["Courage Is" is a guest post series of readers sharing their personal stories of courage and what it means to live courageously. This our friend ProdigalJ's story.]
Weddings are something I love and dread. I love them, because I get to celebrate my close friends. They are so meaningful for me that for a special few, I’ve even cried (manly) tears during the ceremony. However, when the parties are over and we’re done celebrating ‘togetherness,’ it’s hard to not feel like I need to be with someone in order to be “whole.” As if being single isn’t enough, and that somehow I’m incomplete.
Over the years, I’ve attended a good number of weddings. I count myself pretty lucky (and somewhat poorer) to have been a part of them. Maybe I’m a sucker and possibly a dreamer at heart, but I know we as men and women crave connection, and the symbol of marriage really speaks to our hearts. Maybe it’s why it feels so depressing being single in a culture of marriage.
I’ve experienced this pretty heavily in recent years. Most of my friends are married. And those who aren’t, you can sense subtle desperation in them. I’ve also felt increasing family pressure to get hitched. Being a single person, weddings have served as a not so gentle reminder of what I am not – together with someone else.
I’ll put it straight out that I would love to be married one day. However, I haven’t been the type to rush into relationships. Parts of me wish I could change this, just so I can claim “marriage status.” However, I know this would be cheating myself and my values, not to mention whoever is with me. Love isn’t disingenuous, and neither is the journey towards it. I don’t think “future wife” would appreciate it either. When the “crowd” calls you to be with someone, it’s hard not to feel desperate. Or to settle. But that wouldn’t be fair for anyone.
Of course, living by this principle leads to one glaring question when I go stag to a wedding. I ask it to myself. My friends ask it. My family asks it.
“Why aren’t you married yet?”
The most recent wedding I attended, I was asked this question six times. SIX TIMES. It was pretty funny the first time I had to answer, but so exhausting by the last. Here’s a comical run down memory lane:
Aunt #1 replaces “How are you?” with “Are you seeing anyone?” Certainly direct.
Aunt #2: “I hope for you as much as I hope for my son.”
Me: “Oh yeah? What’s that?”
Aunt #2: “Bells.”
Me: “Oh…wedding bells.”
Grandma: “Where is your girlfriend?”
Me: “Oh Grandma, which girlfriend are you talking about?”
Aunt #3: “I’m definitely coming to YOUR wedding…whenever that is.”
To my friend: “I’m not seeing anyone right now…but let me tell you about this girl I’m pursuing…”
This one was the most interesting. A friend reviewed my entire dating history in front of me. “You’re good looking enough, when’s it your turn? Actually…I don’t remember you dating that much at all.”
Thanks buddy, if you only knew the crap I didn’t post on Facebook.
How did I remember it was six times? Because at the time, it was really painful. The way the questions were asked almost made me think my “single status” was defective.
The questions inevitably brought shame and self doubt:
What’s wrong with me? It’s not like I haven’t been trying?
Am I broken?
Am I too picky?
Maybe I have to try harder?
What if I’m not enough?
I have to admit, by the time I came home, I retreated to the shower and cried. I fell to my knees and prayed to God in my pain. Melodramatic I know. But in reality, it was the safest place I felt all day.
However there was redemption to this story, and it’s the way I resolved much of the stress that came with being single. The answer in itself was pretty courageous, but incredibly simple:
I shared with my close friends – When that evening came to a close, I was too wound up to sleep. Thankfully I had a few friends still awake on the west coast so I started Instant Messaging with them. The simple act of sharing what I was going through was a relief, a burden off my shoulders. They didn’t try to fix my “problem,” but were simply there to be a friend. I didn’t necessarily know how I was feeling at the time, so the act of speaking it out helped me realize what was true in my life, and what wasn’t. It filtered out the overall unhappiness of singleness to what my real issue was – I was afraid of disappointing others and also disappointing myself. This was sobering. This also led me to my second answer.
I became thankful for what I had – I began practicing the simple act of giving thanks. It might sound trivial, but it was a powerful exercise and grounded me in what my life really rested on, which wasn’t whether I was single or not, but something founded in love. I said something like this:
I am thankful that my family and friends would even bother asking me about my well being, even if to them happiness equals marriage.
I am thankful that my family, aunts and uncles are invested in my life enough to care. Even though we don’t talk that much.
I am thankful for the life I live right now and the exciting experiences I’ve had.
I am thankful for the marriage of my friends.
And almost like magic, I felt as if weight had been lifted off my shoulders; the burden of the day disappeared. Speaking truth in this time of pain, made me realize how I really am loved. I am not alone. These simple acts of sharing and thankfulness gave me gifts I never thought I’d gain: Acceptance. Being present and thankful for the things that I have right now. Realizing that even though I’m single, I am connected and loved very well.
After this experience, do I still want to be married? Yes. Am I happy with being single? Absolutely. Do I still feel stressed still being single? For sure. However, I know this doesn’t diminish who I am. And I’ve got an amazing bunch of friends and family who celebrate and journey with me, especially in my singleness.
Do you have a story of courage to share? Tell your story by guest posting for our blog.
photo credit: PVBroadz