Pardon the personal nature of this post. I’ve heard mixed reviews from readers when I talk about my personal life, veering off course from more Catholic- or beer-related matters. But my heart yearns to share my struggle in hopes of allowing others to see they are not alone if they feel this too. So please accept my sincerest apologies in advance if this topic offends or displeases you. I’m simply attempting to be authentic and share with others some of my struggles.


 

My biggest fear seems like it might come true: I might grow old alone. I’ll be 32 this fall. A scary number for certain when you’re woefully single without any prospects on the horizon. 

I recently dated someone who I thought for a brief moment was “the one.” My heart was all-in and I truly thought we were meant to be. But his heart and mind didn’t share these thoughts and feelings and thus our relationship ended. I grew bitter and angry … especially with God. (Sidenote: He’s a great guy and I have no ill will against him!)

I’ve allowed my “ache of singlehood,” as the now-married-and-happy-mama Jackie Francois coined it, to affect my whole attitude and my approach to my faith. I’ve been shaken lately, doubting and growing in anger as each day passes. I see so many people younger than me, finding love, celebrating marriage and building families. I can’t help but be jealous. I shouldn’t be jealous — I should be joyous (believe me I’m trying in earnest)!

This Lent I found myself in a spiritual desert. Must have been a small slice of what Jesus felt during His 40 days in the desert alone. I must admit I don’t have the strength or resolve of Jesus to resist temptation. The human condition we all must bear.

I found the album “Campfire” by Rend Collective during Lent which has the song “Desert Soul” on it. It perfectly describes my current situation and all my feelings. Preview it here.

“Desert Soul” by Rend Collective

I love you Lord
But I want to love You more
I need You, God
But I want to need You more
I’m lost without
Your creative spark in me
I’m dead inside
Unless Your resurrection sings
I’m desperate for a desperate heart
I’m reaching out, I’m reaching
All that I am is dry bones
Without You, Lord, a desert soul
I am broken, but running
Towards You God, You make me whole
I love you Lord
But I want to love You more
I need You, God
But I want to need You more
I’m lost without
Your creative spark in me (recreate me)
I’m dead inside
Unless Your resurrection sings
I’m desperate for a desperate heart
I’m reaching out, I’m reaching
All that I am is dry bones
Without You, Lord, a desert soul
I am broken, but running
Towards You God, You make me whole
I am a desert soul without You, Lord
I need You, I need You
You are exactly what we need
Only You can satisfy
You are exactly what we need
Only You can satisfy
All that I am is dry bones
Without You, Lord, a desert soul
I am broken, but running
Towards You God, You make me wholeI am a desert soul without You, Lord

You are exactly what we need
Only You can satisfy
You are exactly what we need
Only You can satisfy
Only You, Only You
You are exactly what we need
Only You can satisfy

Oh how I am such a desert soul. But I am trying. Discerning and waiting for a clear path for your vocation might be the most frustrating part of being a faithful Catholic. I wrestle with feelings of unfairness as I watch folks who are not religious at all get everything I hope for and dream of. Do you ever feel like God forgot about you? Yeah. That’s me, too.

And I have some wonderful friends who attempt to encourage me by pointing out the many positives in my life, including the upcoming publication of my first book! I feel like such a brat when I reply that it’s not good enough. That I want more. *insert stompy feet here* These friends also send me blog posts or encouraging notes about the state of my vocation. It only frustrates me more.

I could wax philosophically, recalling Scripture or wisdom from countless saints, but it doesn’t make that longing, that ache, dissipate. I wish it were that easy. So let’s just all be honest together: more often than not, those sort of words and “encouraging” stories from people in similar positions as me only infuriate and frustrate me further. Now, in addition to being lonely and sad, I feel as though my faith is weak and fake because I’m unable to attain the peace these others have allegedly found. The words don’t help. The pain continues. I feel more selfish. I continue to feel impatient. And now I feel belittled and as though something must be wrong with me since I can’t “fix” or change my feelings. That I’m not normal.

So for those of you who have felt this way or you know someone who does, just acknowledge the feelings. I believe that is the most critical first step to overcoming any negative emotion. I swear if one more person says to me “It will happen when you least expect it” or “Be patient. God has a plan for you,” I am going to scream. Those words are not comforting and, at least for me, only make me feel worse for being so selfish.

Acknowledge the longing. Acknowledge your doubt — in yourself and even in God!

Now it doesn’t mean you can now go out and substitute cheap love for real love. The fact is that some of us might actually end up alone. It’s a cold reality, but we each need to be ready to face it. Work through the doubt. Work through the anger. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. I’ve learned that I haven’t always done that with myself and because of that, I blow up either at God or at my friends. It is not good to stuff your feelings down inside and not share. This only leads to bigger issues. So don’t put on a happy face if you really and truly need to feel sad for a couple of hours. I’ve found that if I let myself just feel it, I get over it faster and come out better in the long run. Internalizing everything and not coping with feelings is not healthy for you or for any of your personal relationships.

Now this isn’t permission to always be complaining and be that high maintenance friend who is always in tears over something. Your friends will grow exhausted of always having to attempt to comfort you to no avail. This is an internal struggle that only you can overcome. But give yourself permission to feel what you need to in order to overcome and come out better!

I’ve very much enjoyed learning to be alone. One of my favorite things to do is to go to the movies alone. I also enjoy going to dinner and sitting at the bar alone. You never know who you might meet … or won’t meet. There is a peace that comes with being confident enough to dine alone.

That was something I worked on this Lent  — not intentionally, but because I struggled so hard with jealousy and anger and lack of faith. I tried to spend more time alone … and to find happiness in that alone time. The ultimate goal is to be alone but not be lonely. It’s a daily struggle, but one I am willing to fight.

As I stood at the Easter Vigil Mass in the darkness, I pondered what some of the symbols in the Liturgy mean for us as Catholics. It is the merging of Lent, the death of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. We begin the Mass in the darkness, slowly lit by the Easter candle … until the Gloria bells ring out in the darkness, alerting us that it is okay to be joyous, to scream out “ALLELUIA!” once again. The lights in the sanctuary slowly raise to reveal a strong community surrounding us. I got chills as soon as the bells chimed and I felt as if something shifted in the world. I felt safer. It’s not logical, but can only be attributed to the true meaning of Easter with hope defeating death. Light beating darkness. God’s ultimate plan for our lives.

My personal darkness is my desire for a partner in life and to build a family. My loneliness — a feeling I first felt at age 11. So much like the darkness at the Easter Vigil, I need to find what lights my life up so much that I can see my path again. And for now, despite struggles and doubts, I choose God. I must ask Him daily to light my next step or two … in hope and faith that He will one day show me more than my selfish next step or two.

And on that note, you can find me spending time alone and enjoying my own company in order to overcome my personal darkness with light. And I might be listening to “Desert Soul” on repeat until I do.