I have a friend who is newly single. I watched as she navigated her break-up with her significant other. I supported her as she went through the initial stages of grief .. anger .. bargaining .. denial … depression … acceptance. I let her talk … and cry .. and vent … and held her in my heart as the fear … that fathomless fear …. of being alone crashed into her world. She is through the worst of the initial stuff and is settling into her single life. I, as a single woman and a writer, seem to her like a guide that can help her to step into being single and have a full life regardless of whether or not that space in her bed is ever filled again. My friend, I may seem like a guide that does it with grace, but know that everything you feel, I feel. Being single … like being married … is not an easy path. But I’ve come to know that it’s not the path of singleness that is so hard, it’s the path of life. And, navigating it single is just one way to do it. I woke up this morning wanting for you, my dear fledgling single, some things that I also want for myself. The want woke me from sleep and begged me to write to you now … this minute. So, I am up. This one’s for you, Baby Bird.
I wish for you, my single woman friend, COURAGE. Courage only comes from walking through fear. It is not a quality that is born in you. It is a quality that is developed over time. It is an act of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. You had the courage to end what wasn’t working for you, and in countless conversations with divorced friends, I have discovered that ‘leaving’ even a bad relationship is one of the hardest things we humans ever do. You already have the courage to walk through that and come out on the other side. The muscle-building has begun. Keep developing that muscle by trying something new today… and everyday. Walk a new way to work. Call someone who interests you and ask them for coffee. Go on a trip by yourself and discover the beautiful joy of seeing a new place with only the filter of your own eyes. Tackle a personal issue with the help of an advisor and feel the joy of overcoming your own problems on your own without the distractions of another person’s reaction. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is feeling the fear and walking through it anyway.
I wish for you FINANCIAL SECURITY. It is so easy for me to feel that because there is one income, I can be shortchanged in that department. It is also easy to fall into the trap of thinking that couples have the softer way with money. But, over the years, I’ve learned that another person can wreak havoc with money and drain you of any hope of ever having financial security. I know people who, after their spouse dies, are left with mountains of debt instead of the comfort of being supported in their grief. Being married is no guarantee of financial security. In fact, with two people who may have serious medical conditions as we age, the risk may be even more that some catastrophe may strike that will wipe you out financially. So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that money would be more plentiful if there were more of it coming in. That’s not necessarily the case. I wish that you will feel the joy and the freedom of being the breadwinner of your home. You may not have as much money coming in as you’d like, but you are the sole decision-maker on how to spend it. You can budget without fighting about it, and you can spend lavishly on yourself without complaint. I wish you the blessing of feeling financially secure in the fact that God provides for us, and, if something happens that is financially devastating, know that you have friends who will support you in the struggle.
I wish you STRENGTH. The one thing I miss is strength. I miss the heft of a partner who can open jars, help me load my kayak and carry kitty litter. As women, we are not as strong physically as the opposite sex. I hope that you find alternatives. I hope you find a male friend who giggles with you when you bring your jars to him to open. I hope that you find a great gay boyfriend who will help you move. I hope you learn much more by the act of asking for help than you do from struggling on your own. Go to the gym and do strength-training. Practice Power Yoga. As you look into the future and fear the weakness of aging, I hope you realize that muscle atrophy is a choice. It’s not inevitable. And you already know how strong you are inside. In the area of inner strength, I will argue to my death that men are the weaker sex. It is the surfing of emotions that builds the inner strength to navigate the trials in life. And, you, my dear, have endured childbirth. The strength required for that task should be envied by muscleman everywhere.
I wish you PASSION. Yes, the only lover you have may be yourself at times. I wish that you will discover that passion is not reserved for those with partners. Count your blessings that you don’t have to endure the torture of making love to someone who no longer desires you. Many walk that path day after day. The meaningless embrace of ‘going through the motions’ is way too prevalent, and you no longer have to feel the sting of rejection during the very act that should be connecting you to your lover’s soul. You can create the atmosphere you want .. feminine and sexy. You know what feels good. Your mind can take you places you’ve never been with no regrets. The heat of another person may be missing, but I hope that you can even find that in a way that works for you. Remember that passion doesn’t only happen in the bedroom. Passion is that feeling that overcomes you when you take in a breath-taking sunset after a beautiful dinner that you provided for yourself and took the time to prepare to your own delight. Passion is discovering something new about yourself. Passion is embracing the life you have and accepting no limitations. Fall into your sensuality, find ways to increase your energy and let yourself feel ….. EVERYTHING. Become the best lover you ever had.
Most of all, I wish you LOVE. So often we think of love as romantic love. I’ve written about love before, and many people think I’m always talking about romantic love. I forget to qualify it because I finally see romantic love as only one kind of love, and I also see it as the most difficult one to have. It’s so easy to lose when the day to day act of living gets in the way. There are so many types of love out there, and there is so much of it. We live in a sea of love, but we don’t tap into it because we are so desperately focused on romance and partnership. There is love in family – even family of choice. Build one if you don’t have it already. It is more important for single people to build a family of choice because we have to rely on them more. There is no ‘default’ help. We have to ask for it. We have to walk out the door, get on the phone and, heaven forbid, ask for help. Invest in building that community. Spend a large portion of time creating new friendships, hanging out in the places you feel supported and deepening your current relationships. It is an investment that pays off exponentially. Even married women need these communities. The absence of one can be the biggest barrier to leaving an unhealthy relationship. Give that gift to yourself. Tap into the unending love of God. Do what works for you spiritually. You have the gift of finding your own spiritual path without having to negotiate that with a partner. You choose the direction. Follow it. The love is right there waiting for you. If you want romantic love, I hope you get it one day. But, I hope that you focus on love. I hope that you learn that all of the love you need is provided by you and God and your community. Knowing that, you won’t settle for counterfeit that turns into endless pain.
My friend, being single is not an easy walk, but I also know that being married can even be more difficult. It’s definitely more complex. BE SINGLE. Don’t BE Divorced. Don’t BE ‘in between relationships’. Learn what it is like to BE single in an authentic way. Be comforted in the fact that you are much more in control of your happiness than if you were coupled. When you wake up in the middle of the night with that hammer of loneliness beating on your chest, please realize that it is only a feeling. You are not alone. Your bed may be empty, but your heart is full. That is so much better than having a man lying in your bed on the other side of a cavern so big that your heart aches at the sheer size of it. Embrace your life. The spaces beside you will be filled. They may be filled for moments instead of years, but it’s not the duration of the connection that matters – it’s the depth. Invest in yourself, and, if, by some chance you want to step into a partnership again, you will be the kind of woman that manifests endless love not endless want. I want that for you, my friend. You are so deeply loved … and you are not alone. Know that behind those eyes of many married women who you think pity you is a different feeling altogether. Many are thinking … OMG, I wish I had your freedom… your COURAGE … your PASSION … your STRENGTH … your FINANCIAL SECURITY … and, yes … your LOVE.