A few weekends ago, I grabbed some friends and went to a monastery. In addition to being places of prayer, work, and solemn joy, Orthodox monasteries are places where, as I joked on the trip, introverts can be introverted together. It would have seemed out of place to bring an ipad to the common room of the guest house, so in the evenings we sat and talked, knit, and read. It was very nice.
Brigid and I having a little *too* much fun.
Nuns have given up the worldly life for a life of prayer and community. They receive a new name at their tonsuring because they are dead to the world. One nun explained that if she were to leave the monastery, with her rank it would be like divorcing Jesus, and she would be excommunicated from the Church.
While I have no desire to be a nun, I do think that their detachment from the things of the world is something to emulate, especially if one is single. We laity are called to “be in the world but not be part of it”, but we are still influenced by the morals of the culture we live in. Unfortunately, this sometimes means as single women dealing with anxiety over whether we are “attractive enough”, and dealing with men who have no idea how to relate to women as human beings.
I mention those two specific things because of Seraphic’s post here. It was jarring to read after a weekend at the monastery. I encourage you to read her post before continuing this one.
Seraphic says, “I wanted a man, I have a man, and now I can ignore what all men on earth, save one, think about attractiveness. I am fortunate. But I worry a lot about Single women who lurch from one relationship to the next in the quest to find the man who will free them from the intolerable burden of wanting a man. Looking at break-ups and unrequited crushes from a married point of view, I now realize how awful it is to hear a weeping woman say, “But where will I find another [guy who gets me, clever intellectual, romantic poet, serious Catholic]?” I want to shake them and yell, “STOP LOOKING! JUST LIVE YOUR LIFE!” But that’s easy for me to say; marriage has killed that restless longing.”
I deeply understand that restless longing to get married, and the answer to it is detachment. Being open to getting married, but not predicating being happy with getting married.
It is very freeing to quit making decisions based on the probability of meeting eligible people, whether that’s moving for work or deciding whether to go to a party or going on dates with people you don’t really like. So far I have not met my spouse at, let’s see, church, work, classes, parties, bars, online, the theater, and many other places, but my enjoyment of these things has increased by letting go of the hope that I will meet Imaginary Husband there. Instead I can focus on the work or fun or people that are actually in front of me.
While I’d be lying if I said that I am never grumbly about being single, overall I’m content. As a younger person, I had a script in my head about how my life was supposed to turn out. Letting go of that, seeing the appeal of other ways of life was key. Admittedly, I am sure I would be less happy with my life if I didn’t have stable employment, a strong church community, family and good friends.
Men and women who desperately seek the other sex’s approval are searching for something that cannot be gained by romantic love. To begin detaching from the anxiety of getting married, one need not join a monastery. The place to start is to pray for detachment, the ability to hand your anxieties to God and to gain His peace.
Seraphic on Detachment vs. Despair