Sunday, July 10, 2011

Transitioning out of Singleness, Part 1: Griefs and Joys

Griefs and Joys: On the pain of losing my life 

I bought my wedding dress on a Thursday. My mom and my two youngest aunts, who are truly like big sisters to me, were there to help me try dresses on and pick out "the one." It was a great time where we laughed and cried together and afterward felt victorious, and also like we had really shared one of life's special moments.

At our victory lunch, after buying the dress!

The next morning I woke up to find one of my aunts sitting on the porch of the cabin where we were staying. We sat and talked for a bit and she mentioned, with tears in her eyes, that she was sad to see this visit end, as it was destined to be my last "solo" visit for quite some time. I protested, "No, there will be other times - we can still have girl's weekends and stuff!" But even as I said it, it rang hollow. I knew she was right and it was another reminder that this season of singleness is coming to an end.

Don't get my wrong - I am filled with great joy at the idea of marrying Curby. I cannot wait to be a wife, I cannot wait to be a mother, I'm excited for all the changes the Lord is bringing into my life. There is the joy of bringing some of my closest friends together and telling them what they mean to me and asking them to help me as I make this transition. There is the joy of inviting a multitude of friends and family to come celebrate with me and Curby as we enter into this new state of life. There is joy in knowing I am bringing joy to others in my family and hope to all that God does indeed answer prayer. There is so much joy.

But in the midst of that joy, is something I did not expect: grief.

When I was 32 and single a friend said to me, "I didn't get married till I was older, either, and I can totally relate to how hard it was." This friend had been married 3 years at the time and had gotten married at 29. I tried to be gracious, but inside I was frustrated and said to myself, "I was single at 29, too. And being single at 32 is different, and harder, than it was at 29." And so I have been grieving that in some ways my being able to relate clock ends at 36. This is silly, in some ways, but its how I feel.
   * First of all, to presume that I know how others feel at any age is presumptuous and vain. However, I know that for me I always felt a sort of comraderie and encouragement from those women who were older than me and single, or who had been older when they got married (those 36, 37, 38 yr-old, or older friends who married when I was 33, 34, 35). I am glad to have been an encouragement to a lot of young women over the years, as I pursued the life God called me to as a single woman with (hopefully) joy and confidence, but I'm sad that now I will be speaking from a different vantage point. I grieve that loss.
    * Second of all, I grieve with my single friends who are around my age or older and are losing one more single friend to marriage. Those women and men, who are longing for marriage and who have found companionship in their other single friends - even from afar, are my people. I remember when I was in that position and I was so happy for my friends getting married but also so sad and crying out to the Lord, "What about me, Lord, will you forget me forever?" And I'm sad that now I will represent, even a little bit, that thing they are longing for, and that they will not want to tell me for worry of marring my happiness or for appearing vain or self-centered (all things I worried about as I put on a brave face to with my friends true happiness).

When I think of the conversation with my aunt on the patio, I grieve the awesomeness of the single times I've been able to have with my family and friends around the country and world. I have great memories of times of great joy, traveling to Texas and Illinois for fun times with friends, for weddings and weekends of fun, traveling to Washington for family and friend time combined, and even international travel just because we might as well do it.
    * I grieve that now my travel decisions are in partnership with someone else who doesn't necessarily have the same ties to my friends that I do.
    * I grieve that now my travel decisions are weighted with visiting someone else's family and someone else's priorities and that at the very least, this means my ability to visit my own friends and family may be cut in half as we learn to share travel to these places that matter to us.
    * I grieve that as we begin to create a family, our ability to travel will be even more constrained by finances and convenience.
    * I grieve that rather than being the single person who travels to see everyone, I will be the one asking my single friends to visit me, and hoping that they will.

But even this grief comes with some new, great joys: I love traveling with Curby! We have a great time together whether on the road or in the air, and I love exploring new places with him. My joy in having a permanent "travel-buddy" (to join, not replace, my dear friends who also hold that title: Tall Brian, K-Falk, Fulms, Bullard-1&2) is immense. But I grieve the loss of my individual freedom and "footloose and fancy-free-ness"

Lastly for now, I am also filled with great joy at being part of couple. I am thrilled to have a new way to relate to my married friends - to not feel like a third-wheel, to do "couple things". I am excited that Curby likes my parents and they like him and that we have things in common and that they are looking forward to doing "couple things" together also. I love having someone to watch TV with, or talk to about my day - who really cares/listens, to cook for and to listen to over dinner, someone to care for and to care about.
    * I fear becoming like my single friends who got married and then forgot about the singletons. And I think I grieve because I know that for a season at least, it might be inevitable that I spend less time with my single friends as I cultivate this new partnership.
    * I grieve because I know my aunt is right. I can't stay the same and be different. This relationship is changing me - not necessarily in a bad way - but still changing me. And if I am being changed, then all of my life is being changed, too. And I grieve because I know that it means that others lives are also being changed and not by their own volition and despite their happiness for me, not always in ways they like. And not always in ways that I like or expected or want. I grieve the awesome life that Tiffani and her friends and family had - even as I rejoice in the awesome life that Tiff and Curby and their friends and their family will have.

Thus are the start of the many, many thoughts of a mid-30-something bride-to-be. The Apostle Paul says, "When I was a child, I thought like a child... but now that I am a man, I think like a man." I think this true for me also, when it comes to this relationship stuff. When I was 21 and engaged at the end of college (long story, I broke it off before graduation), I did not think of any of this stuff. I didn't have the experiences under my belt to give me empathy and grace, well hopefully grace. But now that I am a woman, I find myself strangely torn between overwhelming excitement - -  truly, I could literally talk about wedding stuff and Curby's awesomeness all the time - - to embarrassed bashfulness - - I don't want it to look like I'm bragging over these blessings - - to rigid minimalization - - I don't want my friends to feel salt pouring in their wounds. I had those wounds. I have those scars. I understand the tension and the pain.

I don't have a resolution to all this yet, except to grieve the way I've always grieved - which is to say to process it as fully as I can, to cry a lot, to pray and discuss with God whenever my heart aches, and to walk forward into the reality as it exsists and as it is becoming. But I know that I want to be different even as a married woman. I want to be like some of my best married friends - conscious of my single friends, loving on them as family, always praying with confident hope for the desires of their hearts. I hope I can be that woman, that wife, and that friend.


Carrie said...

I love this. I know it is going to sound weird, but I've grieved being single too over the past years of married life. I know, I got married at 22, but I think what you expressed here touches on the somewhat-universal experience of self-aware people entering into long-term relationships. So, thank you for being honest with how you feel! It is refreshing to hear your heart.

Sarah Martin Werntz said...

Tiff, thanks for your beautiful post - it certainly rings true for my experience! I look forward to talking more with you about your thoughts throughout the process.

Amanda said...

I got married at 24, so I don't have quite the same experience of being single in my 30s. Still, I do remember feeling frustrated and sad when my friends said things like, "After you get married, we won't hang out as much." Or, "It'll just be different after you get married." I got sad and wondered if it really *would* be different and hoped I wouldn't just stop hanging out with people. I've only been married 2 months, so there's time still to figure it all out, but so far I've found that though I think about things more in context of someone else (ie., I can't just spend whatever I want or go wherever I want at the drop of a hat), I still am the same person with goals and friends and desires for close relationships. All that to say, I want to encourage you that though you will be "Tiff and Curby" now, you'll also still just be Tiff, and that's perfectly okay too!

p.s. Yay for finding "the dress"!

Gloria said...

Okay, so I've read this blog several times, each time with a few (or more) tears. I've tried to comment twice before and for some reason it hasn't taken so we'll see if third time is the charm.
First of all, thank you, Tiffani, for sharing our story, my feelings and your feelings with such respect and consideration. I feel honored to have known you the way I have these last 36 years and especially the last 10 or so. You are a daughter (well I would have been a VERY young mother, but I did pretend that you were mine way back when), a little sister, a colleague, a fellow Mensian and a friend. At different times I have felt protective, proud, humbled and simply joyful at being your aunt. The last about 96.4% of the time!
I will miss the times you, Donna and I have shared as "the three amigas", but loving you as much as I do, how can I not be happy that you have found your heart's desire. Now I just need to hope that Curby allows me into your life together from time to time so I can share in your happiness. And eventually, maybe even with a baby in your arms, we can have a girls' weekend.
So goodbye to grief and on with the we wish.
I love you always and forever FN.
Aunt G