I was skipping through a book I enjoy (though the movie left much to be desired) Elizabeth Gilbert’s praised and reviled Eat Pray Love, and came upon this, again, on page 65: “When I get lonely these days, I think: So be lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another’s person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”
It reminded me of another writer, the much-published orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who wrote, “The truest affront to G-d is the man who thinks that he doesn’t need others, who goes through life without ever truly connecting with, or leaning on other souls, the bachelor who thinks that no woman is good enough for him. In Judaism, it is not marriage which is a sin, but celibacy, not the admission of loneliness but the posture of arrogance.”
My friends know that for many years I’ve kept my eyes open for The One (as author Katherine Woodward Thomas terms the right person). That I’ve tried internet meeting sites and speed-dating – both of which are great for acquiring stories of impossibly weird dates, useful at dinner parties – and have asked pretty much everyone I know to introduce me to single men about my age. Haven’t yet met “the man for me”.
Reader, it’s not that I met and didn’t like. Nor am I fanatically picky. It’s that I simply don’t meet men – nor get introduced to them.
Some time ago, back when I attended church, I petitioned the adult Sunday school group I’d belonged to for years. By petitioned I mean I literally wrote a detailed letter, begged for aid, and thanked them in advance for help in meeting men. Asking them to pore through their acquaintance, ask their neighbors and friends, and, well, network.
I’d helped out when they asked for assistance, so this was just quid pro quo.
That was February. By July, a friend asked how it was going. Had they introduced me? Asked their own friends for names? Told me they were looking? Had they even said they were praying for me?
No on all counts.
Whereupon she gave me her advice: get out of that class, because those people clearly could not care less about my desire to connect with someone else on a very deep level, to share my life with him. To get to sing duets, instead of merely persistent, ever-present arias.
My own theory on people who refuse to introduce singles is that they’re unhappy in marriage themselves, desperately wish to be single, and secretly want to trade places. Why would they seek to inflict what they’d rather escape?
Anyway, I’m following Liz Gilbert’s suggestion – though I’m still watchful, in case “the man for me” enters my life – and I’m learning my way around loneliness. Accepting that human hugs are rare, and that pillows can help. Like many things, it’s about loosening the grip, something I learned to do a long time ago when my desire for children was being thwarted by my own body.
Yet pillows, while huggable, aren’t really very warm. So I want to use my loneliness to find something better, to improve myself, to devote my energies, much of which have been used in mothering, toward . . . something that will help me and help others.
In that is at least a temporary solution.