Let’s start typing and see where this goes.
I write this with many feels happening here behind the scenes (/screens, heh) and full realization that some people who read this know me in (gasp!) real life, too, and now they’ll know more secret things about me…so this is what I’m navigating.
But, I kind of feel like I need to share, so I will. (<– Why I blog in a nutshell. Ahem.)
Let’s talk about being single.
I attended something like eight or nine weddings last year alone. And the invites have started arriving for 2014 already. Thanks be to God, actually, for I love it when my friends get together and fall in love. Yes and yes.
But, I know the other side of that picture, too. And that’s that I either get an invite with no plus-one, which holds in front of my face that I’M ALL ALONE IN THE WORLD or I get an invite with a plus-one, and then I need to run through my mental rolodex of which of my guy-friends I can ask for yet another wedding-plus-one favor, which is hard because many times
- I feel guilty taking up their entire day and
- I don’t want to lead them on and
- Many times they’re busy which means the process involves me calling four to five gentlemen which is an emotional roller coaster for all of us. Oh, and the humorous
- Which is: if they’re getting married they’re getting checked off of the “available for wedding dates” list. Ha!
I know this. I know this and the fact that people ask my family members why I’m not married yet, and that my mom prays to St. Gerard which is Papist-code for “Grandchildren, please, Jesus” and now the younger siblings of my friends are popping up on the FB newsfeed flashing engagement bling and holy guacamole my shoulders are tensed just thinking about all of this.
I hear it, too, “Why are you still single?”
And sometimes I throw out some jokes, like that it’s because I dress like this:
Anyway. I feel like there are answers to that question, that ominous “Why are you still single?” And I feel like some of those answers are bold-faced lies, but some are truthful. So I’m writing this, for me and for you. Let’s start with the lies.
Lies about why I’m still single.
Because God has forgotten about me
The image that accompanies this one is that I’ve somehow ended up on a heavenly back-burner, forgotten until the one day God will remember and be like, “Oh no! We’ve forgotten about Nell! And now her ovaries have expired!!”
The author of life and time is better than this.
Because you somehow “earn” a man
This one always strikes me as demeaning to both men and women. The comment comes in many costumes, but usually looks something like this:
“You’re so good with kids! How do you not have a husband? How have the dewds not noticed you?”
And I just want to say, “This is not some divine contest!”
And, in the brain-section marked “humor” I imagine myself as the sporting commentator for the Olympic event of boyfriend-nabbing and I would say things like, “Renee has been training in the off-season and now she knows how to cook a pot roast, that’s really what brought her back last year. Stephanie is bringing her A-game, too, but how will she fare in the competition when she is required to fold a fitted sheet??” Et cetera.
Once I sat and ate dinner with a stunning, gifted, beautiful young single woman and she was like, “I’ve noticed something. Some people are a lot meaner than me…and they’re married. Some people are more organized than me…and they’re married. Marriage isn’t something that’s achieved once you’ve accomplished a check-list of goals.”
No one “earns” marriage. No one can earn any sacrament…they are gifts and graces to us.
I’m not good enough b/c I have weirdo issues
This is such an easy one to believe, isn’t it? Especially because: STUDIES. Studies say that most people wouldn’t want to date a vegetarian ever ever ever and I read that and think about all my dietary restrictions and that leads us to the million other weirdo quirks I have and suddenly it’s easy to be like, “AND NOW NO ONE WILL EVER WANT ME!!!!”
Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
I made a wrong choice somewhere along the road-of-life
Sometimes this comes from outside sources, sometimes it comes from the devil-on-my-shoulder…the thought that someone was already “the one” and I screwed it up now and forever. Dang it.
All of these are stupid and lame…but they’re all there on various levels on various days. I could add more, but this is dark and foreboding enough as it is and enough is enough let’s get on with reality, yo.
If someone was to ask me today, “So, what do you know?” the answer is that I know close to nothing about anything ever.
But, I do know one thing and I feel it strongly: that God is good, God is good, God is good. God loves us, God provides.
(Is she about to talk about the Camino? She is. Throw up now or forever hold your peace, because I’m going in).
Quick background: the Camino de Santiago is this old pilgrimage-trail you can walk/ bike/ horseback ride in Spain and it’s super awesome and I’ve walked portions of it twice and it super-graced my life. The way is marked with seashells, hence Seashell Nell, hence I give myself the freedom to write about it again because you’re reading a blog grounded in Camino-goodness, people.
So. The first time I walked the Camino I was so intensely focused on arriving at the destination, the Cathedral in Santiago, right? I pressed and pushed and, before I knew it, we were a day out from Santiago: scheduled to arrive the next afternoon if all went well and knees continued functioning.
I remember that night. There were twenty of us in the group, sunburned and tired. But I think we all looked at each other and realized, that night, that this phenomenally special experience was about to end…and it was so bittersweet. We were happy because we were so close to finishing, but we were also never going to do anything like this again where we would be together and sharing the same community: the artist/athlete/elf Michael and the BFFs Diana-and-Hanna and Fr. Guerra and suns-out-guns-out Demere and the musical Andrew and everyone else.
We threw an impromptu party that night, like the homeless vagabonds we were, in the parking lot of the gym where we were spending the night. We ordered pizza and played music, danced and then sat in a circle and spontaneously burst into prayer and sharing and reflection. This night remains one of my favorite memories, not just of the Camino, but of my entire life-experience. It’s cliché to say that it “changed my life,” so I won’t say it, but I will say that I approached the next day differently and I approached my next Camino differently, with the realization that arriving in Santiago was sacred…but so was every step that brought me to Santiago, every conversation that fueled me, every sacred face who shared the road with me, every honey-roasted peanut shared on the side of a highway, every decade prayed with grubby, dehydration-puffed fingers on our rosary beads. Every moment walked on the Camino was a gift. Granted, they were gifts that tended to push me to my physical and spiritual and everything-else limits, but gifts nonetheless.
So, discernment. Singleness. Wedding invites with and without plus-ones.
When someone says to me, “Why are you still single?” a million reasons could pop out of my mouth, some with humor, others with sass, other with fear or hopelessness.
But, you guys, I’ve walked the Camino. I’ve seen the goodness of God.
And all I can think about is the blessed, wretchedly hard journey on uneven stones to the beautiful (but still exhausting) Cathedral in Santiago. And the answer I most want to say is, “It’s because God is good.”
I don’t mean it to sound like, “Ha ha, God is good so I still get to be single because it’s BETTER than being married, suckers.”
I mean it more like, “Dude. I don’t know the time-table. I don’t know the path. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow or even tonight. But I know the right-now. And right now God is here, and right now I’m surrounded by wonderful people, pulling me to be a better woman. And right now I know pain but holy cow I know divine provision, too. Yes, I don’t know how to get to Santiago on my own, I’ve never walked this particular path before, but the God who has been with me every step of the way doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon.”
There’s a saying in Christian-world that goes like this: “God is good” and then everyone repeats, “All the time.”
That is, until my dear Father Anthony was like, “Actually, God isn’t even bound by time.”
So, ya’ll, God is good….ETERNALLY.
Today, I’m single: and God is good. Maybe tonight I’ll meet a stunning, caring, giving Catholic man and he’ll be like, “Hey, do you want to be my companion on my Camino?” and God will nod and we’ll go off to suffer and laugh and walk together…and maybe not and I’ll be single for another ten, twenty, forty years or forever. God’s goodness will not cease. God’s love is ever-present. God will probably continue to call me to days of friendship, faith, circus, art, and on and on.
He may even call me to more blogging. Only time and faith will tell. But, I cannot doubt His goodness nor this path where I currently walk. I’m single. God is good. Past this: I don’t have answers. I only have faith.
P.S. Also, I have just received my third religious-life pamphlet in the past 5 days from well-meaning individuals, but I didn’t write about religious life because that’s a whole different story and this is long enough as it is. Besos and buen Camino.