However, I'm not always so great at just living life and not stressing myself out about being single, and of late I've been feeling a bit depressed. Now, I know plenty of people in relationships get depressed as well, and I have played "Pollyana" and tried to focus on the many, MANY blessings in my life, but I'm just down right now, which is ok - life's not about always being happy, but I also want to make sure I'm not prolonging this gloomy period in my relatively sunshine-filled life.
In analyzing why I might be so down right now, there are some pretty obvious factors: my cousin-roomate (younger than me) who has been single right alongside of me for the last 6 years just got into a relationship and my sister (8 years my junior) just got married to a British guy and moved to England to start their new life together. Also, my only other cousin (also younger than me) and his wife are about to have a baby...so literally all of the people in my generation of my family are going through a major relationship/life/family stage except me...and I'm the oldest.
Right off the bat - note how I am comparing myself to my siblings/cousins. I'm obviously am concerned by the fact that I'm the oldest and am seemingly so far behind. I think even if I wasn't the oldest it would be hard to see the people I've known for so long have experiences that I want but that remain so distant and elusive to me.....and it really doesn't help to think that I'm at an age where most people are already in a very different stage of life than me.
I've definitely fallen into a trap of comparing myself to others, and then feeling bad about myself when I feel that I'm behind, missing something, doing something wrong, failing, unable to make things happen in my life. This isn't something that just plagues me when thinking about relationships...I've been working on not comparing myself to others in the career arena for years. I'm at a much better place than I was a few years ago, when every time I heard of a friend's job success I was blinded by jealousy - thankfully with God's help I was able to see my tendency to define success and meaningfulness as being linked to achievement, and since then when I see myself falling into the trap of judging my worth by my successes I am able to stop and remind myself that I'm not important because of what I do, but because I'm God's kid and He loves me and that through and for Him I am able to much more than I ever could on my own. However, I'm not so great at applying that insight to my depression over my single-ness.
Why am I so sad? What's the root of the problem here? Well, I think it's a mix - part of it I think is just natural....we all want to be loved, cherished, affirmed. We live in a world that is oriented toward couples and families, and it can feel incredibly isolating and at times embarassing to be alone. I think when people are single, they often mask it - acting as if they are fine, when really they hang out by themselves in their apartments at night, rather than going out on their own because it feels to sad...and as a result single people are often hidden and go un-noticed and can feel so disconnected from the huge network of other singles out there. Singles events and activities don't really help the situation as they become meat-markets, and don't really develop a sense of community among singles more than a last-ditch escape effort.
I don't really know what the point of this blog post is. I don't think I really have any special insight, or words of wisdom to throw out there. I'm just in the midst of all these feelings right now, and I'm trying to sort through them day by day and not drown. I'm reading Henri Nouwen's "Life of the Beloved" right now, and he talks about how everyone experiences brokenness, and how our brokenness is unique and reveals very important aspects of ourselves. When we share our brokenness with others we share our vulnerability and others are privileged to connect with us in that way. I often am embarassed and try to hide my sadness and loneliness, feeling like it makes me seem weak or that I am unhappy with how I've lived my life and the choices I've made. But I'm not...I'm proud of how independent and resilient I've been, and how I've made a really great life for myself. That doesn't mean I don't get lonely, but my loneliness doesn't negate the blessings in my life either. I'm striving to no longer be ashamed of my loneliness...my brokenness, but to instead claim it as a part of who I am right now, and to share my struggle with those I'm close to, praying that by becoming vulnerable and sharing my life on that level with others that God will bless my situation and work through it in ways I can't even imagine.
A quote from Nouwen:
"The first response, then, to our brokenness is to face it squarely and befriend it. This may seem quite unnatural. Our first, most spontaneous response to pain and suffering is to avoid it, to keep it at arm's length; to ignore, circumvent or deny it. Suffering - be it physical, mental or emotional - is almost always experienced as an unwelcome intrusion into our lives, something that should not be there. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see anything positive in suffering; it must be avoided away at all costs.
When this is, indeed, our spontaneous attitute toward our brokenness, it is no surprise that befriending it seems, at first, masochistic. Still, my own pain in life has taught me that the first step to healing is not a step away from the pain, but a step toward it. When brokenness is, in fact, just as intimate a part of our being as our chosennes and our blessedness, we have to dare to overcome our fear and become familiar with it. Yes, we have to find the courage to embrace our own brokenness, to make our most feared enemy into a friend and to claim it as an inimate companion. I am convinced that healing is often so difficult because we don't want to know the pain."