Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about her holiday plans. She spoke about the dynamics of her experience and at one point said, “It’d honestly just be easier if I took myself on vacation to Mexico and skip the whole thing.” She is in her early 40s and single.
She shared and I felt normal.
It is all kinds of funky being single during the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, not all of the time, nor is it for everyone who is not married, but for many these four weeks highlight-with a spotlight as strong as the sun, the fact that one doesn’t have a spouse or a family of his or her own.
Having a single adult in your family is tricky for sure. I mean, you bring up singleness for some and instantaneous walls appear. If you don’t bring it up, for others, you’re insensitive. Maybe you seek to go out of your way to love or do something kind for someone who is single and they feel so much shame about their singleness that your gesture only evokes pain and highlights their place in life. And for others, (this would be my category of choice) there is so much pride about being single and ok, that they close off, power through and never admit what it hurtful or difficult.
Winning, in loving the single in your life, can be difficult.
For me, singleness is a subject about which I think or write begrudgingly. Writing this blog series makes me feel a little like I’m stepping out of the shower for all to see. But, what I know to be true is that there are so many men and women who secretly walk through these weeks, driving to and from parties, decorating, playing with other people’s children and on and off feeling the blaring absence of partnership and a family of their own. My pride, my public image, my desire for people to see me as content in all things without the hint of struggle must not be so loud that I miss the opportunity to encourage and or give a little help to my single friends and their families.
So, I’m coming out.
I am single. I love Advent. I love Christmas. I love the parties, the decor, the sentiment, the awfully predictable Hallmark movies, the Norman Rockwell ideal, the beauty, the stillness, the gathering, the quiet, the noise, the opening, the buying, the giving, the dressing up, the music, the majesty… I love it all. I soak it all in becoming like a child in awe of watching snow fall for the first time. It enraptures me.
I feel alone. I long. I watch others care for their spouses and children and feel the absence of both in my life. I wonder if this will be the last year I’ll put up decorations alone. I buy presents for other people’s children that I love so deeply, and wonder if I’ll ever buy presents for my own. I understand the longing of Advent. I have to choose a perspective of hope and light and joy and love. I at times feel invisible. I drive to my family and make plans based on their individual families experience and traditions. I seek to build my own traditions with friends and family, and am not guaranteed my traditions will always be the traditions of others as their families grow and change.
The holidays are a juxtaposition of light and dark. Loneliness, desire, longing, and unmet expectations are a part of every human’s journey. I do not know every human’s journey. I do, however, know mine. And so it is my hope, that as I share, that we will be encouraged as a people, to love others well, to own our own stories and not avoid what is painful but to learn to be present with the pain and the joy. (Thank you Inside Out and Pixar for the reminder) and know how to speak what we need.
So, over the next few days I’ll write about the story I know. Sharing both the good and the difficult and give a few suggestions to those of us who are not married how to engage the season well as well as give a few ideas for those who love us how to love us well. In the end, I’ll feel naked, and like Adam and Eve in the very beginning, feel no shame (or at least that is the hope). And maybe, you might feel seen, not as alone in your experience, or perhaps you might have a better idea of how to love others well too.