On Self-Pity

"Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world."
- Helen Keller

"The secret of being miserable is to have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure for it is occupation."
- George Bernard Shaw

Self-hyphen-anything is pretty much an idea to be cautious of, in my book. Self-Help, Self-conscious, Self-serve, Self-esteem, self-image, self-centered. I’m not saying this out of a self-righteous sense of self-importance. I’m as self-focused as next person (example: Blog, Facebook, and Twitter are all elementally narcissistic endeavors. It takes discipline and an understanding of community to turn them into generous-spirited, community-oriented endeavors.).

But self-pity drives me crazy in myself. There are a lot of ranting and onerous blogs out there focused on the self-pity of singleness, and I don’t want to be one of them. Reading back over the last two blogs I posted, I’ve felt a strong compulsion to go back in and edit and change things, as they read somewhat pathetically now, only I decided at the outset that I was not going to delete any posts along this road. So, after a weekend of vacation, then reading over the last few posts, I got scared to post anything more. Self-pity robbed me for a few days.

The truth is, I think there are some great things about my life right now. I can sleep in and determine my own schedule to some extent. I have hours of time to myself (something I know many mothers would give their left kneecaps for.) for writing, reading, movie-watching, cooking for fun, listening to music, working on various art projects, hanging out with friends, surf the internet, shop, play games, etc. etc. I can play with my friends’ children, and then go home and crash in a quiet house without chance of interruption by sticky hands or poopy diapers.

I was talking with a young married friend recently about loneliness. I talked about the grief of loneliness as a single person, and the sometimes-frightening prospect I’m facing now of my sister leaving for an extended trip this summer, and she empathized from her own single experience. After a while, she asked a question: “So, does this mean you’re re-thinking singleness?”

I was surprised by the question, then a little angry, to be quite honest. The implication is a false dichotomy about single people: if you’re single, you either love being alone, or you’re seeking a romantic relationship. In reality, I fall somewhere in the middle, as I’m guessing most people do: I do love being alone in moderation. I do crave relationship…but I do my best to not be controlled by that desire.

I knew where her question came from; she was a good friend of a guy whom I had dated briefly last year. The relationship was casual (on my side), and only a few real dates old, but he wanted more commitment. In our “break up” talk, I tried to express that while I believed it was entirely possible that his desire for marriage was good and godly, I was pretty sure that I could not commit to the same goal; ergo, “breaking up” (or, not going on the 5th date) was the best option for both of us.

He took that statement to mean that I think I am “called by God” for lifetime singleness. (This may or may not be a justified conclusion. I suppose that time will tell.) What I realize now is that, by admitting honestly I am not currently called to be in a romantic relationship, the real conclusion is that I am, for all intents and purposes, called at the moment to singleness.

What this means practically is that my call or purpose right now is to be excellent at being single. What does that mean? You’ve got me. That’s why I’m writing it all out. This isn’t a rant or an apologetic. It’s just my journey.


That Shaw quote has stuck in my mind ever since you posted it. Occupation can't fix everything, but it can certainly help.

I'm totally with you on the self-hyphen-anything thoughts.

Intriguing comments on the false dichotomy about single people. As for what it means to be excellent at being single, I don't know either; never figured that out in my 28/30 years of singleness. The closest I could come was to use--and occasionally enjoy--my free hours/emotions/finances to whatever purpose seemed right for the day.

For what it's worth, your writing on this subject isn't coming off as self-pitying to me. You're stating truths, but it doesn't read like complaining--it reads as true. :)