How to be single.

November 1st, 2016.

It was late. I laid on my back with my hands interlocked over my stomach, staring at the ceiling as I talked to God.

“This is just so frustrating you know. The minute I think I’ve got it figured out, I realize there is more to learn. More growing to do. More stretching. More healing. I just want to be done. I’m ready to be done.”

Silence.

And then, all of a sudden, it clicked. There is more to learn. More growing. More stretching. More healing. And it was Never. Going. To. Be. Done. Ever. EVER.

Here’s the thing. I am writing this post because I am single and I have been for a little over a year now. And I don’t talk much about my singleness on this blog because I have really struggled with the idea of being single throughout my life. You see, I have spent my whole life buying into the lie that singleness is just an in-between period. I have looked at it as a waiting game. Like if we just keep our mouths shut and don’t complain, God will one day decide that we have been patient enough and poof! Mr. Right will show up at our doorstep and we will finally be able to start living real life.

Society fans the flame with ideas about “becoming the type of person you would want your future spouse to want to be with” as if personal growth is only a journey meant for satisfying another human being. As if one day we will suddenly wake up as a perfect version of ourself and be ready to spend the rest of our life with someone.

Here’s what I know to be true: we are in process. We are always going to be in process. Michelangelo has the most beautiful way of saying it, “ancora imparo.” It means, “Still, I am learning.” If we are doing life the right way, we are always learning. Always growing. And that doesn’t change when we meet someone. Other people can’t “complete” us. We are human beings, not puzzles. We are fallible and broken. Broken plus broken doesn’t equal perfect.

Being single isn’t a cruel waiting game. It is part of the process…and a beautiful one at that. So with that being said, I’ve been reflecting on the last year or so of my life and wanted to share a few lessons this season of singleness has taught me.

#1 Don’t be afraid to be alone.

We live in a world full of individuals who are terrified of being alone. Silence is deafening. Solitude is punishment. We feel bad when we see people eating alone at a restaurant. Society says being alone is weird and sad. Society is wrong. How much of our life will be wasted if we can’t learn to experience joy on our own? We must learn to be present. You don’t need a partner to start living a life you love. Figure out what you want to do and go do it. Climb the mountain. Travel. Buy yourself sunflowers and take yourself out for Thai food. It’s not pathetic. It’s not stupid. It’s standing up on your own two feet and choosing to believe that joy isn’t just for the future. It’s for right now.

#2 The best investment you’ll ever make is in your own personal health.

Cliches are cliches for a reason. They are true. And I have found this one to hold true in my own life: You can’t expect to be able to love someone else well if you can’t even love yourself. Being a human is messy and hard. We make mistakes. We hate it when we make mistakes. We keep making mistakes. We are hurt. We are broken. We are fragile.

We have STUFF. Hard stuff. Really really hard stuff. and oftentimes we avoid it. We tuck it away for a while and hope that if we ignore it long enough it’ll go away and never resurface. We build walls around our hearts and turn off emotions that don’t feel good.

We have to work through it. We have to face the pain. We have to look our monsters in the eyes and slay them, one by one. Do what you have to do to slay your monsters. Go to the counselor. Go to the gym. See the doctor. Take the meds. Take some time off. Get out of the city for a few days. Pick your battles one at a time and fight them. Your capacity to love will increase exponentially when your energy isn’t being sapped by the emotional exhaustion created by suppressing pain from the past.

#3 Two words: I’m sorry.

Who needs makeup when you can just be humble? Humility is beautiful. Admit when you’re wrong. Be the first to apologize. Get good at saying you’re sorry without trying to justify your mistakes. Accept other people’s apologies and learn to forgive. If I haven’t said it enough yet, we are humans. We are inherently fallible. Own up to your mistakes, say you’re sorry, and keep moving forward.

Last but not least: Don’t give up on people.

We live in a world of instant gratification. The minute we want something, we can have it with just the click of a button. If we don’t like something, we can exchange it. It literally takes seconds for us to change the things around us when we feel uncomfortable. And sometimes that becomes our mentality toward people. All of a sudden a friendship gets rocky or a relationship gets hard and our first instinct is to find something else. The world tells us to run to something newer, something better, something more convenient. Staying is underrated and seldom celebrated. But staying is good. Relationships aren’t easy. Love is hard. It isn’t a series of fireworks. It doesn’t just happen. It is a choice. We choose who we love. We choose to stick around and care for people or give up. Don’t give up. Be the one who chooses to stay.

Showing up.

“What does it feel like to have an anxiety attack?” she asked me.

I told her I wasn’t sure that I’d ever really had one. But if I had, it felt heavy and confusing. Like everything is chaos and you are drowning in it.

“Are you having panic attacks?” I asked.

She didn’t know. She didn’t know what was going on. She didn’t know what was happening with her body.

It was sunny outside and we fell into pace with one another along the familiar sidewalks of our normal route. She recounted her week to me. The ability to listen well is a unique characteristic in the realm of humanity, especially in today’s culture. She is someone who listens well, which is why it never surprises me when she describes a week filled with almost a dozen coffee dates. It’s rare and beautiful the way that she can have a conversation with just about anyone. She listens well and people start to divulge without even meaning to. They feel comfortable and the fear of being vulnerable melts away as she sits in silence. So they tell her the sources of their deepest pains and their biggest struggles. And she doesn’t tell them to slap a smile on and deal. She just asks more questions and tries to understand.

But then she comes to me and I know her well enough to sense the heaviness. She is a “feeler” who by nature loves deeply and cares immensely. So their pain becomes hers and their burdens shift to her shoulders.

“We are human beings. We are not life boats. We do not get to save people. We cannot save people.”

I learned that lesson the hard way about a year ago. I had just moved back in with my parents and my mom had been sober for the first time in my life for almost seven months and the day that I moved back in, she started drinking again. The next few months were some of the most difficult months I have faced in my life. I was angry at my mom. I was angry at God. And I was angry at the people around me. Nothing in the world around me seemed to make sense and I remember being so frustrated when a dear friend looked me in the eyes and said, “You can only control yourself. You have to focus on what you can do and forget about everything else. Focus on what you can control.”

You see, for some reason, “Focus on what you can control” felt like a cop out to me. It felt like a weak mentality. Now as I look back, I think it’s because I was so painfully aware of how much was out of my control. I couldn’t stop my mom from drinking. I couldn’t make her take medication. I couldn’t make my parents go to counseling or exercise more or spend their money differently. I couldn’t choose the words that came out of their mouths or the way they spent their time. And the end result was a feeling of helplessness. Of weakness.

A year later, here is what I know to be true: focusing on what we can control is really our only option in this life, and it is a truth that once internalized, we can allow to embolden us or squash us in fear. But as my favorite author puts it, we don’t write fear love songs, we punch it in the face.

We have a choice and in light of the world today, the decision seems obvious.

What do we do when fear shows up for battle?
We suit up and fight back.

Not with fits of rage or jealousy. Our tactics are not that of hatred and disdain. We do not use force. We do not use deceit.
We fight with love that is fierce. We build up. We encourage. We empower.
Our words are not our swords except to cut through the hate with truth and affirmation. Our weapons are our actions fueled by generosity and service to others.

It is easy to say and hard to do.

We cannot control the actions of others, but we are not without power. If ever there was a time for us to show up for the people around us, it is now. We cannot take the pain away. We cannot save people. But we can show up and listen. We can enter in with empathy. We can stand in solidarity. If ever there was a time for us to move forward in grace and mercy, it is now.

Our role is the same today as it was yesterday as it will be tomorrow. To stand up, to show up, to speak up. For the broken, for the marginalized, for the persecuted.

We have a choice. To control what we can control. To do what we can. To speak out against injustice.  We are the peacemakers. We are a generation that can and will lead with love. And we will start by showing up.