”

If I could just get it under control.

Which is exactly my problem.

 

I like control. I like plans.  I like feeling in the know.

But the ultimate goal of my life should not be to be in control of it.

The exact opposite is true: The ultimate goal of my life should be to completely not be in control of it.

Because God should be in control of it.

It is a hard thing to admit.

It is a terribly, terribly hard thing to implement.

To say, “God, please take control of my life” sounds like the action should be on his part–taking. Really though, the action is on me–the giving of control. Not a one time, carelessly whispered prayer. Daily, hourly, minutely, active giving away of control.

And in the giving of control, I receive as well. Peace. Contentment. Assurance.

 

I don’t know what this looks like in my own life yet. I don’t believe I will ever truly master, once and for all, the giving control of my life to God. It is a process, and I am in progress.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

p.s. What does it look like to give God complete control of your life? Can it be mastered?

Life is Now

Today I’m honored to be guest posting at Into the Mud, the blog of Christine Jeske. She and her husband Adam wrote the book This Ordinary Adventure, which is where the 31 Amazing Days Challenge idea came from. Here’s an excerpt from my piece:

 

Throughout the month of October, I’ve been learning to be more aware of what I do throughout my day. I’ve been searching for bits of amazing, partly to write about, but also to glean more appreciation for my life.

Often though, I’ve found myself making excuses for why I haven’t been more intentional about creating amazing moments. I’ve graduated from college, so in theory I’m equipped to be an active participant in the adult world, at least when it comes to the workplace. But it doesn’t always feel that way for the rest of life. This phase of life feels like an in-between time.

I catch myself thinking, “Once this next thing happens, that’s when my real life will start.” Whether it’s moving out of my parents’ house, finding a boyfriend, getting a full-time job—one of those things will be the catalyst for “real life” beginning. Where I am now is not the story I would have written if I had authored my own life. Sometimes, I am sure that once God gives me the go ahead to move on to the “next thing,” that’s when things will get better, and my “real life” will begin. Where I am now? It’s just a holding pattern, a temporary stop on my way to real life.

read the rest here.

And tomorrow brings October to a close, and an end to my 31 days of blogging. Reflections to come.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

The Writer’s Enemy

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. -Sylvia Plath

The end of October is quickly approaching, which means my mission to post every day is nearly over. Throughout this month of writing, I’ve experienced the reality of Sylvia Plath’s words.

“Everything in life is writable about…”

My daily routine has not changed much this month, but my attentiveness to it certainly has. Knowing I’m going to be writing later in the day has forced me to be observant and think, “Could I write about this?” Usually, I come up with something I could say about it. That’s part of why this quote from Sylvia appeals to me so much–many writers I enjoy reading have lived overseas, gone on road trips, been married and/or divorced, lived for more years than I have, lived in huts, adopted children, etc., but that doesn’t somehow make my own life experiences not worth writing about. Mine are just different.

Which brings me to the second part I identify with so much…

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” YUP. When I don’t feel like writing, feel like I have nothing to say, and am certain there is no point in writing anyway, I can usually trace it back to self-doubt. Much of my self-doubt tends to be rooted in comparison to those writers who have so much more life experience than me. I’m fortunate that I haven’t yet had anyone tell me, “You shouldn’t be writing because you haven’t done enough,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if that occurs. It’s perhaps the biggest block I face when writing.

My life doesn’t seem to have nearly enough angst, adventure, or upheaval to be interesting enough to write about.

But it doesn’t need to.

 

“Everything in life is writable about…”

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

p.s. Wes Molebash wrote a great piece that appeared on Prodigal Magazine entitled, “Your Life is Boring, But You Can Still Write Good Stories.”