There are certain times, certain hours, certain days and certain months, I’d like to bypass if I could. For example: Valentine’s Day. Some baby showers. New Year’s Eve, when the clock strikes midnight. And the faint – yet burning – flickers of envy, sorrow, and shame that flood my heart when another friend texts me those three dreaded words: “I met someone.”
I’d like to think it gets easier – and in some ways, it does.
And in some ways, it never will.
In times like these, I’ve started playing a game with myself called: I’d like to think.
It goes like this –
I’d like to think that this journey of learning to be content, as a thirty-year-old single woman, will help me later in life. I’d like to think that every almost-not-quite, every left-on-read, every man perfect-on-paper-but-not-in-real-life has somehow made me more equipped than most to face unrequited longing, unanswered prayers, interrupted timelines, and delays. And to do so with a dash of grace. Or, at least, without absolutely crumbling. I hold to this view only because it seems my entire life up to this point has been a lesson in patience: I am the girl who hasn’t found the one thing most other people never had to live without. I’m the girl who goes to bed alone (well, besides my cat, of course).
In the eyes of some onlookers, I might appear immature or picky. Who isn’t married by their thirties? What must be wrong? These are all questions I’ve already asked myself, asked others, asked God in the thick of the night.
I’d like to think that I am so whole on my own, I don’t need anyone else. Because maybe those onlookers don’t know how to be alone, to find joy in their own company. Maybe they haven’t yet gone to counseling, looked themselves straight in the face, wrestled their flaws until they were subdued by compassion. Maybe they never learned to manage a household on their own, on a single income; maybe they know nothing of the vulnerability it takes to reach out to someone else, when it seems like everyone else already has their someone else.
I’d like to think that I’m somehow stronger than they are, for having to learn who I was before anyone else was there, close enough, to reflect back to me what it is they saw. That I’m stronger for having done the inside work of reconciliation – between different versions of myself, different stories, different lies – and that I now stand a little taller. And a lot more sure.
I’d like to think that all of this longing has made me better at love: unconditional love. That because I’ve had hope bloom and wither in the same breath so many times, I’ve learned how to grieve, where to attribute hope, and where true satisfaction is ultimately found (Jesus). That I can be let down by others and still be okay. That I don’t need outside validation. I’d like to think that I’m not as needy of others in selfish ways; that I’ve learned to go to God first, and then others, in a healthy manner to get my needs met. That this process has made me self-disciplined; contained; mature; and wise.
I’d like to think that carrying around this misfit status has given me eyes – new eyes that see others who, like me, don’t fit into neatly defined boxes or roles: the single mother, the divorcee, the widow, the struggler. The ones living on the margins of societal expectations. The ones for whom life has not dealt such a pleasing hand, but here they are surviving anyway. I sense, in some ways, a kindred spirit in mothers who’ve had miscarriages or grapple with infertility: we both long for things that can’t be birthed on their own, and no amount of doctoring seems to fix our dilemma. We have only prayer and fragile hope; a brittle belief in God’s absolute goodness.
I’d like to think that I’m better than most at enduring; at longsuffering; at patience; at sheer persistence. And maybe that’s why I’ve decided to run a marathon – because I’ve already been tested by trials with no end in sight, and yet I also know that hard things don’t last. I know I can live with discomforts that have no promised end. So what do 86 years, or 6 months, or 6 hours, or 26.2 miles have on eternity?
The answer is: not much.
But of course, what the world doesn’t see, is that I’m sometimes scared – scared that I glorify God ‘too well‘ or ‘too much‘ in my singleness for him to ever let me marry; scared that I’ll be stuck living in a winter I thought would surely pass, and summer isn’t coming. Nervous I’ll be the 40+ year old single woman I see online, who inspires me, but whom I secretly fear and pray to never be. Nervous that the single men my age will overlook me, choose to chase after younger girls. I wonder: If all my friends get married, have kids, and move on to more domestic affairs, will anyone will still have time for me and my childish adventures? Or will they roll their eyes and wave me off? “It must be nice to have that much spare time,” they’ll sigh. “I haven’t left the house in years!” Laughter. “You know, #toddlerlife.” I’ll play along and laugh, like I don’t spend my Friday nights at home and have stacks of bills on my counter, too.
I worry that this post will come off as too angsty and self-revealing for some, and that they’ll judge me for it. I worry that I’ll sound desperate, when I’m not.
Yet, I’d like to think of our raw, authentic, and vulnerable selves as the holy ground where true connections are forged and honesty flourishes. I’d like to think we can still find each other across the table, and find where our stories meet; that we can look each other in the eye and still see equals. That these are places of immense, unruly grace.
I’d like to think that God is writing beautiful stories with our lives, ones that we’ll finally and fully appreciate once we understand how all the pieces align: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
I’d like to think that one day I’ll be content 100% of the time, instead of 90%.
I’d like to think that one day, I’ll be married.
But I know (and choose to believe) that even if not, he is still good.