Tag Archives: singleness

Quality Time Vs. Play Dates

6 Aug

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Certain times in our lives are more flush with close connection. For me, elementary school, high school, and college were such periods. No one carried the adult responsibilities we do today, which made friendships easy to cultivate and maintain. Everyone was in close proximity, which made things convenient, particularly when living on the university campus. There was always someone around to share a meal with or to chat with. And it didn’t matter what time of day.

I also recall wonderful summers with my grandparents that were rich in social interaction. There was a slow lazy rhythm to the August days. My grandfather would go to work while my grandmother and I ran errands, baked cookies, and tended to all things domestic. Then when my grandfather came home, we’d eat dinner together. Afterward, we’d go for a walk or work in the garden. Sometimes we watched a show on television. Other times we read books together.

In my twenties, when living in Manhattan, my friends and I would take the city by storm. We spent hours verbalizing our dreams over glasses of wine and walks in Central part. Even in my thirties, I still had some single friends with whom I pondered the meaning of life while sharing meals and life together. Although my friends’ marriages altered the dynamics of our relationships, there were still incredibly meaningful moments spent together. When my friend’s son was an infant we’d take him in the stroller for long walks, cherishing him and each other. We lived in the same neighborhood so it was easy to get together on a regular basis.

But then there are the seasons where no one has time to do anything. When both parents are working and kids are hyper-scheduled, and no one’s children attend schools anywhere near their homes, which results in hours of chauffeuring time. That sentence is a mouthful for a reason. It’s exhausting and exhaustion doesn’t lend itself to intimacy.

But human beings need depth intimacy. Whether falling in love or maintaining friendships, relationships need time to grow. Without that time, there are gaps in connection.

Of course when people pair up and find a significant other, most of the relationship investment gets funneled into that union. But as a friend of mine said to me the other day, (and she happens to be married), “It’s unhealthy to make your spouse your only go to for companionship. It’s way too much of a burden on one person and it makes for a stale marriage. We need to feed our friendships too.”

Modern life doesn’t accommodate well for depth relationships. With everyone’s busy schedules, we pencil in “play dates.” These might consist of a coffee, a dinner, or if we can spare a few precious hours, maybe a movie. In an age when people rarely even talk on the phone anymore, play dates are welcome. But I miss the wonder of unstructured, spontaneous time when it was easy to cross the street and hang out with someone.

The more we indulge in a frenzy of hyper-scheduled activities, the more difficult it becomes to nurture quality time. Even people living under the same roof are not necessarily bonding well. We can’t stand to sit still for longer than a few minutes before looking away and grabbing our Smart phones.

The only way off the merry ground is to step off it, but that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, if everyone else is still on the ride. Loneliness settles in and we wonder if anyone else is feeling it too.

Years ago I worked in an outpatient program that served the high functioning, elderly population. Not many of our clients had a history of mental illness. However, many met criteria for situational depression and anxiety brought on by the death of a spouse or retirement or illness. People were lonely and little to do during the day. They came to our program in the morning, attended a psycho-education lecture, ate lunch and then attended two process groups. Within a few weeks most folks were thriving again thanks to the friendships created and a renewed sense of meaning.

I’m a fan of play dates. In fact, I have two today. But I’m even more a fan of quality time that emerges when there is no plan, no rush, and no strain. When intimacy just happens like the sun rising and setting each day.

Shoot the Dying Animal

21 Jun

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Years ago a psychic told me that once I got over my longing for a traditional nuclear family complete with white picket fence, I would be truly content. I was recently thinking about her words.

The American obsession with romance and marriage paradoxically kills any beauty left in these institutions. I believe in both, yet the way our culture distorts and abuses these, makes me realize how hard it is to sustain love,  marriage, and happiness. How then do we embrace well-being and union, for these are deeply human needs.

When I think about the best moments in my life they have always come when I have surrendered any attachment to outcomes. Instead, happiness has come from stepping out of my comfort zone and simply connecting with life, no matter how it is presenting itself to me. These moments are subtle. They don’t include the contrived glamour of being handed a rose. They don’t always include passionate love either. More often than not, happiness results from connection with friends, neighbors, strangers, pets, and work.

These moments come like waves rolling into shore. They are the ones unfolding in the here and now. These are the moments to nurture, not the fairy tale notions of happily ever after.

This is the happily ever after. Right here. Right now.

We Can’t All Go to Disneyland

17 Jun

A little boy told a schoolmate that he was going to Disneyland for his birthday. The other little boy, distressed and jealous that he wasn’t going to the “happiest kingdom on earth” punched the other kid in the face.

Disneyland

We can’t all go to Disneyland. Some kids never get there while others have annual passes and go all the time.

Can the deepest desires of our hearts be fulfilled and if not, how do we watch other people’s good fortune without growing bitter and resentful? Why do some people get to go to Disneyland and others have to stay home?

I remember when my friends started to marry and have babies. It was such a joyous happy time for them. I was a bridesmaid many times. Despite my longing to be the princess for the day, spiritually, I was asked to be a queen. It was necessary to grow up and bless those around me even though the desires of my heart went unfulfilled. When the babies started arriving it was a little harder. Perhaps I always wanted to be a mother even more than a wife. I remember one baby shower where every woman there was pregnant but me. They all talked about their pregnancies and basically ignored me, as if being single and childless was a disease they might catch if they got too close to me. I remember making small talk about Sesame Street and children’s developmental stages because I actually knew of these things, but because I hadn’t given birth myself, somehow my comments were irrelevant.

They say the first cut is the deepest but it isn’t. The more accumulation of hurt and disappointment in our lives, the deeper the gouge gets. The wound doesn’t necessarily scar over. Instead, a knife drives the cut in more profoundly and the spiritual tests get greater. Observing the happiness of others when your own was eclipsed can knock the wind out of you. Yet you have to stand up, put on that crown, and with head held high, embrace the dignity of the queen.

Disneyland is filled with fairy princesses. And not many nice queens. But in real life, we have to step into the role of Good Queen, if we are to do the real Kingdom work. We must bless the blessings of others in order to experience our own. We also start to question why the attraction to Disneyland in the first place? Is not the Kingdom right here, filled with magic no matter what the situation? And are there not lots of kids who need more than Mickey Mouse in their lives? Maybe it’s time to stop sitting around waiting for the kingdom to come but to start reaching out to those in need in the kingdom.

 

Are You A Mommy?

2 Nov

Running into a previous co-worker at the grocery store, I chatted with her in-between acknowledging her little girl who was sitting in the basket cart. “Where’s your sweetie?” the child asked. I smiled at her realizing that because her mother calls her “sweetie”, she wondered where my sweetie was since there was no little girl in my cart.

“I don’t have a sweetie,” I replied but your mommy is lucky to have you for a sweetie.”

Then a few beats later the little girl interrupted asking, “Are you a mommy?” I could feel my breath stand still a few seconds. Moments before running into them I had dreaded turning down the aisle where they kept the cleaning supplies because it meant I had to pass the cat litter, which I no longer buy. I no longer have “sweeties.” I have also been thinking of whether I would seriously adopt a child and here was this old friend who has adopted a number of children. When we worked together I used to ask her about the process.

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“No honey, I’m not a mommy,” I said to the little girl. Her mother and I continued talking.

Then to drive the stake in, the little girl interrupted with, “Where is your mommy?” By now tears were smarting in my eyes. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my mommy was in heaven. Nor would it have been appropriate to tell a four year old that I’ve been reflecting on the mother/daughter relationship for the last few months as I move into my next book project. Or, that the agent who is currently reviewing my book represented an author who ended up mothering a boy she met on the streets when he asked her for some spare change.

The same aunt that once said, “God is not subtle,” also told me there are more ways to serve and give our love than the traditional paradigm. That just because God did not bring me marriage and motherhood doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to give.

I thought about the selflessness required to raise a child but even more so, the selflessness required to raise a child who is not of own’s blood. While marriage is supposed to be selfless, so often we enter into courtship thinking about what the other will do for us. Women in particular are guilty of this thinking in terms of how the man will provide for them, ravish them, rescue them and sweep them off their feet. “What’s in it for me?” is the mentality that both genders fall susceptible to. Instead we should ask, “How can I love you? Serve you? Make your life better? How can we, as a “we” enrich not only our lives together but the lives of others?”

So maybe it isn’t so backwards to think about adopting a child before finding a mate. Maybe in this I will finally learn that in the end love is about sharing and giving not about what we’re going to “get”.

I know that if I really decide to adopt a child I am about all but killing the chances of finding a husband for I am at my most available now. I don’t have an ex-husband or children or astronomical debt. And despite being in my forties, I have the same body I did in my twenties. And yet, if we wait too long for the ship to sail we may never take the voyage. All I know is that the winds are stirring. And this heart wants to experience the journey of giving in some capacity besides one’s work in a world where there is such a profound need for love.

Are You a Mother?

12 May

In one of my worst church experiences ever, on Mother’s Day people were stationed at the doors and as women walked in they were asked, “Are you a mother?” If you were, you received a carnation. If you weren’t, well you were denied one.

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In the Catholic church I grew up in, all females were given flowers on Mother’s Day – even little girls.

I’m not certain which is more painful. People assuming you are a mother or not.

As I walked into the hotel dining room this morning, the waitress wished me a happy Mother’s Day. I smiled and said, “Thank you.” I’d temporarily forgotten it was Mother’s Day only to be reminded by all the carnations on the tables. I blinked back tears as the hotel staff scrambled around setting things up for a special brunch complete with balloons. I resigned to eat quickly and get out of there.

There are certain times of the year where you can’t by-pass reality. Instead it just smacks you in the face: My mother is dead and in less than two weeks, I’ll be 44 years old and will probably never bear a child. Likewise, as a single woman, I most likely will choose not to adopt.

In a culture that fixates on “baby bumps,” motherhood is treated like a sorority. Yet not all of us belong. It makes no difference if you work with children or own pets. It’s not the same. It’s an elite membership, if you’re on the outside – even if the club isn’t all its cracked up to be.