It's Seraphic Singles Saturday, and I am well enough to blog again. What a week it's been. I don't remember ever having a head cold that bad. Normally I just wander about blowing my nose miserably for a week, not lying flat on my back breathing shallowly while mainlining lemon-flavoured drugs.
Today I think I will actually go for a walk and maybe even go to my favourite hipster café to see if I can still read any Polish. But first I will address two very sad emails I have received on the subject of loss in one's late 20s.
The first one was by a postulant who was happily living with a religious community when they told her she didn't have a vocation and she had to leave within hours.
The second one was by a slightly younger woman whose on-off boyfriend of X or Y years is on the verge of getting engaged to someone else. He had begged her to stay with him, but she felt it was God's will that she not be with him, and so a year later he's with someone else (naturally) and she is alone. She is also quite obviously cheesed off with "God's will."
Fortunately I got these emails before B.A.'s nasty virus lost interest in B.A. and started eyeing me, so I was able to give decent responses, geared to the 20-something women themselves. But now I will reflect that there is just something so green and fresh and hopeful about the phrase "20-something."
The funny thing is, I didn't think that when I was 20-something. I didn't think "Oh well, I'm only twenty-four (-seven, -eight). I have lots of time to recover and get on with life and meet thousands of nice men and try all kinds of jobs. The women of my family live to see 86, so I probably will too. Heigh ho!" No. Generally I lived in dread of misfortune. I danced strangely often on the edge of despair.
What women in their forties can tell women in their twenties is that there is a lot of hope and that time really does heal all wounds. This may sound trite, but by the time you are forty, you have discovered through experience that this is actually true. Your boyfriend dumps you, and within two years, another man comes along. The same qualities you have that attracted one man will attract another, and you may have learned something in the past two years that will help you have a better relationship with this new one. Although I was probably more charming at 20, I was a lot nicer to men when I was 40, and not because I had to be. I just liked them more and had gotten over thinking they were all potential rapists.
In the case of the banished postulant, I told her that I thought her order had behaved badly but that there were many other orders out there who would love to meet her. Benedictine orders, for example, are like buses. You miss one, there are dozens of others to choose from. Naturally, I am not sure it is time for her to make an active search. It seems to me that the normal thing to do, for a bit, is to live with her parents and cry and write in her journal every day about how much she misses Order A and how much they hurt her and what their founder/foundress would say to them for kicking her out.
In the case of the ex-girlfriend, I reflected on new beginnings. When I was younger, I enjoyed the drama of a good old break up and get back together, but honestly. What a way to have carried on. I think a quick rule of thumb is that if you break up with a man, or he breaks up with you, it is for a very good reason or reasons, and you should (A) write them down and pin them to your bedroom wall as a reminder and (B) stay far apart so that you don't get back together just because you're lonely/miss the attention.
I also cannot imagine carrying on a X year romantic relationship without getting married. I mean, how SERIOUSLY boring. Being attached to the same man for X years and no sex (or no sex you can admit to or feel great about), and no solid plans for the future, no babies or at least being an uncle and aunt together, no finding a Victorian desk in Goodwill and debating if it worth the price. Just an extended teenage schedule of social entertainments and "hanging out." Like a forced diet of dessert, never allowed to eat meat, fish, dairy or veg. Ick.
In such a circumstance, I personally would be heartily relieved to get rid of my high school sweetheart and start meeting new men in freedom. And if I began this while I was still a twenty-something, with lovely twenty-something skin and young blood running through my veins, so much the better. Because there are millions upon millions of men, and many of them are very interesting indeed. These are the ones that actually leave their caves and DO things. Yet another reason to give internet dating a miss and go looking for men in the real live social world of dancing, sports, outdoor chess, language class, etc.
But I also want to say something about the "will of God." It's a little amusing how sure people are that they can interpret the "will of God" when they think God's will is something nasty, like destroying a beautiful 19th century altar and replacing it with a concrete slab, but not when it might be something lovely, like a seminarian spending all his Christmas money on a gold chasuble. I am a bit worried about Catholic girls getting over-anxious about the "will of God" for their own lives, as if the "will of God" were opposed to your interests and wants, over which you think you have no real say. Is it God's will that you marry Charlie? Well, if you want to marry Charlie, maybe. But if you don't, definitely not.
If you honestly want to marry Charlie, and yet not so much that you think God may be opposed (a thought that never haunted me for a single second regarding B.A.), you can go through a discernment process, perhaps with the help of a priest. But always remember that it is OKAY if deep down you really don't want to marry Charlie. It is not mean to think that Charlie is boring*, if indeed Charlie seems boring to you. It is mean to break up and get together and break up and get together to alleviate the boredom of dating a guy you find boring. Some other girl might think he is fascinating, so it would be much kinder to let him find her. And if you find all men boring, you have my sympathy, but cheer up, for you will probably think differently when you are older.
Finally, anyone who can afford it should always consider taking a holiday abroad to help mend a broken heart. You could go on a young people's tour of Italy, for example. Just don't have a dumb holiday fling. Go to Florence and drink in how beautiful it all is.
Update: Another way to think of a crushing loss is as a very bad cold. You go to bed and stay there for two or three days with a pot of tea and easy-to-read books, and treat yourself kindly and very gingerly and then totter out into the sunshine. If the symptoms still persist, you get professional advice. You may be told to take some holiday time and sit in the sun for a week or two, or a year.
*Or feckless. Or have a seriously annoying whinnying laugh. Or tells a lot of lies about what he reads. Charlie could have all kinds of faults that annoy the stuffing out of you, but some other woman--probably one you could never be friends with--would not mind at all, or won't until it's too late.