Loves me, loves me not. The old daisy petals thing. Loves me - elation, relief, joy. Loves me not - gloom, misery, the pouts. Young, free, and single may have a romantic ring to it, but what if you're not happy?
Let's say you feel you're getting old, less attractive than you were, and think that romance has passed you by. Maybe a broken relationship has jaded your attitude toward life and love. Or you're alone after the death of someone you love. Each year when Valentine's Day retailers blare hearts and flowers at us, it can bring insecurities and sadness to the fore if you aren't in a romantic relationship.
It begs the question - can single people really be happy? Or are they just in that state biding their time until they find that elusive perfect partner?
Society has typically associated alone with lonely. Single people can find themselves the subject of well-meant but nevertheless patronizing comments, excluded from social events, or worse, paired off with someone with whom they have little or nothing in common. Government policies designed to enhance family living inadvertently stigmatize the single state. Yet, in Britain, for example, one fifth of the adult population is now single.
I had to get a better view of being single a few years ago when many of my friends got married at around the same time. Panic started to set in. Would I be left on the shelf? What about having babies? What if nobody loved me?
They were all rational questions, but they bore closer examination. I realized they all centered around me. Although caring for a husband and a family was selfless enough, I found my main motives, well disguised, were a fear of solitude and a feeling that a family of my own was a security valve for the future.
I started to search in the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, for a more generous and selfless sense of my identity. I wanted a purpose that didn't have me as the object. In one of Mrs. Eddy's books I found the question "What am I?" with the interesting answer, "I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 165).
That was a shift. I wanted to accept this as my life purpose. There was no condition there, no limitation as to how, when, where, or with whom I could impart truth, health, and happiness. And what else would I want to do?
My life began to change. The opportunity arose to travel, to help and heal others, and to pursue a whole new career. There was no shortage of children either; I was asked to teach a Sunday School class of three-year-olds.
At this point, you might expect me to say "and I met a wonderful man and we've lived happily ever after." But I haven't. And it doesn't matter. Over the years extraordinarily interesting people from every continent have visited my home, and I've also loved those quiet moments by myself. Fulfillment and completeness are never material conditions. Peace of mind comes with recognizing that a power greater than ourselves governs and orders our lives. Sharing and intimacy aren't greater qualities than independence and self-completeness. Love can be expressed anywhere at any time, and can't be absent or lost.
Mary Baker Eddy's life included disappointment and betrayal. She was widowed twice and also went through a divorce. Her one child was taken from her when he was very young, and she never had a close relationship with him after that.
It seems to me that her experience taught her that human closeness isn't always reliable, and may not be the solution to a problem that we expect it to be. And yet she unselfishly persevered in helping to heal rifts in human relationships. She included a chapter on marriage in her textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," and toward the end of her life founded this newspaper, whose object is "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind."
So, if you're facing grief or loneliness, or still haven't found that perfect partner, remember this: you are "able to impart truth, health, and happiness." You're reading a newspaper whose object is to bless all of humanity. There are countless concrete ways you can make this object your own - and find that the blessing includes you.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society