Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dating Myself

No, not dating myself in the "using outdated slang" sense though that's always a fun way to make oneself feel old amongst pre-teens. Seriously, ask any of my nieces and nephews under 11 "who let the dogs out?" or tell them to "raise the roof" and they'll look at you with a perplexed expression.

In the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, I began seeing articles about how a single people should act, what they should do, and how they could "tolerate" or even "survive" the holiday. The term "Singles Awareness Day" bugs me, plain and simple. I guess I'm just not bitter about being single and I'm going to tell you why.

I'm not saying it's easy being single. I'm a 30 year-old single lady; there are always comments, especially when people learn how old I am. Do you know how often I get told that if I don't have kids anytime soon, chances that I won't be able to "bounce back" or that the baby will be born with a number of "defects" increases? Do you know how often the fact that I'm single gets thrown in my face? Do you know how often I have to hear my mom lament (though in a jokingly way; there's still truth behind it) about not having grandchildren to friends, family, and even strangers? Let me just put it this way: if I had a dollar for every time I've heard these comments since my mid-20s, I would quite possibly be able to pay off all my student loans -- for all three degrees I've studied for (Religious Studies B.A., Communicative Disorders & Deaf Education B.S., and Biblical Theology M.A.) When Catholic folks find out I'm single, some even push me to become a nun, despite my telling them it's not my vocation. I just smile and say I'm not my vocation but we all know I can get very tired of hearing that as well

The single life as a Catholic seems a little more difficult sometimes. Like everyone who takes their faith and their relationship with God seriously, I have my fears regarding my future vocation. Some of those fears are a little silly, some are understandable, but all are very real to me. Though I'm fiercely independent, I still go through periods in which the loneliness has hit pretty hard. I think what's really helped me out has been learning to entrust my loneliness to God and my discernment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Ever since I've done that, I have viewed this period of singlehood differently. Again, it doesn't mean it's easy; I've just learned how readjust how I view this season of life. I think that's why I'm not a bitter single on Valentine's Day.

I love love but I'm a romantic realist. I know what's real and what's fantasy. I love my Hallmark Channel chick flicks (especially the Christmas ones!) and romantic gestures but I know that real life is not like that. I've seen the ups and downs my friends have gone through with their spouses. I know getting married is not going to solve any loneliness I may occasionally feel. I don't expect any man to make me "feel complete" because I know only God can fill that role. I'm sort of a little ball of contradictions when it comes to this. I know enough about how I view love, romance, and my future vocation to know that my priorities are in the right place. My former spiritual director made sure I understood things. And while this is all great, there was one thing I was missing: knowing myself better.

I can do all those personality tests to find out what kind of person I am. I'm an INFP, a phlegmatic-sanguine (or a phlegmatic-melancholic, depending on the test), my love language is quality time, etc. However, this doesn't really do much to help me in terms of vocation. I think that's why I decided a little while ago (don't ask me how long; I don't keep track of these things) to "date" myself; to figure out what I can bring to a relationship or what I need to work on. I've already learned about a lot about myself -- a lot of things I either didn't want to acknowledge or accept or things I didn't know.

I've been looking at my relationships -- my relationship with my mom, my brother, and my friends (both male and female). I've noticed what makes me happy, what makes me grumpy, what my boundaries are, what I must do when I'm upset, and what will motivate me. I know that I need to communicate the fact that I'm upset when I'm in a funk because I tend to withdraw. I've learned that I need to tell those I love that I'm feeling grumpy so I can get a little bit of space to cool down. I also know that I thrive around people but that that introverted side of me still need to recharge after being around others for a couple of hours.

Last year I made my first attempts (in a long time) to actually be more active in my vocation discernment. Yes, this is a fancy way of saying that I tried my hand at dating. The experiences taught me about what I look for in a potential spouse. I've learned that I love open communication and hate leaving things unresolved. I'm surprisingly patient and open to criticism when it's done with love and no one is defensive or aggressive. While I love having my own space, I love spending quality time with the other person.While I don't like being teased too much (I'm usually Little Miss Serious Business), some people to tend to draw out the more silly and playful side of me that not many people get to see. I also learned that I don't like "online dating" websites so don't expect to see me on Catholic Match anytime soon. 

The best thing that I learned about "dating myself" is that I'm at a place in my life where I'm finally comfortable in my own skin and with my ever-growing relationship with God. I'm happy with who I am, even with the quirks and the flaws I need to learn to manage better. I'm comfortable enough to be open about them and not be ashamed for not being "perfect." I've finally figured out how I thrive and what sinks me not only in life and in my relationships but with God as well. I've learned that my heart is His until He says "alright, this man will help you grow closer to Me" and there is something absolutely beautiful about that. I've also learned that I'm never going to be done getting to know myself because, as all human beings, I'm still growing and changing. Things I liked and didn't like in my teens and 20s aren't the same now that I've entered my 30s.

Yes, things are terribly slow on the vocation (big V) front but He knows why. I know, I know... single ladies over the age of 25 (and especially in their late 20s to early-mid 30s) hate when people say that everything will happen in God's timing but I firmly believe that. Every single thing I've gone through as in some way, shape, or form helped prepare me for my life with my future husband. All I can do now is to continue praying for him and working on my relationship with God. I'm not going to dwell on being single or trying too hard to find someone but I will keep learning about myself and how to be a better version of myself for when the day comes. Now if he could only stop being such a guy and pull over and ask for directions because he's obviously lost on the highway of love... lol. ;)

I highly recommend that you lovely single ladies (and gentlemen!) get to know yourselves (even if it's stuff you don't want to acknowledge) while you wait. Don't dwell on the fact that you're single. There's so much you can do in the meantime. Learn what your gifts are, what makes you shine, what drains you, what you don't like. Take up a hobby. Do something you like, bonus points if it helps someone else. Work on your relationship with God. Learn how you thrive in relationships of all kinds, not just exclusively romantic in nature. Entrust your loneliness to God. Smile. If it's your vocation, it will happen. Take comfort in knowing that, even if the waiting time can be incredibly frustrating at times. :)

Anyway, just my two cents on this matter. Sorry I didn't post it earlier but, as I wrote yesterday, I had a couple of off days that delayed when this got published. :) And now I'm off to... I have no idea. I'm probably reading or taking a nap or watching something since I'm writing this a day in advance. ;)

I hope y'all are doing well!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty in this post! Though singleness definitely has its sad moments, I am seeing how much of a blessing it actually can be! (I wrote a post on Ignitum Today about this last month--dealing with waiting!) I am so glad for the "extra" time I have had to be single and grow into a better version of myself!

AnneMarie said...

Thank you for speaking up against "Singles Awareness Day"-that always has bugged me, too! I think this whole reflection is really fantastic. It's been in philosophy for forever-"know thyself"-because it is vital. When we want to live our lives abundantly and thrive in our relationships-of any kind-with other people, it is super helpful to see our strengths and weaknesses. Reading the book, "The Temperament God Gave You" was really good for me in learning to do this, because the it outlined different weaknesses that people with my temperament tend to have in relationships, so that I could work on those. And, like you said, every single thing that happens when you're single will help prepare you for whatever other Vocation God has in store for you :)

Emmy Cecilia said...

Amen, sunflowersojourn!

Emmy Cecilia said...

AnneMarie - good to know I'm not the only one who dislikes the term "Singles Awareness Day." I love that book -- The Temperament God Gave You. I may have to re-do the test in the book because I keep getting confused if I'm a phlegmatic-sanguine or a phlegmatic-melancholic. But, yes, so important to know yourself and strive to be the best version of yourself.