How Not to Suck at Being a Human

I’ve dealt with a lot of toxic people in my life, as I’m sure most of us have. Please note that when I say “toxic,” I don’t mean people that have disagreed with me or who I just don’t like. “Toxic” here refers to people who, among other things, have consistently negative personalities, don’t correct their mistakes and behavior even when repeatedly called on it, and/or give no thought to whether their actions impact people they claim to care about. There are other things wrapped up in the word toxic, but those are the ones that come to mind right now. Here are some other things that define toxic people:

  • DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender)
  • Gaslighting
  • FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt – emotions you feel when around this person)
  • Manipulation, including guilt trips
  • “You never/you always” statements
  • The sense that you have to walk on eggshells around them
  • Feeling any lack of safety for yourself or people you love

And many more. Let’s be real, you probably know a toxic person when you see one.

The biggest challenge about toxic people is they don’t realize they’re toxic. (Can I say toxic any more? It’s becoming a non-word.) They typically have zero self-awareness of how awful their behavior is. In my experience, these sorts of people think themselves the victim in every situation they meet. It’s not them; it’s you. It’s like a parent who thinks their darling child can do no wrong, except the parent and the child are the same unhealthy person.

By now, you’re definitely thinking of a toxic person you know. You might be wondering now how to avoid becoming one of these people. Well, I’m no shimmering angel of perfection, but I do have some thoughts on the subject, having seen and experienced several toxic people over the years.

Step 1: Develop Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a difficult and often painful skill to learn, because it involves looking at yourself objectively and learning to recognize negative (and positive!) things you do. According to this article at DevelopGoodHabits.com, “[Self-awareness] typically means having a deep understanding of your values, strengths, weaknesses, habits […] While you accept your faults, you […] focus on different strategies for self-improvement.”

Pop quiz! Which occurs first, a thought or a feeling/emotion?

Answer: the thought.

Is that surprising? What you think (and think about) informs how you feel. Most of our thoughts are unconscious, flitting by so quickly that we don’t even see they’re there until we’re spiraling out of emotional control. Self-awareness is the process of slowing down, studying your thoughts, and developing the ability to challenge and correct the negative ones.

How do you develop self-awareness? This article is a great launchpad.

Step 2: Challenge and Correct

This is a phrase my own therapist taught me, which I have now blatantly stolen and will pass onto you as wisdom. As you develop self-awareness and learn to “slow down” your thoughts, you become able to stop negativity/toxicity in its tracks and redirect it. An example from my personal life:

My parents recently moved out of my home (yay!), but while they lived with me, my mom was buying groceries and keeping the fridge full. After they moved out, I opened the fridge and saw it was mostly empty.

Immediate thought: “Aw man, there’s no food.”
Second thought: “No, challenge and correct!”
Third thought: “This is a great opportunity to go to the store and buy things I like to eat.”

As you can see, you challenge the initial thought by stopping it. Say no aloud if it helps. Then you can correct the thought. This prevents your brain from going down a miserable rabbit hole.

Step 3: Ask for Honest Feedback

It is helpful to have a third party give you insight into your personality. It can also be terrifying to be that vulnerable with people, but vulnerability and open discussion is so important for personal growth.

Find someone you trust and ask them to objectively point out areas for your personal growth. When they tell you, listen without rebuttals. This is incredibly crucial. You may feel attacked or called out, but you have to shut up and listen. Push down those defensive feelings and note what the other person is saying. Ask the other person for clarifying examples of your behavior if you’re not sure what they mean. And lastly, make sure to spend adequate time in reflection, asking questions such as, “Did this person have a point? What can I learn/how can I grow from this?” Whatever you feel about their feedback, note those feelings and explore where they come from and why you feel that way. Be sure to sincerely thank them for taking the time to help you grow.

We all have ways to grow, me included. I’m not sharing these things as some guru on a mountaintop but as someone who has had to work on all this. I’m sharing what I have learned from in the hopes of it helping someone else.

Step 4: Make Necessary Changes

Just like it says on the tin: fix what needs fixing. For example, I have a tendency to immediately jump in with advice whenever a friend expresses a problem to me. Instead, what I need to do (and have started trying to do) is ask some variation of “Do you need me to get involved or do you need me to just listen?” Or I might respond in a way that would be helpful for me but not necessarily for them; instead, I should be responding in ways helpful to them.

This is a short section because I can’t tell you what changes you should consider making unless I’ve seen a problem. That will be up to you and the people you’re working with for your growth. However, you MUST become comfortable with recognizing you have flaws. You MUST acclimate to seeing and owning up to your own faults and mistakes. You will immediately stunt your growth if you deny or reject ever wronging someone else, which leads us to…

Step 5: Get Over Yourself

Ultimately, not being a toxic person comes down to not thinking so much of yourself that no one else matters. Your ego is not that important. Mine isn’t either. Like I said earlier, shut up and listen. You may not have any issues to work on (but I kinda doubt it; after all, you’re human). But if someone comes to you with a grievance regarding something you did or said, realize they may have a point. You’re not perfect. Apologize for hurting them with your behavior (yes, even if you didn’t intend to hurt them; apologies only cost a little of your ego, so just do it).

I cannot emphasize enough how much you’re hurting yourself and the people around you if you behave like nothing is ever your fault, as if you’re always the victim, as if everyone around you is out to get you. If you’re hearing the same thing from multiple sources, there is probably something to that, and it’s your responsibility to practice self-awareness and deep introspection to sort out true and helpful critique versus somebody just being spiteful. Once you become accustomed to doing that, it’s really easy to separate the hateful statements from the true ones. It’s just that sometimes the true statements are scary. Don’t take things so personally. Grow from it.

Step 6: Never Stop Growing

Obviously, there are so many resources on personal growth and development out there. Find good ones that work for you as you make sure you’re not toxic. Expose yourself to different theories of personal growth as well; read widely and research deeply. Find the core “you” and always be willing to grow.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for how not to suck as a person. It’s all things I’ve learned in my own journey; I didn’t make anything up and I don’t claim to have done so. I hope you find something helpful in it.

Never stop improving!

Per aspera ad astra,

Stephanie

You Gotta Do the Work

If you’re familiar at all with this blog or with me as a person, then you know two things about me: one, I have struggled with mental health issues since at least 2008, and two, I am passionate about recovery from those issues. Not just my issues; everybody’s issues. All the issues.

Here’s the deal. Mental illness is ultimately the same as a physical illness. Whether acute or chronic, all illnesses can be treated and, if not outright cured, then managed, so that the person with the illness can live a healthy life. An odd thing I’ve noticed about the discussion about mental illness, however, is we talk about it and treat it as if it’s the end, as if having depression or bipolar or whatever else means that you will never again have a healthy life.

As if having a mental illness suddenly means you are excused from taking care of yourself. Or making good choices. Or taking responsibility for your actions and their consequences, good or bad.

All of this is bullshit.

I have a mental illness. I have a psychiatric doctor’s diagnosis of depression and anxiety. Even if I didn’t have that official diagnosis, I would still have depression, and I’d probably be able to self-diagnose it. But here are two things that a mental illness diagnosis does not do:

  1. It does not mean that I am weak, fragile, incapable of taking care of myself, or excluded from being happy and living my best life.
  2. It does not mean that I have no control over my actions, that I am absolved from the consequences of my choices, or that I am a victim of my circumstances.

In the first paragraph, I said I am passionate about recovery from mental illness. Now’s the point where I qualify that and say that I am passionate about active recovery. Let’s get some definitions in here. What do I mean when I say “active recovery from mental illness”?

Recovery: Moving from a place of being controlled and defined by your illness to a place where you choose to make healthy decisions to improve your life. Whether mental illness or substance abuse, the concept of recovery involves taking charge of your life and choosing to improve and grow. Which brings us to…

Active: YOU GOTTA DO THE WORK. To recover from any illness, you can’t just sit back and hope it goes away. People suffering from cancer go to their doctor appointments and receive medicine and intensive treatments. People suffering from mental illness are supposed to do the same. While rest is important in any healing period, active recovery is not passive in that it doesn’t hope someone else does the hard stuff for you.

Active recovery from mental illness doesn’t mean you go to a therapist once every couple months and expect to see results in one session.

It doesn’t mean you have a bad day, a lousy depression spiral, and throw up your hands in defeat.

It doesn’t mean you shrug and say “That’s just who I am.”

It doesn’t mean you never trip up or have bad days or get hung up on something you used to get hung up on, but it does mean you try.

It means you put in the sweat equity in your own health and wellbeing.

You do not foist it onto someone else.

You do not force your friends/support network to serve as your therapist, your crisis counselor, or your suicide hotline when there are professionals available, ready to help you.

You have to get to a place where you are tired of falling back into old patterns and habits and you are ready to get better.

You. Do. The. Work.

Y’all, active recovery is hard. It’s work. And there are so many days when I wonder if it’s worth it. I mean, hey, every counseling session is $65. Maybe I should save that money and just cancel this week. Nope. No. Absolutely not. I put in the work, I do the hard things and have the difficult conversations, I struggle against my own brain at times, because I know that I have more to give to the world than my bad days and my spirals.

“But I don’t have anything to offer the world,” you say. To which I say, you’re wrong.

If you have a friend, you can offer your love and support. If you have a pet, same deal. If you have a favorite houseplant, same deal. Each of us has the capacity to contribute to the world, even if it’s something as small and seemingly insignificant as feeding a pet goldfish every day.

Live for your goldfish. Get better for your goldfish.

Put in the work to get to recovery.

I will always be in recovery. For the rest of my life, which I hope is long and sweet, I will be working on myself. When I finish this round of therapy, I do not expect it to be the last time I ever see a counselor. I don’t anticipate never taking medication again, but I hope I don’t. But even though recovery is difficult and takes so much time and energy, I will not stop.

God did not make me to get lost in my struggles. I have learned so much about grace and suffering through this. I have also learned that, by his grace, I can get better.

Depression is not who I am. I am not excused from the consequences of my actions, any of my actions. I still have a responsibility, both to myself and to God, to make good choices and to put in the work of active recovery. I mean, I don’t want to be miserable for the rest of my life. Why would I let the shadow monster have that kind of power over me?

You gotta do the work. But trust me, it’s worth it.

Per aspera ad astra,

Stephanie

Grownups, Take Yourselves to Disney

The first week of October, I went to Walt Disney World with my friends Kristen and Rachel. We had been planning this trip for the better part of months. I, much to my own amazement, paid for the trip entirely with cash, no credit cards at all. (Not the point of this post, but I wanted to brag.)

Going into this trip, I knew there were two main things I could not miss: I had to see the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Hollywood Studios, and I had to meet some characters, especially Belle, my favorite princess of all time. I knew I was going to have fun, but what I didn’t expect was that I would spend so much of the trip engaged with and even healing my inner child.

“Inner child?” you ask. “Isn’t that just some New Age pop psychology mumbo-jumbo?”

You know, you’d think so. I thought so. I thought so right up until I met my inner child. In the little bit of reading I’ve done on the subject, it sounds like one method of recovering from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is to connect with your inner child and give him or her what is lacking and needed.

I’ve got some ACEs. I think more people do than don’t these days. I spent the bulk of my prime developmental years socially isolated. I did not have real, in-person, face-to-face friends from ages 11 to 19. (I made a single friend starting around age 15, but I met her online and it was another year or two before I had the joy of meeting her in person.) I have always been pretty introverted, but there’s a difference between introversion and isolation, and that difference is not good. I’m pretty sure that that’s part of why I developed depression and got stuck in my own head in emotional spirals. But during this period of my life, to medicate my loneliness, I turned to fiction: writing it, reading it, studying it.

I’ve also always loved Disney movies. I grew up with them, I wore out my VHS tapes of them. Beauty and the Beast was my favorite as a kid, but it remained my favorite as I grew up and began to see myself in Belle: socially isolated, taking solace in books, wanting something else for herself. I adore(d) her. I watched that movie to death. I requested the special edition Blu-ray for my 16th or 17th birthday, and it was the best gift ever.

Fast forward again to this trip. We had decided early on that we were going to Disneybound for our trip, so I picked Belle for Epcot day, since you can find her in France in the World Showcase (obviously). We had also agreed early in the planning stages that we would use the trip to do everything we had ever wanted as kids, including meeting our favorite princesses. Whenever people ask me what I want to do, I get into a mode of “Oh, whatever you want is fine, I don’t want to be a bother.” It’s not humility that drives that. I think it’s fear. I’m working on it. Luckily, when I pulled that (“We don’t have to find Belle if it’s gonna be a problem”), Rachel called me on it and insisted that, no, we would.

On Epcot day, we met up with our friends Ben and Lauren who live in Orlando and are Disney cast members. Late in the afternoon, we realized we were running out of time for character meet-and-greets. Ben held our place in line for Belle while Lauren ran to see if Mary Poppins was available in the UK. She wasn’t, so we all met back up at the Belle line. By that point I was nervous and shy, and my inner child was poking her head out.

Let me pause and say that I can legitimately feel and am aware of Little Steph’s appearance. I noticed myself looking around at the park with wider eyes, more wonder, and a higher-pitched voice. I cannot explain why this happened, but it did. It’s not multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia, because it is literally just a younger version of myself, stuck in my psyche, looking for something.

So standing there in line, I felt it happening. I felt myself moving a little more childlike, swishing my skirt and fidgeting. I looked toward the end of the line where Belle was, eyes big, and I kept softly squeaking “You guys, you guys.”

“We’ve got to get a picture of just you and her,” Rachel said.

“But it’s not a big deal if we don’t,” I said shyly. (I get shy when I meet famous people. Like, zoop, there I go, into my turtle shell, bye.)

Then we got there. Lauren went with us, and the four of us girls met Belle and chatted, and I legitimately could not tell you a thing she told us, except that as we gathered around for our group picture, she said she loved my rose earrings. I was so very shy that all I wanted was to scurry away and hide, because I could feel myself choking up. The experience of meeting my favorite princess was really amazing and overwhelming for Little Steph.

Then, at the end of our meet-and-greet, as we started moving away, Rachel said, so softly and sweetly, the most loving tone, “Wait, can we get a picture of the two Belles together?”

Oh geez, man. I thought I was going to fall apart right there. Belle and the photographer agreed, and I shifted back into place. In those pictures, you can see my face is so, so red, both from sunburn and from blushing profusely–from trying not to cry. We took the picture, I started to move away, and the next thing I knew, Belle had reached out and enveloped me in a massive hug.

I am tearing up just writing this.

In that moment, something deep in the inner child portion of my psyche broke open, and so many unrealized childhood dreams all came rushing out at once. I almost burst into tears on her shoulder. I felt the tears welling–you know, that terrible choking feeling you get where you can’t breathe because if you do, you’ll cry.

I don’t know if I actually finished the hug and moved away before bursting into tears. Good tears, of course, but it was such a rush of emotion that I needed a few moments to collect myself. I stood on the bridge from France to the UK, the wind whipping my hair and my dress, with my friends huddling around and comforting me, and all I really remember was Lauren exclaiming “This is why I love my job!” And I remember crying too hard to speak and then, in a very small voice, saying “You guys, I met Belle, I met Belle.”

Whatever dam broke inside me in that moment needed to break. Five-year-old me needed it. Twenty-seven-year-old me needed it. I couldn’t put words on it until later that night when, alone in the shower, I realized that out of that moment, I felt healed. I might not have felt that way if I had not (cautiously at first) allowed my inner child to emerge, to see and feel and experience the trip for herself. I would not have had this experience if I had not gone with friends who give me the loving space to be emotionally vulnerable. I probably would not have had this experience if I had gone to Disney as a child.

Grownups, take yourselves to Disney. It doesn’t have to be a Disney park specifically, but it does have to be a place or an experience that your childhood self would have died for, something you never got growing up. As an adult, you now have the power to give yourself what you missed out on, and you now (hopefully!) have the maturity to meet those needs responsibly, safely, and healthfully. You are in sole command of your time and your finances; the ability to reach out to your inner child and say “Hey, let me give you this thing you’re missing” is an incredibly beautiful gift.

I recognize that some people might not be comfortable at first with the concept of an inner child. That’s okay. I think a lot of people do have one, though, because there is something unresolved from childhood left lingering in the shadows. I see how immensely healing it is to find that inner child. Whenever Little Steph was “out,” I made sure to take time to stop and provide affirmations: you are safe, you are loved, you have friends who care about you, you matter, doing what you want to do is not a burden, we are all having fun together. What resulted was that I was able to more fully enjoy the magic of the trip–all of me, my whole self–despite the sunburn and the heat and the sore feet. I was able to have a more fulfilling vacation because my whole self was involved.

I also recognize this that I might not have been able to get to such a good place with myself without therapy. I’ve been seeing a counselor probably since March, and that has done wonders for changing how I talk to and about myself. Before therapy, I would never have been able to stop and affirm myself. I would never have been free to embrace my inner child and give her this beautiful experience. If you can, please, please seek out a qualified therapist. There is a dearth of available mental healthcare in this country, but you owe it to yourself to try.

And while you’re at it, find your Disney and go there. Your little you will thank you.

I hate Christianese

Maybe hate is too strong of a word. Perhaps we can think of it in the sense that Biblical Hebrew uses hate: as a phrase that indicates turning away from instead of the harsh emotion associated with the word in English. In that sense, I turn away from Christianese.

What is Christianese? Any time you hear a phrase that doesn’t occur outside of Christian circles, you have encountered Christianese. For example:

  • Doing life together
  • Intentional/being intentional/intentionality (I hate this bunch most of all)
  • Digging into the Word
  • It’s just not God’s timing
  • Quiet time
  • Singleness is a gift
  • Anything involving discernment
  • Set on fire
  • Washed in the blood (in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb–you know)
  • Fellowship
  • God is sovereign
  • Living in community/anything about community
  • Get saved

And so on. You get the idea. The point is, Christians, especially in the evangelical realm, have their own language. And it’s really weird.

I have been a Christian for 20 years, since I was 7. I spent 16 of those 20 years in Baptist churches and attending a Southern Baptist university, so I really got an earful of the particular dialect occurring in American Christianity. So, in the interest of saying how I really feel… STOP IT.

Christianese is pretty ridiculous, if you think about it. On the one hand, it tries to distill disciplines and complex doctrines into pithy one-liners. On the other hand, it’s cliché and confusing to anyone outside the Church. Shoot, it’s confusing to people in the Church. The heck does “doing life together” even mean?

(This is inevitably the point where someone gets their feelings hurt and pushes up their glasses and goes “Well actually…”)

Here’s the thing about Christianese, though–my real point, not ragging on Baptists or evangelicals or whatever else: Christianese is an excuse not to talk about difficult things.

When you reduce complex topics to a one-liner, you’re basically saying “I don’t understand this enough to discuss or explain it, so I’m going to brush it under the rug and hope you don’t notice.”

It feels dismissive: “I don’t know how to respond. Here is a generic answer.”

It feels distant and uninvolved: “I don’t want to take the time to give a well-thought-out response, sorry.”

It feels cheap.

I don’t think people do this on purpose, though. I don’t think Christians are being purposefully rude or shallow when they use Christianese phrases. Many times, I think they don’t know any better. It is so ingrained in American Christian culture that getting away from it can feel next to impossible, like breaking any slang habit. But I propose that we re-learn how to speak with clarity. We need to try not to hide behind safe phrases. We need to speak with purpose.

Words are cheap because we as humans use so many in a given day, but words are also incredibly powerful. Christians of all people should exercise caution with their words. Christianity is already a foreign language to people who are unfamiliar or unexposed to the gospel, and Christianese is like using slang on someone who doesn’t speak the speaker’s language.

Let’s just go back to purity and clarity of language. Let’s not hide behind easy one-liners anymore.

Let’s all hate Christianese.

Per aspera ad astra,

Steph

New name, new look!

You know those times that you go to the store, and you’re on the cereal aisle, and your favorite brand updated their marketing? New look, same great taste! Only you’re not sure you really believe them?

This is kind of like that. (But hopefully I am more trustworthy than a box of cereal.)

You can see I’ve got a new name! From Into the Void to Into the Wilds. “What’s the significance?” you wonder. Glad you asked!

Into the Void was always a distant, somewhat sorrowful title–and purposefully so. When I started this blog as a personal rant catch-all, I envisioned it as shouting into the abyss just so I could get it out. I could keep a diary–and I do (sometimes)–but it was more helpful to me to have a semi-public platform, abyss though it was.

Into the Wilds is borrowed from a quote in The Fellowship of the Ring (movie). It’s as Aragorn and the hobbits set out from Bree. Aragorn tells them he’s taking them “into the wilds.” The phrase is enigmatic, intriguingly devoid of details. Will it be a good adventure? A scary one? It turns out to have lots of good and bad in it, but ultimately that doesn’t matter because the hobbits are safe with Aragorn. They are following the king, and he protects them.

In this, I think of Christ. He is the King leading me through scary and good adventures, and I follow through the wilds, despite swamps and Nazgul and everything else. Hence–my blog title.

It also speaks to the fact that my mind veers all over the place like an off-roading four-wheeler. Following Jesus; following my meandering trains of thought.

I am hopeful that rebooting the blog will cause me to keep up with it more. I doubt I have any more of an audience than I did last week, but I like to pretend I have one to write for!

Per aspera ad astra,

Steph

New and old gears

Greetings, world. It has been quite some time since I last wrote here. I make no excuses for my absence, only an explanation: when your life is crazy from job changes and mental health issues, keeping a blog goes right to the back burner.

But I’ve decided to switch gears with my blog. When I started it, it was a semi-private place to rant about anything and everything. I want something more from it, though–something more substantial. I would like to be a little more public with my thoughts, for one thing. I would also like to cover more theological topics and do book reviews. I’ll still happily write about mental health and my cats as well.

I like to rant about things, but I want to do so constructively. When it comes to topics of faith, sometimes I have sermons come to me. Well, I have no pulpit, so this will have to do.

It’s my hope to change the name and imagery of the blog soon. Into the Void will become something a little less depressing (?) and will, I hope, reflect what I want the updated blog to be. (It’ll be a hot minute; I need to ponder and pick a really good name.)

I hope you’ll stick around for the new and improved thoughts of Stephanie. I can’t promise it’ll be a thrill a minute, but I hope you will enjoy, learn something, or be encouraged.

Per aspera ad astra,

Steph

Discontent with singleness

My alma mater’s student newspaper published an “honest round-table discussion” on singleness, particularly as it pertains to Christian folk, and all I can do is roll my eyes so far into my head that they hurt. There were no perspectives from single men, and noticeably missing from the discussion is the viewpoint of single Christian women who really freaking hate being single.

My viewpoint.

Evangelical Christianity presents single persons, especially women, with conflicting teachings:

  1. Marriage (the covenantal union of a man and woman before God)–and, by extension, sex–is the greatest physical/material gift humanity can enjoy. It is a gift given by God for the mutual edification and pleasure of men and women. (Yes, edification is the official term.) Men and women should desire to marry (and raise children).
  2. Single persons, particularly women, who desire marriage are vaguely and unhelpfully told to “wait on the Lord” and “be content.” They are told that singleness is “a gift” and should be cherished. Desiring marriage and sex is a dirty thing, indicating the young woman does not prioritize God.

Whether purposefully or neglectfully, Christian women like me are plagued by these teachings from a young age, especially growing up in evangelical/Southern Baptist circles. If you feel confused, sad, angry, dirty, or some combination of the above, and not at all encouraged or discipled, then congratulations! You understand how it feels to be a product of evangelicalism’s Purity Cult, as I call it.

It’s such a bizarre thing. I am expected to present myself as this asexual being of “godliness” who wants nothing to do with boys until one day, somehow, I manage to find and marry one, at which point I am expected to be wholly enthusiastic about sex. But in the meantime, if I express a desire to date and marry, it’s because I’m not focused enough on God. Huh?

Look, I believe fully that God holds all things. He makes everything beautiful in its time and gives good gifts to his children. But he also gives us desires and dreams for a reason. To some of us, he gives the unrelenting desire for marriage because that is what we are meant to have. For others, he takes away that desire, because a life of celibacy is what they are meant to have. And I swear, if I hear one more person intone “Be content!” as if they have a single damn clue what it feels like to be hungry for the companionship of a mate while having no dating prospects, I will scream.

Because they keep saying be content with singleness. I am not.

They need to say be content in singleness. I am.

I am content in singleness because I am confident in my identity as a person. I do not rely on any human, friend or romantic partner, to give me meaning. My value and identity come from Christ and from exploring the unique traits and personality he has given me to bring diversity and beauty to his kingdom just by existing.

I am content in singleness because going to a restaurant or movie alone doesn’t scare me; in fact, I quite enjoy the time with my thoughts. I am content in singleness because I enjoy a great deal of flexibility in my schedule and activities.

But singleness as a noun, an object, rather than a descriptor of my romantic life? No. I am not content with that. I am not content with singleness because I know there is more for my life than just me.

I am not content with singleness because I have begged God to rip the desire for a husband out of me, and he has not, because it is a desire he gave me. I do not want a celibate life. I want a life partner, a companion, a mate. I want someone to make a home with so we can open our home to others in the way that a single woman finds it more difficult to do, such as hosting those without a home.

I am not content with singleness because I desire the joy of the marriage relationship–not merely sex, but singing songs in the car, going to church together, sitting on the porch during a rainstorm. I am happy to do those things alone or with friends, but there is something special and desperately desirable about sharing one’s life with a mate.

Genesis tells us that when God made Adam, Adam was lonely. He desired a companion. Having a pet from among the animals didn’t cut it. Having a best friend wasn’t going to cut it. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” said God, and he made Eve. The soul-deep ache for opposite-sex companionship that Adam experienced is exactly the pain that I know so well, too. Adam is recorded as delighting over Eve, exclaiming, “Now at last this is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!” He might as well be saying, “Yes! This is what I was looking for! Another person to share my life’s adventures with!”

That’s all I want. As yet, God has not granted the desire he gave me, though not because I sat around on my hands doing nothing. I’ve tried dating apps and websites. I’ve tried getting out and meeting people at church and other social opportunities. So far, nothing. I have screamed at him and begged and sobbed more than I can count. And then I see articles like the one I mentioned earlier that essentially blame me for being single because I guess I don’t trust God enough? “It’ll happen when you stop looking for it!” they all say. “Be content!”

Oh, I can be content in singleness, because I belong to a God who is faithful and good and molds our desires to his when we ask. He sees my grief at having no mate, and he knows the bitter pain of my untethered heart. And even though I don’t know when or where, the good man I’ve prayed for almost daily for ten years has to be out there, or else God would have taken this longing by now if it didn’t come from him.

But do not ask me to be content with singleness, because I desire something else. Not more. Other. Do not shame my desire to marry by suggesting I haven’t trusted God enough. Do not insult my fellow discontent sisters by elevating marriage as something to be desired and then tut-tutting us for wanting it. Don’t break our hearts by insinuating our singleness is our own fault based on assumptions about our spiritual journeys. Do not ask us to sit on our hands and do nothing to meet men or learn how to date well and healthfully.

My current status quo is not my status always. Do not ask me to be content.

Per aspera ad astra,

Steph