Dear Single Sisters,
Lately, I’ve run into a lot of fabulous, beautiful single women who can’t find someone brave enough to show up for them.
I am one of those women, just like you. We are beautiful, growing in our solitude, and looking for someone fearless and strong enough to rock our world.
Life gets hard over here in the land of no-rocking, so let me tell you something about prayer and loneliness.
I’ve been on my knees. Many times, in fact, with a prayer rug and loneliness spread beneath me. And while bending down on that rug, I’ve wailed something awful. I’ve screamed until I tasted blood in the back of my throat, and blood and salty tears is the most pitiful, foulest drink to swallow. It tastes like decaying flesh. It is death.
Sometimes, it tastes like being born again.
Not so long ago, all sorts of promise showed up in my life. Then, these good things were snatched from me. I got down and my knees and I prayed. I said some pretty nasty things to God. I can’t do this anymore. Whatever lesson I’m supposed to learn here, I don’t get it. I’m a failure. And God, you suck. You are so full of shit.
Yes, I felt rotten telling God to suck it, but God knew what I felt even if I wasn’t wailing it out loud. Part of my despair wasn’t just that doors keep slamming shut, but that I was all by myself in trying to manage the various closures.
Don’t judge me for getting real during prayer. Whatever you bow to — God, the Universe, or whatever — you know exactly how I feel. You’ve been there. At some point, you’ve been that broken, that alone.
Solitude is a world of horror.
Sometimes, solitude is a world of possibility.
I think that statement is true for many women who are in single player mode after having loved someone. Or even while loving someone.
I am going to be straight up with you: there are days my body aches for touch. I want the little habits that make a life, like folding a man’s laundry. I want someone to sip Pho with from the other side of the table. There are moments I desire to reach out and touch the soft hair on a man’s arm. Not just any man — my man. I want one of my own.
When a relationship ends, the ground underneath starts to sink. Then, there is this other possibility – the hope that another dimension can unfold. The truth is, sometimes both things happen at once. Being single at any age can be messy, lonely – so lonely – and sometimes magical.
There are two relationship truths in the world, so listen carefully: It isn’t easy being by yourself. It is so hard to be with someone.
Before I met my first husband, I would journal about being lonely, too flawed for love, too much of everything for anything. Then, I married a man with five kids, plus one we eventually had together.
You know something?
I was still alone.
One night a few months ago during one of those nights when the air was thick enough to suggest a shift in the ether, I opened journals that I had kept during my marriage. No matter what country I lived in at the time, no matter what exciting adventure was possible, one sentence occurred entry after entry: I hate my life.
Those four words appeared so many times that it became a mantra: I hate my life. What a sad thing to know. I cried for for myself and for my husband, who really did try. I had consented to a life that wasn’t me. In return, I died a bit each day. Slow self-decay is a bitch. It isn’t fair to those you love, including yourself.
I had been dying for a long time.
Disintegration happened because I didn’t know how to celebrate myself while alone. Annihilation occurred once I married, which I did to solve the problem of loneliness. Upon reflection, marriage was like asking an alcoholic to cure her thirst with whiskey. I was drunk on the idea of something being better than nothing.
I don’t know if you understand what it feels like to spend half of your dying. But the hardest moment in your life will be when you realize you are tired of the descent. You will have a choice to make. To be honest, the path of least resistance is to accept decay. Just stay where you are. Just rot. You are already decomposing anyway, so maybe you won’t notice as your bones melt into the earth.
Girl, the choice to live will begin with pain and uncertainty. And it will start in that deep, deep place of being still with yourself.
Here is a mercy: you get to come into the world again. Rebirth is hard work. You start over like a blood clot. Then you are an embryo that grows a new heart and a stronger spine with limbs that curl and grasp and then you push yourself through a bloody birth canal and land into the world small, but wiser. You emerge a soft little soul with some age on you. Soft little souls can be really annoying. I did time as a reborn baby soul metaphorically hitting a beautiful bald man that I loved. I couldn’t help it. My newly formed limbs were flinging all over the place. I think I probably puked on him a few times. You know, like baby spit-up, because I couldn’t keep all the newness of my life in my stomach. You’ll do that, too. You’ll emotionally vomit on a few folks. Some will forgive you for it, others won’t. Whatever.
Two magical and wonderful things happened while during the gestation: I rose up to the act of writing, and writing loved me back. When I say this relationship saved me, I mean it. No one has ever showed up with as much glory as my writing. I’ve never gotten naked with a man like I have on the page. Writing taught me how to show up for myself, and that is what the best relationships teach us to do. So hear this: only in solitude do you learn to identify the things that really save you.
The second wonderful thing that manifested in my life: the most gorgeously generous women the Universe had to offer. I mean this. These women held me, feed me, drew baths for me, offered their homes, lives, and stories to nourish me when mine felt so depleted. These were women nearby and far away, and they formed a brigade of girl power with a force field that declared: Don’t mess with Deonna. Don’t you dare. And in return, I gave them grace-space to cry at my table, to send me frantic emails, to read their manuscripts and coddle their personal frustrations. These women taught me how to receive love and how to give it back. The next man who sits at my table will have a host of women to thank for preparing me for his feast.
We love the men in our lives — but there is something sacred about the sisterhood. Don’t underestimate the power of the sisterhood. One of these wonderful women said to me, “Romantic partners aren’t the only relationships that count. Friends can also serve as a reflection of who we are, and if you’ve got some quality people in your life, then you know you are bad ass.” So that is lesson number two you, my single sister: let good people into your life that help you celebrate your bad assness.
This is important, because you aren’t always going to feel so great about yourself. We all do this, every one of us – we question if we are pretty enough, smart enough, lucky enough to find that next relationship, job, or life achievement. Everyone single woman out there wonders at least once if she is worth being loved or if she is some glitch in the system. I hear you, sister. I know what you are feeling. You are worth the solitude, and you are worth the love coming your way. But if you are like me, you will believe this truth only part-time. There will be days that your imperfections will beat the crap out of you. There are moments you will be so weathered down that you are on your knees swallowing blood and snot during your prayers because don’t feel worthy of the life you’ve been given. Here is a clichéd truth but one worth repeating: we don’t get the love we want, but we do get the love we need. It doesn’t always arrive the way we expect, but it arrives if we let it happen. Let it happen.
Sometimes, that love isn’t going to enter as romance, but it arrives when someone shares that you’ve empowered them, or that without you being who you are, their life would be less kind, more horrid. You don’t have to have a partner to know that you are making a difference to someone out in the world. Lesson number four: learn to identify the ways in which you matter to people.
Most of us are hardwired for meaningful companionship, I believe, so to desire it is normal. Intimacy transforms the self, being the world with someone else makes your world bigger, more beautiful.
But we also forget that the other side of any spiritual practice is solitude. Meditation. Mindfulness. All the great men and women of any spiritual heritage spent time alone in an act of self-care and spiritual development. There is also transformative potential in being still with yourself. Being one isn’t necessarily a lonely number; that number also represents the unity of all connected things. There are some things you can only know about yourself in solitude, that great magical revelations about the cosmos rarely arrive when our space is crowded.
I want you to know that you are beautiful and brave. I want you to believe me when I say this, because it is the truth.
I want to tell you that the world will reward your soul beauty with a partner. But, the bizarre nature of the universe is that good men and women don’t always find their counterparts. If this happens in your life, you will survive. In fact, you will do better than that: you will be powerful effervescence. Your journey, partnered or not, is to discover your badass light and keep lesser people from swallowing the whole of it.
Deonna Kelli Sayed is a published author and digital storyteller. She is a recipient of a 2013 North Carolina United Arts Council Regional Artist Grant and a 2015 Wildacres Writing Residency. Deonna’s work is featured in the forthcoming anthology, Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminist and Why We Stay. You can be part of her badass world on Twitter and Facebook.