Single girl's guide to the universe

I’ve been taking constant notes of things I want to say to you. Quotes that remind me to encourage you. Things I hold in my mind that bear repeating, if for nothing else, than for the important fact that your story matters. It’s what I think about when I’m filling out the lowercase letters in “miss” and hurriedly marking the “single” category on the DMV form. We have all those little moments in common.

I was secretly holding out hope that 2016 would somehow disqualify me from writing this blog. I don’t want to be considered an expert in anything, let alone singleness. I’m too young for that kind of wisdom. Yet here you are and here I am, with a glistening new year up ahead, struggling against feelings that life has left me stunted, or less than my peers.

Too often,  I cast all the blame on my singleness when life throws a Plan B and before you know it, I’m coming up short on the rent bill again.

Thoughts like:

“If only I had the luxury of a dual income, I wouldn’t be so worried.” 

“If only I wasn’t facing the abyss of major life decisions without a second opinion to weigh in on what I should do.” 

“If only there was someone to ground me, to make me feel like I have a sense of place, a home.”

No truer words were spoken than when Mike Tyson said: “Everybody has a plan….until you get punched in the face” or in the context of my own story, dumped at a Winchells on Rosecrans. It was truly a defining moment of my life.

Singleness, like everything, comes with its fair share of face shots, and they’re never pretty. In the ring of life we stagger in circles like boxers, sweating it out and hoping to come away with more than just rhetoric, but experience. We can be ready to anticipate the next move, or our hearts can become hardened in dangerous ways.

We all learn mechanisms to adapt to life’s sucker punches. For a long time mine was bitterness and while riding the Ferris wheel of questions I made these kinds of statements: “I don’t deserve this. This isn’t fair. Why does this keep happening to me?” When I pivoted from asking the “why” questions to the “what”, all the power started to shift. I could hold my own more securely. I wasn’t looking down anymore.

When we zoom in too far on our current situation and start reflecting on all of our grievances, we become dangerous to ourselves. We are too close to the situation and become self-analytical. The why questions are my weakness, but I’ve learned it’s better to let it be water under the bridge than to go wading out into the depths. Only trouble is in the deep water.

Single girl, I told you I would give you a guide to the universe, with the “why” questions out of the way, we have a little more space to breathe. I can already tell that the common ground is expanding between us. There’s a quiet luxury in a woman who has found her contentment, a woman who chooses that for this one still breath, she won’t be bothered.

The single girl’s guide to the universe begins with this one still breath:

What’s past is past. What’s here is now, and I’m asked to join the present with a heart of pure expectation. 

Part of the beauty of receiving a good gift is in the anticipation. Tearing it open impatiently takes away all the magic from that moment. There’s something about the “not knowing” of a surprise that’s the best of all.  We should take care to live in the “not knowingness” of our single lives more carefully. There’s something magic in the potential of new worlds unfolding on your horizon. Instead of recounting all the stumbles you took and the times you’ve fallen from grace, see the big picture and look up!

You will not treat marriage like a goal or a requirement for your wholeness. 

I’ve never done it, but I’m fairly convinced that marriage is kind of a big deal.  It isn’t like putting on your Nikes and running your errands. It’s a decision that most people choose, but it’s not at all a checklist item. People do and will get married around the world, every day, for all sorts of reasons. I don’t pretend to think I have the last word on this, but I have to notice that it’s not as simple as deciding what kind of sandwich you want. I’ve said before how love is described as a flame. A bright light that leads us out of dark spaces. Dostoyevsky once said that the inability to love is the ultimate hell. The Bible says that without love, life is a meaningless void. Love is powerful but spontaneous. We can’t make the real kind happen to us anymore than we can will ourselves to win the lottery. So relax if there’s no one on your radar. This kind of thing must visit us on its own terms. Or as Elsa would have it “Let it go.”

Sometimes dating feels like the TSA of life. Most people are well intentioned, but occasionally, you wonder if someone has made it your job to weed out all the toolsheds of the world without warning you. 

 “How nice for me” you think, when someone’s true colors shine through and they look notoriously like the last guy you just ran from for the same exact reasons. Then the lightning round of “why” questions unceremoniously emerges.

When are things going to look up for me?  When are dates going to feel less like interviews and more like real conversations? How long exactly can I stay fresh and optimistic before I give up and start wearing those ugly black grannie shoes that have zero sex appeal but will save my feet from nerve damage?

These are fair questions from a girl who did her share of high heel wearing behind the Nordstrom counter. Don’t despair. Keep your sexy shoes, but don’t kill your back either.

Delight in the paradox. You own this!

I love it when I encounter other genuinely happy people who are still single, and think to myself, they are actively disproving the lie the world feeds us about love. The lie sounds like “There’s obviously a reason you’re still single.” “You’re not desirable if a man isn’t falling all over himself to date you.” “You can’t be genuinely happy and unmarried.”  Don’t feed that demon in your mind. Back away, slowly and choose the quiet resistance of living a story you love, exactly where you are. I love thinking about the paradox of being single and in love. When I catch it in others, out of the corner of my eye, it is a beautiful thing. It’s not a state of mind easily won, and sometimes it requires all the bravery you’ve got. Maybe it’s not an impressive amount of courage, but trust me, it counts for something.

How have you been creatively applying these principles in your single life? Share with me in a comment below, or tweet at me @laurenruef. I love hearing from you.