Sunday, April 29

Lonely Doesn't Mean Alone

I had a mission companion who told me one day that he wanted to travel the world before he got married. Take a backpacking tent, a passport, and nothing else... and spend a few years away from the stresses and pressures of America's fast-paced culture.

At the time, I was confused. Mostly because the conversation was on marriage and when we wanted to pursue it. Marriage and having a family has been the deepest desire I've ever had since I was a little kid. There's nothing I want more, and I had expressed a desire to find a wife as soon as I could, marry her in the temple, and then grow together. If I took a backpacking trip, it would be with someone. The fear of being single for the rest of my life was still somewhat poignant, even though it was at the back of my consciousness.

So when he honestly wanted to put marriage off for a few years of uncommitted single living, that was completely foreign to me.

Ironically, the tables have turned in reality. My companion came home and got married far faster than he or I expected. He never took his trip into the backcountry of the world. I, on the other hand, am obviously not married (otherwise I definitely wouldn't be blogging on a topic like this). I've traveled and spent far more time alone... and that time has given me room to ponder.

I watched a clip from Ty and Danielle Mansfield's interview for Far Between a few days ago. Far Between is a project by LDS filmmaker Kendall Wilcox, asking men and women one simple question - What is it like to be Mormon and gay/same-sex attracted/SGA/whatever?

Ty was a co-author for In Quiet Desperation, a book on same-sex attraction published by Deseret Book. But the part of the interview that intrigued me was his comment on the pathway that got him there. First he had been afraid of being alone. Then he came to terms with the possibility and accepted the reality that he might be single for all of mortality. Then he learned to enjoy life. And then he found someone that he loved.

I've heard countless times in marriage prep courses that "if you aren't happy while you're single, you won't be happy while you're married," but in my heart I don't think I really believed the statement. I mean, the Church teaches that some of the greatest happiness in life comes from having a family and raising children, right? That means that not having a family, not being married, necessarily also equates to having an inferior level of happiness. So the "be happy while you're single" thing must be hogwash.

Except it's not.

There's a reason why raising a righteous family and being married in the temple lead to happiness. It's found in Mosiah 2:41.

And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

Lasting happiness comes from keeping the commandments of God and choosing the right. Which means that what I need to do to find happiness is simply based on doing the right things in my life, today. The Church teaches the importance of families because, in most cases, the right thing for young single adults is to get married. In the case of my companion, it was the right thing to do. In mine, the Lord had other timing in His Plan.

I'm not really sure how I feel about being alone. I still have a lot of major issues to work through, and even though I'm convinced I'll get married in this life, I still have a fear in the back of my mind that I've somehow sold my birthright... and lost that blessing for all eternity.

I am learning that alone doesn't mean lonely. I'm lonely when I feel like no one understands, or cares, and that I'm not making a difference in the world. There are definitely times in my life when I feel lonely. I also have depression, and those go hand-in-hand. But there are also times when I feel like I understand what my companion, and Ty, meant when they talked about their happy single lives. The ability to help others without major time commitments. The ability to change directions and take social, professional, and emotional risks without fear of hurting others. And a forced reliance on the Lord as Counselor, Teacher, and Friend.

There are lots of married people who feel lonely... and lots of single people who don't. Part of it may be external - the people surrounding them - but I don't think that's most of it. Loneliness, like happiness, is a feeling - an individual state of mind that comes (barring neurological issues like depression) as a result of choices and perspective... which means that I can choose to not be lonely. It's obviously not that easy, just as choosing happiness isn't as easy as it sounds, since positive thinking isn't really enough. Choosing happiness means choosing to follow the commandments of God, no matter what the short-term outcome. Choosing to not be lonely means, in my case, reaching out to others, being a friend to those who need (or seem to dislike) me, serving, sharing my testimony, and doing what I can to enjoy the beauty of life each day. And I think it would be the same whether I were single or married.

Hopefully the Lord will see me on my world tour as a bachelor and feel like it's time for me to be married. But even if that's still a long way off, that's okay. I can be happy today, and for as long as I need to be, by choosing to do what's right and leaving the rest in His hands.

15 comments:

Whitney said...

The theme of this reminds me of a portion of John Bytheway's talk "What I Wish I Knew When I Was Single." He gives a hierarchy of the best ways to live life.
1. Happily married
2. Happily single
3. Miserably single
4. Miserably married
Since we don't have too much control over choosing between one and two, we can at least make the difference between 2 and 3. Thanks for posting and being such an example!

Becky Rose said...

I've felt that same thing from the scripture:Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

Men fell to have family and the human race has joy in family life, therefor my life has less joy. I can see that all around me( lots of joy in family life) and I wonder how single handle being single. But I too, know that happiness can be found even when single and while I think there is more to be found for me, that I have not tapped the fullness of it. I still hope for a happy family life but if not... I know I must find a way to be happy. It maybe hard. But as Elisa R. Snow said: The Holy Ghost satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart, and fills up every vacuum. - Daughters in my Kingdom pg 46.

Anonymous said...

I'm 19 and am about to leave for the mission. Last week I received my patriarchal blessing and I wish there was something about the SSA. I was surprised when he learned that "in due time the Lord, thou shalt marry a girl of your choice." I never dated a girl before and I am very happy with this promise, because I was sad to read in an unofficial site of the Church which is not recommended that persons with SSA marry. I hope the same for you.

Trev said...

Whoa, what happened to paragraphs? I like reading your posts, but this one was hard to get through as a huge block of text.

Mormon Guy said...

Thanks for the catch, Trev. Google just "upgraded" their blogging interface (and forced everyone on the new version), and it is awful. It looks like formatting is one of the things that may have fallen by the wayside. I've never had an issue like this before; I'll have to actually check to make sure they post correctly now. It should be fixed now.

OJT Mom said...

I found the same thing even though my challenges were different; Mr. Right took awhile to show up, but I quickly learned that single and miserable was no fun and my social life took an immediate nosedive at those times. I really believe the number of divorces would drop if people learned this one lesson. No one else can make anyone happy because happiness is internal. Once you have found that peace, THEN somebody else can complete and aid us through challenges.

Andy said...

@ Anon, interesting what you say because my patr. blessing more than 30 years ago said the same thing. "In due time" didn't come for me until I was well into my 30's. I wasn't looking for it, she found me. I've learned not to pass judgement on gay people getting married to a straight spouse, but please be fully aware of what you are doing and what you are asking of your partner.

@ Mormon Guy: I think it is key to be happy at what you love do do in order to be in the right place at the right time. I have a straight friend that I went to BYU with who constantly worried about marriage and having this image of what should happen (like fireworks, love at first sight, the list of qualities he wanted...) when he spotted the love of his life. I on the other hand didn't go to dances or date much and just filled my life with what I enjoyed doing. Ironically he is still not married and I, the gay guy, am.

Anonymous said...

Anon 19 y/a:
No one representing the church has said that if one has SSA one shouldn't get maried to a member of the opposite sex. But the church has said one shouldn't try to use marriage as a "cure" for SSA. The SSA must be managed first, so that the opposite attraction can have room to grow and flourish. Just don't plan on using that to make all your troubles go away. The same spirit that inhabits your body before marriage will inhabit it afterwards. Submit yourself to Christ today, knowing that He can fix everything, and one day, in this life or next, He will...

Jake and Danica said...

When my husband and I decided to get married, we both laughed, because at the beginning of the semester the both of us had given up on "finding a spouse." We were two single straight adults living at BYU-H where they kept harping on everyone to get married. (I still feel like the pressure is well-meant but inappropriately placed sometimes). We had both decided at the beginning of that semester to focus on ourselves. I had decided to focus on getting good grades, getting to know myself better, finally getting into that Yoga regime I kept saying I would, and surfing until my legs and arms were wobbly (Like I said BYU-Hawaii). He had decided to focus on grades, hiking, and writing. The thing I get from my experiences and your blog is that the Lord knows you and knows when you're ready to become one with another person--it's a big adjustment. :) We had both decided to focus on being Happily Single when we found each other. :) I'm not saying quit, just focus on who you are and who you want to be. The right person will come, and you'll know when you meet her. Best of luck.

Rachel said...

Thanks again for sharing your perspective! I found a needed reminder that I need to find happiness and spiritual strength for myself, and not depend on my husband or my family to provide it. (Though they definitely add to it!)

Becky Rose said...

My mission president said this to me too, although at least 10 years after the mission. When I was leaving he told me to get married before I was 30. At 36 I entered a civil marriage that lasted 17 months. I wanted out after 1 month(it was abusive. He still wants me. I will be 40 soon.

JonJon said...

This is my favorite video about how to be alone.

GinaJ said...

I was struck by the connection you made between happiness while single and happiness while married not being different qualities of happiness, since all lasting happiness is predicated on following the commandments. You always have something that I can use in my circumstances, and that was the major one from this post. Thank you!!

Anne said...

Okay so now I've read this one too, I hope you don't mind my questions for you. My next question would be, if you found a man who makes you happy and who is practicing LDS, do you think there is a way you could be with him? Or are you holding out for some female to come along and fit the bill, and the idea of finding a guy just isn't in your mind at all?

Mormon Guy said...

Anne -

I think that having good guy friends would be a great thing. But the only option for a spouse is for her to be a girl. If I find a great LDS guy who has a ton in common with me, then maybe, if I'm lucky, we'll become friends. But it would never go beyond that. And I have trouble with that as it is.