I enjoyed Esther B’s recent article, “The Joys of Being Single.” Her words express pearls of wisdom gleaned from years of living the single life. As an “older single” myself, I’d like to take her advice to enjoy the perks of single life even one step further. I’d say that single-hood isn’t meant to be survived; it’s meant to be lived. Really lived.
So, what’s holding us back?
Let’s face it: We singles have our work cut out for us. Living as a single person who desires to be married but wants to be genuinely happy in the meantime involves walking an emotional tightrope of hope and inner peace, of want and satisfaction. This balancing act requires constant reflection, gratitude, support, and an abundance of divine assistance. It can be frightening at times, and seem even impossible.
So, how do we do it?
I’ve learned through trial and error that there are many endeavors which can all be part of the prescription for peace, acceptance, joy and fulfillment in the here and now. In between work, adventure-seeking, reading, socializing, traveling, and looking for Mr. Right, there are a few specific areas of focus that have kept me going – and growing – throughout this time. On that note, I have the following advice to humbly, and enthusiastically, pass along:
1. Devote time to physical and emotional wellness.
Physical: An abundance of research is constantly emerging about preventative medicine and the various ways we can try to keep ourselves healthy. Take time to investigate and incorporate ways to make small, consistent lifestyle changes into your daily routine.
Emotional: Big or small, we’ve all got childhood wounds that need some stitching. Whether it’s through therapy (a worthwhile investment if you can afford it), self-help books, or intimate talks with a trusted friend, mending these wounds now (or at least starting that process) will mean getting your future marriage off to a healthier start. In addition, I have found that cultivating a rich inner world through increased self-knowledge and developing greater emotional intelligence, has brought a level of joy and peace that I never imagined it could. An unexpected benefit? This internal work has invited the kinds of people into my life who I want to keep around – those who also work on themselves, and seek out healthy, meaningful relationships.
2. Find role models: As my mother likes to remind me, “Anyone can have an opinion.” (And if you’ve noticed, many like to dole theirs out freely to singles.) Find someone whose judgment you trust, whether a rabbi, rebbetzin, or a lesser-known (and perhaps more accessible) individual in the community whom you respect and feel comfortable opening up to. Their advice might be worth more than you think.
3. Explore career options: Statistics say that most Americans change careers 3-5 times during their lifetime. Take this time to explore career options which factor in your personal strengths, interests, material needs, and overall well-being. It’s not easy out there, especially given the current economic climate, but our single years afford us a certain luxury of exploration that we may not have later on down the road.
4. Identify personal strengths and weaknesses: I am investigating how my unique personality might fit in with my greater purpose in the world and God’s expectations of me. I am discovering which ways of giving come most naturally to me (i.e. physically, emotionally, etc.), and how to use them effectively to enhance the lives of others. And in the areas of giving that do not come as easily, I am trying to improve.
5. Create: Think you’re not the “creative type”? Think again. God created us, and we were created in His image. That means we are hard-wired to put forth creative energy into the world. Creativity is a deeply spiritual drive that must be channeled. So go ahead: Write a poem, audition for a play, or learn a new skill. Not artistically inclined? Try organizing a community event or social gathering. You might be surprised about just how good it feels.
6. Put God into the picture: When you’re a single man or woman amongst the married masses, it is really easy to feel alone. By trying to keep God in the picture, by asking Him for help and strength, we are transcending the illusion of solitude that is a source of much pain. And in those moments of connection, we are allowing ourselves to be vessels for His blessings.
7. Be kind...to yourself: Nothing can take the place of a loving marriage. So rather than judging yourself for having occasional feelings of sadness and loneliness, embrace your humanness and accept these sentiments for their normalcy. Talk them out, run them out at the gym, and yes when need be, cry them out. I’ve accepted that it is natural to crave the closeness that comes with the love of a spouse, and to feel a painful lacking without it. But that doesn’t mean I need to settle for a sub-par existence in the meantime.
Instead of buying into the broader culture’s mantra which de-values single-hood, we can learn to hear our own inner voice of truth and reason – the one that gently and lovingly nudges us away from insecurity, and toward a state of greater self-awareness and connection to God. We can utilize what’s perhaps our most under-valued but important asset – our intuition – to guide us through this period.
When we do meet the right one, hopefully we’ll be able to look back with no regrets. We’ll say to ourselves, “I milked that sacred time for all it was worth.” Because single life can – and should be – absolutely fabulous.