Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy. Alone.

Root deep and grow your branches
There is a strength, steadiness and comfort in aloneness that you cannot know until you are immersed in it. From the outside, all anyone sees is a tree standing naked on its own in the middle of the field. In their perception, this is a vulnerable, weak position. They don't see the roots reaching deep into an intimate connectedness with the earth. They don't feel the solidness at the core of the ancient, sturdy trunk. They don't know how full and satisfying it feels to be empty.

If I ever marry, I want the world to exclaim, "My goodness, what a man it must've been to finally tame such a wild heart!" Women of a certain age are far too often painted as tragic things that are saved from ruin when some savior man rescues them from a lifetime of destitute spinsterhood. Apparently some people are living in a Jane Austin novel in their minds. Women are supposed to aspire to marriage and family above all else, so of course if one has not achieved that or is not on that trajectory, there must be something wrong.

This weekend I was at a nightclub with my mother and grandmother (long story...). I got up for a moment and my grandma asked my mom, "She's so beautiful and such a wonderful woman. How has no one scooped her up yet?" My grandma is a strong, smart woman who enjoyed a long career as a drug and alcohol psych nurse at the VA. She has always been independent and traveled adventurously. When my grandpa died 11 years ago, she was deeply saddened, but didn't shrivel up and die. She has carried on living her life in a big way. However, she is the product of a time when getting married was just what you did. Had she been born in another era, she might've waited longer to marry or perhaps not done so at all.

The short answer, grandma, is that I have no interest in getting married as something to give my life a sense of structure, stability or meaning. My life is structured to my liking, and feels both meaningful and stable without the presence of a husband or children. I'm not a china doll in a shop of precious things, just waiting forlornly for someone to come along and take me home. The only way that I will consent to being in any sort of romantic partnership again is for the opportunity to share time and space with a truly remarkable man with much to offer. When I meet a man who compels me on a deep level to brave the possible heartache of love, then and only then will I consider giving up the glorious ease, grace and joy of flying solo.

If you are perpetually romantically entangled and have been bypassing being single, the concept of comfortable, happy aloneness may be entirely foreign or frightening. Being single can be lonely at times, but it reveals a wondrous richness after wading through the initial discomfort. You learn how to self-soothe and self-approve, building an emotional independence that gives you the power to feel okay no matter where you go and who surrounds you. You can move about the world confidently and free from the need to consider or compromise with anyone else. It's an experience I recommend for anyone, especially before deciding to marry. If you're unhappy on your own, being in a relationship will not make you happy. We owe it to ourselves and our partners to enter relationships offering the riches of our fullness, not begging from our brokenness and need. Our partners are not there to hold us up everyday. We must be able to stand on our own.

This is something I wrote about almost a year ago. Since then nothing has changed but the yearning I expressed at that time for my beloved. I spent some time considering everything my life could be and contain outside of the traditional, marriage and family path, and found that the limitless possibilities were exciting enough to assuage any longing for a partner. Out beyond sex and romantic desire, marriage and children, is an oft unappreciated world of freedom and experience.

We suffer from this terrible FOMO, though, which ropes some into walking the traditional path because they are afraid to be haunted by a lifelong case of the What Ifs. What if I never have children? What if I regret it later? I am honestly more afraid of what I will miss, or what will become difficult or impossible to experience or obtain if I do. Parenting is the world's most important and difficult job. I think I would be a marvelous mother, but taking on that role would (appropriately) change my life in ways I am unprepared to accept. If you have even the slightest real understanding of the demanding sacrifice of being a parent, you would take a long pause before diving in.

Perhaps "the right guy" at "the right time" would change it all. Yes, perhaps. For the time being, though, I am doing the impossible. I am a(n almost) 30 year old woman. I have been celibate for a year and single for even longer. I am not dating, nor do I have any plans in my future for marriage or children. Yet, I am happy and alone. Fulfilled and alone. Confident and alone. Having said all this, I will undoubtedly be married before year's end. However, for now...

No, I'm no one's wife, but, oh, I love my life.

You can keep your societal standards. I'm good on my own.

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