I’ve been contemplating my own single womanhood and single motherhood a lot lately, in a particularly focused way. It’s interesting to consider the stigma and widespread story around "being single", as well as the real struggles, honest loneliness, and unmet yearning a single life can include.
I’ve discovered it can be profoundly skillful to use a chapter of “being single” (whether that’s for a month, or a stretch of many years, or a lifetime) as an invitation to truly discover where our genuine capacity for fulfillment and love are forever to be found, regardless of any “other.” Having experienced both now— longterm partnerships, as well as longterm chapters of being single— I’ve come to realize that both are challenging, both hold potential for great heartache and loneliness, and both provide incredible opportunities for spiritual deepening.
Currently single for years now, lately I've been noticing the tender, holy intersection— where my resolve for living in the peace and fulfillment of true self-love meets my vulnerably honest prayer for eventual partnership. What courage it takes to speak the multi-layered truth sometimes, right? To not fall into stigmatic traps of cultural identity, spiritual bypass, nor limiting false dichotomies; but rather to stand in the wholeness of essential fulfillment, while meeting the full evolving range of human emotion and desire.
I was already holding this sensitive, multi-layered topic of “being single” close to my heart one recent night when it came time to tuck my eight year old son Ezra into bed. He had just gotten brand new, glow-in-the-dark solar-system sheets, and when I walked into his room he excitedly turned off the light by his bed, and his sheets brilliantly lit up— small Moons and Jupiters and Saturns shining aglow in the dark. We oohed and ahhed together at the marvelous wonder of his starry bed. Then I lay my tired head down on his pillow and habitually scooted my arm and shoulder under him, pulling the covers up over us so we could cuddle close in the dark.
Our nighttime pillow talk is amongst the most precious and cherished times we share. Somehow with all the schedule pressure of the day released, in the sweet forgiving space of night, we can fully open. We can reveal our hearts to one another in a way that nourishes us deeply, while clearing the field and blessing us into sleep.
That particular night, as my son and I nestled in, finding our cozy snuggle, Ezra suddenly spoke out in a kind, gentle voice: “Do you know what I’ve been praying for you, Mom?” Surprised and curious, I said: “I didn’t even know you ‘prayed for me’ at all?” Ezra answered incredulously: “Of course I do. We always pray for the people we love, Mom.” Happily corrected, I replied: “That is very true! So what do you pray for your Mama, my love?” Ezra answered boldly: “I pray that you find your man soon. Your man that you love so much who can share our life with us.”
I felt a bit taken aback by this proclamation, partly because of his increasing psychic sensitivity, clearly naming the very topic I had been sitting with for days. But also because after the last three years of being mostly single, and “someone missing” no longer being a regular part of our family conversation, I was surprised he still held this prayer in such a way. I'd come to feel confident in my children's perception of me as a woman who is whole and thriving, loving myself and our life just the way it is; not as a woman transparently waiting for partnership, as I had been for much of their younger years.
About three years ago, four years post divorce, I decided to consciously "call off the search" for a partner. It had been a lifelong fixation for me, consuming a tremendous amount of life energy. Finding “my true partner” had come to feel like it was somehow intertwined with my life purpose; held in my mind as a necessary component of my capacity to live a happy life. In this way the unfulfilled “search for my partner” had became the basis for my story of personal suffering; a continuous thread in my inner drama around what was missing and what was needed in order for my life to become whole, complete and truly fulfilled.
While over the years I had experienced many beautiful relationships with men, each one of them delivering unique gifts, lessons and powerful medicine, something had begun to feel like a hopelessly broken record for me in this relational arena. I could not help but notice that this aspect of my life seemed to be caught in a perpetual cycle of longing, projection and disappointment. Rather than delivering any kind of true fulfillment or joy, this path of intimate relating seemed to have become one of ongoing disillusionment for me. And while I continued to do a tremendous amount of work on myself around this pattern, I finally had to admit that something wasn’t shifting when it came to the quality of relationship I would attract.
Suddenly it became obvious that before I could potentially attract the sacred human partnership I still desired, there was a way I needed to come fully into right relationship with relationship itself. I needed to get more honest with myself about my simultaneous resistance and attachment to my own sovereignty. I needed to come to terms with my feminine vulnerability and human needs, as well as my wounds, armoring and disappointment around the masculine. I saw that at the heart of this story of relational suffering was an essential distrust around God and Life itself that was begging for deeper illumination and resolution.
It took courage and vigilance to truly lay down this story of longing for a relationship. Even more than being a cherished dream of my heart, it had become a stubborn habit of mind, composed of incessant thought and desire; an inner drama I had grown accustomed to attending.
It became clear I had to wholeheartedly face the death of “Romantic Relationship” as I had known it, embracing the real possibility I might never have another human lover for the rest of my life. I knew I had to disentangle my aliveness from this fixation, in a way that offered up no promises for any specific outcome. And so as I laid it to rest, and turned towards true relational sobriety for the first time in my adult life, I prayed for all my past patterns of thought and desire around men, sex and partnership to truly die— to allow only what was true to remain.
I prayed to discover the fortitude to fully embrace myself, to choose myself, in the way I had wanted for so long to be chosen by another.
What freedom! After meeting initial waves of terror and grief, I actually felt enormous relief to put this huge, energy-consuming story down. I luxuriated in the simple, quiet presence that opened in the space this fixation had occupied for so long. I discovered new rituals of self-embrace and simple enjoyment of life with my children! What a gift to truly take the emphasis off what was lacking, missing, and wanted in relation to “other,” along with all my disappointment and anger about that, and instead open even more fully to what I am alive for. To really presence the gifts I’m here to bring through, as well as the abundance of love and connection already gracing my life beyond measure.
This three year stretch has been one of the most beautifully catalytic, prosperous and creative chapters of my life. Among other things, I’ve been provided with fresh opportunities to connect, collaborate and co-create with incredible male friends and colleagues, in ways that have been surprisingly healing and rewarding for me to partake in. It has felt like a potent time of learning and re-wiring; a time of unwinding old neural patterns in relation to both my inner and outer masculine and feminine.
Most notably, I’ve learned to relax into my own self-love, deepening in an exquisite depth and warmth of my own presence. I’ve been surprisingly nourished by the quiet, simplicity and strength of my own sovereignty. I have turned to face this longtime unmet yearning in my heart, and discovered at it's core the very fulfillment I have searched for! The fulfillment of true self-love is always available, right here, in any moment we might choose to look, drop in, and receive this powerful truth. This is the treasure of treasures.
But lately I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that the parts of myself that have actually come to prefer the relative simplicity of being single have begun to overshadow the deeper, more vulnerable parts of myself that would still truly love to share my sweet human life with an amazing partner. These parts of myself sense that I still have much to learn and much to offer inside a committed container of sacred intimacy. I’ve begun to feel a quiet curiosity about this as I listen to a whisper from someplace deep within— saying: don’t forget Sweet Love, that sharing yourself intimately with an awake partner can also be a wondrous, nourishing, delicious and delightful part of life; a powerful way to play and pray, grow and receive! Stay open, trust, and surrender!
And so lying in bed with my beloved son that night, having been contemplating this topic for days, I felt deeply moved by the synchronicity of Ezra’s sharing of his prayer. I asked him slowly and carefully: “You pray for me to find a man, because you think that would be better for us than our life already is?”
He nodded vehemently in my arms. He explained: “Better for you, so you can have help with everything you do for us. You do everything by yourself Mom-- you clean, you make us food, you work, you take care of us. It would be better if you had a man to help you and love you. And better for me, so I can have a man who lives with us and plays with me and loves me.” His voice changed its tone then, as he dropped into his own heart’s yearning, so nakedly tender. He said dreamily: “I hope he knows a lot. A lot about surfing maybe. Or maybe he’ll be a snowboarder like me. Or maybe he’ll know all about the world? Or maybe he’ll like to fish and hunt and be wild in nature and teach me all about that…? I bet he’ll love to wrestle me...”
Deeply moved by his exposure of raw longing, I pulled my precious boy closer, affirming quietly: “You’d really love to have another man in your life, someone who is part of our family, who loves us and lives in our home with us? Someone who loves some of the same things you do?” Quietly, vehemently, he answered: “Yes.”
Then with this confession suddenly his body became tight and rigid in my arms, and I could tell he was struggling with something. He said quickly: “But not to EVER take my Papa’s place.” Understanding the sensitivity of this inner conflict for him, I assured him at once: “Of course. Nobody could EVER take your Papa’s place. He is your wonderful, special Papa. Nothing could ever change that.”
He relaxed his body again, sighing deeply, and said: “Right.”
Then he propped himself up on his elbow and looked into my face in the dark. I knew by the presence he was emanating that he was about to be the guru. He said carefully: “It’s ok for us to want that Mama, you know. It’s ok if you’re our good, good Mom who loves us, and you still want a man, too. Ok?”
I felt like crying, hearing this so simply and kindly laid out for me by my young son. I gulped a few times, in awe of the purity with which he annihilated these false, hidden dichotomies of my heart, and then I said, humbly: “Yes, my love. Thank you. Yes. We can be happy just the way we are, with our beautiful family just the way it is, while also being open to more.” He nodded at me in the dark. Then, looking at me with a kind of stern intensity, he coached: “It’s important to pray for it if you want it Mom.”
I was quiet, contemplating this, and then responded: “I used to pray for partnership a lot, Ezra. Do you remember? But I think a few years ago my prayers for that got kind of tired in my heart? And they just needed a long rest. I needed to fall in love with our life and our family just the way it is, without needing anything to be different, without needing a man or anything else.” Ezra kept looking at me intently, breathing, considering my words. I continued: “But your prayers feel beautiful and powerful! I love hearing your prayers for a special man to come into our lives. And I do pray for that too, my Love. If it's what's meant to be. I pray that our life just gets more and more beautiful and full of love, in all sorts of incredible ways.”
Seemingly satisfied, he lay back down into my shoulder nook, pulling the covers up over both of us, snuggling in closer. We lay quietly in the dark then, just breathing together. I didn’t even offer to sing like I often do. The quiet between us was the song. These sweet life prayers for ever-expanding love, inclusive love, so tenderly named, were just the song my heart needed to hear.
As I lay there, listening to my sweet boy breathe in the dark, I considered— true fulfillment in self-love and wholehearted yearning need not be mutually exclusive forces. To the contrary— how exquisite to yearn from the heart of fulfillment! How glorious to pray for more true ways in which to share and receive this love; to include this fleeting human flesh, sacred skin and bones of soul, heart of God’s earthly home. How beautiful to open wider to even more love, not from a place of lack, but rather from a ground of self-loving wholeness.
Soon the weight of Ezra’s damp, curly head felt even heavier on my shoulder, and his sleeping breaths lengthened. I kissed his warm, yummy face and pulled myself out from under him, lifting myself carefully from his bed and tiptoeing across the floor to the door.
When I got there, I turned back around and glanced at his long, growing boy body, limbs already overflowing off the sides of his single bed. From the deepest place of motherly devotion I said to Spirit: “Please. Please hear my sweet boy’s prayers. For another amazing man who can meet him, nourish him, help raise him into the incredible man he’s here to be.” And then from the quietest, softest place of my open, brave, queen-woman-heart, I added: “And please; please hear my prayers, too.”
Then I shut the door to Ezra’s bedroom gently, with my heart aglow, already fulfilled, so sweetly yearning, walking out into the open treasure of my waiting life.