On Being “Strong”

March 6, 2012

This may end up a little bit more of a rant than I’d like but I need to process it, so here goes.

I am so tired of being seen as strong and able to do thing alone that other people just couldn’t do.

I am so sick of married friends saying things like “I could never do x, y or z without my husband” right after they’ve told me that of course I don’t need a man to do something and I should stop thinking like that.

I am tired of “but you’re such a strong, independent person!”

It’s out of necessity and I often wish I had the luxury of not being strong and independent.

This rant is brought to you today by an email I got from an acquaintance.  Not a friend, but an acquaintance with whom I have many mutual friends and a friendly relationship.  She got married about five years ago, fairly young, in her mid-20s (at least young for this part of the world).  She and her husband recently got a dog and she was writing for advice because, while her husband was out of town on a business trip, the dog got sick.

Now, I have nothing but sympathy for anyone who is worried about the health of a pet.  I’ve been there and it’s scary and you feel so helpless.  But the way she phrased it: see if you can figure out what might have driven me crazy:

Owner: “Can anyone recommend a kind-hearted vet in the area?  My husband is out of town and our dog won’t eat so I’m so worried.”

[a lot of advice follows]

Owner: “It’s just that with my husband gone, I’m scared.”

Her friend: “That’s a lot to deal with when your husband is gone!”

Another friend: “What a great owner you are holding down the fort while your husband is gone!”

Owner: “Yeah, it’s just hard because my husband is gone.  But he comes back tonight so it’ll be fine.”

First friend: “How scary when your husband is gone!”

To my credit, I was able to give my own doggie medical advice without saying what I wanted to, which was that SOME of us have to deal with health scares (canine and human) on our own without husbands!  And that it would probably be scary for her with or without her husband, unless her husband has magical doggie-curing powers!  And that she maybe needs to stand on her own two feet and deal with things, yes, even when her husband is out of town for one night!

But the reality is that I’m jealous.  I don’t want to deal with all these things alone.  And even though I’d probably make myself throw up if I ever said it out loud, there’s a big part of me that wants a magic husband that makes everything less scary when he’s around.

This person has told me before that she is impressed with how strong and independent I am.  I don’t want to be.  I’m tired!

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Couples’ Events

January 18, 2011

I love my church and it feels very much like a family.  However, lately I’ve been feeling like the unwanted stepchild of that family.  Not me personally but where I am in life.  My church is better than many others but I’ve noticed something in American Christianity – there’s not a lot of room for singles.  If any of you are single and going to church, you’re probably not surprised by that.  The American Church is very family-oriented, sometimes I think to its detriment.  There are events for mothers, and fathers, and families, and couples.  My church doesn’t tend to do the singles thing, which I’m not sure I’d even like.  I guess my question is more about why we need to divide everything up like that.  Sometimes it makes sense logistically, but not nearly as much as we do.

It’s gotten to the point where my friends who are couples talk about needing to focus on their “couple friends.”  My friends with kids talk about needing more friends with kids and not having time for friends without kids.  The kids don’t bother me any, so why are people limiting themselves like that?  I know it’s important to have people you can relate to and who share the same struggles but I really don’t think the church should be that stratified.

I saw in the bulletin yesterday an announcement for young couples to have lunch all together and learn about “couples’ events” in the church.  I was probably angrier than the situation warranted but I wasn’t the only one.  One friend said, “What isn’t a couples’ event at church?”

My two big questions are:

1. Why does the body of Christ need to be divided up among demographic lines?

2. Why is the body of Christ one of the major contributors (right up there with Cosmo) to me feeling like I need to be in a romantic relationship to be whole?

 

And we wonder why young people are becoming disillusioned with the church!


Bridal Shower

December 5, 2010

Not mine.  I had a bad experience today and I’m not even sure why.

I went to a bridal shower today – for a good friend.  I hate bridal showers but I wanted to make an effort for her.  I’m not going to do that any more.  Until I learn to not feel inferior, I’m going to just take people out to lunch and skip their bridal shower.

First of all, I couldn’t afford a present.  I told the bride that and she said no problem, she wouldn’t expect anything and she would NEVER open presents in front of people anyway, way too tacky.  Guess what the whole shower was.  Not her fault – I really do think she doesn’t like opening presents in front of people but others kind of (nicely) demanded it.  I spent the whole time imagining that people were keeping track and thinking how horrible I was for not bringing a present.  I have no idea if this was happening, but each person was pointed out when their present was opened, so it could have been.

The bigger problem was that I just felt so damn inferior.  Most of the women were married and they were sharing cute stories about their wedding and their showers and the things they were glad to get and I felt so… unwanted.  I talked to another unmarried friend after and she said she felt the same way but neither of us knows what to do about it.  It wasn’t anyone else pointing out that we were inferior, it was our own brains.  And (my messed-up brain tells me) besides, she has a boyfriend so I’m the only unwanted one.

Most people were wearing cute strappy sandals and skirts.  I was dressed up a little but was wearing pants and shoes and socks (I know the person throwing the shower and her house is COLD).  I was feeling so inferior to everyone that I was despairing over how big and clunky my feet looked compared to all these women in cute sandals.  Who cares???  But I did.

I really should have just left and made my excuses but I was late getting there (avoidance?) and felt like that would be too rude.  I cried all the way home.

I’m so angry – at the American Christian culture for helping women feel like they aren’t anything worthwhile if they’re not married and have a family, at the other women for having what I want and looking good while they have it, but most of all, at MYSELF for letting myself feel so worthless.  I just don’t know how to stop it.


I’m Not Worth Less

October 1, 2010

I’ve watched a couple of TV shows lately where there’s someone being threatened and they say “But I have a family!” as a reason to not get shot.  (They’re not horribly violent shows, just happened to both have this type of scene.)

I don’t think it’s that uncommon of a sentiment.  Not just when someone’s pointing a gun at you but also at work.  Someone might beg off a responsibility because they have a family.  I’ve heard that and I’ve also heard people saying they shouldn’t be laid off because “I have a family.”

So, as a single 35-year old woman, how am I supposed to take this?  It seems that I’m worth less because I don’t have a family.  The worst part is that I already thought that about myself.  I am fighting this uphill battle to believe I am worthwhile even if someone hasn’t chosen me to marry and even if I don’t have children, and everything around me is reinforcing that I’m not. Even stupid TV shows are reinforcing that for me.  American Christian culture is telling me the same thing.  Sometimes it feels like too much to fight and I just want to give up and admit I’m not good enough, I’m a failure, and I’m unlovable.  Because if those things weren’t true, someone would have chosen me by now.


Another Wedding, Another Baby

September 25, 2010

I got two more announcements in the mail today: a college roommate is getting married and a college friend just had a baby.  I want to be happy for them.  I really do.  But I’m not.  At all.  I can’t help but think this makes me a selfish person, or even a “bad” person.  I’m just so sick of other people having things to celebrate – big public things that everyone’s happy about.  Things that invite parties and gift registries and people traveling and loud congratulations.  I have good things too but nothing like that.

I feel selfish.  I don’t even know if I want children but it hurts every time someone says that they’re pregnant because they have something else to celebrate.  This isn’t who I want to be but it just feels so unfair.

It feels so silly, but I want someone to throw me a party.  I want to be able to register for gifts – not because I want the gifts, but because I want to be celebrated.


Family

June 28, 2010

My baby brother got married today.  He’s 8 years younger than me and, due to the dynamics of our family, I played a large part in raising him.  The family that was so incredibly dysfunctional when I was younger has grown and mellowed and aged.  My super controlling world-renowned artist uncle has Parkinson’s, and while it’s made him hardly able to walk and totally unable to sculpt, he’s now very encouraging and even told me as I left, “Great job being yourself.”  His wife, who used to routinely insult me and then insist that she was just kidding is older and wrinkled and very sweet.  My cousin survived an abusive marriage and is now married to another man and happy and pregnant and gardening.  Her adolescent son, who was molested by his father, has been adopted by his stepfather and is now an artist.

There were some difficult things going on.  My uncle was just dumped by his girlfriend of twenty years and looked horribly sad.  My other aunt has really bad hip problems and is walking like someone in her eighties, not someone who is 44.  My sister is still not very nice to me – although I did get to hold my beautiful 2 1/2 month old niece.  But most of it was OK, and that was what surprised me.

Artists have it rough, I think, and not just because it’s hard to make a living.  In fact, many of my relatives make a very good living with their art.  The tough thing about being an artist is that somehow – and I’m not sure how it works exactly – I think you have to feel things more strongly than most people.  Maybe in order to see the beauty in life to the level that you can express it creatively, you have to feel the sadness and the pain more than most people.  I’m not sure, but it’s something I’ve been trying to figure out for decades now.  Most of my family members are artists and they (we?  I sometimes include myself but not always) are, at the same time, incredibly blessed by their talent and tortured by it.

We took family photos and I was alone in them.  My brother and his now-wife were in the middle, of course.  My parents are still married (that in itself is a miracle) and were together.  My sister and brother-in-law held their baby.  And then there was me.  The extended family photos weren’t much better.  My aunt and uncle.  My other aunt and uncle.  My cousin, husband, and two kids.  My other cousin, husband and two kids.  My step-cousin and her boyfriend and their kid.  On the other side of the family were my recently-dumped uncle and my widowed grandmother so I wasn’t totally alone.

It’s still a struggle to not let that define me.  I can be the seventh wheel in my family and still be valuable.  My parents’ shelves are filled with photos: My brother and my new sister-in-law, my sister and her husband, my parents together.  Then there’s me and my dog.  Sometimes it’s horribly difficult to see that there – I feel like I’m not as good as the others because no one has yet wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.  I know that’s not true – that God doesn’t take these kinds of things into account – but God’s not there in a photo with me.  Sometimes I think to myself that eventually everyone will be widowed or divorced and we’ll all be alone but that just makes me feel mean and petty. Usually this happens when I’m angry with God for not bringing me what I’m praying for – a husband or release from loneliness.

The real truth is that if I had married any of the people I thought I wanted to marry, I would be miserable and probably a lot more broken than I am.  It’s likely that I wouldn’t be writing this blog because I’d still be depressed.  I definitely wouldn’t have learned that I can actually sit at home alone and be contented and sometimes even joyful.  I think the story that I am in right now is a miracle – a divine gift from God and a miracle of healing.  This may not last, knowing me, but right now I can say that I’d rather have that than what I used to think I wanted, even if it means standing alone in photos.  It’s hard, though, to look deeper into my life for the blessings and gifts and values, and not just take the easy way of pointing to a photo and counting that as my self-worth.


I’ll Never Be…

May 16, 2010

I’ll never be a young mother.

I’ll never be part of a young married couple.

I may never be a mother or a wife at all. I may never be a homeowner.

I’ll probably never get to celebrate a golden wedding anniversary.

I’m 34. Almost 35. It doesn’t feel very old until I think about these things. By the time my parents were 34, they had three children and had owned two houses. Of course, they also had a lot of other junk that I don’t want, but I feel behind. I feel like I’ve done something wrong. Why do I feel like I’m less than other people because of these things? Why is it freaking me out to realize that I”ll never be a young mother. I didn’t want to be a mother – I’m glad I’m not a mother. I might be good at it some time but I wouldn’t have been in my twenties. I grew up with a depressed mother – thank God that I didn’t have children when I was actively depressed. But I feel like I did something wrong and I’m going to regret it forever.

(By the way, people told me I’d regret it forever if I didn’t go to my prom. Didn’t go. Didn’t want to. Went to the movies that night. Haven’t regretted it once.)

The really messed up part is that when I see friends from high school on facebook who have been through more than one marriage already, I don’t think “Thank God I’ve missed the pain and heartbreak of divorce.” I think “I’m such a loser – they’ve been married TWICE and I haven’t even managed once yet.”