Monday, May 24, 2010

Those who walked before me

"I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."
--Henry David Thoreau

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone-we find it with another.”
--Thomas Merton

There are myriad reasons why I'm near terrified to write about this topic of being single. One reason is that I'm not positive I have anything new to say about it. There are many who have been single much longer and better than I have, and have already written their stories. (then, of course, there is the woman who wrote a book with the actual words "How to Expand your Meet Market" as a chapter heading. In case you are curious, one of the suggestions for women was to attend NASCAR events. I'm sure this book will come up again later. FYI, being that kind of writer is another one of my fears.)

The main reason, if I'm being really honest about it, is that I'm afraid that writing about being single makes me a confirmed and possibly militant single person. But if writing about it makes it truer, then I really should be writing about a lot of other things I would prefer to be doing than being single; i.e., I should be writing about exercise, waking up on time every morning, and of course, spending more time praying and reading my Bible, not to mention writing more, painting more, and being faithful in friendships.

But the truth is that writing doesn't make wishes or goals or hopes or ambitions come true. For me at least, writing helps me face fears, figure out puzzles, put frustration on a page so I can realize how small or big it really is. And then I can figure out how to deal with it. Have you ever had that experience where you close your journal after writing for a while, and you feel at peace; that long sigh of calm in between battles?

I would like to be at peace with being single, not because I'm determined to stay that way, but because it is where I am now and, for the foreseeable future, where I’m going. I've been encouraged by several writers over this past year, people before me who have been honest and faithful in their experience with singleness and single people, and I share them below because I want, in many ways to be like them and to walk as faithfully and honestly as they are.

1. Jon Acuff: www.stuffchristianslike.net
Jon isn't single, but he wrote a blog post on singles within the church that received more comments than any other post he wrote in his roller-coaster year-and-a-half rise from blogger to print author, helping me realize that so many others are involved in this same journey.

2. Connally Gilliam wrote the book "Revelations of a Single Woman: Loving the Life I Didn't Expect"
Even though the title makes me cringe a little, and now I have to confess to wandering the single self-help section of a Church bookstore (only once I swear!), I read the preface and realized that Connally wasn't your average "meet market" writer. I can honestly say it's the best book on singleness I've ever read and what she had to say about being a believer, a woman, being single, and living in community gave me hope about what a single life could be. Don't be too dismayed by the use of shoes and the color pink on the cover, Connally speaks some good truth.

3. Kate DiCamillo writes so-called books for children. But when I heard her speak at the 2010 Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, she kept me spellbound with her discussion about writing of the things that scare you so badly you feel you can't look them in the eye, the things that make your fingers tremble while typing, and the things that you think you can't write about. I wish a story like "A Tale of Despereaux" had come into my head when I thought about what scared me, but it didn't. Not yet, anyway.

4. Tim Stafford is a senior writer at Christianity Today. Somewhere around 10 years ago, Tim Stafford spoke on singleness at Seattle Pacific University, a chapel lecture that is available free on iTunes U. When I was attending a Christian Liberal Arts university, these were the chapels I would stay away from. But Mr. Stafford’s lecture, from the perspective a long-happily-married man, addresses the topic with compassion, challenge, and an assurance that single people are part of God’s work AND community, too. From my experience, many modern evangelical churches don’t have a problem believing that single people are part of God’s work. But in practice, they often have a hard time incorporating single folk into the community.

There are lots of other people, both writers and people who simply live well, who have influenced me. These four have been particularly important and recent influences in starting me on the road to writing honestly about fears, including this one of walking the fine sidewalk between alone and community.

3 comments:

Jessi said...

well done, you! I'm proud of you for picking up the mantle or writing about your fears.

Carlos said...

Thanks for sharing. My sister-in-law has been struggling with the single life. I will pass some of these resources on to her. Thanks again.

jana.kaye said...

Thanks Carlos, I'm glad to pass on the resources that have helped me.

I appreciate your blog, too, especially the hospitality aspect! I want to try some of those recipes!