A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Of Fish and Bicycles

Many years ago, I attended a temple session with my mom and some ladies from her ward as a newly returned missionary. I don't remember the circumstances, but at some point we encountered a woman who was weeping. This wasn't crying, this was weeping - soul wrenching, heart rending, true sorrow. I can't remember if she was part of our group or not, but I remember learning somehow that the reason she was weeping was because she was older and single, and felt that she wasn't likely to be married. As a 22 year old, I was a bit befuddled. Sure, most people want to get married, but I was sure that being unmarried for life was not a cause for this level of unhappiness.

After all, I had imbibed the feminist mantra that "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." I was strong, independent, and headed for a career. I didn't feel like any of this was incompatible with marriage and family if it happened to come along, but I also didn't think marital/familial relationships were an indispensable part of my future. Surely I could be just as happy swimming along without a bicycle.

With a few more years under my belt, I can now have a bit more empathy for this unknown woman. I recently spent my last day in a typical "singles ward" - a church congregation of people who are unmarried, ages 18-31. The past few months have been much harder than my 22 year old self anticipated. While my logical mind knows that I don't strictly "need" a spouse and children, I feel like a failure when so many of my friends are married with kids.

If I'm being truthful with myself, I WANT to be married, I want kids, and it's painful to realize that those relationships are not anywhere close to becoming reality for me. There is a possibility that this is mere cultural training from years of Disney movies, romantic comedies, Jane Austen books, and church talks about temple marriage; and I realize not every LDS woman in her 30's feels the same way. I know marriage and kids can be a source of sorrow and pain too - I've seen friends go through divorces and face children's illnesses. Marriage and family is no guarantee of bliss. The thing is, I know all those things intellectually.

And yet. And yet. I want to be a wife and a mom so badly sometimes that it hurts. I know intellectually that I can have a happy and fulfilling life without being a wife and mother, but emotionally singleness really sucks sometimes. I wouldn't be the best wife and mother in the history of the world, but I surely wouldn't be the worst either. You may rightly note that part of this is my fault. Of course, there are certainly things I could and should be doing to "put myself out there" and make more of an effort. But the fact that my pain is somewhat self-imposed doesn't make it any less painful.

One of my friends from my college years would always insist when things bothered her that they didn't really bother her. It was really frustrating because things obviously bugged her (A LOT) but she wouldn't admit it or discuss it openly. Admitting I care this deeply is hard for me, especially when I weigh it in the balance of everyone else's trials - it seems like a small thing when people are starving or dealing with bigger problems. I don't want to talk about it with married friends because I don't want them to feel guilty for being married - I truly am happy for them. I don't want to discuss it with my single friends who may or may not be feeling the same way. And I don't have a solution or happy ending or any sage advice to end this post. It's just that sometimes, I want to weep, and simply be understood. And sometimes, I want to be the death-defying fish who rides a bicycle.

"Everybody Hurts," R.E.M.

Note: This blog is the closest thing I have to a journal, and I think I sometimes come across as a Pollyanna who always looks on the bright side. This post will show you that (a) that's not true and (b) I'm enormously self-centered sometimes. I had to write this post, for me, so please excuse the wallowing. I really am generally happy with my life so please don't blow this out of proportion.