How to live single in a small town
I grew up in a town with half a traffic light, one that perpetually flashes yellow. It's the place where my parents went to a high school dance together and the rest is history. Here most children move a safe distance (a few blocks away) from their parents and marry a familiar last name. The neighbors come through the backyard to deliver garden produce, wedding announcements, oh, and to check if your single daughter is married yet. It's so charming, you might as well call it Mayberry. I am 28 and unmarried. Not 16 going on 17, but not old either. In my own mind, I'm convinced that this might be normal.
Most of my mom's friends in Mayberry have at least two kids with a ring on it. She's got one down and three to go; not the prizewinning horse, but not in dead last either. The problem is that this isn't a horse race. This is my life.
When the neighbors find out you're not engaged, because you're not dating anyone (a logical deduction) they ask about your last boyfriend. Pausing a little too long to remember while sitting on a kitchen stool, I say: “Oh yeah, there was one guy. He broke up with me a year ago and never talked to me again.” I usually say it with about as much emotional attachment as talking about a sandwich and that's when they look away, unsurprised.
I guess when you say it like that, people expect you to be single.
That's usually when I get a the sneaking suspicion that I failed at life and didn't find out until now. For a split-second, I consider joining the Catholic Convent down the street. My dad calls it "The Nunnery." It's only a couple of blocks away from my parents house, the rooms seem nice and no one would never ask me if I was single again. But then I remember that I'm not Catholic, so it really wouldn't work out.
The truth is that being single is just like anything else. Some days I love it, some days I don't. In this way I feel very similar to a married person. All married people don't love being married every day! The problem with being single is more of a human problem than a relational one. We always want what we don't have.
The most accomplished bachelor (besides Jesus) in all of the New Testament was the Apostle Paul. He stated: "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Paul says it's preferable to be single (but bless my soul, I hope it's not forever.) Being single is just a lesson in self-worth.
It is a teacher, indicating three things of value:
Singleness helps us face how well or not, we are developing present-awareness
Being present is a battlefield of the mind. Our default setting is to live in the past in a place of wallpapered, photoshopped nostalgia, instead of staring down your messy, imperfect reality. Yet another temptation is to live in constant fear and anxiety of the future. Both are soul-crushing practices. But a strange thing starts to happen when you force your mind to exist in the present. The focus falls off of self. You start hearing people when they talk to you. Your mind is filled with illuminating new thoughts. You appreciate things you never used to. You naturally grow without trying to fit into someone else's mold.
Singleness makes us painfully aware of weak points in our current relationships that need sharpening
I have this thing I do called sarcasm that isn't helpful in my current relationships, but boy is it fun! My dad clued me into this reality by politely suggesting that I learn how to "tone it down a little". Thanks Dad. I blame it on my nighttime babysitter, Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls. The town I grew up in is frighteningly similar to Stars Hollow, but instead of Luke's Diner we have the Glockenspiel. The Glockenspiel is the town's living room. The second level of the restaurant houses something that can only be described as a cuckoo clock with little German figurines that circle around it. Four times a day, the little figurines parade around the clock to the sound of Edelweiss. Stars Hollow in a nutshell. Isn't that cute? Kind of.
Singleness rids us of codependency on others for our contentment
Single or divorced, married or widowed, we are all to some degree desiring what we don't have. So if you missed the boat on your last relationship or are living life smack in the middle of Mayberry, you have all you need to be content. And I don't say this without having wrestled my own discontent to the ground many times over, only for it to pop back up and smack me in the face when I least expect it. Don't trust those impossibly green grasses of other people's lives. Learn how to bask in the glory of the present. Missing the unexpected loveliness of what a single day may bring could be the greatest tragedy of your life, not your singleness.