5.22.2012

on being alone {but not lonely}

i have such a good, full, beautiful life. i am a natural optimist, i genuinely love being alive, and i consider myself to be pretty happy. but in the past couple of years i have confronted a brand of profound sorrow emanating from a true emptiness inside. mostly this feeling manifests itself through a dull, lingering ache, but sometimes it hits a nerve and causes gasp-for-air type emotional pain. yes, there’s a real void in my heart.

alone2
i’ve attempted to fill this hole with lots of different stuff – hobbies, books, being busy, food…mostly traveling and adventures (…and blogging about them). but the things i try to feed to the emptiness are really round pegs for a square hole. indeed, i’ve concluded, there is a gold-plated but currently hollow part of my soul that can only be filled up with one thing – marriage and motherhood.

this emptiness is amplified by my particular cultural position – because of past norms and deeply-rooted expectations, being older than 25 and mormon and single is hard. additionally, having lots of older siblings who have spouses and children (especially in a family with so much focus on family) adds a significant sting to the hole. yes, i know i am still very young; i know i shouldn’t be feeling such emptiness, perhaps at least just not yet. but despite that, i do feel it. i feel it profoundly.

although at times i have surrendered to the steep anxiety and sadness that it yields, lately i have come to see the wonder of my square hole. its darkness, i’ve realized, is actually a gorgeous deep indigo that has yielded such a rich mortal experience. i know that i chose to come to earth, to become human, to experience all things in opposition. with my one life, i want to live deeply and broadly, and i really believe that the success of my life can be measured in part by how much i’ve allowed myself to be stretched along the whole emotional spectrum of mortality. perhaps feeling this profound sorrow is a blessed opportunity to be brutally mortal and to become brilliantly more like god. wrestling with this raw, authentic emotion has made me feel so very human, so very alive, so very full in the emptiness. yes, somehow i am happy that i am sad. i’m so glad i'm not missing out on this depth of earnest emotion and humanity.

this mortal experience is a stunning part of what i need - to become who i am supposed to be. it is so rich and deep and devastatingly wonderful. i have learned so much as i’ve peered into the staggering but beautiful darkness of the square hole.

additionally, i know that when the square peg comes, true and deserved celebration and savoring will follow. not only will the peg finally fit the battered hole, but it will be so sweetly relished after the wait and the struggle. i vow in all the moments of ache to recognize the miracle when it happens as the miracle it truly, truly is. i will cling to the sacredness and the wonder of the most supreme of human relationships. i will never take marriage and motherhood for granted, and no matter how hard it is (yes, i know it will be difficult in ways i can’t even imagine), i will cherish it as the greatest blessing of my existence. for so it will be.  

realizing the beauty of my gold-plated square hole has turned my grueling loneliness into productive, even beautiful aloneness. stretched further, the emptiness becomes a gift – a gift of time to feel, to prepare and to grow on my own.

a friend from high school recently shared this quote with me. it is from our beloved honors english teacher at east high:

"never mistake aloneness for loneliness.  in order to grow, you need time away, away from the noises of the world, friends, comfort, and all distractions to find what is important and fulfilling.  these alone moments build character and show the level of patience you are willing to endure to find the spirit and wrestle with thoughts that tell you you aren't worth anything or you can't do it right.

when you are lonely, you are saying, 'i don't have much meaning in my life.  someone come and make me happy.  i am unwilling to give because i am feeling sorry for myself.  you, world and all the people i know, are responsible for entertaining me and proving to me that i am worthwhile.'

change these moments of loneliness into ones of aloneness.  alone, and all by yourself, do as the savior taught you to do: serve.  this takes courage and sacrifice of your self-centeredness.  endure being alone to find that you are loved and have love to give.  that decision made in your heart will bring a glow to you that will attract others to you.  you won't be lonely because you will have yourself, those you give to, and the savior guiding you through."

yes, i feel so utterly and painfully alone at times in this era of my life. it can be suffocating and draining and gutting and heartrending. but, i’ve resolved that i will, as much as humanely possible, prohibit my aloneness from surfacing as loneliness. i want to see the blessed mortal experience for what it is as i prepare to see the miracle for what it is. this beauty is synergistic. 

28 comments:

Russell said...

I love you Charity! And I love the quote from Susan Lake. It's always amazing to me to see someone who is always going on so many adventures long for marriage and family. I often look at your blog in amazement thinking, "Well, I guess I can go there when I'm 50." I know this is no comfort, but I definitely went to BYU at 19 planning on having marriage proposals right and left. Hahahaha. Was I wrong! Thanks for being a wonderful passionate person, and beautiful writer. What wonderful expressions in your lament.- Libby Dibb (through Russell's account)

Anonymous said...

You are waiting for your life to begin.

I love your blog and the blogs of your Familly. It's a selfish way for me, a stranger, to take a virtual vacation.

But I got to wonder how you all can afford the time and money to vacation and explore so much? Most the world only does the typical family reunion, a few kid cations to Disney and a few tours in retirement or a really big anniversary.

Have you considered staying put for a year besides family reunion, family wedding and similar obligations? Most don't meet their spouse on vacation. And what would you do if you did meet someone in a foreign country? How would you court? How would you get permission to stay longer or get them into the US?

Miss K$ said...

Wow this is really on so many women's hearts this week. I spoke with FOUR friends TODAY on this exact subject. Being single. Dating. Having proper expectations of life. Being happy while in life.

This post could be 100 pages long and still not explain it all. I'm super interested in the post by this anonymous person of 'staying put'. We all have our ways of coping, of making our time meaningful. I think the hardest part of all is feeling like the choices I've made are the right ones right now. If I'm going to be alone, I want to do it right. Followed by, "If I am alone, do I choose if its right?" How much of this puzzle of my own making and how much of it is fate.

I can't even attempt a post on this subject right now. These days I'm only coming up with more questions than answers.

jane said...

Chare, I can't wait to meet your square peg. We all know he is being refined to be absolutely PERFECT because we all know you only deserve GOLD.

I ABSOLUTELY love this quote. I think I'll keep it. I think it's applicable whether you are married or single. Thanks to Suze Lake and you for sharing it.

Natty said...

Oh you are a gem! It's like you put the thoughts in my head from 6 years ago onto your page! That dull ache is so real and can be so raw at times. I got married YEARS after all my friends did but guess what? It was the perfect thing for me and worth the wait. Seriously you are amazing! When I finally gave my will to the Lord and actively made the choice to be happy with my life NOW it changed my outlook and perspective on life. Now having a new chapter of life involving 3 babies in less than 2 years living in the moment is still something I need to remember to do. Anyhow I hope I'm making sense. Just know I've been there sister and I think you are doing a phenomenal job! It will happen. When it does it will feel like home. Loves from Utah.

Karen said...

Wow! I went to East High and had susan lake also, what an incredible quote. I am feeling the same way in this stage of life. Thank you for sharing your feelings, you are a complete gem and I'm sure any guy would be very lucky to have you!

Brittany said...

Charity. Yes, yes, and yes. What deep, rich, vibrant and wondrous lives we live! What glory and beauty and empathy we are capable of as we learn to embrace the dark indigo as well as the brilliant scarlet of our existences.

I like this. A lot.

Anonymous said...

In the last 12 months she has been in Hong Kong and a few places near there, England and a few places near there, and Guatemala. And a few excursions with girl friends to remote places that are not full of people, particularly guys. Then trips for the purpose of family connections to help babysit or the reunion. And she is not in a place where she is tripping over men who want to get married. She only needs the right one of course.

The other thing is most men won't be able to support such travel anmbitons.

I had a similar problem without the travel aspect. I wasn't the type to go to bars. I worked in a female dominated job. Where to find a date? Where to find a date who is wanting to date for the purpose of marriage? In my case the Internet helped. My husband and I might not have never run into otherwise but we were not ridiculously far away from each that dating was hard once we met up. It's been more than 10 years. I still remember thinking where in the world is he? How much longer until I find him? It was frustrating cause I knew I was living, just that life seemed on hold waiting to start.

I don't mean to be rude.

bostonshumways said...

Oh Char, this is beautiful! So well written, it made me get all teary. Life is so beautiful, isnt it? I love how you see those dark parts as rich deep indigo. I need to do that more often. And, I love how you vow to cherish marriage and motherhood once it comes. Your experiences now will make motherhood and marriage even more meaningful.

What I love about you Char is that you are NOT waiting for your life to begin. You are living everything fully, sucking the marrow out of life, making the most of all moments, good or bad, full or empty. This kind of living is beautiful.

Interesting question in the comments about how you have the money to travel so much....you should write a blog post on that one, because you are certainly not rich, you just find ways to make it happen within your budget. (You get funding, give up spending in other ways, take on extra jobs etc because you are passionate about travel). I think it's great. Thats not to say staying put for a little while would be a bad thing....

love you

Laura said...

Hi Charity

I have been 'lurking' on your blog for a while now, having found you through one of your siblings.

I love the way you write, and how your obvious passion and love for life shines through. I felt I had to reach out to you today, if only to tell you that you are not alone and that others have similar feelings, myself included. We are the same age and we are going through similar situations. I am not particularly religious, however that does not change my situation. I am single, and sometimes feel chronically so, and watch a number of my friends begin to start their lives with boyfriends, partners and husbands. However I, like you, choose to take the positives from this. I can be 'selfish' and please myself, travel where I want to and do what I want to do first, before having someone else in my life to share it with.

I suppose I just wanted to say, don't feel alone. It will all work out in the end, I am sure of it.

Thank you for your blog and beautiful words.

Annie O.C. said...

I really love this post, thanks for sharing. It's something that I thought a lot about before I got married, and I still think about it! I just wanted to share one of my favorite movie quotes with you from one of my all time favorite movies, Sabrina (the one with Harrison Ford): "You seem embarrassed by loneliness, by being alone. It's only a place to start!"

Anonymous said...

I have to de-lurk to comment on such a personal and well written post. I agree with your sister that this phase of your life will make you cherish marriage and children all the more when they come. I can't imagine the Bay Area is full of fellow Mormons, but it doesn't mean there isn't one out there for you. You only need one! I'm not Mormon myself, but surely lots of your readers are. LDS ladies- don't you have brothers, friends, or cousins that are just perfect for Charity? I'm so supriseded your huge family network isn't working to your advantage. My advice: work that network! Your blog speaks volumes about you so I have no doubt your peg is just around the corner. Thanks for writing.

Susie said...

Charity, You totally encapsulated so many emotions that I have felt recently. I have also pondered this same subject and I am grappling with how I can do more than just "deal" with being single and find joy in day-to-day living. I think you are an amazing example of this and someone who I definitely look up to. I understand, however, that it is still rough! I guess in those moments of emptiness or "aloneness" I ponder how the Savior felt in Gethsemane. I know this experience has brought me closer to Him and it is definitely pruning me to become like Him. Thank you for being open and honest! I miss your face! ps. I want to site this post on my blog. Is that OK with you?

Jessica said...

I've been reading your blog for a few months now. I found it through your sister's, Shawni. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this. It beautifully expressed a lot of the same emotions that I have on this exact same matter. I love reading your blog and seeing-and feeling- your zest... or rather passion :) ... for life. It really comes through in your writing and photos. Thank you for sharing that with all of us.

Mindy Anne said...

Wow, amazing how you are able to put a totally new spin on this seemingly "dark" phase of life! I too have been following your blog for a few months and have just loved knowing that there are other girls in my same situation out there! It really is so hard to be 25+, LDS, and single. I laughed when I saw the title of your post because I have been thinking about "being alone" so much lately! I just finished reading Kristin Oaks's book, "A Single Voice," and it just echoes everything you have to say. These single years shouldn't be just marking time--we need to get on with our lives, even with the lives that we weren't expecting or planning on. And I love your example of doing just that. Thanks for that, and keep it up!

-Mindy (mindyannie.blogspot.com)

Anonymous said...

"So many people today are waiting for their own golden ticket—the ticket that they believe holds the key to the happiness they have always dreamed about. For some, the golden ticket may be a perfect marriage; for others, a magazine-cover home or perhaps freedom from stress or worry.

There is nothing wrong with righteous yearnings—we hope and seek after things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” The problem comes when we put our happiness on hold as we wait for some future event—our golden ticket—to appear."

-Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Forget Me Not"

Sounds like you are living your life and finding your happiness NOW. The rest will follow. Waiting usually is the hard part- why not have fun in the mean time! ;)

Erin said...

Well I'll join the cast of the other blog readers who are posting for the first time--Hey!

I completely identify with a lot of what you write about as I'm in a very similar situation in life (25+, single, LDS, ambitious) I totally get the "void in my life" feeling but something that I have always found such joy in is knowing that it only takes one divine rendezvous for it to all work. And so, until then, carpe diem. Be happy now and go about doing what makes you happy. :)

Kelly Shane said...

Hi, you don't me but a friend of mine told me to read your blog so that is what I did! I want to thank you for writing the things you said I really needed to hear those words right now, so thanks! I am going through the same thing right now of being single. I was married for two yrs. and didn't have a good marriage I would get more into it but it is to depressing lol but I know how you feel about wanting to be married and wanting a family because that is what I want as well. but I know the Lord will bless us with that in his own do time! we must only be patient but I will tell you I "suck" at being patient! that is the part I think Heavenly Father is trying to teach me right now before he will send prince charming my way! :) lol so again I say thanks!

Anonymous said...

charity -

i have recently realized that i have wasted a lot of beautiful days waiting for my life to begin....and sometimes it's hard to even know where to start. i truly admire your outlook, how you relish each and every emotion...even the ones that are hard to feel sometimes. i so envy your passion, drive, determination, positivity, and honesty. thanks for sharing your adventures with us :)

Lizzie said...

Love this post so much. You are a great writer & articulated something I think we all feel on some level. You are approaching life with the right attitude & living to the fullest which is something I love about you. When you are married & in the trenches of motherhood you look back at all these experiences & travels & they will be a sweet happy memory that you will be so glad you have!

I forgot about that quote from Mrs. Lake. It's such a good one. You are the best Charity! Can't wait to see what's in store for the amazing one-of-a-kind you!

mom said...

I tried to comment on this twice from Poland but couldn't get it to go. This is a magnificent essay about the true feelings of your soul that has obviously touched a nerve in so many beautiful, accomplished, refined and lovely young women who feel so much the same! As you know, some of this will appear next week in the Deseret News. Truly remarkable writing!

Anonymous said...

The sad truth is many single LDS men in your position feel the same way. Lots of pressure, praying and searching. Not able to talk about it openly....

miffy said...

this is for you, me, and everyone out there :) love you char. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=k7X7sZzSXYs

Elizabeth said...

Hi Charity,

I've been lurking on your sister Shawni's blog for a couple months now, and I just came across this. This post is so well written and truly encapsulates EXACTLY how I felt for years. I am not Mormon, and I can assure you that you are in no way alone in feeling this way. I think it can be so, so difficult for any woman who is ready to meet someone and who values herself and wants to date in a slightly more traditional sense that what happens more typically these days.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that yes, it will happen. And when it DOES happen, even though you will be so appreciative of what you've found, somehow you will realize that being single wasn't such a big deal and that there was always a plan for you. You're already doing a great job really living your life, and the only advice that I can give is to keep doing that and don't think about life being "on hold" until you meet someone. Try especially to do things that you could NOT do if you were not single. (For example, I went to a surf camp in Costa Rica. None of my friends had any interest or the funds to go...and now I'm glad I went because my boyfriend is not very aquatic:)

Good luck & keep enjoying life to the fullest!

Beth

Megan said...

This is beautiful, Charity. I was single in D.C. for three years after graduating college and when work took me to New York at the age of 25 I was devastated. My first night in Manhattan my roommates told me our ward had just been split and instead of having over 100 guys we were down to 14. That night I lay on the air mattress in my room and cried--how was I going to meet a husband now?? Little did I know I'd meet my husband later that week, get married a year later, and be expecting our first baby just a few months after that. Also, little did I expect that I would miss so many things about being single. Not at all in the sense that I didn't want to be married or be an expectant mother, but life gets quieter and louder at the same time when you get married. That aloneless goes away, but together you and your husband can sometimes feel a little lonely. It's no longer as easy to just hop in the driver's seat and go for a drive by yourself, but it's also not as easy to hang out with ten best friends eating pizza. I really loved my single years while yearning for my married mothering ones. I think loving my single years (all the half marathons run, books read, dinner parties hosted, organizations led, etc.) has made the inherent changes of married life less challenging. Having appreciated single life for its perks and blessings has helped me appreciate married life for what it offers. Sounds like you are totally on the right track.

miss said...

That quote is one of my all-time favorites. And that is why I shared it with you. I love that you are looking for the right man instead of settling for any old peg. And I can assure you that there is someone out there who wants I and will support your traveling...I found one myself. Love you.

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for this message! it was much needed!

Natalia's Notions said...

I know this post was written awhile ago, but I just stumbled across your blog via 71 toes today. This post spoke to my heart and perfectly describes my feelings. Thank you! I can tell by reading your blog that you are beautiful inside and out!

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