I used the analogy of a waiting room in my last post: Should I just be happy being single? I was in the waiting room last week – a real waiting room, waiting over an hour for a doctor’s appointment and distracting myself from my boredom and irritation with a Maeve Binchy novel. I didn’t really want to be there. I was enjoying the novel but I was just killing time really.
And I can’t help wondering how much of my life has been about killing time. In that waiting room last week, I wasn’t fully in the moment. I didn’t accept that I should have to wait. I was irritated that the doctor I was waiting to see couldn’t organise his time a bit better. Eventually, after a wait of nearly an hour and a half, I got to see him. I was disgruntled by then, and not willing to listen to his advice with an open mind.
I once read a story about Mother Teresa waiting for a flight which was delayed. She wasn’t agitated or irritated like I would have been. She didn’t read a book to pass the time. She saw the delay as a gift. A time that she wouldn’t otherwise have had. A chance to talk to her fellow passengers or pray or contemplate. She didn’t distract herself with Maeve Binchy.
My singleness has been like a waiting room, a waiting room that I have been sitting in for 30 years: irritated, agitated and often wondering where I’m going wrong. During that time I’ve been in one of 3 states: a) desperate for the latest boyfriend to turn out to be Mr Right; b) fed up and longing to meet someone new; and c) distracting myself with everything from friends, alcohol, holidays, a madly busy social calendar, weekends away and dalliances with guys I knew perfectly well were not Mr Right.
I have never been in a state of acceptance. Acceptance that, for the time being at least, I am single.
It seems silly really. Because I realise that, much as I love the friendship, love, companionship and affection that come with being in a steady relationship, I realise that not being in a relationship allows me to achieve things that I otherwise mightn’t have time for. Things like writing my last book and finishing the one I’m working on now.
This isn’t about saying, “I’m so hopeless at relationships that I’m going to be single forever and I might as well accept it!” It isn’t about resignation. I’m not sure it’s even about forever.
Sometimes I dabble into Zen Buddhism and mindfulness (and no, I find no conflict with my Christian faith there, but that’s a whole other story.) Mindfulness teaches that there is only now. The past is in the past. The future is in the future. Now is all there is.
This moment. Now. I have to accept that in this moment, I am single. Today I am single. No-one will kiss me. I won’t feel the joy of human warmth and affection. I won’t have someone to cuddle up with when I come to bed tonight. I can spend today lamenting those facts. I can spend today looking back at the past and wondering where I went wrong in all my previous relationships. I can spend today day-dreaming about some mythical future with some mythical man. I can spend today waiting for the man I was dating recently to call or text and feeling anxious when he doesn’t and allowing that anxiety to destroy all the enthusiasm I feel for all the things I want to do today.
Or I can accept that today, right now, I am single. I have a list of things I’d love to do – including writing this post – and if I get those things done, I will curl up in bed tonight with a real sense of contentment and satisfaction.