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!

The best way to beat a craving.

I didn’t know I was a sugar addict until it was too late.

Well, I guess it’s never too late but I used that phrase to catch your attention (which I’m supposed to do, according to marketers) and also as a confession to let you know about my addiction to sugar. And this is my Halloween-themed post for you. Kind of about sugar, mostly about cravings and how to beat them.

Sugar is one of my two main addictions. The other addiction I struggle with is critical mind. I’ve made major strides with that this year and I’m SO HAPPY! Critical mind is the tendency to mercilessly judge oneself and others. It often comes out as gossip and complaint but I’ve worked for years to the point that it’s mostly happening in my mind right now, not coming out as words very often at all. Not that it makes it OK! It’s just less…harmful. And that’s my work as a bodhisattva. To bring LESS HARM to myself and the world.

So what’s worked? What’s worked to help me do this and make kind of progress to beat my craving to use my killer insight and judgement to slay others down with one spiteful strike of my intellect?

What’s worked to help me refrain from lashing out and saying things I don’t mean (ok, maybe I mean them a little—or A LOT) to take back later (see previous parenthesis)?

What’s worked to stop engaging with people on Facebook when they’re saying things that make me want to bang my head against a wall or Google their address to go tell them off in person?

Well, it’s the same thing that helps me beat my cravings for sugar. I didn’t know I had a sugar problem until I became a health coach. I didn’t know when my liver got so toxic from sugar addiction to assuage my grief in my mid-20s. I didn’t know when I’d pass out comatose on Sundays mornings from eating sugar to recover from a week’s worth of teaching (betcha didn’t know I was a teacher back in the day).

I didn’t know I was addicted to sugar when I gained a ton of weight after moving away from home in New Jersey to Boston in 2006 and getting a full time job that felt fun and also f*^&ed up in more than a few ways and I used my addiction to sugar to compensate and got chronic colds and sinus infections month after month.

But after becoming a health coach I DID know I was addicted to sugar. So when I found myself wandering around the country last year as a major part or phase of my own healing process and I used sugar, I did it less. I was more mindful of it. I still eat sugar to feel better. It’s probably never going to NOT be part of my life because I refuse to quit it because my relationship to it has changed, for the better.

Because I’ve found the best way to beat a craving is by using a skill I learned as a health coach: give into it. Turns out you CAN have your cake and eat it, too. Someone I met this week told me we all have that saying all wrong, but I used my mindfulness of critical mind to embrace his opinion and be curious instead of think he was mansplaining. See! It’s awesome!

Yes, giving into a craving is indeed the best way to beat it. Whether it’s sugar or critical mind or coffee or other things. I suppose some hard drugs don’t really count, but I don’t know from my own experience but only from losing a dear friend to suicide two years ago.

I suppose if folks like him who USE those hard drugs allowed themselves less harmful substances in moderate amounts instead, they might not have the cravings for those really harmful things. Buddhism says the suffering that causes addiction of any kind is caused by a craving of a much deeper nature. Perhaps people could find how to alleviate that suffering caused by craving such severe substances by using gentler substances and it might help to wean them. I’ll probably get myself in a lot of trouble for saying that. I’m saying it anyway.

The fundamental source of craving is a feeling of lack. It’s part of being human. Because Western society (a.k.a. THE UNITED STATES—and anyone else?) makes us feel really bad about being human beings in general, we’re set up to feel lacking most of the time. Marketing is really good at capitalizing on this so it sells anything and everything to us all day long we never have to feel lack.

We get really bad at embracing lack of loneliness or low vibe feelings in general. We can just buy something to make it better. But is that always bad? Might it be part of the solution?

I say YES! But it all depends on your mindfulness and awareness of it. If you’re not behind the wheel and just buying and giving into your craving from impulse on auto-pilot, you have no mastery over yourself. The craving HAS YOU.

For example, like last month, I bought two bags of candy corn. One for me and one for my colleagues.

They destroyed the one I bought in less than a week. And it was a 3 pound bag!

My 1 pound bag lasted several weeks, and in fact I think it got stale and I threw the rest away. How did I do that? Because I let myself buy the candy corn, the first time I bought it in many many years, and I let myself have it. I let myself have a few pieces when I got the craving and I stopped with that small handful.

It’s the same technique I use every single day. And there are probably plenty of health coaches who think I still eat too much sugar to be a good role model for my clients. And to those people, I try not to give into my addiction of my critical mind and judge them and their opinions of me based on their own insecurities about themselves. Whoops. Did I just think that out loud?

OK! See how it works?

The best way to beat a craving is just a constant process of seeing the craving, knowing what’s happening and using our minds and our decisions to give into the craving consciously.

Happy Halloween!