Things fit: a note to those “flying solo”

Lane texted me last week from a shoe store in Utah. The store sold primarily Nike products. A picture popped up on my screen of an awesome pair of grey Nike sneakers.

“7.5 please,” I texted back, not actually thinking he would buy the shoes for me.

A few minutes went by before he responded, “The smallest size they have is a size 8!”

It wasn’t until recently that I figured out my natural shoe size is a 7.5 and not a 8 but I’ve been wearing shoes in size 8 for years so I knew I could wear these too. However, if Lane had texted me with the news that they only had a size 6 or a size 7, I would have been out of luck. The shoes wouldn’t have fit me.

 

I think when it comes to relationships, we want things to fit as seamlessly as shoes. We date with the anticipation that things will work out. We work hard to make things fit with the person across the table. And sadly, not because it’s anyone’s fault, sometimes things just don’t fit. Two people don’t click. One person has more work to do. You both don’t see the same future. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to realize you two want different things.

The wicked step sisters in the story of Cinderella were notable for trying to wedge their too-big feet into the tiny glass slipper. The original fairy tale actually illustrates the step-sisters cutting off portions of their feet so they could fit into the shoe. Bloodied up, they still didn’t get the happy ending they wanted. It simply wasn’t their story to live. This wasn’t their person.

Throughout my dating years, I knew myself to be guilty of trying to wedge myself into a box just so a guy would choose me. I thought that was the most important thing, to be chosen by someone. Being chosen is beautiful but making a choice because you know it’s the right one is an even better feeling. If dating leads to marriage and marriage leads to the long haul, you’ll want to be sure of the investment your making. You will want to be sure of that person’s character, ambitions, capacity and how they respect you.

 

People have asked me to write about marriage and I honestly don’t have words yet. I think I should wait another 20 or 30 years before I ever try to claim I have wisdom on this topic. However, I know one thing to be true: Lane and I entered under the contract of marriage because we knew we were a fit. We asked the tough questions. We investigated any red flags. We held the relationship loosely, knowing if things were meant to crumble before marriage became an option then things would definitely crumble.

We wanted to the relationship– our unique partnership– to be more important than our own personal needs to be chosen for an ego boost. I can confidently say that if Lane or I knew things weren’t fitting then we would have walked away. It would have broken our hearts but we vowed to never wedge ourselves into a space where a love story wasn’t meant to happen.

 

If you’re impatient, it’s okay. I wish people would stop saying “when you learn to be content with your singleness, then the right person will come along.” That’s garbage. I honestly don’t think half of the people who say that even mean to phrase it that way– that’s just how we’ve packaged it in the last few years.

I hope what people are trying to say is that it’s okay if you don’t like being single. You don’t have to like it but you have to be careful not to hinge your life, your joy, or your completion to a relationship status. You were fine yesterday. You are fine today. You will be fine tomorrow.

Waiting for the day when you enjoy singleness actually may never happen. I can’t honestly say I ever looked at my singleness and thought, “I am absolutely loving this right now. Bring on more nights where the only spooning I do involves the one I am shoving into this huge vat of ice cream by myself.”

I never once became okay with being single. I learned to be independent, yes, but I never liked the solo life. I remember crying to my mom through the phone after a breakup two summers ago. This was the guy I dated before I met Lane.

“I’m not even upset about the person so much as I don’t want to have to go back into the game,” I cried. “I don’t want to have to play the dating game anymore.” I didn’t want to resign myself to a chair again and wait for more glass slippers to come along.

 

Lane came along shortly after and I remember being so impressed with how easy we were with one another. It wasn’t forced. I wasn’t trying to wedge myself into a place where I didn’t fit. When it’s the right person, there won’t be all this grey area, fog or confusion. That doesn’t mean it will always be easy or you two will never fight. Fighting– healthy fighting where the two of you learn how to communicate– is vital to a relationship. A relationship is two people who’ve lived a separate life coming together to build new territory together. That’s a heavy and light mission. When you find the right person, they’ll carry your heavy and you’ll handle their light.

 

I’ve been writing about fear so much lately because I am realizing just how much I allowed it to narrate my stories for me. If you allow fear to narrate your “flying solo” story, it will try to convince you your person isn’t out there. This isn’t a forever sentence. I can’t tell you when it will end or when that person will walk in. I can’t tell you how you’ll meet or what it will feel like for the first time. But I pray you’ll give someone a decent chance to create a new story with you.

Don’t try to wedge someone into an old story. Don’t be constantly checking to see if they measure up to stories you’ve lived before. This is something new. Something golden and new. Treat it like its sacred (because it is).

All of this happening right now– the lonely nights and the days you cry for no reason except for the fact that you thought you should have met that person by now– is all part of the story. It won’t be discounted when you two meet. It will only help you treasure the person more.

Stop thinking you’re in the wrong place. Stop thinking you’re getting off the wrong exit. Stop thinking they’re in another city or at a different coffee shop. Just stop and live the life you want to live. Be the person you imagined you would be before fear gave you other agendas. That person is going to love you when they find you in your element.

They will love you. You’ll breathe out relief. You won’t be striving or pushing. The two of you will just fit. Don’t worry, things fit.

What “Single Ladies” never told me.

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It seems like every time I write about my singleness the floodgates open up. People call me. People text me. They leave an absurd amount of comments on Instagram. For a long time I felt like God was poking me, pushing me to write about the topic, but I always refused. I’ve been fine to write about anything else but I’ve never written more than a few lines on my own singleness.

The thing is, I’m not single. Not anymore. For a while I thought God was going to keep me single until I finally wrote about it. I thought he was waiting to use me to be some single girl vessel to the masses and then, when I finally broke the silence about my lack of plus ones at weddings, he would bless me with some handsomely rugged man.

That’s a problem for a lot of us: we think God is some cruel scientist who has hid our cheese at the end of a maze. We think God is withholding until we learn “x” amount of lessons. We think he will eventually have good for us when we finally get our stuff together.

And one day I’d like another sky.

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In the 26 years, 1 month, and 7 days that I’ve been alive, the universe has afforded me one Tinder date. Just one. And that’s probably due to the amount of mental energy it takes to give yourself the sort of pep talk before a first date that looks like this: “Okay, he has sent me a selfie. I’ve heard his voice. There is a person who exists beyond the screen. I will not be Catfished. I will not be murdered. We will meet in a public place. And we can just lie to people and say we met in Aisle 7 if this all works out. Okay… we’re doing this. We’re really doing this.”

Alas, after that one date, the Gods of Tinder never showed their faces to me again. And I’ve retired from the game. And then un-retired. And then re-retired again.

As a sidenote to those who don’t know the mystery that is Tinder, it’s a dating application. It’s like Pandora for people— you get to swipe through a collection of faces and accept the people you are attracted to and decline the ones who don’t suit your fancy. And if you and the other person are in agreement with swiping “YES,” you’re brought into an exclusive conversation. Your own little chatroom. The world is your oyster after that, baby. 

So this all sounds really shallow when I type it out. I’m seeing that now. And while I used to think it was an ankle-deep app for people who only want to hook up at 3a.m. and need a mile radius to know how feasible the chances of that happening really is, it seems to have shifted into a more legitimate avenue to meet people. A lot of my friends are going on Tinder dates. We’ve had girls’ nights where Tinder stories seem to steer the conversation. Someone in my office is actually engaged because of the glorious power of swiping right (and she’s too awesome to sum up into words already and now she has a pretty awesome love story, all thanks to Tinder). 

And this is all really a bunch of breaking-the-ice word vomit just so I can reach a point where I am comfortable enough to just say it: I’m single. Yup. That’s me. I’m solo. I eat alone. And I’ve wondered why it’s so hard to talk about that. I wonder why I’m met with glares and uneven faces when the word “Tinder” gets said in a group.  I wonder why I often feel lame, as if admitting defeat, when I tell someone I am single— as if I am genuinely sorry to announce that I haven’t met someone yet. And I’m trying to be okay with admitting that I sometimes feel like I’m floundering in a culture that seems to associate “singleness” with missing pieces. 

I want to seem like a cool single girl.

If there is even such a thing, if people even find themselves saying things like, “She’s a cool single girl,” then I want to be that. 

And that’s just because I spent a long time doing this whole “single” thing wrong. Trust me, I used to have my days of acting like the President of the Single Girl Gauntlet. I’ve whined with the bunches of them. I’ve asked the same questions: Do guys even call anymore? Is chivalry dead? What happened to running into someone in an airport? Do I really have to go online? 

The questions— they got me nowhere. The whining— it got me ten steps in the opposite direction of the person I knew I was capable of being. I was just choosing daily to stay mad at a world that made me feel like I was missing pieces when I was the one saying it the loudest, “You are missing pieces. You aren’t enough.” 

The problem wasn’t guys. The problem wasn’t the digital age. The problem wasn’t the rose ceremonies being denied to me. It was me. I was the problem. I was the one hunting down completion through another person. I wanted someone to give me a world I could go only go out there and grab on my own. 

That seems to be the wicked spell I’ve seen get cast upon the ones of us who have fallen in love before: it becomes really hard to convince yourself that another person didn’t complete you.  You get comfortable with the phone calls. You get comfortable with the silly messages that only you get to read. You get comfortable with the passenger seat being full. And your hand being held. And your darker parts being known. And your thirst being quenched, even if only for a little while. And when it is gone— you think you need it all over again. And it’s easy to get bitter when you treat your want like a need. 

But what I really needed? I needed to see all the ways I was standing in my own way before I ever welcomed someone else into that equation, thinking they could solve it for me. 

The story of how I got to that exact point is for another day but I know I packed a full suitcase for the girl I used to be and I sent her off with a one-way ticket in her hand. But I can still imagine what it would be like to sit across the table from that girl I used to be— both of us pursing lattes, cradled by fingers baring too much chipped polish— and tell her what I know now: Time gets wasted when you’re not content. And you not seeing the blessings for this moment is a disservice to all the people who don’t get a free life like yours. And if you ever hope to convince someone else they are complete and whole and good as they are— if a shred of you has ever wanted to tell someone that— then you should really stop acting like you’re the puzzle with too many pieces of the sky gone missing. You should stop thinking anyone but yourself can change that insecure part of you. A guy won’t change it. A Tinder swipe won’t cure the wound. You looking for something to plug the hole won’t do it. Humans are just humans, they aren’t lifeboats. They aren’t bandaids. They aren’t completion. 

A mentor of mine who worked at my college met someone unexpectedly during the summer of my junior year and decided not to return to our small campus come the fall. She’d always been there everyday. And then she suddenly wasn’t.

She sent an email. She gave up her job. She deserved the world, really. I emailed her back and told her that.

She wrote back to tell me this: you’ll find that the most astounding love will meet you when you are complete. When you can stand before yourself— in a mirror, in the car, or wherever you do all that internal talking— and say, “I am okay alone. I am cool on my own. I am legitimate. They should write rap anthems about me. Or at least play “Ridin’ Solo” when I walk into a room. I’m single and that doesn’t mean I’m not complete.”

And she told me it would be an even better love when the person who chooses you is complete too. And sees your completeness. And you can both sit there with your hands in the spaces of one another and recognize: there is no completing this time around. There is adding on. There is complimenting one another. But there is no completing because you’re not any missing pieces. 

When I read those words of hers, it made me think back to a childhood packed full with Puzzle Nights. That was a thing (that’s why I capitalized it). A legitimate thing. And just to further complicate the lives of anyone who sat down at our kitchen table for the traditional night of puzzles and hot cocoa, my brothers and I would pour out the contents of two puzzles– similar in theme– onto the table. We were still babies with something to prove. Instead of 500 pieces, there’d suddenly be 1,000. And if you’ve ever tried to assemble two puzzles at once, you draw a lot of conclusions quickly: there’s a lot of sky. There’s a lot of clouds. There’s a lot of random inanimate objects that seem to stretch in to the abyss of infinity. 

But I think that’s what happens when you share a life with someone— you realize it’s two puzzles. No matter how “one” you become, there are still two puzzles scattered on the table. Two skies. Two sets of clouds. Two very different landscapes. 

If you’re single, I think it’s probably better to resolve and say: Okay, I have my own pieces right now. Only mine. And one day I’d like another sky. So I will do my best to figure out the pieces I am holding while there is still just one puzzle to solve. 

The post should have ended right with that last line.

It would have been really poetic and cool. But I can suspect several emails coming my way after I click publish on this piece, asking me the question I haven’t answered for you yet: 

How did that one Tinder date go? 

Well, in the history of dates I’ve gone on, it was a pretty good one. It scores pretty high. 

We met halfway in as small, unheard-of town at the only restaurant we could find in the hour of distance between us that didn’t look like KFC and the Olive Garden had a baby together. It was a small pizza joint. The conversation was good. We both admitted to being fearful that Nev from Catfish might show up for the date in the place of one another. He wore Vans. We drove around the other small towns that encased that one small town. We blasted “White Houses” by Vanessa Carlton. I used his glove compartment as a drum set.

He was moving away, and I was restless with my own location on a map, so we only had one date. But I was complete that night. And I like to think he was complete. And we asked for nothing more of one another than summer air and a conversation that left us saying, as we went in our separate directions: keep getting out there in the world and giving it everything you have. I don’t know you all that well but I have a hunch you’ll do just fine.