I upped my meds this week.
I’m amazed at how much better I feel.
I made it to Saturday Morning yoga for the first time in two months. I wrapped all my Christmas presents. I joined friends for karaoke, even though it was past my bedtime.
Additionally, a whole host of dark thoughts about singleness disappeared. I no longer spend nights crying in my bath tub.
One extra pill was enough to banish weeks’ worth of depression and despair regarding my relationship status.
Now, instead of clogging my brain at every moment, the thoughts sit waiting for an opportunity.
I don’t have to reach very far to find them.
So far, Advent has done nothing to make me feel better.
I don’t get Advent.
The Evangelical church I attended as a kid treated Advent like any other tradition; like music, Advent was filed under Things We Don’t Understand but Do Anyway. The congregation lit candles every Christmas; there was a pink candle and a white candle and it was all Very Important.
My tenuous understanding of the candles (one of them is Jesus?) didn’t help me when fellow Christians on Twitter changed their handles to Advent puns and started tweeting about joy.
They seemed genuinely excited and I couldn’t understand why.
My joy dried up a while ago.
My current church treats Advent as a season of anticipation.
Good is coming; God is coming; hope is coming.
We’ve decorated trees and sung cantatas. A lay leader hung a light-up star against a sparkly blue banner. Someone else lit the pink candle while my dad and I searched in vain for parking.
I’ve participated in these events without hope in my heart.
For me, Advent signals the start of my four favorite holidays, every one of them a reminder that I’m alone.
Throughout the season, I age. I rage. I get frustrated. I try dating apps and immediately quit.
My apartment gets colder. The nights get darker. I keep waking up alone.
The season feels dead. Still. Dormant.
Other Christians enjoy the wait.
I feel like I’ve been waiting long enough.
I was interested in someone recently, but it didn’t work out. Because he’s a good person, we’re still friends.
Some days, the fact that I can maintain a friendship after a massive disappointment feels borderline miraculous.
I still would have liked a different outcome.
When I met this guy, I remember a huge wave of relief. I remember thinking, “FINALLY.”
I was wrong.
The wait continues.
I almost waived the religious requirement for dudes I’m into.
My faith feels nonfuctional most days as it is, and the thought of asking someone to convert makes me sick to my stomach.
Why not hook up with someone almost perfect who thinks religious faith is stupid?
Otherwise, how long will I have to wait?
How long until I meet another man I find attractive?
Who believes in God?
Who values women?
Who’s attracted to women? (This is a bigger problem than you would think.)
Who respects me?
Who believes in equality?
Who believes in monogamy? (Thanks, Seattle.)
Who has a sense of humor?
Who understands pop culture?
Who doesn’t tell homophobic jokes?
Who doesn’t climb mountains or cheer for the Seahawks?
Who has social skills?
Who is responsible?
Who is building a life?
At times, I feel like I’m asking for so little (“Just be nice and religious and into me!”)
When I look at this list, though, meeting anyone becomes an impossible task.
I’m tired of trying to force relationships where we only have Jesus in common.
Yet when I pursue the traits I value, I run out of options.
THIS is why I despair.
I’m afraid to mention these feelings to people I know.
I want to be sad without triggering a wave of unhelpful advice:
- “Just trust God!”
- “It’ll happen.”
- “He’s out there.”
- “Your time will come.”
- “You’re still young!”
- “Have you tried online dating?”
I’m even more afraid of “reality checks” from the Tough Love crowd.
I’m reminded that marriage won’t exist in heaven.
I’m told marriage is Hard Work.
I’m told to enjoy the abundance of free time I currently have.
I have it easy.
I should be content.
I don’t mind my life most of the time.
I read all the books I want and see shows with friends.
I’m pursuing better health and trying to find “balance” or whatever. With the money I have, I make sound financial decisions and spend the rest on Pop! figurines.
My life is as full as I can make it and I still get lonely.
I might not need a partner, but I want one.
I wish others recognized how hard I’ve been trying.
In this area of my life, the formula Effort + Time = Success has so far proven untrue.
I’ve pursued hobbies. I’ve made new friends. I’ve given way too many people “a chance.”
As always, I’ve joined multiple Bible studies (I’m calling it – this DOES NOT work.) I’ve gone to bars. I once downloaded a dating app (never again.)
I’ve done all the right things and I’m still alone this winter.
My burning frustration does nothing to warm me up.
I don’t want to keep trying.
I’ve put in a ton of effort to no effect.
I’ve been “open to everything,” but also “careful.” I figured out “what I want,” but also “compromised.” I’ve “made an effort” and “waited on God’s timing.”
Does this sound ridiculous and contradictory? Yes? WELL, I PULLED IT OFF and still no dice.
I’ve attempted the impossible and I’m tired.
I can’t keep this up.
Adam Grant tells a story I love about Lewis Pugh, an ocean advocate who undertakes icy ocean swims to raise awareness about climate change.
After numerous successful swims, Pugh attempted to swim across the North Pole.
He lasted less than five minutes in the frigid water.
According to Grant, Pugh lost feeling in both hands for four months.
After this catastrophic first attempt, Pugh began to doubt his abilities. Whenever he thought of swimming, he imagined failure.
His friends and family stepped in. They planted flags representing Pugh’s supporters along his route and encouraged Pugh to think of them as he swam. They reminded him that they believed in his abilities even if he couldn’t. Some Norwegian guy even skied alongside Pugh the day of the swim.
In July 2007, Pugh completed his North Pole swim in 18 minutes…in a Speedo.
I relate to this story more than I would like.
I don’t want to be reminded of the finish line while I’m still in the water. I don’t want to be told of future triumph while I’m freezing to death.
I crave the little reminders, the quiet presence of those I love, the silence of strangers joining me in my doubt. I picture flags of my own, reading, “I love you. I believe in you. I’m with you. You got this.”
These reminders keep me from sinking.
I found out yesterday that my church is holding a Blue Christmas service on the Solstice to honor those struggling during the Christmas season.
My friend Peter said the service helps us remember God’s presence in the darkest of times.
When I heard this, I felt so relieved.
I can’t believe my church has carved out a space for grief.
I can’t believe my pastor acknowledges singles in his sermons.
I can’t believe my church recognizes that this season of expectation butts up against a disappointing reality.
I never thought I’d find myself in a room full of Christians willing to sit with me in silence.
For that, thank God.
My parents have encouraged me to be honest with God. They’ve met every bit of my anger and disgust with, “God can take it.”
I pray when I can stand it. I start off with, “I’m really frustrated with You.” I say “fuck” a lot (He can take it.)
I point to the disastrous set-ups, the Tims of the world, the football-loving mountain climbers with drinking problems that I can’t seem to stop meeting, and ask God, “What are You even doing!?”
I’ll join my church family on Friday for a quiet, mournful service.
We might sing. We might cry.
Together, we will wait for an answer.