I am a single woman in her early-to-mid forties.
And there are people in my life who think I’m brave.
- I’ve been told I was “brave” for getting out of my toxic marriage, and I’ve had friends at work use me as their inspiration to take steps to get out of abusive relationships. [From what I understand, they really were abusive situations. I’m otherwise quick to encourage people to work things out if they possibly can, and to remind them how horrific the dating scene is in general: Seriously, he-doesn’t-appreciate-me-as-evidenced-by-the-socks-on-the-floor is not something that should make you look for the exit ramp. How about, you pray for both of you to have patience & consideration for each other, try not to make “socks” the be-all and end-all measure of how he values you, and perhaps have a conversation — not a screaming match — about what makes you feel appreciated. Just a thought.]
- My mother looks at my upcoming plan to drive around the country like a nut, and flinches. When I ask if she’s afraid for me, she just says that she can’t imagine doing that herself; all those hours of driving, all those meals alone. “I’m not that brave,” she tells me.
- I once had a fellow vacationer — he had lost his wife the year before and was travelling with a couple they had been friends with — tell me that he had never considered the possibility of travelling alone and that my “bravery” at joining the tour as a solo had changed his mind.
- The women in my life who can’t imagine being anything-but-miserable if they were single for an extended period of time think I’m “brave” (or at least putting on a brave front) because my aloneness doesn’t seem to be making me die of loneliness. (Many of them tell me that they would never want to do the kind of decades-long singleness that I have — as if it’s a sentence I’m serving — but that they do fantasize once in a while of having the bed all to themselves for a few days.)
And yet, here is what I have uncovered in myself of late: Fear is my default operating system.
- It wasn’t bravery that made me get out of my marriage. It was a matter of mental and emotional survival.
- It is not the hours behind the wheel (in and of itself) or the awkwardness of meals-alone that troubles me, although both will have their challenges. It is the driving in unfamiliar places that makes me uneasy. Despite the GPS I will, of course, take with me, I am not at all comfortable with the high potential for “being lost.” I’ll go, and test my limits, and remind myself along the way that I didn’t die on my trip to Montreal (an exercise in repeated lost-ness) and that God knows exactly where I am at all times, even when I don’t.
- It took no bravery at all to join that tour “alone.” I was with a tour. I was with a group for virtually every meal, every activity. And, incidentally, I experienced more different flavors of fear on that 10-day trip than I even knew I had. It was a really rude awakening to just what a chicken I am.
- It is not brave to be single. Singleis simply a state of being. And it’s not awful… at least, not for me. “Single” for me is easy and safe.By comparison, it would be brave to put myself out there… to embrace the vulnerability of new possibilities. Because if you don’t let anyone close enough to hurt you, you also aren’t letting them close enough to love you.
And if you know that, then you have to decide whether you will walk into the next thing, whenever and wherever it might occur, even if you’re not sure you could survive another heartbreak… or whether to keep yourself far away from that possibility.
You have to decide whether to take that risk and be that brave.
And here’s what I have realized: I’m not that brave. I haven’t been for a long time. Not by half.
But I’m realizing that, and I’m thinking about it.
So that’s something, right? First step on the journey?