On singleness, cops, crying in cars & trusting God

Yesterday was a weird day. A day that ended with me sitting in my car crying and having a cute cop pull up beside me, make me roll down my window, ask me if I was ok and offer to help me.

I know I posted my “bucket list” the other day and declared I would hold onto hope for better days and dreams coming true, but sometimes it’s still hard to believe for good things when so much pain, fear and disillusionment stare one in the face. I’ve been struggling over the last few days, even though Christmas itself was filled with family, friends, good food and a good time. This past evening things just seemed to spill over after I spent what was actually an enjoyable time with a sister and a cousin at the movies, watching the second installment of the “Hobbit” trilogy. (I still can’t quite get over the fact that Peter Jackson made three movies out of a very short children’s book…although, as a Tolkien fan, I’m not complaining.)

While we waited for the movie to start, my cousin and I spent some time chatting and catching up, since we don’t see each other very often, and as is usually the case, our conversation turned to our status as single women. She and I are eight days apart, in our thirties, and still, regrettably, unmarried. She related to me how her brother made some insensitive remarks to her on Christmas day, regarding her singleness, basically telling her she was “running out of time,” and not likely to ever get married if she didn’t get her act together soon. My heart went out to her, and as much as I love her brother, if he’d been present, I’d have been tempted to smack him. Anyway, she then went on to lament her single status and wonder why only older men and creepy guys seem to ask her out. I told her I seemed to have the same problem (and occasionally guys that are way too young), and that she certainly wasn’t alone in her feelings of “What’s wrong with me? and why do other people seem to have no problem getting married?” It’s especially demoralizing when those much younger than you–like those you used to babysit as children–are now getting married and having children. I felt that acutely just the other day when I noticed on Facebook the engagement of a young man eleven years my junior that I used to think of as a little brother. Ouch. I couldn’t help but turn my gaze heavenward and say, Ok, God, when’s it my turn?

Strangely enough, however, as my cousin continued to lament her singleness, and even as I commiserated with her, I tried to encourage her as well, especially when she told me she often felt angry at God over her singleness and was afraid she’d be single for the rest of her life. I told her to trust God, no matter what. To leave it in His hands. And, somehow, for her at least, I meant those words. I believed those words. And I genuinely want to see her happy and blessed with a husband. But, as I drove home, I couldn’t believe those words for myself. I’m not angry at God over my singleness like my cousin. But I am discouraged. And in a place of unwilling resignation over the fact that I may never get married. When I was younger, I had hope. But as I get older, that hope is quickly dwindling, as I realize the sad fact that men typically age better than women, and unless you’re the exception and one hot cougar, most men won’t look twice at an older woman. (If someone would like to contradict me on this assessment, I’d be happy to hear it. I’m just stating what I observe.)

So, as cruel and insensitive as my cousin’s words to his sister were, I concede there’s some truth to them. Even my other cousin, his sister, conceded that. And that’s why the words hurt so much. As women in our thirties, my cousin and I are definitely, in some ways, “running out of time.” Does that mean God can’t do the miraculous? I hope not. But, yes, a miracle is probably what it would take. Especially for someone in my situation. I actually have more hope for my cousin than myself because not only am I a woman of a certain age, but I feel led to a very specific calling in my life, one that most men wouldn’t want–or at least, all the men I’ve met so far don’t want. And it’s not something I’m willing to compromise on. As much as I want to get married, I know I wouldn’t be happy married to someone who didn’t share a similar calling/career.

So, I’m having to face the fact that, aside from divine intervention, I might very well never get married. And this thought, stirred up after my conversation with my cousin, as well as thoughts about my other current struggles, disappointments, and afflictions, eventually led to my sitting in my car in front of my house, pouring out frustrated tears to a God Who seems absolutely remote right now, and then having a cop pull up beside me, rap on my window, and shine a flashlight in my face. I looked up to see a young cop staring at me, and at his command, I rolled down my window. I couldn’t disguise the fact that I’d been crying, so he immediately asked if I was ok, and when I mumbled a “sort of,” he then proceeded to insist on helping me in some way. I expressed appreciation at this offer, but told him I lived at the house I was parked in front of, would be fine, and would be going inside momentarily. Thankfully, that seemed to assure him enough, and he left me after that. But, understandably, I was slightly embarrassed about the whole situation. It was certainly a first for me. (And it made me wonder why a cop was patrolling our street late at night.)

It also made me ponder the sad fact that most often the tears I shed are either completely unseen or seen by complete strangers. And that seems to be the story of my life. Unseen. Most of my pain and suffering have been completely hidden from those around me. And, ironically, that was one of the things I was railing against God about in my car. The fact that I’m so tired of feeling alone and unseen. Even though I have a big family and a few good friends who care about me, I just feel like I’m always floating on the fringes. That no one truly knows me. That no one has any idea of what I’m truly going through. Perhaps that’s one reason I desire marriage so much. Because if I felt truly seen and known by even one person, it would mean so much to me.

I’m trying to hold onto hope. To believe that maybe my circumstances will eventually change. To believe that God answers prayers and that some of my dreams will come true. To believe that the scary things I’m facing may not be as bad as I think they’ll be.

But sometimes I can’t help but shed frightened, frustrated tears. Because while it may be easy to tell others to simply “trust God,” trusting God myself is often the hardest thing to do.

The road goes ever on and on…

I’m still here.

Life has been interesting over the last few months. I finished up my summer math classes last month. I will dive back into school full time next week. Only two more semesters to go before I get my associate’s degree, and then hopefully onward and upward to the university where I hope to pursue my bachelor’s degree.

I had a birthday in July. I am officially starting to realize how old I am. Not a comforting thought.

My ESL class wraps up tomorrow night. I’ve had a fun and rewarding time teaching this class, and I’m going to miss my students, and fellow teachers, very much. Hopefully I’ll still be able to remain in touch and help out on occasion.

I was asked out recently by a gentleman at my church, who is apparently still smitten with me and trying to “woo” me, even though I politely turned him down. Ironically, I myself have, in recent months, “fallen” for another male friend of mine, who I’m quite certain will remain strictly “friend” material. I’ve determined I’m not ready for a relationship of any kind right now anyway.

But this has been my life lately. I guess I haven’t written anything here because I haven’t really felt the need to. Nothing huge has happened to me, nothing inspirational has struck me, nor have I been in such a despondent state that I’ve felt propelled to pour out the agonies of my soul onto this blog.

And maybe that’s a good thing. But, even though my life seems to be in a steady place right now, and I’ve definitely come a long ways from where I used to be, I’m far from “out of the woods” yet. I still have days where I cry myself to sleep, I still deal with a lot of pain, and I’m still facing some obstacles I have no idea how to overcome.

But I’m pressing on. Even though I still have no idea at times where my road is leading, whether God will ever totally heal and restore me, or whether my story will have a happy ending. I have to keep going, if for no other reason than to know my life wasn’t a waste. I have to believe that there is some eternal value to my life, even in its seeming insignificance, even in the depths of pain and darkness that I have endured. I have to believe that I’m here for a reason.

So, I echo with Bilbo in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings:

windingpathThe Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many path and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Losing Eden

Shattered. Hollow. Fractured. Battered. Bruised.

This is me. My soul. My brain. My heart. Who is this young woman? I barely know her anymore, she’s so far removed from the young woman and little girl I used to be.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon wandering through some of my childhood haunts, enjoying the peace, solitude, and beauty of a sunshiny autumn afternoon. The house I spent most of my childhood in now sits empty, victim of an unfavorable economy, and so I sauntered unhindered up the drive, my eyes scanning the place I once called home. A flood of memories washed over me….mostly good ones….ones of innocence and imagination and days spent in carefree abandon. I sat on the well in the back yard, reminiscing, remembering days gone by, in which I used to play in that back yard with my siblings. Tears slipped down my cheeks before I could help it.

Why is it we never really appreciate something till its gone? I’d give almost anything in the world to have my childhood back, to have my innocence back, to have my imagination back, to be that little girl I once was. Even with all her pain and heartache. Because my childhood was indeed painful. Often excruciatingly so. But the world was still less dark then than it is now, even with all the pain I experienced. I was naive then, not totally crushed and cynical like I am now. I coped because I could imagine my way out of my pain. I coped because I lived in an idyllic setting, out in the country, surrounded by acres and acres of woods, who always beckoned me with their comforting presence whenever I needed to get away for a good cry.

Though many of those trees I once called friends have now been cut down, I greeted the ones that remained yesterday, wondering if they remembered me. Of course, that may seem silly, but to a nearly friendless child, stately trees that never mocked or abused, but simply stood still and silent and listened to my outpoured heart, were often far better friends to me than humans were. I’ve always thought how much of a kindred spirit J. R. R. Tolkien would be to me, were he alive, for he seemed to have the same view of trees. I could so easily imagine, as he did in his Lord of the Rings books, trees being alive and having personalities. In my frequent wanderings in the woods growing up, I’d always imagine I was entering a magical realm, where the trees were more than mere trees, and perhaps lurking in their shadows were elves and dwarves, trying to evade my curious eyes.misc. 043

Such was my childhood. One that, despite the painful parts, contained enough beauty and innocence and imagination that I can look back now and wish I could somehow return. There’s such a big part of me that wishes I’d never lived past my childhood. That I might’ve been spared the extra trauma and pain and descent into darkness that has characterized the last 10 to 15 years of my life. That I could’ve stayed the innocent little girl I was, instead of morphing into this hollow, fractured, cynical woman I’ve become. Quite simply, I’ve lost myself. Especially within the last 5 years. Pain too deep to even describe has shattered my mind and heart, morphing me into someone I barely recognize anymore. How much better, I muse, to have died young, than to end up where I am now. I keep hoping I’ll wake up one morning and find out most of my life has merely been a bad dream.

But I keep waking up to darkness. To pain. To an overwhelming sense of loss. Where nothing makes sense anymore. Where I can no longer look at my life and believe there’s necessarily going to be a redemptive, fairy-tale ending. I used to believe that. Writing stories, believing good can eventually come from bad, helped me hang on. I could look at my life and say, things are bad, but they’ll get better. And I’ve been trying to tell myself that for over 20 years. Now, I struggle to believe that anymore.

And it’s not just my own pain and darkness that have fueled this cynicism. The increasing darkness all around me has also shattered the innocent, safe world I once knew. I now live in a world where I read a story about a little girl who was abused by her parents, then raped and killed by a predator. She had no fairy-tale ending. She never had a chance. Yesterday a young man opened fire in a school, taking the lives of twenty precious, innocent children. Those children never had a chance. No fairy-tale endings. Only darkness and tragedy.

I am not the only one shattered, fractured, battered, and bruised. It seems the world at large is careening toward the same abyss I am. I am not the same person I once was. Nor is the world the same world I once knew. Innocence has been lost. Light has been replaced by darkness. I think I understand a bit better now how Adam and Eve must’ve felt when kicked out of Eden. No matter how much they wanted to go back, to relive their innocence in that idyllic place, they were forever banished. And it feels like I too have been forever banished from the simple, innocent joys of days gone by, when life seemed a little more beautiful, and it made far more sense.

I have lost my Eden. I have lost myself. And though I can revisit my old haunts, and those haunts can conjure up sweet memories from the past, all I’m left with is a tantalizing taste, and not the real thing. I can never go back. No matter how hard I try.

I’m heartbroken.

Random thoughts on Old English, linguistics, hope, etc.

So, this is kind of a random post, but too much has been floating around in my brain for it all to stay there.

Lately, I have found a lovely distraction, which has caught the fancy of my geeky, language-loving side and totally taken flight. The fancy has always been lurking about in the back of my brain, due to my experience teaching English and my general love of the English language, but recently it’s taken on whole new dimensions, as I’ve been immersed in reading Old and Middle English literature for my English Literature class. I’ve been exposed to such wonders as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and these magnificent texts have sparked within me a desire to really delve into the history of the English language, and perhaps even learn Old English or Anglo-Saxon. If J. R. R. Tolkien were alive today, I would do everything in my power to befriend and become a pupil of that brilliant man, who was a professor of both Anglo-Saxon and English Language and Literature. Alas, since that is not an option, nor is going to a college where I could actually study Anglo-Saxon and Old English, I’ve decided to do the next best thing: study it on my own.

So this has been my interesting diversion of late. I’ve been reading a fascinating book called  The Stories of English by linguist David Crystal, and although I’m not even halfway into it, I’m totally mesmerized by all the intriguing info it contains on the history of our language and where so many of our words came from. I’ve also been scouring Youtube for videos on Old English, specifically ones that demonstrate how Old English was pronounced, and my favorite one I’ve found so far is this one:

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think Old English is hauntingly beautiful in its pronunciation, and this rendition of the Lord’s Prayer is simply majestic. (Not to mention I love the background of this particular video—it was shot on Arthur’s Seat, a beautiful, volcanic hill in Edinburgh, Scotland, which I climbed several times when I lived there many years ago. Makes me miss Auld Reekie!)

Of course, I know all this is just my geeky, language-loving side exhibiting itself, and I realize not everyone shares my enthusiasm for this particular subject, but I do wonder if anyone besides myself ever stops to reflect on why they say things the way they do or why a particular word is spelled in such and such a way? Do any of us who are native English speakers ever stop to think how we got our amazing language? I mean, can one imagine if we still spoke Old English, as it was demonstrated in the above video? If it weren’t for invasions by other cultures onto English soil, there’s a good chance we still might be speaking Old English today, or something very much like it. Which is fascinating to think about. It’s amazing how many different factors go into shaping the way we speak and communicate.

There’s a reason I want to become a linguist, if one can’t tell. Language just fascinates me. And I think too many people take it for granted far too much. The use of sophisticated and complex language is one of the primary traits that separates man from beast, after all. A world without words would just be stale, colorless, and devoid of so much meaning and beauty. I don’t think it’s an accident that the first words of John, in describing Jesus, are “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” God is the Word. Jesus is the Word. Wow. He’s the Ultimate Word. He is language personified, in a sense. And He gave us this gift called language to further demonstrate that we are created in His image. And so, I hope no one takes it for granted. It is an amazing, fascinating gift.

So, I don’t know if I’ll ever become fluent or proficient in Old English, but at least right now my fascination with the language, as well as my studies in English literature at school, are helping distract me from other painful circumstances in my life. If I have nothing else to aim for right now, maybe hoping for that degree one day, and using that degree to help others, can help me hang on. Can help me get through the bad bits. God has given me a gift, and a desire to learn, and I certainly don’t want to waste that.