Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Another Guest Post from Stella

As a never married single adult in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I have seen many changes in my peers, in the efforts of the church and in the general attitude among members. Most of these changes have been very positive as understanding has increased. I can honestly say that my ward loves me and that I am a welcome member but please do not mistake that to mean that I fit or that I belong there. As the sole single (active) member of my ward under the age of 60 I can say without pause that every week the effort that it takes to go to church, slap a smile on my face, and act like it doesn't hurt is a herculean effort. I cry my eyes out on a weekly basis as I drive home from my meetings and remind myself of everything I know to be true - Heavenly Father loves me, He hasn't forgotten me, I am being given these experiences to strengthen me and to make me the woman I need to be. I remind myself of every church talk I have ever heard about patience, about enduring to the end, about the importance of every member and then I cry anyway.

The thing that I see missing is simply this: while the gospel is perfect and following its principles is the ONLY thing on this earth that will make us happy and please our Heavenly Father there is a great disconnect between the principles I learn at church and my life. I support 100% the strengthening of families and the importance of raising children. I support 100% my RS lessons that remind each sister how important her job at home is. I believe these are good and true principles and I fight every day for the family in my work as a social worker. I am convinced that these lessons should be taught and that we all need to take part. But what about me? What do I do with this besides suffer through it and not let others see my heart literally aching in my chest? After 5 years in my ward I'm happy to report that I've learned the skills necessary to keep great suffering (and make no mistake it is SUFFERING) inside so that I don't make others uncomfortable and so I don't give the appearance of faithlessness. I have had the blessing of holding important callings in my ward and (so I'm told) that my fellow sisters admire me. If I can show strength in the face of great trial then I hope that I can inspire others to do the same.

So what do I need? The only time I feel normal and the pain goes away is in the company of fellow singles. Unfortunately in my area most are inactive and the few who are active are so spread out that it's difficult to maintain any type of closeness. As a never married woman with no children I feel especially unique. I have kept my Temple covenants and have continued to go to church and almost as great as the desire for a husband and family of my own is the desire for female friends who are like me. I am tired of meeting only those who have fallen away and are struggling to come back. I simply am not strong enough right now, I need friends who have strong testimonies and who get what I'm going through and have been going through my entire adult life. I need friends who have Temple recommends who go to church and who haven't let the anger and depression overtake them. I am tired of struggling all by myself. I know that I am loved. I know that my church leaders, family and married friends pray for me and hurt for me but unless you've walked this path you don't get it. You don't understand the CONSTANT fight with anger, depression, doubts of value and worth, faith and endurance. It never ends and Sundays are, for me, the worst day of the week. It shouldn't be like this.

I know the Lord has provided us the way to endure this life and has taught us what to do but in the face of heart breaking loneliness and despair where too many women never date, never feel like they have value it is much too easy to fall away when you have no support group. We need each other. We need programs just for us, the mid singles where we don't need to fight off the advances of men older then our fathers. We need a place where the inactive can return, find their place and grow. Activities just don't seem to be cutting it. If I have to go to another dance, or another activity that is just like the ones I went to as a YW and then a YSA - well truthfully I stopped going a long time ago. I am a grown woman and I have no more interest in these weekly activities then any other adult person. My life goals have nothing to do with my social life.

I want a ward full of people like me. I want to stop feeling like a left over. I did not knowingly or willingly choose this path and I honestly don't know what I could have done differently. I want to be treated like an adult of course but I don't want to have activities and services geared towards me and others like me to be fit around everything else. I do not want to go to the 8pm SA Temple session because someone thinks that's when we want to go. I am a woman in her 30's with a full time career, a part time job and I am as tired at 8pm as anyone else. I have heard it said that we shouldn't label ourselves as single - but I don't know how to stop doing that. I am single, in a church that celebrates marriage and family I am SINGLE. I go to Single Adult Activities, my church records list me as single, with a simple N/A under husband and children. I am the sister who is scared to death to sit by herself at church because I am alone. Calling it something different does not change or alter that. In a faith that promotes and encourages happy marriages I am all alone with little prospects because the prospects aren't showing up. I believe, well I have to believe, that if a mid-singles ward were available in my area I would at the very least have an opportunity to have single girlfriends though my hearts desire is and as far as I can tell, will continue to be the hole only filled by my husband and children.

I want to know that the righteous men of the church are being held to a high standard. Are they being asked about their dating habits in their quorums, during their Temple recommends? I want to know that the church is doing what they can to keep our men on the straight and narrow (and though I know free agency will always prevail) I want to know that while my blessings are being withheld those who have the power to bless me are, at the very least, being held accountable for their decisions.

So how do we fix this - I don't know. I don't consider this 'issue' a problem the church has created. I believe that individuals have created this need through their choices. For example I met a truly fantastic guy at an activity a few weeks ago. We spent the entire activity together laughing and talking and shared many similar interests. He is a good man, served a mission, went to college, has a good job and hallelujah! doesn't live with his parents. He invited me on a group date. Well not so much a date as said we should do something and get a bunch of people together. I should take a moment and note that during the course of our day together I learned that he 1) wants a wife desperately, 2) has no interest in ANY of the girls in our area, and when asked what he did want responded 3) "I want her to be hot." I try very hard to see boys in a positive light and not 'man bash' but in my opinion this good brother with his balding head and extended belly has left the running for a 'hot' woman and should have enough maturity to be thankful at finding a good, righteous woman who is quite stunning and who can look past his physical self and see all the wonderful things that he is.

I don't know the right answers to meet these needs. I believe a ward just for mid-singles is a great start. It would encourage those who have left to come back. They aren't alone anymore and they don't need to be lonely. Activities that are different then those we've been doing for 20 years would be wonderful. Something fitting for adults - theatre, travel, small dinner groups. Something that doesn't make us dance. I would even encourage 'planting' men into the group to show the other men how to do it. This is how you ask a girl to dance, this is how you compliment a woman and not be afraid that she's going to interpret this as a marriage proposal, this is how you take the lead with a woman and make her feel special and respected.

Yes, these are the things I want. If anyone has any idea on how to accomplish it I'm listening.