Sanity Lessons

I recently started sanity lessons. 

I have never done official counseling before, except for a short bout of career counseling at a critical juncture of career decision-making. My Sanity Lessons are a place to bounce ideas, to air out--and discover--lies that I have been living on, and to hear them spoken back to me so I realize that they are, in fact, lies. I can explore my motivations, express mourning, and discuss important decisions and how to make them, when to say no to opportunities, get "permission" sometimes to give myself time off. 

My counselor 'gospels' me: "Why do you feel that you need to do that? What does it say about your identity if you say no? does it change how God sees you?" 

P7081677.ORF After four weeks of counseling, and reading a book my counselor recommended, I finally wrote down a lie that I apparently believe and operate in, a lie I still am not sure what to do with. 

"I believe that being a single woman for my whole life means being barren and unloved." 

 I know that God loves me, my family loves me, and I have many friends who love me (as imperfectly as I love them). I have friends who are much older and single, and while I see sometimes the losses in their life of love and family as echoes of what I miss, too, I don't think of their lives as worthless and unloved.

But experiencing intimate, knowing-and-being known love "with skin on" is a deep longing for me and for most of my friends who have remained single for any length of time. Someone to look forward to the years with and make life decisions with. Someone who shares the burdens and joys of life. 

Every question about singleness then, for me has been not just "how do I deal with being single today and for possibly my lifetime?" but "how do I deal with being unloved and barren today and for possibly my lifetime?" I'm not saying that's how everyone feels, but that is the lie that I'm trying to combat in my own understanding. 

As a single woman, I struggle with feeling unloved in concrete ways. I mow my lawn AND do my housecleaning, laundry, and work full-time to pay for everything I own or consume. It's down to me to make sure my taxes are complete and accurate, that my insurance is paid, that my finances are secure, and that I save or invest in my future. If my car breaks down, I ride the bus. If I'm injured I take myself to the emergency room, fill out the forms, fill the prescription, make myself chicken soup and make sure I have ice packs and clean blankets before taking the pain meds so I can crash on the couch. It doesn't *really* make a difference in anyone's life if I have a horrible day at work and arrive home, dinnerless and exhausted, at 8pm to a dark house full of dirty dishes, empty toilet paper rolls, and broken appliances. Ok, I'm painting a dark picture. Last time I went to the emergency room, my parents took me and stayed with me past midnight, bless them.

In addition to Sanity Lessons, I pay for Massage Therapy. Nobody rubs my feet or massages my shoulders when I'm weary, or runs a hand through my hair or even gives me hugs on a regular basis. No one so much as holds my hand, not to mention anything beyond that. Massage therapy once a month or so helps to combat the chill of being unloved via touch. Massage Therapy is one concrete way that I can take care of myself. For one hour a month, I get permission to physically relax. 

 I have a friend who has returned uncountable times to an abusive relationship. Despite counsel and help, advice and begging, she continues to go back because 'when he's all right', she FEELS loved. She asked me once to make her a picture that contained a lyric from the band The Head and the Heart. They original lyric reads "You're already home where you feel loved." In my painting for her, I changed the sentiment to "You're already home when you *are* loved." 

Maybe feeling loved is as much of an idol for me, in my resentment, as it is for her in her addiction

 Will I be okay if I never experience feeling known and loved in that way? Will every time I have to walk into a party alone, do my taxes alone, eat dinner alone, fumble through a career move or house move alone feel like salt in a wound? What if it does? 

 Feeling loved vs. Being loved 

 This is what I cannot seem to resolve. I know I AM loved by the only one who really matters. but I struggle with feeling UNloved because I don't receive some of the concrete forms of love in the ways that seem so sweet and good and true and part of God's plan for community and family. I see my roommates, friends, and siblings being "loved on", challenged, accepted, refreshed, encouraged, motivated, rejoiced in, and cherished, and I see them grow in their relationships. Is it any wonder I see great joy in loving and being loved like that? Who wouldn't desire that? 

 I vacillate between finger-shaking at God: "You PROMISED, God. You SAID you would give me the desires of my heart. These are the desires you gave me. Why then do they go unfulfilled? That seems like a dirty, low-down trick." 

and momentary glimpses of the truths that he IS good, he IS God, he IS faithful, and that my perspective is small. I have more questions than answers, just as everyone does. 

So what do I do? 

Do I live a life of mourning? 

 I don't want to do that. I want to wake up every morning feeling loved. Feeling known. Feeling beautiful, precious, cherished. I think that is a small part of what God wants for me. 

 Perhaps feeling loved simply isn't rooted where I think it should be. I'm still figuring it out.


Beautiful, you are. Incredibly so. Everything I know about you is lovely.

We all have those lies--and it's odd how hard it is to stop believing them, even when we identify them, even when we would never believe them about anyone else. For what it's worth, I pray for you. Not just that you'll be able to believe the truths you speak of, but for the fulfillment of your dreams.
Annie said…
Wow, Jana. This is really moving. It's so hard to live alone and do all these things alone simply on the knowledge that God loves us. One of the biggest lies I have struggled with is not believing God loves me, and seeing this manifest in the lack of feeling loved by my friends and family. As much as I know they love me, they all live far away; it seems God must live far away too. It's so hard not to equate the manifestation of love in our lives (or lack thereof) with the love of God. It seems people are always saying when we love someone we are showing them who God is, and when someone shows us love we get to see how God loves us. But what about those times when no one is there, when no one is showing us love, either their's or God's, and our homes are empty? This is the first thing I remember reading that addresses the disparate nature of being loved versus feeling loved.
jana.kaye said…
@Jenna, thanks for your words of encouragement and the prayers :-) you are such a lovely person, too...I really appreciate you.

@Annie, I understand the far-away lie, as well...when I lived in the Bay Area, I struggled with that a lot...feeling forgotten sometimes. Manifestation...that is the word I was circling around, I think.

And also, as usual, after I posted this, I ran across the quote that seems to answer my questions, in Bonhoeffer's "Life Together"

"We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?"
KristyWes said…
Thanks for this post! You articulated so well so many of the things I struggle with. When struggling to *feel* loved, it's at least helpful to not feel alone in the struggle. Thanks again :)
jana.kaye said…
Thanks for stopping by Kristy! I know there are so many out there...married and unmarried...who feel alone and unloved. It does help to know that those feelings are not wasted on God...they reveal our greater need of him.