One Reason Being Single is Hard

For all its freedoms (and they are true and they are lovely), there are times when being single is not my favorite. While I’m a firm believer, though not always a good practitioner, of the idea that being alone does not have to equal being lonely, there are times when certain kinds of loneliness feel more pronounced.

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Photo Credit: Levi Price

Lately, one of the larger difficulties of being single is not having one specific person. One person to take all of my stories and troubles and joys to, and in turn, not being that person for someone else. It’s not that I have no one–many times recently I have been thinking of, and rejoicing over, the abundance of good, deep, meaningful relationships I have in my life–yet for all they bring to my life, there is a particular kind of with-ness they do, and will always, lack. It’s the with-ness of having one particular person who has vowed to keep showing up even when it’s hard, to keep hearing the same stories even when they’ve heard them all before, to keep caring about the little things that matter to me even when they’d rather watch TV.

All of these wonderful qualities are ones that can be found in family and friends, and again, it’s not that I don’t have those. But it’s too much to ask just one of those people to be my go-to for all of life’s complexities. Burdens are better when they’re shared, and I know I would become an unhealthy mess of a person if I didn’t vent and talk things through with other people.

Yet for single people, I think that sharing burdens can be more difficult than for those in a relationship–not having one constant person means we have to spread them around a bit. One friend might be our person to talk to about frustrations at work, a different friend for talking about the lows and highs of singleness, and another friend for talking about the complicated mess of trying to be an adult. There’s a beauty in this, of having enough good, solid relationships where this is even possible–but there is are unavoidable complications to it as well, and an ache of wanting to not need to remember who I talk to about which things, because there’s one person I can talk to about all of it.

Some of this might be “naive single person wishes,” and I realize that. Should I ever get married, I truly hope and intend to maintain other healthy relationships besides that one specific one. There will always be certain situations that specific people will understand better than others, because of shared history or experiences or simply because of who they are. I also realize that, along with having one person for all my stories, I would then become someone’s one person as well–there is immense weight and responsibility in that, which I hope I don’t take lightly.

Still, there are times when, and reasons why, being single is just plain hard. There’s a certain dimension of these qualities that cannot be met in the same way through family and friends, no matter how wonderful they are. I have a good life and am reasonably content much of the time, but I have no neat and tidy resolution to these thoughts. It’s simply the way things are right now, and will continue to be at times. It’s mostly okay, but it is also, deeply and truly, kind of hard.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What’s a reason being single is hard for you?

On Being Single: What if the Problem Really is Me?

I’ve spent years internally battling the lie that being single is a sign of something “wrong” with me. Marriage isn’t a reward for especially “good” people, and singleness isn’t a punishment for the “bad” people. They’re simply different, neither one being objectively better or worse than the other. This is truth. But there’s a piece of me that doesn’t always feel as though this is true. Society still seems to celebrate couples and marriage and families much more than it celebrates single people, and on an individual basis, I’m pretty sure I’d like to get married.

But I’m not. I’m nowhere close. My life is good and full and busy, and most of the time I can truthfully say I deeply enjoy it. These words I wrote several years ago still ring true though: When you desire something and that desire is coming from a good place, all the wonderful things in your life can’t make up for what you don’t have.

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Photo Credit: Ben Rosett

It’s only natural for me to ponder why I am single. I’m fortunate to have a fairly positive sense of self-worth–I think I’m decently great, and I probably just haven’t met a guy whose particular brand of greatness aligns with mine. But inevitably there are times I wonder: What if the problem really is me? What if I’ve been missing some glaring flaw in myself all this time, and that’s why I’m single? Even with a good sense of self-worth, I also know I’m not perfect. My faith isn’t perfect, my relationships with my family and friends aren’t perfect, I’m not a perfect employee, I’m not perfectly fit, and so on. 

These aren’t uncommon things–I’d be incredibly suspicious of anyone who said they are perfect in all those areas. Exactly zero of the married people I know are perfect, and yet they managed to find a significant other. And, of course, therein lies the problem: If so many other imperfect people can find another imperfect person to hang out with for the rest of their lives, why can’t I seem to?

Am I not smart enough?

Am I not pretty enough?

Am I not outdoorsy enough?

Am I not Jesus-y enough?

Am I not _____ enough?

Rationally, I know other people’s lives aren’t mine, and everyone’s story is different and that’s a good thing. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like just a case of “we all have different lives to lead.” It feels a lot more personal than that.

So in these times when it seems like talk of dating, marriage, and weddings is popping up all over my life way more than usual, I have to remind myself of a few things. This is what I know to be true, even if it feels very untrue for a while:

  • I’m not perfect. Congratulations! Welcome to being a human. We’re all that way.
  • It’s good to identify specific areas of my life I want to work on, not because doing so will magically conjure up a significant other, but because doing so will make me a better person for life in general.
  • Marriage is not a reward, and singleness is not a punishment. It’s not a matter of being _____ enough to get married.
  • Singleness and marriage are both good. Just because I’m one right now doesn’t mean it will always be that way, and the grass is not always greener on the other side. The grass is just different.
  • There are things wrong with me, as there are with everyone, but I am not too “broken” to find a significant other. I haven’t yet, but it doesn’t mean I never will. And if I never do, I’ll make a kind of peace with that someday.

None of these are new or earth-shattering, but sometimes we all need to be reminded of simple truths. Now, will you share with me? If you’re single, how do you fight the lie that there’s something wrong with and that’s why you’re not in a relationship? If you’re not single, how can you support the single people you know?

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

The Art of Being a Friend

Everybody wants to have friends. In order to have friends though, of course it means that someone must be a friend. This is all very logical, but the being a friend side doesn’t seem to get talked about as much as the having a friend part. Being a friend takes hard work and intentionality, commitment and dedication, love and laughter. If it sounds like I’m confusing friendship with marriage, it’s because, particularly as a single person, I take friendship very seriously. Some friendships are only meant to be for a short season, but I truly believe that others can–and should–last years and years, and maybe even forever.

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Photo Credit: Flickr User penelope waits, Creative Commons

I’m not going to write a “How To Be a Good Friend” guide. First of all, I don’t think it’s that easy, and second, I have been (and I’m sure at times will continue to be) a really sucky friend. Maybe someday I’ll have it more figured out, but for now, I will simply offer these few observations about friendship.

  • There is no one right, perfect way to be a friend. People are wired differently, and therefore require different things from their friends. At the same time, different people are able to offer their friends different things. Some are good listeners, others are willing to give much-needed challenges, and others are good at bringing laughter when it’s needed. The way I’m a friend to Person A has to be different than the way I’m a friend to Person B, because they’re not the same.
  • Know when to lean in and when to lean back. This is something I’ve only recently been realizing, and I do not excel at it. The reality is that pretty much all of my friends have many wonderful people in their lives, and there will be phases where what they need most isn’t something I’m the best at offering. When that’s the case, I need to know it’s okay to lean back from that friendship for a while–not to walk away and abandon it completely, but to give space for others to give what I cannot. Being someone who feels deeply for other people and also has a natural inclination to want to fix things, leaning back feels very counterintuitive to me. Leaning in is important too, though. Even when life is messy and complicated and hard, my friends need to know I won’t shy away from that stuff even if it’s difficult to be in that space with them.
  • Shut up. This works in two ways: First, knowing how to stop talking and to instead listen well. There’s a difference between listening, merely letting a friend’s words hit my ears, and listening well, paying attention to what’s behind the words and to my friend themselves. Second, shutting up means knowing there are some stories that belong to my friends and are not mine to tell. Secrets obviously fall into this camp, but there is other information that, while maybe not a secret, isn’t mine to tell anyone else. Part of being a friend means being trustworthy without having to be asked to be so.

Friendship isn’t math or science. It can’t be reduced to stagnant formulas; it has to be allowed to breath, change, and take new shapes as time and circumstances dictate. So if we want to have good friends, we must also be willing to commit to being a good friend.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you strive to be a good friend?

Single and (trying to be) Unashamed

“So what is everybody’s family like?”

There are few statements that strike trepidation into the heart of a single person faster. It was a well-meaning question, and a fitting one given the situation, but I was glad someone else answered before I had to go. Trying to keep things light, I started out, “I am me,” and said a few other things about myself before gratefully letting someone else talk about their 2.5 kids and house with the white picket fence. Talking about my parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews wasn’t the kind of family they were asking about, and I found myself almost ashamed to not have a better answer to that question.

Except I shouldn’t feel ashamed of it.

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Even though I’m pretty sure I’d prefer to not be single, it is a fact of my life. But in certain circles, particularly in the ones I tend to roll in, marriage and kids are part of what people are supposed to do, and anyone who hasn’t reached those “milestones” is often looked at with pity and seen as perhaps a wee bit of a failure.

It’s not a failure to be single though.

Some people actively choose it, and for those of us who don’t feel as though we’ve ever actively chosen to be single but continue to find ourselves that way, it is simply our current state of being. It might always be our current state of being, or it might just be the stage we’re in right now.

A relationship or lack thereof doesn’t define who we are as human beings or dictate our worth, even though it sometimes feels that way.

 

There’s a piece of me that hates writing this post.

Especially this time of year, singleness is written and talked about a lot. My blog archives show I write about being single almost every February, and I’m fully aware that writing about singleness can come across as whiney, repetitive, and even entitled.

It should be the most obvious thing in the world that relationship status does not equal worth, but when I’m sitting in a room full of married people, that can be difficult to remember. They didn’t do something especially right and get “rewarded” with marriage, and I didn’t do something especially wrong and get “punished” with singleness. However much it might feel that way to me at times, it is not true.

 

So I keep writing about singleness because I need a reminder that it’s not bad, it does not define me, and I do not need to feel ashamed when people ask about my family and I tell them about my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and friends who are so close they feel like family. A single person’s definition of family might look different than a married person’s, and that’s okay. Our value is not derived from the people who may or may not be around us, at this time of year or any other. 

And I’ll keep writing about it in the hope that I’ll finally, fully, truly believe it, once and for all.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. If you’re single, how do you answer questions about your family?

Being a Sympathetic String

I love music, but I don’t pretend to know a ton about it. Recently, I saw William Close and the Earth Harp Collective perform, where I learned about sympathetic strings. As he stretches the strings out over the performance space, there are some strings he’ll never actually play.

They’re not tuned to particular notes, they’re just there. 

Yet, as I watched the strings above me, not being tuned and not being actually played doesn’t mean sympathetic strings are inactive or unimportant. As he plays, the sympathetic strings vibrate and bounce nearly as much as the strings he’s actually playing.

Wikipedia states, “They are typically not played directly by the performer (except occasionally as an effect), only indirectly through the tones that are played on the main strings, based on the principle of sympathetic resonance…Sympathetic strings are used to enhance the sound of an instrument.”

 

I love that they’re called sympathetic strings. I love the idea that they sit alongside the strings making the music, and though they don’t *technically* have an action of their own to perform, they add something to the mix. Without them, the music wouldn’t be quite as lovely, quite as touching, quite as powerful.

When it comes to the people I care about, I want to be a sympathetic string. Sympathy itself is a tricky business–I don’t want to pity people, which is where sympathy can often lead–but I do want to feel for them, to understand what they are going through as best as I’m able. I can’t physically or emotionally take on the joys and difficulties of my family and friends, but I can be alongside it, listening, adding resonance to their lives by simply showing up and being there.

This isn’t easy for me. My natural tendency is to want to fix things, to put Band-Aids on them so they don’t hurt anymore. I have yet to come across a situation someone is going through where I actually have the capability to fix it, though. Sometimes I can take some level of action–sympathetic strings do move in response to the other stringers, after all– but lives are messy, especially other people’s lives.There aren’t wands to magic things all better. We make better sympathetic strings than Band-Aids.

I can’t fix; I can show up.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How can you be a sympathetic string for those around you?

3 Things from 2015 I’m Taking Into 2016

For several years now, I’ve written in a notebook almost every single day. Many times it’s an account of what I did that day along with thoughts and feelings about those events. Other times they’re deep spiritual thoughts, or frustration over a relationship that feels difficult, or angst over a life situation. Bits and pieces of my life, recounted on some sheets of paper bound together.2016

Looking back at this past year, it’s tempting for me to get stuck in the past few months, which haven’t been the easiest time of my life. Except to let those be the ones to color my perception of the entire year would be inaccurate, and, in a way, unfair. As I looked back through my daily writings from 2015, I saw difficulty, certainly—sadness over changing relationships, frustration over uncertainty, dismay over things gone awry—but I also saw so many moments of delight, good memories made, and perhaps most importantly, how even the unexpected pieces of life can have positive aspects to them. As I head into 2016, while there are things from 2015 I am glad to leave behind me, there are at least three I’d like to take with me as well.

  • The people we surround ourselves with have incredible power to shape our lives, in ways good, bad, ugly, and otherwise. This past year has brought new people into my life and added new depth, and sometimes complexity, to many of my existing relationships. For the most part, I’ve managed to find truly wonderful people that add so much to my life. As much as I’d love to cling to all these good people and keep them in my lives for as long as possible, I also recognize there’s a measure of impossibility to that, so I have to simply be grateful for the time we do have in each other’s lives. I don’t think I will ever be good at this part, but I am trying to be better at the thankfulness part.
  • Asking for help is hard, but okay. Just as people are in our lives to add joy, richness, and knowledge, they are also available to lend support. I like to think of myself a somewhat self-sufficient person, and I never want my family or friends to feel like I’m using them or don’t appreciate them, so asking for help does not come naturally to me. No one is capable of going through life completely on their own, all the time though, so sometimes the wisest thing we can do is know when it’s time to ask for help. This is something I’m only just beginning to see, and it will take me into 2016 and likely far beyond to fully grasp its importance.
  • “Never” and “Always” statements are quite often dangerous. To say we’ll always do this or never do that is often a refusal to acknowledge change. Life happens, often in very unpredictable ways. Sometimes rules have to be rewritten based on new information. We usually can’t see the future when we make a decision, so we make the best decision we can in that moment, with the information we have, and sometimes that decision lands us in a spot that we couldn’t have known about before. There are moral “always” and “nevers” I think are good to cling to, but many others that need to be tossed.

If it wasn’t for my habit of writing every day, I’m not sure I’d be able to sort through the haze of these past few months to identify these tangible takeaways that have threaded themselves through the entire year. While 2015 Brianna may not have enjoyed every moment of it, 2016 Brianna can learn from these insights and take them into the new year and beyond.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What have you learned in 2015 that you’ll take into 2016?

The 5 Minutes I Was Thankful to Be Single

It hasn’t been a literal 5 minutes, but I do feel like this time of thankfulness will be fleeting. So I have to get these words out now, or else I fear this season of gratefulness will pass before I’ve recognized it for what it is and taken a moment to pause and relish it.

For me, most of the time being single is difficult—sometimes exceedingly so. It feels like an enduring fight, of trying to be content, to not compare, and so many other things.

Mixed in with it all, there are moments of appreciation for the reasons being single rocks and of recognizing the lessons I’m learning, but truthfully, not a ton of thankfulness. Dashes, here and there, but not bucket loads.

Lately, though, I’ve felt some of it. Thankfulness for time to really think through what the point of the kind of marriage I want is—not just two people who happen to love each other a lot, but two people who, because they are together, help one another to better love, serve, and glorify God than they would be able to do if they were apart. Thankfulness for time to read and pray about the way I think a wife and husband should interact and treat each other in marriage. Thankfulness for time to discover who I am and what it is that makes me uniquely me, on my own, without the influence of a significant other.

These are lessons that many people learn while they’re in relationships, but I’m not sure I would have been able to—or certainly not in the way that I have. And I’m sure I have much more to learn about all of these and many, many more. But, for at least a brief period of time, I’ve been able to identify specific reasons I am thankful I am single. Which in itself feels like kind of a gift.

It doesn’t mean I love being single, because most of the time I don’t. This is still not the way I would have planned for my life to go. But singleness has been my reality for a long time, and looks like it may be for a good while yet. Already it feels like this season of singleness may be changing to a more difficult one, and that the thankfulness may be slipping through my fingers. Even as it does though, I can say that it existed at least once. And maybe I’ll be able to get it back and keep it for longer another time.

Say, 10 minutes.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Are you, or have you been, thankful to be single? Why?

A Different Kind of Thankful

Family.

Friends.

A house to live in.

Food to eat.

A car to drive.

A job to work at.

My church.

A laptop and phone.

The finances to cover what I need and some of what I want.

Books to read.

Warm blankets and a soft bed.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve noticed I often view thankfulness in terms of “things.” It’s good for me to be thankful for these, as many people in the world lack what has become so commonplace to me. But what I rarely remember to be thankful for are the moments that make up my life, from the big ones that have made me sit up and take notice of what’s going on around me, to small ones I’ve seen become something bigger later on, to the ordinary ones that simply compose my days.

My thanksgiving often narrows in on the small details of the picture, but fails to be thankful for the whole scene. “Family” and “friends” make my thankful list each year, but I usually only think in terms of the people, not in terms of the relationships–which are what I really mean to represent when I list the people. I forget to thank God for the pieces of my story I’ve seen come together, sometimes in surprising ways–or even in ways I didn’t want, but have learned to see the value of.

This past summer as I cleaned and packed up my room at my parents’ house, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I found countless reminders of the relationships that have added so much to my life and to me as a person, from notes of encouragement to photos to ticket stubs. It is so cliche to say, “I don’t know where I would be without these people,” but I truly don’t know where I would be without these people and the relationships that have given me so much.

So while it is good and fitting for me to be thankful for my family, my friends, my job, my church, my car, this year my thankfulness feels much bigger–it is not for the details, but for the whole scene.

~Brianna!~

p.s. What are some of the big picture things you’re thankful for?

A Valentine’s Day Plea

Photo Credit: Flickr User Sister72, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Sister72, Creative Commons

This week includes Valentine’s Day, and as I have been for every other Valentine’s Day in my life, I am single. Most days I’m okay with it.

But I’d be lying if I said I don’t have times of wishing my life had gone differently, and around a holiday devoted to love and romance it becomes more poignant.

“Valentine’s Day is just a commercial racket to get people to pay exorbitant amounts of money for roses and chocolate. It’s not about real love.”

“Singleness is a gift. Be content and appreciate it.”

“Let Jesus be your boyfriend–he’s all you need.”

There are bits of truth in these statements (and bits of fallacy too).

 

But here is my truth, the one I live in right now:

I get a little jealous when I see people buying giant bouquets and stuffed animals proclaiming, “I love you beary much.”

It would be nice to have a special someone to share those “2 for 1” Valentine’s Day specials with.

I’d gladly get over the embarrassment of an obnoxious singing card.

I wish I had that one person I could count on to be on my side, who would give me a hug when I am sad and tell me things will be okay.

I wish for adventures in learning what it looks like to live in such a way that we serve God more fully together than we could apart.

 
I know the kind of love I want is not all teddy bears and flowery scents and candlelit dinners, but that doesn’t change my desire for it. I don’t think desiring to get married is wrong.

 

There have been, and will continue to be, times when I’ll get this all wrong.
When my desire to get married may cloud my view of the goodness of today.
When my loneliness may skew my perception of the ultimate purpose of Christian marriage.
When my plan for my life is not going as I had hoped, and in bitterness I shake my fist at the sky and defiantly ask God “Why?”

 
That day is not today.

Today, I don’t need reminders that God has a plan for every part of my life.

Today, I don’t need reminders that marriage is really, really hard sometimes.

Today, I don’t need reminders that the view of love I’ve read about and seen in movies is not an accurate portrayal.

Today, I feel a little sad.
Today, I feel a little lonely.
Today, I feel a little jealous.

And I ask of you, the world at large, please don’t tell me how to feel.

Not just me, but everyone around you.

Please don’t tell them to turn their frown upside down.

Please don’t negate their feelings of sadness or loneliness.

Please don’t remind them of things they have heard over and and over again with sayings that minimize honest feelings.

Feelings can go astray. I can become misguided, disillusioned, and make unwise choices when it comes to romantic relationships or a lack thereof. There may be a time I need someone to step in if my actions are out of line with what I believe and who I am supposed to be.

But please don’t tell me how to feel.

And I will try to do the same for you.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Has anyone tried to tell you how to feel about your relationship status?

Things That Don’t Belong on Pedestals: Relationships

Every few weeks I write a little sermon recap blurb for my church. When I saw the topic of the sermon for today, I chuckled a bit.

Relationships.

Figures, I thought to myself, that this topic for the Monday Encounter would fall to the single girl instead of the married lady. You’re a funny one, God, I thought.

The text, from I Corinthians 7:29-31, TNIV, read, “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who are married should live as if they were not…”

“Nailed it!” I whispered to my friends on either side of me. Living as though I’m not married? Check! This relationship sermon was clearly meant for someone else.

Except, as is nearly always the case when I begin to think a sermon isn’t for me…it definitely was.

Verse 31: “…those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.”

Relationships between humans, no matter what form they take, are things of this world. Though they can be good and pleasing to God, they are not the ultimate aim of this world.

No earthly thing should be. No relationship should be put on a pedestal.

Or, in my case, the nonexistent relationship I’d quite like. I don’t have a boyfriend or fiance or husband, so there’s currently no danger of putting him on a pedestal. The place I’d like him to be though? The relationship I’d like to be in?

That sometimes ends up on a pedestal.

Rationally, I know being in a romantic relationship wouldn’t fix my problems; in ways, it would even add to some of them. However, I am not always known for my rational thinking, and as my save the date cards and wedding invitations pile up, it can be difficult to remember. Clearly romantic relationships are doing good things for other people, but not me right now?

It can be hard to accept this, to remember that there is some good, some purpose being worked out that I don’t have sight of right now.

So that void, that empty “guest” line on my invitations, it gets put where it does not belong–on a pedestal, above the other relationship I should be seeking first.

I am reminded in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…”

THAT is the only thing I should be placing on a pedestal. Not any relationship or lack thereof.

One common phrase that gets tossed around to Christians who are single is, “This is time to focus on God. Once you put God first, he’ll bring someone along for you.” The sentiment behind this may be well-intended, but it is often hurtful, and furthermore, something that should be said to  all Christians at all times.

Put God first.

Nothing in life belongs on a pedestal except a relationship with him.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

p.s. Have you ever put a relationship or lack thereof on a pedestal? What does putting God first look like?