They say that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti – meaning that men compartmentalize their thoughts/emotions whereas women let everything get entangled together.
But I’ve been thinking lately that the older you get – if you are single – whether you’re a man or a woman – the more we all get waffley. Our lives are more compartmentalized by virtue of our age and experiences.
Being single at 40 is an entirely different beast than being single at 20. When you’re 20, you’re just getting READY to start your life – to start a family, grow a career, figure out where you stand in the world… do I want a family? Am I a ‘pet’ person? What do I like to read? Eat? Listen to? Will I be a scrapbooker or a salsa dancer or a candle-stick-maker? When you’re 40, it’s likely (dare I say ‘probable?’) that you’ve figured some stuff out. You might even HAVE a family (thinking of folks who have kids from previous relationships), you probably have a job, you likely have hobbies and interests that you’ve cultivated over the years, you’ve gone in and out of being a vegetarian or a hipster or whatever ‘thing’ you wanted to explore – and you’re just more ‘set’ in your life and in what you believe about the world, people, and the universe.
What’s my point in this? Well – if we have more of the puzzle pieces of our lives figured out.. I maintain that we look for partners in a different way.
We no longer (necessarily) need someone to START a family with or to be our cheerleaders as we define ourselves in the working world, or experiment with different hobbies/activities. No… now we just need someone to come ALONGSIDE us in our existing lives. And that looks different.
We have friends, hobbies, routines, favorite shows, activities, clubs, etc.
Now we’re looking for someone to fit into our world, not help co-create it.
And this matters….why? Well… I think that this opens us up (at least for me, I’ve found this to be a danger)… to lowering our standards.
Instead of searching for someone who will be the BEST partner for all facets of our lives, we tend to look for someone who will make one or a few of our ‘categories’ a little better. Someone who’ll make a great ‘add-on’ to our social life, let’s say. Or someone who’s a great sounding board for our job life. Someone to go listen to jazz with, someone to eat out with, someone to simply provide adult conversation, watch shows with or go dancing with. But there’s a tendency to settle for someone who only ‘fits’ in SOME of our life and not all. Because…well – it’s better than nothin’. Better than doing everything alone.
I’ve been in a surreal place recently where I feel like one of the only single people left in my age bracket who is still waiting for her ‘person’ – the whole enchilada. Someone who won’t just be icing on the cake of my social life, but who will be my lover and friend through my WHOLE life. That means – my church life, my life as a mom, my veg on the couch days as well as my get dolled up for 2-stepping nights. Someone who – as my online profile says – will throw me around the dance floor and kiss me passionately on Saturday night and then hold my hand in church on Sunday morning.
I want it all. So do most 20-year old singles I know. But creeping up in the late 30’s/40’s… so many people seem to just want SOMEthing.
Because we’re lonely.
And SOMEthing is infinitely better than no ONE.
Someone we can insert into part of our lives… who may not truly know us to our core and GET us in our most vulnerable places, but who makes us feel attractive and is fun to have around… is far better than being alone for one more pitiful weekend.
So, I’m writing today’s post as an encouragement and a reminder to myself mostly – but also to anyone else out there who has started to rationalize dating people for the sake of soothing PART of your/our loneliness… rather than holding out for the one who will be the BEST partner/teammate/lover/friend/soulmate in EVERY part of our lives.
Being waffle-ish is ok. Having our lives compartmentalized and more figured out than the fresh-out-of-college folks – is great! But I say we hold out to find syrup that reaches every little square. Doesn’t that sound more tasty to you?
I’ve been struck lately by the power of words. Especially coming from people I love.
Words from Friends.
Sorta like Words-With-Friends, only fewer Triple-letter tiles and trash talk.
Thing is… We live in a world that not only provides us with the beauty and provision of nature, but we also have a history of a people who – over the centuries – have given us art, music, the internet, craft beer, high thread-count sheets, the remote control, G2 pens, Target and mint chocolate chip ice cream. And yet… with all this richness and so much artistry in the universe… it is still not enough. We need more.
No, this isn’t going to turn into a lecture about the God-shaped hole in each of us …or me evangelizing to my readers. No, today, I’m just reveling in the wonder of people and relationships. Friendship. Connection. And verbalizing that connection.
We were built for this. Regardless of your worldview, most people can recognize the benefit of community. That we thrive in the company of friends and wither in its absence.
A friend recently described an abusive person as someone who wants to alienate, and a healthy person as someone who seeks out togetherness.
Now, I’m not saying we all need to live in a commune…. um…er… I mean… an “intentional community.” I’m not going all Yearning-for-Zion on us. I’m just saying, a la Barbara Streisand… that people NEED people.
And I forget this from time to time.
I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’ve never met someone MORE extroverted than myself – I plan get-togethers and parties like a mongoose chases cobras. I mean, if you throw around a buttered biscuit, it’s BOUND to land on one of my evites… (holla, Aziz Ansari). But, with all of that energy expended to be WITH people, I forget how unbelievably powerful a simple encouraging message can be.
This last week I was blessed to have several unexpected moments like this. Wow moments. Texts, IM’s and e-mails from friends who took less than a minute (in some cases) to use their words as a gift… and it changed my day.. my demeanor… my very emotional state – for the better. (If I share this post with you, …you were one of those people).
When people express love (in whatever form that comes in – validation, praise, listening to you vent, encouragement, thanks) – it changes you. If you’re lucky – it changes you for good, not just for the moment.
None of this is new. The whole “random acts of kindness” and “pay it forward” movements have been inspiring people for so long. But it merits reminding. And having been on the receiving end of several of these moments inspired me to remind you.
Lest you think I’m just surrounded by sweet mushy people, I’ll tell you that two of the sweet messages I received were from introverts who I like to tease about not having/showing emotion (which is ridiculous… they know I don’t really believe that they can’t express emotion, but it’s fun to give them a hard time nonetheless). This kind of communication does not come as naturally for them… and so… being more unexpected – made the words have that much more impact. They moved me. Literally! (Ok, not literally… I was stationary while I read them, but still…)
Point is – the key to this isn’t being a naturally smooshy person… but simply being an authentic one.
If you love someone – tell him or her!
If you are thankful for someone in your life – let them know.
It’s just an outward verbalizing of what you’re already thinking.
It’s taking your internal honesty and putting words to it… which, if done authentically, may just stop them in their tracks for a moment and cause them to write a cheesy blog post.