What to say when asked why you're single.

Well, here we are.

It’s that time of year when you’re attending parties and stuff and people like to be curious (read: rude) and ask about your relationship status, assuming and asserting in their question that you’re doing something WRONG if you’re still single. Meanwhile they walk into the next room and have a co-dependent cat fight with the person they hate but can’t quit on or leave. And you’re like, “really? I’m supposed to want THAT for myself?”

Mmmm. I know you’re thinking #notallrelationships but, there’s a part of you that knows I’m right. Right? Right.

I’m sort of kidding here. Of course I know there are many people who find the loves their lives and feel really happy. But from conversations in coaching sessions and also with friends or peers, it’s been a real eye-opener for me how many relationships aren’t the wedded/partnered bliss that I once believed from what’s being portrayed. I think it’s important to unpack that and make it more real.

The questioning about relationship status happens whatever age you are but especially in middle and late adulthood, when social expectations about partnership and family are fierce. Being single during these years often has a negative stigma which is hilarious because I believe most people are more miserable than they are happily matched. Don’t let people make you think otherwise.

Is being single lonely? Sure. Sometimes.

Is being single awesome? YES! You get all the time to do all the things!

Is being single some indication of you being broken or weird or some other word because you don’t fit into a widely-regarded yet rarely-explored social norm? NOPE.

Finding a partner you truly love and respect is awesome. If you’re monogamous and that’s your thing, of course. Finding a happy partnership could, and should(?), really add benefit for your life. But being single has its merits and there’s no need to keep struggling and suffering about your status for yet another holiday season—and beyond.

Unlike what people may try to insinuate, being single may indicate you have one of three things:

1) taste- you don’t settle. It’s just not how you’re built. You have standards and you stick to them and don’t really feel inclined to deviate. Rigorously high standards? What IS too high, really? People don’t come with return receipts without some fallout so…you peruse the merchandise more carefully before choosing.

2) self-confidence- sure, being single can be weird sometimes when you’re hanging around a bunch of people who partnered up from fear of being alone (OFTEN) or because they actually love the person they’re with (RARE) but only if you think about it from the lens of lack. BE CONFIDENT and you will soon see things for how they really are. Hint: listen carefully when couples interact with each other. It reveals a lot.

3) patience- I mean, what’s the rush? Finding someone to be with just so you can fit in or feel “normal”? So you can spend your best years playing games or struggling in power dynamics that leave you exhausted? What if you waited until you’re more mature and got yourself figured out well and then find someone who has also done that work. EUREKA! Sounds like heaven to me. People used to get hitched so young because they had livestock to care for and needed bodies to tend the critters. These people also died by the age of 40. We aren’t there anymore. We can do things differently. Take your time.

***NOW. If you are single from fear of commitment or because you seem to have some behaviors that limit your emotional availability or…something else a coach or therapist can help you with, I suggest you look into getting some support. It IS worth exploring why you’re single if you feel fear or discomfort about your status.***

After being single for so many years (I’ve lost count now), someone asked me the other day if I wanted to be partnered again. It was interesting to be asked that and I wondered if it’s because it’s SUCH a cultural expectation even if you, like I, feel pretty content with your single-hood. While I grieved the person or the loss of my past relationships, I never really had baggage around being a single person. I see people strugging around it probably because they’re concerned with what people think of them. I do worry about this, for other reasons, but not because I feel insecure about being single. Being selectively single for this many years has allowed me time and space to witness other peoples’ relationships and reflect on my own over the years. All this introspection helps me be really clear and intentional about who I’d like to be and what I’d really want in my next relationship. And that’s exactly what I told the person who asked me.

I hope this is helpful if you’ve been feeling badly about being single or unsure what to say when asked about it. You may find even more peace if you consider how much the culture is obsessed with partnering up even when it doesn’t serve people or make them satisfied. And it’s amusing how people project their expectations onto you. People may even feel envious or, in some cases, even threatened by someone being single, often because they are unsatisfied in whatever arrangement they have and desperately crave the freedom that comes with single-hood. When they ask you, remember this, and you might inspire them with your empowered answer!!

If people come at you with their weirdness about your life choices, you can use one of these cleverly-crafted replies below. If you want to quote me, GO FOR IT. Share the love. ;)

Just do whatever you need to do to feel good about your status as a single person and take action to change it, only if you WANT to.

If people ask why you're still single, you can reply:

1) because I'm not insecure and don't need to fit into societal expectations

2) because I'm waiting to find an emotionally mature partner and haven't met that person yet

3) because I'm working on my own personal development until I feel confident and mature enough to make a good partner

4) I feel confident I will find the right person when the time is right, and I don't need to force anything

5) I'm content living by myself and enjoy my solitude

6) I'd rather invest in myself and my friends and not chase people around just to look "normal" 

7) I don't feel incomplete without a partner, so I can be patient to find the right one

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Even bodhisattvas have breakdowns.

While I claim the identity of a bodhisattva, someone who takes on suffering in life as a choice to help others find freedom, but there are days when even I have breakdowns.

Like many people, sometimes I just can’t even.

I can’t be perfectly patient.

I can’t be in ten places at once.

I can’t be fully prepared.

I can’t be supremely compassionate and calm.

I can’t be all things to all people every moment of my life.

And even though my soul chose the bodhisattva identity, there are times where I’d like to opt out. I’d like to feel less responsible for people waking up to make things better in the world. I’d like to feel less struggle with a simultaneous responsibility to do something with it for the benefit of others. I’d like to have been born into the world with more resources and a better head-start in life. I’d like to feel more brave and bold like I used to be, before my own trauma when my eyes were really opened to the tremendous state of human suffering and how we are all struggling to find some air and room for ourselves.

I’d like to just be a human being and not a superhuman bodhisattva. And whether you choose that identity for yourself, Buddhist or not, maybe you can relate to that feeling of breakdown. When you put your face in your hands and shake your head. When you take a knee. When you want to give the burden on your shoulders to another person for a minute, even if it’s one you’ve chosen for yourself.

The beauty of breakdowns is that they lead to breakthroughs, if we can find a wider perspective.

So I do that. I give myself permission to take a moment and find that perspective. When we make space for ourselves, we allow the breakdown to be what is it for the moment. When we allow the breakdown, we generate the process of the breakthrough.

So for the moment, I just decide that I’m tired or overwhelmed or just don’t have it in me that day. I decide to give myself permission for taking on a big task and doing it to the best of my ability on any given day. I choose to say, “this is what I’ve got to give” instead of trying to pour from an empty cup. The moment of self-compassion and reality check leads to more clarity to move forward. That’s the breakthrough to the next moment of being more fully human, imperfectly.

I just hung up from coaching some new health coach students and we all talked about surrender. And surrender feels like freedom, they said. It’s not about pushing but it’s about allowing.

So we can apply the word surrender to this process. Surrendering to the stuff on our shoulders and giving ourselves a chance to rest. Seeing what we’ve taken on and whether it’s serving us. Selectively choosing what we keep for the next part of our path.

Bodhisattvas are often activists. And activism can kill or cure the very purpose or people we’re trying to serve. If we’ve reached the place where it’s the former more than the latter, choosing to have a breakdown helps us break through to our real, actual intentions to make the world a better place.

As this time of year rolls around and the pressure mounts to be in a million places and buy a million things, we can lose sight of the meaning of the holiday season.

A momentary breakdown may lead you back to why it’s meaningful for you.

Happy Holidays!

Going Home for a Fresh Start

Last week I got a text from my friend.

“This might be something you want to do,” he said.

It was an opportunity to share a story on stage at WGBH: Stories from the Stage in Boston. I replied, “UM, YEAH!!!”

And so that’s what I did.

I left at 4:45am in the morning and drove back Home to Boston where I lived from 2006-2016 to tell a story on stage about coming back home to New Jersey this year and what it’s been like for me. I had less than a week to work out all the details and the hardest part was how to navigate the major point of why they invited me to share: because I’m transgender.

I struggled with it, wondering if I was being tokenized or provided an opportunity to share my story. After feeling a lot of feelings and almost not going at all and then processing since leaving the stage that evening, I’ve come to realize it’s always probably going to be a little bit of both moving forward. It comes with the territory of having a marginalized identity in a time of rapid cultural change. I’m choosing to embrace what feels uncomfortable about that and be grateful for what’s wonderful about it. Just surrendering to it being both/and, the Middle Way that Buddhism teaches me to embrace.

It’s the best way to be myself, which is the talk I walk for my readers and fans and followers and friends. I’ve been doing it since becoming a coach in 2009. After spending six years navigating my business “rebrand” by myself, I felt relieved to have words to share in ways I wanted to for the pre and post interviews at WGBH. And I told my story in a way that shared my experience and helped evolve our culture forward a few notches. At least I hope so.

I told a story of going back to a place I once worked and how it felt to be there among people who once knew me. It involved having a major panic attack and calling my mom and was full of really relatable themes and issues any person can relate to. I am really proud of that story and I hope I’m able to share it more widely soon.

Going back Home has been a deeply intuitive journey. I stopped trying to plan or strategize back in 2016 when my Vermont move showed me how wonderful it is when we let go and jump. I lost some of my joy and playful spirit when my sublet in Boston last June coincided with Jim’s sudden death. He was my therapist of ten years and my rock. The shock of that sent me reeling and I struggled to find my feet and know what to do next. I just kept following my gut and ended up right back where I left in 2006.

And wonderful things are happening from this fresh start. I’m reuniting with my mom and forging a wonderful relationship. I’m meeting new people and making new friends and catching up and building new relationships with people I knew before. I’m spending most of my time alone, actually, having become a bit of a hermit these past few years. I don’t mind it and actually prefer it. I’m consciously integrating past and current versions of me and it’s making my brain explode but it is an essential part of my journey so I can help others. I couldn’t have predicted this is how my life would go but as it all unfolds, it makes perfect sense.

I think it’s true for every person. We grow and evolve as much as we allow ourselves to do it. Most people limit themselves more than anything. There’s a safety in staying the same but we stay stagnant to the extent that we let fear ride shotgun.

I spoke to someone in Boston who was born and raised there and has been very successful with his business. “But I’m really bored,” he said. I could see why he said that and I’m anything but bored and actually sometimes crave the consistency other people, like this man, have in their lives. But that quality about me, my literal inability to sit still for any extended period of time, has made me who I am today. I’m constantly seeking and searching for what’s next or the newer version of myself. It’s a gift for the work I do, and I keep this in mind when it feels challenging. It seems to be why I’m here.

And that was the fresh start I shared in my story on stage. I talked about how I’ve had to continually find more patience with the things people do and say to me since I came out as transgender and how much I’ve grown up from that experience. I literally am not the same person from the inside-out. Changing on the outside generated a total transformation and fresh start on the inside. But it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows as it may sound in hindsight. It’s been a difficult adjustment. It’s tested me like nothing else. But from the past six years, I’ve learned the invaluable lesson that we always control our response to any situation, we get unlimited fresh starts to be our most compassionate and patient self.

I had to leave Home to become this version of myself and come back Home to apply it. And then go back Home to Boston for a brief stint to see if staying where I am in New Jersey is what I really need to do. It was so tempting, to be back in a place that was familiar and fun and full of things that would make my life much easier than it feels right now. Where I am living, I am really being a trailblazer and I feel self-conscious much of the time. Rural New Jersey isn’t the metropolis of queer-friendly Boston. But it isn’t all that bad, either. In fact, I’m finding surprises around every corner and in people I would have ruled out based on my own assumptions. Isn’t it funny how we can do that? The way we make reasons why we can’t find freedom anywhere we choose to feel it.

Often we’re the very reason why.

And then I look down and see the tattoo on my arm, scrawled in my own handwriting that says, “the true home is within.”