“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”
~ Erich Fromm
Want to learn (and relearn) a lesson in accepting what is?
Attend several weddings over the course of just a few years as a single woman in her late 20s and early 30s — so single, in fact, that your wedding invitations during this time have never once included a plus one because weddings are expensive (especially the part where everyone gets fed) and the couple always knows you don’t have anyone to bring anyway.
So, yeah. Accepting what is.
Particularly if what is doesn’t exactly match up with what societal or familial (or internal, self-applied) pressures seem to suggest it should be.
Because I’m almost 32 and I’ve been mostly completely single for 4 years. And the majority of the days I’m totally content with that reality, but there’s nothing like a wedding — or several weddings — to highlight the fact that you’re alone (again) while everyone else seems to have found love and partnership.
But lest you think this is a pity party for one, I assure you it’s not.
It’s more an observation of how our lives diverge and converge in a million beautiful and unexpected and challenging and eye-opening ways. And how everyone’s path is just a little bit different, which makes no single journey better than any other, but makes every single journey entirely unique.
One of the bravest things we do in this life is chart our own course and choose which roads we take to get where we’re going.
Which is frequently a completely unforeseen destination. And sometimes a very temporary one.
And while we get to choose the path we follow and the turns we take, we really have no control over the weather or how much traffic we encounter or if construction is going to force us to take a detour — which, if you live in Portland like me, it probably is, and often.
We don’t control who we meet along the way or at what point along our journey we meet them or how long they stay.
The point is just to keep moving.
This past weekend, I attended a dear friend’s wedding and was witness to so much love and joy and awesomeness while I was there.
I was reunited with old classmates who have since gotten married or had babies or adopted puppies (yay! puppies) — partnerships that reflected to me the kind of love and respect and mutual independence I hope to one day experience with a partner in my own life.
I traveled to and from the wedding with an amazingly courageous woman who is raising a beautiful, precocious, sweet-spirited little girl all on her own, and pretty much knocking single motherhood out of the park.
And I was reminded of my sister, whose wedding I attended four years ago and who is now mother to an incredible 17 month old boy and pregnant with identical twin girls. (!!!)
We have all taken wildly different routes to arrive at the present moment, pathways that have been (ridiculously challenging at times, but also) ideally suited to our individual pursuits and the lessons we each needed to learn and the contributions we are all destined to make in this life.
And we all started in different places on different days with different kinds of baggage.
Which is why comparing your now to anyone else’s really makes no sense at all. Seriously.
Also — and I’ve written about this before — the things to which you aspire (and, hence, the roads you choose to travel) will change and shift and evolve as you are transformed by your individual journey.
For example, I was not the type of young girl who eagerly anticipated her future wedding. In fact, from a very young age I was pretty much opposed to marriage — for myself at least.
And I was too busy riding my bike and playing in the dirt and running around on the soccer field and beating the neighborhood boys at basketball and trying to read every book ever written to spend my time fantasizing about love and partnership and marriage anyway.
These things just weren’t on my radar.
Because: UGH. Boys have cooties. (And are really only useful as athletic opponents. Obviously.)
And although I was able to overcome that whole “boys have cooties” thing by the time I hit high school, I will admit that my aversion to marriage and long-term partnership persisted well into my late 20s.
I know now that this aversion was largely a byproduct of my upbringing. After all, I was raised in a culture that told me I should prioritize getting married above all other pursuits, that — as a woman — finding a husband and having children should be my ultimate goal in this life.
I wanted to do ALL THE THINGS and getting married just felt so, well, limiting.
But that’s because the picture of committed partnership and marriage I had been taught to pursue was very narrowly defined.
And was definitely not for me.
Before I could actively desire partnership and marriage for myself, I had to get to a place where I could see these things not as a threat to my independence and growth as an individual, but as a means of enhancing and deepening those efforts.
Which, guess what? They absolutely can be.
(I know. It was a shock to me, too.)
I’ve witnessed this in enough couples to know that it’s possible.
In my friend and her new husband, and in each of the couples with whom I had the pleasure of celebrating this past Saturday. And in the relationships of two other dear friends planning their weddings for 2015.
I’ve learned — and seen — that partnership looks a lot of different ways. And that who we love is not limited by age or gender or anything else.
And that if you open yourself up to love in this capacity, you might just be transformed in ways you never would have expected.
So, I supposed what I’m trying to say is THANK YOU. To all the friends whose relationships have helped me believe that partnership might just be awesome. Even in spite of how difficult it will inevitably be on certain days.
Because I still don’t know if I’ll ever find myself in a loving, committed relationship again, but I do know that I’m no longer terrified of allowing it to unfold if it eventually presents itself.
And something tells me this is the first step towards inviting that experience into my life.
In the meantime, I’m going to work on continuing to accept what is. Which includes my 32nd birthday in a mere 26 days. (Yikes.) And still being single. And probably attending a few more weddings as a plus none.
All those handsome, single groomsmen better watch out.