Two years ago a friend and I grabbed one of the last tables at 3rd and Lindsley. We ordered fried pickles and the hot salt perfectly melded with cool ranch dressing. A few feet away, Andrew Ripp belted out an a capella rendition of Joy to the World and the whole crowd clapped along. Christmas spirit descended in to our midst and there was no containing our joy.
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors took the stage and it should have been enough but there my thoughts went wandering. All over a boy. Not much else would take my mind off of music. A few weeks prior, a much anticipated second date transpired. The kind of evening where you sense a third date will emerge. Only one hadn’t. We’d fallen back in to the “will he or won’t he” dance that permeated our interactions for months.
Sure, I became frustrated when it seemed the banter was going nowhere. But then he’d reference something obscure I’d told him and something told me to be patient. Patience isn’t my strong suit, despite its recurring theme in my life.
I rationalized his caution. I so rarely meet intriguing single men that I had a hard time sticking to the conflicting dating advice I received. If he’s into you, he’ll pursue you. Don’t say yes if he asks you out over text message. Ask him where it’s going. Let him set the tone. And on and on it went.
I was confused but mostly accepted that a third date looked unlikely. I didn’t want to wait for him to make up his mind. This unknowing had gone on long enough. (If you only knew how long.)
However, it didn’t keep me from wondering about him as Drew and Ellie sang. The room teemed with reminders of my singleness- song lyrics, Drew and Ellie’s chemistry, couples at surrounding tables. It was bittersweet to have experienced the promise of a relationship so close to Christmas. It may only been a couple of dates but that first date was unlike others I’d been on.
It made me think this guy would be different, that this could be my bright light in a year marked with uncertainty and loss. When the inevitable question arose at holiday gatherings, I could practically picture myself leaning in to tell an aunt, “well, there is this one guy…” But it apparently wasn’t meant to be.
It was a great show, despite my distracted thoughts. My friend and I agreed it should be a yearly tradition. Once home, I puttered around, my thoughts racing back toward him. The “what if’s?” had their say and then the “why me’s?”, followed by “I’m going to be alone forever.”
I surveyed the wreckage of my dating life and could only come to that conclusion. A couple of dates dashed my contentment to pieces. With Christmas around the corner, I felt alone. Not lonely, mind you. But alone.
A few weeks prior, my younger brother married. A few weeks before that our grandmother died unexpectedly. The landscape of our family would look markedly different this holiday season but I stayed the same. No boyfriend or fiance to speak of. Just me.
All these thoughts flooded my mind until I bowed low on the floor of my bedroom and prayed. Prayed for the man who did not want to date me, prayed for how I would survive another solo Christmas, prayed that no one would pour salt in to this wound.
I didn’t want to be single for another Christmas. Not because singleness is awful- I’ll fight anyone who says that- but because I want to share my life with someone. I want to hold my husband’s hand as we sit around the tree at my parent’s house. I want to experience the magic of the season in a whole new way.
It hadn’t happened two years ago and it hasn’t happened now. A good man is hard to find and it only seems more difficult at Christmas.
I’m used to navigating life by myself. Most days I scarcely notice I’m alone because this is simply life and a glorious one at that. But there are moments when my aloneness screams at me: church, Christmas, weddings, funerals, family gatherings.
I know I’m not truly alone. I am connected to all manner of family and friends. They ground me. I may wish to share my life with the man of my dreams but I am already sharing my life with people who love me as I am.
The other day I read Henri Nouwen’s words on waiting in the Advent book Watch for the Light. He says, “patient people dare to stay where they are.” Hopeful waiting is patient and open-ended and oh is this my struggle when it comes to dating and so many other things.
So I circle back to the lesson I’ve been learning the last few years: I’m tethering my hopes and dreams to the present. I’m daring to see what else is left to learn about being alone.