Spiritual peace is important but more than that, self confidence and knowing your self worth is important. Woman wasn’t made to waste her time worrying about if a man will come along and save her. She has to save herself.
– Jennifer Burke, A new friend given to me by an old friend who chose to leave us way too soon.
The movie The Rose came out when I was in high school. My sister and I were enamored with it. I can’t speak for her, but I loved it in part because the main character was a single woman who was trying to make her way but she colossally screwed it up. It was almost like a caricature of what would happen should a woman dare to try to make a career on her own in a man’s world. Growing up, the only single woman role model that I remember was Mary Tyler Moore. She was not widowed or divorced. She dared to make it on her own with a single marital status. She had friends and work. She had a full life. But, I do remember it seemed like she was somehow breaking ground in the world. She didn’t quite fit in with the women I knew and loved who were mothers, wives and grandmothers. I’m trying to think of a single woman that I knew growing up, and I can’t even think of one. That is odd. I know they must have been around.
I asked a group of single friends on Facebook to give me their feedback on how they make it in the world as single women to get their needs met. Most of them mentioned something about they’d rather be single than in a bad relationship. Being single is sort of an ‘alternative’ way to live. We don’t typically choose to be single. It’s because we haven’t been chosen by the right person. It reminds me of my dilemma in calling myself divorced. Why do I have to be labeled for the rest of my life on something that failed? Maybe there should be a 5 year time limit, and then you can call yourself single instead of divorced. When I signed up for Facebook, I remember selecting single because I didn’t feel like I needed anybody to know that I had been married. What’s that got to do with who I am today? But, on legal documents, I’m always having to check divorced. I’m forever divorced. Divorcees when I was growing up were considered damaged goods. They were loose. They were not the kind of women you’d want to marry. They had reputations of stealing other people’s husbands. They had a past.
But, the women that responded to me on Facebook have full lives. I think their lives are defined by who they are…..not who they are not. Each of them listed hobbies and interests that were compelling. They have developed spiritual lives that are eclectic, expanding and grounding for them. Several mentioned that they have better social lives than when they were in relationships. One said that if she starts feeling down about being alone, she climbs to the top of something amazing. These are the kind of women that inspire me to live life on my own terms and not in reaction to what I am not. Several of these women are younger than me, and they have probably benefited from positive single role models from my generation. I will tell you this – there is a stigma that must be overcome in order to be happily single. It’s ironic since all of us are born single anyway. We are all single first and foremost. We will all die single unless we are the first spouse to die, or we die at the same time. We will all have times in our life when we are single. It is THE most common way to be.
I decided after my second divorce that I was going to be happily single. I decided that I was not going to pine for a relationship that may never happen. I did not want to turn 70 and think, “Wow, if I’d known I was going to be single the rest of my life, I would have enjoyed myself more.” I wanted to approach life as it is and not how it might be. God does have a sense of humor. He laughs at our silly little plans and predictions. That decision to be happily single has made all the difference for me. And, I have my young single friends to thank for that. I didn’t have role models on how to be happily single when I was young, but many of them did. They embrace it. They create their lives as they want them to be. And, I watched with great interest to see how they did it.
Statistics say that 61% of people in the US are single. No longer are married people the majority. But, the world still operates as if it is. I have struggled to find a church that meets my needs. Sure, some of them have singles ministries. It’s as if being single is a social problem. Do you ever hear of a church having a married ministry? No, because the assumption is that the norm is being married. And, maybe it is in church. I choose to get my spiritual needs met through 12 Step Work because I can’t really find a church where I feel at home. I remember my Christian Counselor telling me to try a church downtown because another single female client of his felt she fit in down there. I never tried it, but it’s on my list of things to do. Right now, I feel at home and growing spiritually where I am with no stigma about my marital status.
At a particularly low point in my life in between my marriages, I saw a psychic medium for a Life Purpose Reading. She used imagery to read what was going on in my life. She described my ‘backyard garden’, an analogy for who I was and how I show up in the world. She said what she saw was a barren landscape. It was dirt and mud, and nothing was growing. In the middle of that barren landscape was this single vibrant red rose. She got the feeling that it was there to show the potential of what my life could be if I set out to cultivate who I was. I had spent my life defining myself in terms of my relationships and not enough time figuring out who I really was inside. We each have a seed of potential inside of us. It doesn’t grow unless we cultivate it. It will lay dormant for many, many seasons. As women, we are infinitely capable of cultivating the seeds in other people but not so attentive to ourselves.
One of my favorite songs uses this allegory, and it’s interesting that it came from the movie that I loved as a teenager. At another crossroads in my life, this song was sung to me by a group of about 30 women. As I listened to their beautiful voices sing the lyrics to this song acapella, I listened with new ears. As a woman, I am the cultivator of my own potential. I have survived, and I am strong. I am feminine, and I am beautiful. I have within me whatever I need to cultivate my power, my strength, my security, my passions, my energy and my love. But, I, as a woman….especially a single woman.. must just remember in the winter …. far beneath the bitter snows …. lies the seed that with the sun’s love … in the spring becomes the rose.”
Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
And you its only seed.
It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance.
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance.
It’s the one who won’t be taken,
Who cannot seem to give,
And the soul afraid of dyin’
That never learns to live.
When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose.