From the Internet to the TV set in your living room comes great social pressure to be part of a couple. An endless stream of reality shows such as "The Bachelor," "Joe Millionaire," "The Bachelorette" fill prime-time slots on evening television. Burgeoning online dating services suggest that meeting someone should be as easy as the click of a mouse.
The overall message is: If you aren't in a romantic relationship, you should be making every effort to get into one.
It's easy to understand why singles might think they are left out or left behind as they sit down to a frozen meal more than once a week, alone.
A look at trends in US demographics, however, shows that the number of people living alone is actually increasing. In fact, over the past two decades solitary living has increased 87 percent. The 2000 Census revealed that 26 percent of the population lives alone.
But those statistics weren't offering much consolation to me on empty Friday evenings. Intellectually it was nice to know that there were lots of people like me, but it didn't stop those lonely nights or disappointing endings to dating relationships. Watching my friends start families of their own made me feel as if I was failing.
After one serious breakup, I was grief-stricken. For months my goal was simply to make it through the week without dissolving into tears. But I was also praying, turning to God to listen for messages of comfort in the middle of what seemed to be an unbearable trial.
The messages came. One was found in the opening line of the 23rd Psalm, which begins, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."
This ancient biblical promise speaks so directly today to the human discomfort of moving on, whether it's from a cherished home, a job, or even an unhappy relationship.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, has a special way of interpreting the 23rd Psalm: "[DIVINE LOVE] is my shepherd," she wrote, "I shall not want" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 578).
I began to let this thought nudge me forward, away from ruminating over the lost relationship. I realized that if love is what guides me forward, how could it be missing from my journey?
Instead of praying to bring love back into my life, I started letting love move me through life. And that meant loving every minute of it, even when the hours seemed too quiet.
I made the effort to appreciate the ways goodness appeared in my life, even simple things such as the late- afternoon sun filtering through my windows or a helpful gesture from a total stranger. Recognizing the completeness of my day when it seemed easier to feel lonely opened my thought to making new friends and enjoying the rhythm of my work.
Feeling complete without being in a relationship doesn't mean resignation to living a life of solitude. It means being completely willing to love, even if it feels hard.
This understanding can relieve singles from feelings of anxiety for not finding the "right one," and it can even free those in relationships from concerns about being with the "wrong one."
For me, accepting that I wasn't missing out on the good in my life lifted those depressing feelings of loss. What I did finally lose was that nagging question: "What's wrong with me?"
I'm no longer afraid of being alone on Friday nights, even if they are a bit quiet, because a Love-filled quiet isn't lonely at all.
Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine Mind. Desire is prayer; and no loss
can occur from trusting God
with our desires,
that they may be moulded and
exalted before they take form
in words and in deeds.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Founder of Christian Science)