So I’ve been putting off writing this for a while ever since Brett asked a few weeks…ok maybe months ago now. For many reasons I didn’t feel ready to write this and to be honest it’s still something I don’t feel quite equipped to write. Not because I know nothing about singleness…ha! But because the emotions and stages and experience changes daily and is sometimes hard to pin down and describe.

I have been single most of my life and I’ve just turned 40 early this year. I have never been married and do not have any children of my own. I live on my own with 2 cats that I feel quite comfortable with posting pictures of on Facebook as often as some people post pictures of their kids…well maybe not that often! But I can quite easily be described as the archetypal old maid cat lady.

But that is not who I am. I am not defined by my marital status. I refuse to be. It annoys me when the first thing people ask when they meet me is “so are you married? Kids?” as if that is a woman’s only purpose in life. And then proceed to tell me that I shouldn’t worry about it as they know so and so and they recently got married after being single for a few years and now they have 2 beautiful children and you never know, anything can happen and lots of people are having kids now in their 40’s…ho hum. Do I sound a little jaded or cynical? I don’t mean to.

I appreciate my friends who care about my happiness enough to know that I would love to meet the right person and share my life with someone. Because that is a truth I will not deny. Even harder than being a single woman in your 40’s is being a single woman in your 40’s when you don’t want to be.
A friend was telling me recently about an article that described how a non-event in someone’s life can have as much impact if not more than an event. For example a person gets married and that is a defining event. From then on you are married and you learn to process and grow in that relationship status. However someone who doesn’t get married doesn’t experience that “event” and so it’s not something that you can pin point to a date on a calendar. It just slowly develops until you realize that relationship status.

Most of us don’t consciously make a decision to be single. But over time and through relationships that don’t work out as hoped for or choosing at different stages to prioritize work or studies we find ourselves on our own doing life slightly differently to our married friends.
In this journey we have to slowly let go of some of our hopes and dreams. We let go of the dream of being a young mother. We let go of the hope of falling pregnant easily without the help of medical technology. And finally we let go of the hope of having children at all. We start to hope that we’ll maybe meet someone who already has kids. Or maybe we’ll adopt.

For me the question of children has been a difficult one since I was 24 and told I would most likely not be able to have children due to severe Endometriosis. So those dreams and hopes were let go of a long time ago. And then resurrected after having related surgery in my early 30’s and being given hope by my doctors only to have to go through the process of letting go of that hope again when life didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped.
During the last two years I had to let go of the dream most daughters have of dancing with my father at my wedding and seeing him holding my children because he lost his battle with cancer before I met the right person.

And then you start to let go of the hope of meeting anyone at all.

It is a slow process of letting go of your dreams and your hope.

And in the process there is hurt, pain, loneliness, anger, disappointment and if you nurture it even resentment, bitterness and envy. In the process it’s easy to get drawn into unhealthy friendships and damaging relationships, and when these don’t work out we start to protect our hearts to the point that we may stop letting people in if we are not careful.

There is a very clear message in the Bible that tells us that neither singleness nor marriage is more desirable; that the one is not better than the other. It is our society that has exalted being married and having kids above singleness. We design our church programs around families. It is subtly implied when we as singles are not included in “couple” events or disenfranchised from church leadership because we don’t have a spouse.

We teach our children through fairy tales about the handsome prince who will rescue the princess and everyone lives happily ever after and we all want to be the princess, but no one mentions that we may end up being the spinster Godmother or ugly Stepsister!

But life is not a fairytale and there are all types of families that make up the world. Mine includes my mother and brother, my two cats and a crazy group of friends, married and single who make my life fun, interesting and joyful.

There is a difference between the patronizing attitude of so many and the support and understanding of people who love you. And to the marrieds out there who have single friends my advice is simply:

Don’t treat my time as less valuable than yours. Don’t treat me like my life and attitude is selfish because I haven’t had children. Don’t expect me to always be available when it suits you. I have my own priorities, demands and responsibilities. They are no less important to me than yours are to you. They are just different. You don’t have to “fix” me or my life.

In the midst of the struggles and journey of being single there is life. My life. And it is valuable, good and blessed. It has a purpose beyond marriage and children. A purpose that I’m constantly working at uncovering and developing and some days I “get” it and some days I don’t. And it’s still strangely hopeful.

[to read my friend and housemate Sueihn Lee’s story of singleness click here]

[For an inspirational post titled ‘I don’t wait anymore’ click here]