Single and Complete

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Pebble

Don’t you just love those people who constantly post on social media about how wonderful their lives are? Their blissful relationships, amazing children and grandchildren etc.  In a world which is very ‘couples-focused’ it’s hard not to feel down when you’re single and you see all the loved-up joy around you.

Yet being on your own doesn’t have to be a barren wasteland of loneliness; it can be liberating. After all, you don’t have to consider anyone but yourself when deciding where to go on holiday, what to do at the weekend, or what to have for dinner. It’s all up to you. You can travel with your family or friends, go to the gym when you like, and have the duvet all to yourself.

So many people jump from one relationship to another, without pausing for breath. On the one hand, I think how do they manage to keep finding so many prospective partners, and on the other hand, do they ever take the time to get to know themselves?

Being alone means being able to find out who you are as an individual, and to explore interests and activities which might otherwise be ignored or forgotten about as you prioritise a significant other over yourself. Women especially, although I’m sure not exclusively, often put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. So having some relationship-free time can allow you to indulge in your passions.

I know as I’m writing this there will be people reading it who think that’s all well and good but I’m still single and unhappy; and to be honest, I can’t take that ache away from you. I know because I’ve felt it too, and have found that the only way of coping with it is to make my life as full as I can, and to make every effort to realise my dreams so that when I do have lonely days I remind myself that I am doing everything to experience life as much as possible, and not waiting around for someone to bring life to me.

Being single also means you can take time to honestly look at yourself and improve, so that when someone comes along you’ll be emotionally more intelligent and able to be honest with yourself and your partner. All too often we accept relationships which are not good for us because we are afraid we won’t find someone else, or that we want to help someone. Investing in some alone time to consider what we really need and deserve from a relationship, means that we won’t accept anything less next time round.

So, are you still scrolling through those news feeds and feeling inferior? My words so far haven’t helped? Well, when I was a child I thought I had a soul mate waiting for me. I didn’t really understand the concept at such a young age I just had a sense of this other person, which continued into adulthood. Decades later and he hasn’t turned up yet, maybe he never will, but I’m still determined to live as fully as possible. I aim to realise as many of my dreams as I can, despite never meeting my ‘other half’ because I have come to the realisation that he doesn’t exist. I am complete and whole; there is no need for someone else to give me a sense of completion because it is already there.

So, when you see all those social media posts, remember that you are no less of a person just because you are on your own. You’re taking time to find out who you are and to discover that that person doesn’t need completing; you are already whole, you’ve just forgotten that, and this time alone will help you to remember.

Photograph©VCUzzell2015

21st Century Spinster?

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Spinster; this is my new nickname.  No, I didn’t choose it.  It has been conferred upon me by others.

A dictionary definition of Spinster states it is an old-fashioned, often offensive term for a woman beyond the usual age for marriage.  However, prior to that it was used to describe the job of a woman, often older and single, who earned a living spinning; thus giving these women a certain freedom from dependence on a husband or male relative for their financial survival. Yet is such a term still relevant in the 21st century?  Well, according to some and if only as a joke, it is.

This seems all the more incongruous when you consider the increasing number of people who are single in this country.  Are we all to be labelled in such a way?  Well, of course not because men are bachelors, aren’t they?  Bachelors are unhitched, untamed and unhindered by commitment and therefore able to do as they please.  A spinster however, is not to be congratulated for her single status but criticised for her inability to acquire a man.  To a man, people will say ‘well done you’ for escaping the marriage noose (despite the fact that men benefit more from marriage than women), but a woman will be asked ‘what’s wrong with you?’  ‘Are you being too picky?’  ‘You just need to get out there.’  This last comment is my favourite.  Where exactly is ‘out there’?  This magical place where single men exist who are genuinely interested in you, and vice versa.

The thing people ignore when they throw a barrage of clichés at me is that I’m actually quite happy on my own.  Life is much easier that way; much simpler.  If being a spinster means being a woman of independent means, who doesn’t need to rely on a man for her existence, and thereby having the freedom to do as she wishes, then I am clearly guilty as charged.  It takes courage in a couple-obsessed society to choose to be alone, rather than be in an unhappy relationship.  So I embrace spinsterhood and the freedom it entails.  However, if I can, I’ll have a pack of dogs instead of cats because I’m more of a fan of the former, and I’ve got to subvert the stereotype somehow, haven’t I?

Connected , but no connection

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We can text, call, snap-chat and keep in touch in a myriad of ways, day and night, and yet loneliness is increasing in our digital society.  Why is it, in such a communicative age, that we are having trouble connecting to one another on a deeper level?  The often cited reason is that people just expect too much of their potential partners, and need to settle for ‘good-enough’, rather than ‘the one’.  However, I know many people who are looking for a life partner and they are perfectly realistic about the qualities and interests they’d like that person to have.  I also look around and see individuals in relationships that they are clearly just clinging onto for fear of being alone, or for the sake of others.  Admittedly, choosing to be alone rather than accept what doesn’t make you happy isn’t easy, yet it requires a kind of strength that staying in an unfulfilling relationship does not.  As Christmas approaches, feelings of loneliness are likely to be high, and maybe it’s time we made an effort to bring people together more often.  Digital communication is great. I’m certainly not a technophobe!  Yet our lives do not seem to have benefitted from all these means of communication because we are social animals who need to be around others, at least some of the time.  If we re-connect in person much more, then maybe things will change within society as a whole, and this time of year will be much happier for everyone.

Not less of a woman, just not a mum

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A recent article in The Guardian newspaper discussed the position of childless women in society and how they are often treated as sub-women, who have somehow not fulfilled their purpose in life. It cited the example of Jennifer Aniston, who has come under criticism for not having had children, to which she replied that she has ‘birthed a lot of things’, and therefore did not feel any less of a woman as a result.  As I approach my 39th year, I know that it is highly unlikely I will ever have children, but for me, that is not a great concern as I have never pictured myself married with children anyway.  However, I also understand that sense of isolation at times, when those who are mothers, or wish to be, start having conversations which I am not able to contribute to, or am just not included in.  People often assume that if you are my age and childless that maybe you don’t like children, which isn’t the case.  It’s the actual giving birth bit I don’t like!  I have also always felt that I would rather have adopted and given a home to children who would otherwise not have had one, and am also concerned about how over-populated our planet is and would therefore be reluctant to add another being to the world.  That is not to say I disagree if others choose to have children and I completely respect their choice.  Yet I do not feel I have completely missed out on some aspects of being a parent.  I teach Media and Communication Studies to international students who are going on to study at a UK university. I often feel that they are my ‘children’, who I am encouraging to work hard and strive for their dreams.  Three of last term’s students visited me the other day, ahead of starting their degree courses and I was filled with such pride for them, which surely other parents feel about their own children.  So, while I will never know what it feels like to be a ‘real mum’ I do not believe I lack anything as a result because I hope that I can still inspire and have a positive impact on those around me, just as any parent should.

This is the link to the article which inspired this post:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/31/jennifer-aniston-childess-women-judged-unfairly

In praise of solitude

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When was the last time you had a whole day to yourself?  An entire 24 hours in which you could do just what you wanted and indulge your mood on that day.  For many years I worked part-time, but when I went full-time at the beginning of this year, I found myself starting to crave solitude.  I like being alone.  That doesn’t mean I don’t like being around people.  I’m teacher, so that’s part of the job.  However, I’d describe myself as a sociable introvert, and by that I mean I’m happy to spend time with others, but only so much.  There comes a point at which I feel the need to retreat and recharge my batteries once again.  Now, while I actively seek out time to myself, the thought of that would cause anxiety for many others.  Our lives are so full nowadays of stuff to do, work and family commitments and the constant intrusion into our lives from the media and technology, that it’s hard to find time to ourselves.  Also, many people hate the thought of spending time alone, saying they would be bored or lonely.  Yet, taking even just a few hours to do so is really beneficial, allowing us time to reflect and work on ourselves.

 

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.’  Alice Koller

 

 

 

Three generations in a cup

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As I sip from the same cup that my grandmother once did, I sense something I cannot explain.  How this cup and saucer, simple in their design, can join three generations of women together.  I drink from it, as my mum has, and her mother before her; a biscuit on the side, a smile and sparkle in her eyes.  This cup and saucer is our tale.  They hold the stories, dreams and tears of our lives.  A constant among all the change.  Here before and after we have gone.

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My grandmother’s tea set

©VCUzzell2014

Love

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‘And I realised, all I was searching for, was me.’  Ben Howard – Keep Your Head Up – Every Kingdom

You cannot truly love another person until you know who you really are.  Until you have looked beneath the fragile outer shell to the core of your being beneath, you cannot fully love another.  Being sure of yourself is the only way to be certain of loving with your heart and head.  To love with your soul is to see beneath someone’s skin to the individual they truly are and help them to become that beautiful person, and as you have found the beauty inside of you, so too will you see it in others.  Then you can embrace everyone as a friend.  For the core of every self, every soul is beautiful; a star which shines within the depths of layers of skin, muscle and tissue.  There you will find the true self.  The human being that longs for happiness, for love and to be the best person they can.  Strip away all pretences.  Remove fear, ambition and pride, and you are left with love; a pure, loving being who could be your friend.  A unique blessing upon the earth, that shines, but only for a short time.

‘Self-love and self-acceptance grow with practice.  Learning to love yourself happens slowly, over time.’  Yoga for Depression by Amy Weintraub

Sutra 1.33, often referred to as the Buddhist sutra, encourages us to develop compassion and love for others and ourselves, without judgement, as T. K. V. Desikachar illustrates in his wonderful book ‘The Heart of Yoga.’

‘In daily life we see people around us who are happier than we are, people who are less happy.  Some people may be doing praiseworthy things and others causing problems.  Whatever may be our usual attitude toward such people and their actions, if we can be pleased with others who are happier than ourselves, compassionate toward those who are unhappy, joyful with those doing praiseworthy things, and remain undisturbed by the errors of others, our mind will be very tranquil.’ (Page 159)

For a more detailed analysis of this sutra, check out three articles by Frank Jude Boccio entitled ‘Love in full bloom’at www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/2601

(The photo was taken a few years ago at the Guinness factory in Dublin.  I don’t actually like Guinness.  I just wanted to see the view from the 360 degree bar at the top of the building.)

 

©VCUzzell2014