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The Thing You Aren’t Supposed To Say

May 3, 2009

I am going to say the thing that you aren’t supposed to say as a single, independent, sassy woman.

I am lonely.

I wouldn’t say I am lonely for company, for I am blessed to be surrounded by an ever-growing pool of amazing friends and family that surprise me every day with how extraordinary they make my life. I’m not lonely for meaning, for I am doggedly chasing after a wild God that is teaching me joy and love in every single breath. I’m not lonely for things to do, for I live in a city I adore more and more every day. I can go to a coffee shop with just a book and my thoughts and be absolutely content for hours. In the grand sense of the fullness of life, I am not lonely for love.

But still.
I am lonely.

I’ve bought into the stigma that surrounds this word, this idea that being lonely is being pathetic and weak. In the cradle of my control tendencies, I mostly refuse to acknowledge being lonely, because it automatically forces me to admit that I cannot control my own loneliness. I was talking to my friend Amanda about this today, and as I forced out the word “lonely,” I actually felt humiliated. Acknowledging the presence of this loneliness and naming it, it rips off the Band-Aid that I can work enough and be involved enough and have enough friends that I’ll eventually stop thinking about that pesky desire to fall in love.

Well, that’s just a lie. And while I’ve managed not to focus on finding someone in any kind of psychotic manner, like the main character in “He’s Just Not That Into You,” I would be lying if I said that I had managed to cure my acute awareness that I am indeed single.

My dating experiences have been few and far between, and I promise, in all honesty, I will be the first to tell you that being single has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. In this time God has given to me (and I do believe it’s a gift), I have learned so much about who I am, and the world that surrounds me. I have been given the time to discover my passions and have my eyes opened to all the places it can lead. I’ve formed my own special traditions, like taking myself on dates. I make plans all the time for what my life is and will be, and as of now, I am content enough to plan for just me. I have seen many incredible places that have developed in me a deep love of traveling that I might not have had if I would have settled down at a young age. In fact, this fall, I am meeting a dear friend (hello Paddy, if you’re reading this!) in Ireland, a trip that I most certainly wouldn’t have been able to take if I was married or probably even dating someone. (What husband or boyfriend do you know that would happily send their wife or girlfriend off to backpack through a foreign country with another guy?) My singleness has been a gateway for so many incredible things, people, and experiences that I could not and would not have had otherwise.


Yet still, I am a woman. As much as I will scoff at them, I have feelings and emotions that tend to get the best of me when confronted with a sappy movie or pretty much any Joshua Radin song. I’ve written more embarrassing journal entries than I can count about relationships, and yet I am probably not much the wiser for it. I tend to really just confuse myself more (I can talk in circles like you wouldn’t believe…I give myself vertigo sometimes).

There are times when I am certain that there is someone out there for me, and others when I am not so sure. (Some days, my life feels like a Kate Nash song. But some days, not so much.)

Perhaps most importantly, being single has taught me confidence in knowing that even in meeting someone, whomever he may be, he will not fulfill me or love me in any way that God didn’t already do first. Even alone, I rest in the assurance that I am not incomplete.

Still…to have someone to share my daily life with, to make plans to, to love and create a life and family with. Well…I want that. I think there are plenty of people who can be happily single and celibate their entire lives, and it’s amazing. I just don’t think I’m one of them. I want to be a wife and a mother with all my heart, and I’ve stopped seeing that as an affliction.

So I wait.

Not for “the one,” for I have broke myself of that myth. While I believe firmly in standards and sticking to them, I don’t think that waiting around for the one singular person that apparently amongst billions of people completes you is useful or practical. I think there are probably more people than you’d think who could be “the one.” I suppose I just haven’t met any of mine yet (at least not knowingly).

And that’s okay.

(Thanks to Leigh, the amazing designer of Curly Girl Designs, for this. Seriously…I want all her prints.)

I suppose tonight I am just lonely, and it’s late enough that I am willing to write it for the whole world to read. (Late nights tend to make me much more likely to be honest about the tricky things.)

So to anyone else out there, who is finding shame in being lonely, just know that I am too. And it’s okay. You’re okay. We’re okay.

(And as one person I read recently put it, being single is its own beautiful gift and distinct lifestyle. We aren’t just “misfits or married people waiting to happen.” So don’t let anyone treat you like one.)

(My favorite Curly Girl print.)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2009 1:54 am

    hey caroline,
    thanks for writing these words. lately, i’ve been feeling the same way. not lonely because i feel deprived without a beau, but lonely because being single usually means i interact less with people in general, and hardly ever feel that closeness that i would within a familial bond.

    i’m thankful right now that i get to live with my family while on hiatus from grad school. it’s not gonna last forever! πŸ™‚

  2. Caroline permalink*
    May 3, 2009 10:16 am

    Thanks for reading these words, Sabrina. I am a firm believer that sometimes the only thing a person needs to hear is “me too.”

    I am so glad that you can see the positives in your current situation, and be thankful for them. That’s half the battle, sister! πŸ™‚

  3. James permalink
    May 3, 2009 1:38 pm

    You are definitely not alone in being lonely. Coming from someone who took off to a new city by themselves, I battle it daily. Though, I think it is a good thing at times, even if sometimes it seems unbearable and awful. It builds character and humbleness, just as the long cold winters.

    I talk a lot of talk about wanting to be a hobo. In truth there is a large part of me that sees myself as a father some day and a husband, and it makes me happy to think that, but there is always that burning desire to go, which inevitably leaves you lonely.

    I am also a firm believer in the idea that you should never be with someone until you are happy being alone, just as you should never move away until you are happy where you are.

  4. Caroline permalink*
    May 3, 2009 3:46 pm

    @ James (I’m going to start identifying my reply comments, to make things easier):

    I would say those are some wise thoughts, my friend. While I can see you as a hobo, I can also see you as a husband/dad. I think at some points in our lives, it just becomes a choice: which urges are we going to live at the mercy of?

    Luckily, it’s a choice you don’t have to make until…well…it’s there and you have to make it.

    At least in friendship, we two can be assured we are never alone. See ya Tuesday. πŸ™‚

  5. Glo permalink
    May 5, 2009 9:23 am

    I love love love your honesty. While I love your commentary on being single, I think that we will always want companionship. Not just friendship, but romantic companionship. God wired us for this, and no number of single coffee dates will rid ourselves of something that deep. I am not sure if you feel this way, but even things that I did when I was single, like play the ukulele, or go abroad or learn something new, there was always this voice in the back of my head that said “I wonder if the future guy in my life will find me more interesting now.” It is a small, tiny motivating voice and I think that it is a good thing.

    I miss you my dear

  6. Sandra permalink
    May 5, 2009 11:25 am

    If that doesn’t help, I’ll buy you a kebab.

    Also, I’ll eat breakfast with you on Saturday.

  7. May 5, 2009 1:53 pm

    1. I think your experience is not uncommon among most of us single 20-somethings.

    2. That song is good! and the video makes it better.

    3. “The one” is truly the stuff of myths. And the Matrix.

    4. I like how Glo said “God wired us for this.” In Charles Drew’s book “A Journey Worth Taking” (a book worth reading) he says that in the beginning when the creator said that male & female are the image of himself, he said just that: male & female *together* are “the image of God,” not “images of God.” The implications of that might be fascinating.

    5. It’s so good reading honest thoughts!

  8. Caroline permalink*
    May 5, 2009 2:58 pm

    @ Glo:

    I think you are right — we ARE wired this way. Otherwise, why else would it be such a common human desire? I’m just learning to be okay with it…it’s mostly that I’ve never been comfortable with having emotions I can’t control.

    Anyway, I have to say that I never think that I will become more interesting to guys because of my single experiences. I do those for myself, and no one else. Whoever my “future guy” is, he better love me outside of all of that. I travel and read and drink coffee and knit scarves and walk barefoot in rainstorms because I love it. Maybe it’s selfish, but it’s true.

    Thanks for reading. I always look forward to your insights, peaches. I miss you too. πŸ™‚

  9. Caroline permalink*
    May 5, 2009 2:59 pm

    @ Sandra:

    That is amazing. Does the mail order husband come WITH a kebab?

    Eh, I’d still take breakfast with you any day. You’re much better than a mail-order man. And probably smell much lovelier.

  10. Caroline permalink*
    May 5, 2009 3:01 pm

    @ Victor:

    1. I am glad…it makes me feel less crazy.

    2. It is a very good song. I reserved her CD at the library, and am excited about it! πŸ™‚

    3. I’ve never seen “The Matrix.” Do they talk about being single? :p

    4. I want to read that book. And talk more about that concept.

    5. Thanks. πŸ™‚ It felt good to be honest.

  11. Misterwrite permalink
    May 5, 2009 4:17 pm

    Congratulations–you’re normal! But your honesty and self-expression make you extraordinary.

    There’s a really good one waiting for you out there; don’t settle for anything less.


  12. January 6, 2011 12:40 am

    I know this is an old post, but I’m soooo glad I found it today because I completely relate to everything you’ve written. Thank you for this– I love your blog!

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