Happy Singles’ Awareness Day … or … Being Jo March
Reading over Little Women, as I’m apt to do annually, I had an A-Haaaa moment. Marmee, in her first talk about marriage with Meg and Jo, counseled,
… better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands … Don’t be troubled … Leave these things to time; make this home happy, so that you may be fit for homes of your own, if they are offered to you, and contented here if they are not. One thing remember, my girls: mother is always ready to be your confidante, father to be your friend; and both of us trust and hope that our daughters, whether married or single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives.
Now, I realize that feminism is not generally a prevailing tenet in children’s literature, and that “Happily Ever After” generally follows the wedding, but I like a good dose of healthy, realistic optimism.
The other month I was sitting in the chapel, listening to the chatter that precedes every sacrament meeting, despite the quiet example of the primary aged reverence monitor facing the congregation. Old friends chatting with each other. People making home and visiting teaching appointments.The murmur of babies and young children. Greeters offering salutations and programs. And suddenly I felt very alone, and very sad and lonely …
I wallowed in it for about a week. The next Sunday, as suddenly as it came, my loneliness evaporated. I realized that I’m not that unique. Looking at the faces that surrounded me, I could identify people who are dealing with illness, accidents, death, marital problems, divorce, spite and pettiness, lost jobs, and loneliness. Yes, we are here to have joy. However, it came to me in a flash thatwe all have trials and tragedies in the spaces between the joy. My insight was that I need to learn to manage both the joy and tragedy of this earthly existence.
I don’t think I’ve ever been someone’s Valentine. There are large gaps in my dating career, and none of them seem to overlap with this hugely overblown, silly holiday. I say silly, because I agree with Heather that trying to fit a year’s worth of love into one calendar day is ridiculous (http://the-exponent.com/2009/02/04/merry-valentines-day/). Of course, there have been years when I would have given my eyeteeth to have a tall, dark and handsome man provide chocolates (milk), roses (blush) and fancy dinner reservations (Japanese or Italian), but that more about wanting the appearance of love, rather than actual love. Like Jo, there were times that I broke my heart over wanting someone who didn’t want me. Also like Jo, there were times when I’ve redirected or put the brakes on relationships that weren’t meant to be.
In a recent note to a few friends, I wrote that despite my outer cynicism, I really do believe that love conquers all. Not because I’m a hopeless romantic … I’m quite pragmatic … but because I believe that as we learn to feel and express the many dimensions of love, we can conquer ourselves. When we feel and share philia, eros and agape appropriately, then we can see ourselves and others with godly eyes, that understand and love, despite the imperfections.
Unlike her semi-autobiographical heroine, Louisa May Alcott never married. When I reflect on my future, it is unsure that I will marry either. Not that I don’t want to, because I do want it. But that if I can’t do it with a firm conviction of its rightness, it’s better to do without. And yet, it was with delight that I learned that I am now the same age as when Little Women started appearing in print. I look at the lives of my single friends, and am amazed at all that we accomplish … defending the public, saving lives, creating beauty, learning, teaching, serving. Our lives may not have the inward focus of many nuclear families, but it does give us license to devote our efforts to the outer world. I’d like to make a batch of valentines and just throw them over the wall to whoever may find them. So, Happy Valentine’s Day. Today. And every day.