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Spinster Is An Ugly Word

 

 

Spinster Is an Ugly Word

Recently, I watched a BBC video of Jane Austen narrated by Lucy Worsely. For almost an hour, Worsely explains what it would’ve been like for young women to live in the British social class of the 19th century. In short, Austen never had a chance at the life she dreamed of. Daughters were to be married off, but Austen mostly due to her father being a pastor couldn’t offer much in a dowry to any eligible man who had an interest in her. It was also a hard sell for women who wanted to write and sell fiction. As they weren’t taken seriously as a man would’ve been in her position. I suspect it wasn’t expected for women to dream of more than a husband and a family of your own. I wonder if she had married, would we still know Jane Austen the author who changed the world of literature.

At the relatively young age of 41 years, Austen died penniless, alone and a spinster. Never to experience the life and lavishness that the characters in her books did. From a quiet and unknown woman came stories that have and will continue to entertain and foster her reader’s appetite for the kind of life that she hoped and dreamed of but fell short because fiction isn’t reality.

Austen was so much more than just a spinster, she had written novels that would transform the world of literature and even beyond. Sadly, she was never able to see or enjoy the status her writing gained years after her death. I could say I have a lot in common with Jane Austen but I don’t. She didn’t live past her 41st year, she lived in the UK, and most importantly she in the 19th century. But as I watched this video, I realized how fortunate I am to live in the present. I don’t know where the ideas came from those women who in the eyes of that particular era had no potential beyond the roles as a wife and mother.

Dejected and Sad

That was the one emotion that fluttered its wings inside of me as I watched an actress play act out (in the documentary) what Austen might’ve been thinking or hope for. In her situation, hope was in low supply. She didn’t leave home to start university or, nor did she harbor dreams to live on her own, however, Austen did for a period of time. She worked on her writing and kept sending her manuscripts out to the publishers.

I’m single, and I am 41 years old turning 42 in less than two months. As I viewed this video, I didn’t see the similarities to Austen rather all the opposites. If I had been alive in the 19th century I might be more like Jane Austen relying on the kindness of others. Instead, I live on my own and I don’t rely on others to pay my rent, bills, groceries and any other extras. When I think about all I have compared to young women in the 19th century without a substantial dowry to catch the eye of an eligible man of the marriageable age. I don’t have a lot in savings, I have a school loan that I am slowly chipping away at. I would like to plan for the future but I don’t have plans for the single version of me. I have plans for the married version of me, and even that has grown smaller as I am trying to remain in the present, trying to enjoy myself now. I love living on my own and having my own space. In the last ten years, I have been able to see why it’s good to be single, and just do what I want and when I want.

Sometimes I feel this stigma of being single, even though statistics tell me that I’m not in short supply. But I am not a part of the hookup era, nor am I looking for a filler until the real deal comes in. I’m in this obvious meanwhile I wait phase, the place where you wonder, you dabble in things that you might not do when you’re otherwise married. This is my time to fly, to flourish but like Jane Austen, it is a hard place to occupy.

A lot of women like reading about the Regency era because it’s time period has this romantic element to it. It’s so foreign to our understanding. There was no rush, no time restraints as we experience them now. We have answers to a lot of what made life hard and difficult. I could list pros and cons to both periods. Most women want the romantic daydreams of their childhood even if no one is able to truly live up to those ridiculously handsome and debonair men.

And sometimes I have these tiny voices echoing all over the place reminding me that where I am and who I am isn’t enough when I know it is more than enough. Just being in a place and liking, even enjoying where you have been placed. Not worrying about society’s expectations. Don’t get me wrong it is important to keep those hopes and desires, but to many of us, it’s a heavy burden to carry as the years continue to pass. I’ve told God more than once to take the desires away, but they remain and so it tells me a couple of things…

Persist. Hope. Trust.

If you were in my interior like God is, you would know this not what I want to do. This is not natural to me because I have made living my life the very opposite of these three things. It’s slightly annoying but I think it’s a bit of an inside joke on me. I can’t see my potential but I am going forward blinded to what is possible. What is conceivable is that yes my prayers will be answered. If I have learned one thing about God it is that He isn’t in a rush. My perceived deadlines are just my impulse to want to control a situation that isn’t in my doable skills set. I don’t think I will next Jane Austen, far from it, but her tenacity to continue writing despite her situation is a token to me that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed to least of those.

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Doing Some Bloomin’

Some of us are late bloomers.  DSCN2525 (2)

My junior high gym teacher told me this probably because he was trying to make me feel better. You see, I was not athletically inclined in school. As an adult, my athletic ability still hasn’t flourished, as my teacher seem to imply it would.

In general, I think I am a late bloomer. I had a plan that by this time and at this point in my life I would be married, have a few kids, and well; I would blend in really well with everyone else. Most people near my age have gotten married, maybe not and maybe have started a family. I grew up thinking I would go with plan, the flow of the crowd.

After I graduated from high school, I decided I would keep with the plan and I applied for a program at the local community college, but I was fighting for a spot with 500 other applicants for a mere 20 spots. They declined my application. That wasn’t part of the plan. I decided I would take a year off and try to find myself, and well I got lost. I don’t quite remember where I ended up.

Late bloomers tend to wilt when they see all their peers getting along with the plan. Yes, the invisible plan that we assume works on our timeline.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come, and pray to me and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:11-14 NRSV

Almost a year ago, the Lord reminded me that he wanted me to write, it wasn’t any different from before, but this time I took it more seriously. I began this blog, and I re-discovered a tiny desire to write, a small fuse of enjoyment. I also needed to write that novel that I’ve always dreamed of writing.

It’s taken me almost year to settle on a premise. I’ve gone through three or four starts, and as I kept searching for a new idea, my resolve kept growing stronger. I needed the persistence to start, and curate the desire that He placed in my eight old heart. I needed to know the belief that God has in me to write, and it began when I started when this blog. It was awkward at first but I’m starting to get the hang of it.

Seven years ago, when I doubted the Lord had heard my prayers, he started reminding me that, ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek with all your heart.’ Through tough circumstances, I applied for college after being out of school for over ten years, and this time I was accepted.

I was seeking Him with all of my heart, or so I thought I was. The heart is complicated, I don’t know about yours, but mine is, and I am still learning about its contours. It’s a keeper of secrets, and its mysteries can change us forever.

When I graduated from school, I didn’t expect anything except a job in my field. he was still teaching me to seek with all of my heart because I equated with what I wanted as not necessarily a good thing. Around this time He brought Jolene into the scene.DSC00045_5564908843_l (1)

My idea of a plan was getting married and  having a family. So no man + no children = God doesn’t have a plan for Tamara. Stupid I know, but I was still getting to know He’s so much more than what most believe. I mean I knew this, but He was personally showing me, and taking me on a personal tour. At most, I am still a pup that hasn’t learnt to stop chewing things to shreds.

Advice can be a good, but when it’s unsolicited, it can cause unforeseen problems. This is why I was careful to share with whom I did. It was something the Lord had advised me to do because I had at one point shared with too many people. I was overwhelmed with too much.

Over three years ago, the Lord did something that was out of character for him, at least what I knew of him. He asked me to tell someone who I didn’t know to tell her I wanted to get married. I refused, but the woman came up to me anyways, and proceeded to tell me that I was a natural with children, and other details that would confirm that the Lord had indeed sent  her to me. She then told me that my husband was already ready, but  I wasn’t and I needed to heal from a certain relationship.

‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV

Good things are happening to me.

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The Habit of Silence

“Are you always this quiet?”

In January 2014, I took a mandatory two-day course in First Aid and CPR. My employer paid for it, and I am always up for a change of venue. Instead of the usual, I would be able to walk to my destination, amidst the freezing cold winter that we were barely surviving.

The local Paramedic Services of my city hosted the two-day training.

During a break, on the second day, as I snacked on some of the food I had brought to keep myself going I noticed the Paramedic watching me with interest; unexpectantly he asked me, “Are you always this quiet?”

“Yes.”

As a child, I could tell you what everyone wore on the public transit buses, so much so, I couldn’t help but notice their ‘stuff’ too. Years ago, a woman came up to my Mom and made the comment, “Your daughter is very quiet, but she very observant too.”

Silence is a part of who I am, and it wasn’t until I was much older that I willingly took ondisplay_imageCAYCDDB2 a habit of this practice. It’s not something that I physically put on because I am always wearing it. I seek it like the scriptures encourage us to seek Him. In the calm, I find him, in the peace; my heart opens up and like the heaven above us, His mercy falls down on me. Seeking this kind of living is hard, especially when the world around me is so noisy.

In the last couple weeks, I have seen three or four monarchs. It is odd to see them towards the end of summer. The flutter of their wings mysteriously appear before me; open and close, open and close, open and close. I tried to follow it as the butterfly glided past me. No effort involved. It’s just doing what God willed it to do. They don’t make a sound flapping their wings; open than close. Silence surrounds it as a bubble travels up towards the blue after being blown. Stillness like a clear blue sky above you, clouds covering the sun, and then shifting and allowing the sun to shine.

Listening to others speak has afforded me the opportunity to learn about others instead of competing to have my views heard. I enjoy listening to people, how they speak, the nuance of the tone of their voice, and seeking to understand what it is He wants me to learn and pray about. Silence curdles the doubts and fears as He has taught me to walk through it instead of standing on the edge. Taking me by my hand and leading me into the emotions that normally I would avoid understanding.

In amongst all the silence, His voice can still be heard in the thunder of noise, but this is something which is better known as solitude, and this comes from time spent in the quiet. In the loud chatter all around us, God’s whisper can be heard.

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Status: Single

 

In all honesty, I did not think I would still be single at 38, but it’s not the daunting prospect

that I feared it to be. I had assumed and hoped that by now I would be married and have a family. As married women go, they tend to shy away from the single women they display_imageCA6MAP37befriended as single women themselves. The question at hand, if [married] women don’t talk to me is there something wrong with me? In the beginning, it was what I thought;  I needed to find out what would help me to discover my own unique path that would, lead to the true representation of what God had created in me. And that is really what started me in earnest. I tried reading Christian books that speaks and promotes singleness, and encourages women. After reading a couple of books, I knew there had to be a better way to drag myself through singleness.

After my initial conversion, my parish, at the time was a mecca of sort for young adults. I was new in my Catholic faith, still going through healing… and fumbling through the dark tunnel trying to get to the other side. When I turned 30, I realized that there had a been an exodus in my midst, but I did not become aware of [it] until it was through. It was a shock to the system to realize that I had been left behind, and I felt bitter towards God. I couldn’t see what God was doing at the time and because of that, I misunderstood Him. I didn’t quite claim his promises in my life to know He is faithful in all things.

It wasn’t until my depression was diagnosed, that I began accepting pieces of who I am. Had I gotten married in my 20’s, I have no doubt I would be a divorced woman. I lived in fear and afraid of the person I might be. In my mind, being single was equivalent to having a contagious disease, and I wanted to separate myself from that kind of categorization. I didn’t even want to think of myself as single, but as my self-knowledge grew, the more I found contentment in my identity. Having authenticity in my life was the most important thing to me.  Singleness isn’t the crucible of being the absolute worst thing that I perceived it to be in my 20’s and early 30’s. I love learning about who I am and the quirks that go with it.

I am finally feeling comfortable in my skin not to be concerned about my relationship status. I can breathe a sigh of feeling grounded and freedom in my identity. When I am choosing friends, I base it on what I need now, not what I may need later.

Still it’s having trust in the Lord that he knows supremely more than I do, and that even means that I might not ever might meet ‘right’ person and that everything will continue to be good in my world. He has surrounded me with everything I need. If I stop looking at every single man as a possible ‘husband,’ I am able to shift my focus on the gifts he has given me and cultivate them. I am a process and that begins with being honest with my feelings about being single.

Being single in the secular worldview I have found it is often easier than being in a Christian Catholic view because there is a segregated line that singles can’t cross. It is easy to be forgotten as a single. These two examples has been where some of my loneliness has materialized, and presented problems to my ability to focus on what God wants for me. On the other hand, secularized singles have a different and wilder notion of what it means to be single.

“When we remember our identity in Christ, it changes the way we see these relationships because we no longer base our worth on the approval of others but the approval we have already received from our Father through the work of His son.” Amy E. Spiegel, Letting Go of Perfect: Women, Expectations, and Authenticity