Living in a fantasy world and damn happy about it.
Monday, May 29, 2017
If I Had A Bucket List, It Would Be Shorter Now
Spooky's Fairly Useless Advice for Single People
Since discovering that I have to work at being single, just like being married, I've been making an effort to experience life outside my own head. We tend to think our circumstances are so much more difficult than those of anyone else. I'm no exception to that. I think I have it tough because I live in a small town with apparently zero prospects for intellectually stimulating conversation. And all the men I meet are in trouble with the law.
That is an oversimplification of course, but still it feels real. And it leaves me with a choice. I can either accept that as true and park myself in front of Netflix with ice cream and a side of pizza or I can get out of my house and my head and engage with the real world.
Obviously the second choice is the right one, but damn, y'all. It's a lot of work.
When I first was getting used to the idea of my change of status, I asked some friends for help. (Advice I should heed more often: Ask for help. It doesn't mean you're weak. It means you are smart.) "Don't let me become a hermit," I told them. "You know that's my default mode." And thus began the Tour of Commiseration, 2015. For three or four months I traveled from friend to friend, spending at least one weekend a month with people I like. It helped.
Unfortunately, none of those friends live nearby.
Digital life is a fabulous thing, especially for introverts like me, but I knew I needed to work harder at building some local friendships. I need people I can hang out with in a coffee shop on an otherwise average Thursday. I started with Mindy - renewing a contact we'd allowed to become casual. I stumbled - almost literally - into Lynette, which proved fortuitous for us both. And I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone and decided I wasn't going to lose contact with Jay when she moved on to another church. A friend from college posted on Facebook about reaching out, lamenting missed opportunities and lapsed friendships. We reconnected through the book club she was starting for geek girls.
My social calendar is burgeoning, indeed. But only because I'm working on it. It's not perfect. I miss having snarky co-workers just outside my office door. (Have I mentioned lately how much I miss Sushi? I miss her a lot.) I'd love to live next door to someone hilarious. Who wouldn't? But what I have now is tremendously better than it was before.
My church has played a big part in helping me branch out. Who would have thought? Church has permeated my life since birth, but more in a 'watching them make the sausage' sort of a way rather than an 'I love me some Jeezus' sort of a way. I am not a churchy person as a general rule.
Joining the Episcopal church has paid huge dividends for me. (Without the dreaded Singles Group, I might add.) It's helping me step over a few self-imposed barriers to being who I really am. (That makes it sound like I'm about to come out of the closet, doesn't it? Nope, not gay.) I live in a place where it's easier to keep my progressive opinions under wraps than to be honest about what I believe. I'm still not shouting my beliefs from the rooftops, but I'm stating them more forcefully here and there. And poking a few people with pointed sticks now and then.
Being part of a group that accepts those opinions, even if the majority disagrees, is a new experience. This church amazes me. And they have extended some crazy hospitality to me in the last year or two.
The very first sermon I ever heard in the Episcopal church was on the topic of hospitality, actually.
After my first encounter with the Episcopal Church, I again rode my bike west the next Sunday morning. The characters I'd met the week before assured me repeatedly that I needed to meet their priest. The word gregarious was kicked around a lot when they described her.
Once again, I got to the church and circled the building. Three cars this time. I stopped my bike and texted my friend Cyn, who was following my progress from South Texas. I gave her the car count, noting that a white Prius had been added to the parking lot this week.
"At least the priest is there," she said.
"What makes you so sure?" I asked.
"What else would a female Episcopal priest drive?"
I conceded that point, parked my bike and went inside.
I don't remember anything else about that morning, other than the sermon. Which is odd because I never remember sermons. Ever.
The Syrian refugee crisis was beginning to make the news and Jay was incensed by the reaction, or lack thereof, of America and our allies. She started with the big picture and brought it down to a local, personal level. Hospitality is our calling, our duty, as Christians, she said. And finally, her incredulity evident, she uttered the line that has stuck with me for much longer than it should:
"Hospitality is not that hard, people. Just give them a fuhhhhhh------fricking glass of water!"
Yep. She came thisclose to saying fuck in her sermon. At which exact point I realized I was in exactly the right place.
This past week, I was the recipient of more hospitality when I went on a motorcycle trip to Arizona to ride one of the most dangerous highways in the United States with a group of Jay's current parishioners - all of them strangers. I still cannot believe I did that, to be honest. When I bemoaned the insanity of it to Jay, she pointed out that they may be strangers, but they were Episcopalian strangers and those are the best kind.
She was right. Even though they were pretty much all old enough to be my parents, I had bucket loads of fun.
At church this morning, the four people who made up our congregation asked all about my trip. I had fun regaling them of the details. The really raunchy part of the ride is only 68 miles, but has more than 1000 curves and, since we did it downhill, drops from 9,000 to 3,000 feet. You have to ride so slowly to make the curves that it took us about four hours to do those 68 miles.
When we finished the ride and made it to our motel, I was exhausted, but just about bursting with pride. I not only did it, I nailed it. I'd never have attempted that ride on my own. I wouldn't have believed I could do it without the blind faith - honestly, what were they thinking?! - of a group of people I'd never met before.
The moral of this story is add to your tribe. When you're single, especially single and childless, you are gonna need a tribe. Hell, join several tribes. They all have things to teach you. And they probably need you just as much as you need them.
A couple of months ago, Mindy and I have started monthly(ish) meetups in the park. We throw out an invitation on Facebook - no agendas, no topics, no potlucks. Adults in our society need more friendships and more opportunities to sit and talk with those friends without pressure or programs. Friends, not PTA members or soccer parents or youth group sponsors, but people we like outside of the sphere of the collective progeny.
We don't do anything special on those evenings in the park. We simply ask folks to show up. And they do.