Monday, June 16, 2014

My Year of Singleness: A Time of Rehab for my Heart

"You're doing what?" is just one of the many reactions I got for choosing to do one year of singleness from May 2013- May 2014. Other reactions sounded like "Is that supposed to be spiritual?", "but you were already single", "did you have a problem with not being single?" and one of my favorites came from my friends who had never had a girlfriend or boyfriend, "I don't need a year of singleness; I've been single since I was born!".

So, then, why a year of singleness? Before choosing to do it, a few of my friends did 6-12 months of intentional singleness for varying reasons. When each of those friends told me they were doing a time of singleness, I politely gave a nod and an "mm-hmm" (as any good counseling student would), pretending that I understood their decision. Yet inside, I was thinking how ridiculous and unnecessary it was to do a year of singleness. Interestingly enough, those friends planted that idea in me without ever realizing that I would ever do the same thing.

In May 2013, I fought off the idea of doing a year of singleness- not because I was a serial dater...or even dating at all- but simply because my heart was tired. For a couple years, I had invested my heart into someone who I had no hope of being with. I tried for months to let go but I was also holding on so tightly. I was sick of it. My heart was sick of it. Sick of attaching my heart to someone who wouldn't reciprocate the way I felt. My heart needed a time of rehab. That rehab looked like a year of intentional singleness to me.

Despite the fact that I was already getting over the guy, I felt like I needed to finish healing with a retreat for my heart. A time where I would not allow my heart to become romantically attached again. I created stipulations for myself that would protect my heart from attachment. Obviously, No Dating was one of them (even though I wasn't really dating before that...but just in case I was asked on a date, the rule was made!). I even created the rule of No Crushing on Anyone. I know, cray, cray, right? How do you stop yourself from liking someone? I don't know. But I was going to do it for my heart's sake.

Because I like to look at experiences and extract themes or some sort of system from it, I have gathered that there were three seasons to my year of singleness. It's crazy because the whole point of the year of singleness was to avoid attachment in order to heal completely. Unfortunately, I did not end up avoiding attachment as you will find out soon.

Season 1 {May- August 2013}: Despite the Heat, my Heart Turns Cold

The beginning of Season 1 was hopeful yet also devastating. Hopeful because I felt that the following year would be one of healing. Devastating because I was going through various health issues. For those of you who know me well, you know that the past few years have been hard on my health. The last thing I needed was another diagnosis. In May 2013, I was told I may not be able to have children due to a syndrome I have. Don't get my wrong, I love kids, but I have never really been excited to have my own. I truly get more excited about adopting. Based on that, I probably should not have been that disappointed to know that I may not be able to have kids, right? WRONG. Suddenly, when you're told you can't have something that you thought you would have been able to have, you want it. I cried and cried. I labeled myself as unmarryable (is that even a word?) because no man would want me if I couldn't make a baby for him.

Eventually, I was comforted by hope in God. Anything is possible for God; to give me a man one day who will be able to handle my potential infertility or for God to give me a baby. I've seen many of my friends who were supposed to be infertile have babies. The thing is, I won't know until I try. I'm leaving this in God's hands.
Besides that heavy news, I enjoyed the rest of Season 1 of my singleness. There were no distractions and for the first time in a while, my heart felt like it was set free. I was enjoying my time of singleness so much that I began contemplating a lifetime of singleness. In hindsight, I wonder if I was trying to protect myself from anymore hurt. So, during the hot summer of 2013, my heart turned cold to relationships and future marriage.

Season 2 {September-December 2013}: I Fell in the Fall

I ended the summer with enjoying my singleness and contemplating a lifetime of it. On the most part, I continued wanting that during Season 2 of my year of singleness...but I did begin to fall for someone at school. He wasn't my type at all yet I was attracted to him and liked being with him. I pushed my attraction away so I could be faithful to the rules I placed on myself for the year. I thought that after my Christmas break, I'd get over my attraction and all would be normal again. How many of you see where the story is going? Yup, you're right. My attraction didn't leave when I came back from the holidays but it was only getting stronger.

Season 3 {January-May 2014}: Understanding Attachment

"What the heck is wrong with me?" is what I was thinking. Why couldn't my heart stay away from attaching itself? I shared my feelings with a friend and she simply and gracefully responded with "so, what's wrong with that? what's wrong with your heart getting attached?". She was right. I was acting like attachment was wrong- not only because it was part the rules for my year of singleness- but because I associated it with hurt.

To take that thought a little deeper, one of my classes was influencing the way I viewed relationships. In my Theology of the Human Person class, Dr. Victor Shepherd (the professor), spoke about Martin Buber's theory of I and Thou. This theory states that humankind finds purpose, meaning and identity when in relationship with others and with God. The more this theory was talked about, the more I appreciated my relationship with God and others. Suddenly, my desire to be single forever began fading. Dr. Shepherd spoke of marriage being one of the most intimate relationships a human being can be blessed with on this earth. Yes, intimacy can happen in other relationships, but the most intimate human relationship is in marriage. I was sold. Martin Buber's theory of the I and Thou Relationship was providing healing for my heart and even for my desire for marriage.
As for the guy I was crushing on, I realized how terrible of a match we would be. As quickly as my feelings began for him is as quickly as my feelings left. As brief an silly as that crush was, it helped my process of healing even though I broke one of my rules: Thou shalt not have a crush on anyone.

Conclusion of my Year of Singleness

When I started my year of singleness in May 2013, I never imagined ending it on a mission trip in Peru. I thought it was a beautiful way to end my year of singleness on May 2014 as I was focusing on Jesus and working for Him and the Gospel in Peru.

By the end of my mission trip, it was difficult for me to say goodbye to my new Peruvian friends. With each goodbye hug I gave to the missionaries' kids, the University students, ministry staff and all the people we came across during out trip, my heart was in pain. As I was saying goodbye to some of the students we taught English to, one of the missionaries we worked with said to me "You have a beautiful heart. Your heart attaches itself so much, doesn't it?". It was such a simple comment yet it impacted me so much. I am so grateful she made that observation about me because it concluded my year if singleness magnificently.
I realized that my heart not only attached itself quickly, romantically, but in all relationships. When a bond is made, my heart attaches itself. I am guilty of loving quickly and passionately. Many times, this love has taken me to get hurt. So although I look for opportunities to attach myself through relationships, I distance myself because I don't want to get hurt.
Everyone goes through this right? It just took me a year to learn it.

Did I end up avoiding attachment? No. I did get over the guy that caused me to enter the year of singleness in the first place. And the brief crush I had didn't last. But I attached myself to others. Not in an unhealthy way...but rather the way we're supposed to attach ourselves to others. God created us to be in relationship not only with Him, through Jesus, but also with others. Being in relationship is part of living out the image of God in us.

"I was made to live. I was made to love. I was made to know You." Brooke Fraser, CS Lewis Song

Ending my year of singleness in Peru (May 2014)
The missionary who impacted me more than she intended <3

The girl in the pink is the one who asked me "what's wrong with getting attached?"
The guy was my brief crush. Just kidding; he's a good friend. The crush will remain a secret ;)