The Art of Being Single: Cultivating Gratitude for What Is

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Every walk of life has it’s pros and cons. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have this human predilection that the grass is always greener on the other side. That “grass is greener” longing bites me by keeping me focused on the cons of my life and the pros of others. The truth is that I’m here in this walk of life of being single for a reason. The dirty little secret is that I actually love being single. It doesn’t mean that I can’t lose my focus when I start longing for what I don’t have. The other night at a running club I was talking with a woman about running and moving to Baton Rouge. She came back home after a long period, too, and she doesn’t like it here. For one, she’s terrified of the crime. I grappled with fear of crime when I moved to Memphis, and I learned to find a happy balance of letting go of fear and living my life and knowing when not to be stupid. I shared the way I thought about it, and that I had just made a decision not to limit my life out of fear. She said, “Do you have kids?” After I answered no, she said, “I can tell.” I have no idea what she meant because it threw me off guard, but I think she was saying that I had more freedom to feel free and be a risk-taker than I would if I had kids. Maybe so… probably so … I’m not sure. I know big risk-takers who have kids AND spouses. I don’t think it’s a “single / no kids” trait.

I have been told many times by other people that I am the person I am because I’m single with no kids. They are probably right. That’s true with anybody, right? We are who we are because of our life experiences. But, there’s always an insinuation that I somehow took the easier, softer route by not having children. Maybe I did… but that’s not why I did it. I never said to myself that I didn’t want to do all of that hard work, so I’m not having kids. My interests – and my spouse’s interests – were more focused on work and other things. I have been quite blatantly told I was selfish for not having kids. I actually have lots of friends who don’t have kids – some by choice, some by lack of opportunity or ability. Sometimes we whisper to each other about how grateful we are that we never had kids. We say it with a giggle because we know it’s considered unthinkable by most of society. There is an idea that the world is full of married with children people, and that’s the “path” that we are supposed to live. Any other choice we make is because we are defective, selfish or alternative. Honestly, this is the most difficult part of being single…. this stigma that I am in a holding pattern …. waiting to get married.

I’ve been shopping for a cruise. Cruises are set up for double occupancy. So, if I choose to go on my own, I have to pay lots more money to go alone. I am financially penalized for going alone. Churches have “singles ministries” as if we need a ministry. I met some friends here who had started a Meetup group for single Moms. I asked why they had decided to start a Meetup group. One of the women from California said that she was finding it really difficult to find other single Moms. She said people get married here so fast. “They don’t know how to do single,” she said. Baton Rouge has plenty of singles, but I do feel the pressure to be looking … or to be wed … much more intensely. I don’t get invited to events precisely because I’m not coupled. It’s a couples thing. There are plenty of singles here. I’ll add that there are plenty of happy singles, too. But, as one friend said, “We’re here ..you just have to find us. We’re hiding under mushrooms and rocks.”

The great thing about being single is that I am able to have a large community. While married folks with children are busy with their relationships within their families, they just don’t have the free time that single people without kids have. My relationships can take on a different flavor, too. Yes, we are more self-centered. I don’t mean that in an unhealthy way. The center of my life is me. I would also argue that the center of eveyone else’s life – married, with kids or without – is themselves. Your choices in life may provide you less time for yourself, but those were still your choices. You … the head of your life … made them. Single people … me … get to have relationships of choice for the most part. So, they take on a different flavor. I spend more energy reaching out and cultivating community. It may appear that single people are doing things all the time on Facebook, but we’re no different than families. They do things together all the time, too. There is effort involved in every interaction that single people have with others. No one else is living in our house. We can’t just walk in the next room and say hi. We have to get our bohunkus on the phone and reach out. It allows us to have a broader community out of necessity.

I love to travel by myself. For one, I don’t have to worry if another person is enjoying the trip, and I can do the things I most enjoy. I truly get to vacation doing the things that relax me and energize me most. I was married for 17 years of my life, so I shared plenty of vacations. They were fun, but they were usually a mixture of what each one of us enjoyed. But, the really fun part of traveling by myself is that I get to talk to everybody. I meet new people. I talk to the rangers in the state parks and national forests. On one trip, a woman invited me to join her family at a local bluegrass concert. I said yes and tagged along. I can change my mind on a whim. If I meet somebody that tells me about something interesting to do, I can change my plans and do it. I get to meet and enjoy lots of different people.

I think being single rocks. If I want to have some dates, I can sign on to a dating site and meet some people for that possibility. If I want to do nothing on a weekend, I can close the doors and shut the world out. If I want to make new friends, I just pick a place to go and hop to it. It has its downsides to be sure but they only get me down if I focus on what I don’t have. Yes, I have plenty of love. It just comes in different packages than romantic love. And, honestly, when I was married, I didn’t have that much romantic love anyway. Being married isn’t a guarantee of romance. So, in answer to the woman at the running club, if you “can tell” I don’t have kids, I hope you mean that my life is full, and I am open to all kinds of relationships and experiences. This morning, that’s the way I see it.

6 thoughts on “The Art of Being Single: Cultivating Gratitude for What Is

  1. Oh yes! Sharon I to needed this one as well. You just don’t know what a nice positive spin you put on being single. I think I kinda knew some of these things, but had somehow not completely understood how they plug in.. Thanks again. I won’t be deleting this one anytime soon..
    Cy

    • Thanks, Cy. I stopped writing this one before I finished and thought, “why would anyone want to hear my goofy ideas about being single?” I almost didn’t finish it. I’m glad I did. Several single people needed to hear it. It wasn’t all about me after all. 😉

  2. Oh Sharon, I agree with Lisa, I needed this! Good feeling to hear your thoughts on this subject! Another great one! I’ve been on a cruise so I’m spending my morning getting a pedi and catching up on your blog! 😊

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