How My Trip To The Library Proves That I Love You

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(I wanted to include the above picture as proof that the following blog is based on real events.)

I want to let you know that you are loved today.

Do you know why I know that you are loved? Because I am the one that loves you. Do you know why I know I love you? Because of a little trip I took to the library yesterday. Read on and you will understand.

I have always loved libraries. I inherited this love from my very wonderful but very quirky mother. All though my years growing up, we would have stacks and stacks of books around the corners of our house. Mom realized that if she went to Denver Public Library there was no limit to how many she took out. She also realized that she could renew all her books every Friday, and that if no one else requested them, she could keep them for as long as she wanted.

So she milked that government subsidized machine-o-wisdom for all that it was worth. At one time she had two hundred books out from the library. I am not exaggerating Two. Freaking. Hundred.

The Denver Library finally changed their policy to say that your book limit should be, you know, under the triple digits. She proudly believes that they made that policy because of her.

I usually check out really thought provoking, deep books. Books of spiritual poetry. Books by Henri Nouwen, who is my favorite non fiction author. Theological books about the bible. Novels that are beautiful written and inspiring. Books about social justice and community development, subjects I am very interested in.

In my warped, slightly self absorbed, perception, I always believe that my familiar librarians notice what I am checking out. That they are intrigued by my choice of books. There she is, they think. That wonderful kind redheaded girl who always checks out  such spiritual, thought provoking books. She is so contemplative and wise.  In truth, what they are probably thinking is I wonder if I should make tacos for dinner. 

This last time I went to the library I needed to do some more research for this blog, as I am a very astute blog writer. Plus the fact that I am totally running out of things to say about dating.

As I stood to check out my books, I looked down at what I was about to check out. And I was ashamed. deeply ashamed.

Instead of Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son or a book by Teresa of Avila, I was checking out Dating Makes You Want To Die: But You Have To Do It Anyway, How To Date A White Woman; A Guide For Asian Men, and Wood Nymph Seeks Centaur: A Mythological Dating Guide. (Okay. I didn’t really check out those last two, but I thought about it.)

In my mind, I was no longer the librarians favorite mysterious yet winsome patron. I was the shallow thirty something year old woman who wanted a date enough to read these ridiculous books. “Would you like to check anything else out?” the librarian said to me sadly. “No, just these,” I retorted with a tear in my eye.

One of the only books that I checked out that looked promising was called How To Date Like A Grown Up.  Okay. Looks like it might be a good research book.

I knew my mistake when I started reading the third chapter, which was called Mortuaries and Other Pick Up Joints. The chapter talks about how it is more difficult in later years to find good dating material in bars and dance clubs. So the author has a few new suggestions. In the section of the chapter called Ladies Night At the Crematorium it talks about how funerals are a really good option for us.

Not. Making. This. Up.

There is a little caption at the bottom of the page with some good advice. How long to wait to flirt with the widower. Seriously, author lady? Seriously?

The next two suggestions of places for women to find good dating material were a golf course and a motorcycle gang.

Midway through the chapter, I looked up and thought, Dear God, what has happened to me? Is this what I have been reduced to?

These are the sacrifices I must make to write this blog. These are the things I must endure.

I DO IT FOR YOU! I DO IT ALL FOR YOU!

Do you feel loved now? I hope so. Because you are.

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Sick Of Love

Sorry if this picture is graphic. It just cracked me up so much I had to use it.

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(Before I start this post, I am trying to get out to Mexico City to teach a YWAM base there. Does anyone have connections there where I could play music, lead worship, or teach? You can contact me through my website, katehurley.com. Thanks!)

When I tell people that I am writing a book about being a single Christian, we inevitably get into conversations about the challenges of dating in the aftermath of the Christian Dater’s Hell that was the 90s. About our fears of getting older and still not having a family. About how Christian guys would rather clean every bathroom in grand central station with a toothbrush than ask us out on a date because of the pressure they feel to get married too fast.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

These conversations make up about eighty percent of my communication with other human beings lately. Which is not really that bad because women talk about men seventy percent of the time even if they are not writing a book.

I have also had my heart broken pretty badly in this season, which makes me infinitely more aware of my singleness and the loneliness that became so evident after that happened. Right now, I am not just love sick, I am sick of love. Of thinking about love. Of talking about love. Of reading about love. Of writing about love.

So today I am protesting. I don’t care if this is supposed to be a blog about dating and not dating and all of that. I am talking about something else.

Let’s talk about the pope. The pope’s hat is so tall, isn’t it? Is it because they inevitably choose short men to be the pope and less than 3% of CEO’s are under 5’ 7”? No one but the pope could wear a hat that looks like a huge christmas tree ornament to make him look tall. Why not wear a two foot hat? I would if I were the pope.

Hmm remember that time that my x-boyfriend was having a job crisis and said “Kate, maybe I will just go to school to be the pope so I can stand in a little glass box and wave at the people. That would be nice.” I wonder where he is now? He was so fun. We had a hard break up but he was a great guy. Maybe I was being too picky???

Oh dang it! I am talking about love again!

Okay, how about we talk about France? I got to go to Paris during an eight hour layover on the way to Germany and it was fabulous. The people were not as mean as everyone said they would be, but that might be because a clever friend gave me a Canda patch to wear on my backpack.

Speaking of France, I wonder why they are called French fries? The national food of America is All Things Fried so you would think that those were invented here. I also wonder why they call it French kissing. Man it’s been a long time since I’ve been kissed.

Ahhhh! No no no!

You see, even if I make a conscious effort to stop thinking about love, it seems impossible. Love is freaking everywhere. Almost every movie has some form of a love story in it. Most songs are about new love, wishing you had love, love that lasts forever, love that kicked you and your dog out the door without your boots on.  It is difficult for us singles to have this love saturated culture around us because it makes us so aware that we don’t have it.

If we are not careful we can become very self absorbed.

Okay, I’ll just say it: I have become very self absorbed.

I soak in all of the love culture like a sponge and then it absorbs into me in forms of jealousy and heartache and loneliness and not understanding God’s will. And I am becoming more cynical and more sad and more absorbed. (I wonder what the word absorbed means in latin. Let’s see, what are some other words with ab in them? Above, absence, absolve, abdominal. Wow, that guy jogging past certainly has nice abs. Oh no! Hold yourself together Kate!)

Ahem, sorry about that. Back to my post.

I am reading a book called Tattoos On the Heart right now. It is the memoir of a priest they call Papa G who started Homeboy Ministries in LA. He is like a father to countless gang members. Former enemies will work side by side at Homeboy Bakery or Homeboy Silkscreening. It is amazing. It is the best book I have read in a long time. I am crying crying crying almost every page. Each story touches a deep place in my heart. The part of me that really wants to love rather than to be so blatantly aware that I am not loved.

Papa G is surrounded by the same love stories and love culture that we are and he is a priest. He will never have a traditional family. But he chooses to be absorbed in a different way than my own self absorbing. He absorbs the pain of the gang members around him. Like a sponge. Because there is no one else in their lives to care about the extraordinary abuse and pain that they have endured. Over and over again, these hardened men come into his office breaking down, telling him their real names that no one else knows, letting him love them.

Papa G has not allowed himself to be surrounded by the absence of love, he has chosen to surround others with love.

This book came at a very appropriate time in my life. I have been crying on a regular basis lately. I have had a lot of time on my hands as I have not gotten many shows and am home almost every day alone writing this book and songs for my new album. I am often so lonely. I hate it. I have even gotten to the point of getting angry at God.

But I have been inspired by this book. I am looking into doing a lot more volunteer work with inner city kids and am even thinking about finding a part time job working with at risk youth or the homeless. I’d have to give up touring to do this most likely, but I think it might be worth it right now.

Because I am not just sick of thinking about love. I am sick of not loving.

I cannot control whether I have a husband or not. It’s not like getting a degree or a job, something that you can achieve if you work hard at it. I have worked hard, and it just has not worked out.

I can’t even control God and make him give me what I want. Not if I pray enough, not if I fast, not if I do enough good things to earn myself family. I don’t understand why, and I can’t understand why right now.

The one thing that I can control is that like Papa G, I can wake up tomorrow and take steps towards building my own family. This is kind of scary for me because it makes me think that I might be giving up on a blood family. But there are a lot of people out there whose blood family has left them. And they need love. If I do end up having a blood family, I will have learned to love in ways that I could not have if I had holed myself up in my room and watched stupid love movies all day.

It’s time. It’s time to stop thinking about the love I don’t have and give the love that I do have.

Tell me about your own experiences with this. How has culture made you struggle more with your singleness? Have you found ways to build your own family?

Today, I Am Lonely.

“The only cure for grief is a pill called grief. And you have to take your medicine to get better. “-David James Duncan

I just got back from a tour to Oregon and Washington. I led a women’s retreat, taught at churches, and played some house shows. I slept on seven beds in ten days. Hence the blog silence. (For more about what I do for a living, go to my website katehurley.com)

Tours are usually wonderful. I get to travel, do what I love to do, see people’s lives change, visit people that are dear to me. I forget for a while that I don’t have a regular family and I get lost at the wonder of the strange, all over the world family that I do have.

But today I am home.

And today, I am lonely.

Maybe it is that damn website that I went on this morning. When suggesting a password question, it said things like “The place you and your spouse met” or “The name of the maid of honor in your wedding” or “You first child’s birthday.”  I inevitably had to choose “The name of your first cat.” Even if Samone was the best cat in the world, she’s still a friggin’ cat.

Maybe it is that I am working alone for the next few months, trying to figure out what the heck I am doing with my music and ministry next, which is a regular pattern. I love my job at times, but I don’t like how unstable I feel on a regular basis.  I work alone for a few weeks booking music and teaching opportunities, and then I travel alone. The theme here is alone. No team, no partner. I really don’t like working that way. I have had many wonderful journeys because of my job, but they are almost always journeys I walk by myself.

Maybe it is that I have no idea what to put on my phone’s screen saver.  I guess a mountain or something.

Maybe it is that I visited my dear friend Aimee in Oregon. She and I and my other dear friend Kate went through many years of the ups and downs of singleness together. We laughed and wept together. A year and a half  ago, while I was living with Aimee and Kate, they both got engaged the same week. Do you know what was happening in my love life at the time? My boyfriend of two and a half years and I were breaking up.

I was truly, honestly, 100% happy for them. But I was also about 64% sad for myself.

It’s a year and half later. They are both married to absolutely wonderful men.  And they are deliriously happy in their marriages. In my heart of hearts* I am so glad that they share this with me and don’t hide it. I am so glad I don’t hear for the umpteenth time that marriage is so so difficult and that I should appreciate my singleness and that marriage is, as one friend told me “like death.” In fact, on this trip, Aimee said to me that marriage was the best thing she has ever done.

I am 100% happy for her. But I am 76% sad for myself. (My  rule is that the empathy quotient on my singleness frustration is allowed to go up 8% a year.)

Maybe it’s that I walked by a little girl and her mother in the park yesterday, laughing and playing. I ached to have a child, like the prophet Jeremiah said, as if there was a “fire down in my bones.” This happens often when I hear children laugh nowadays.

Maybe it’s that all four roommates in my new house have been on a date since we moved in a month ago. I have not had a date in 1.5 years.

I am 39% happy for them and 82% sad for myself. (I know. Not my normal compassion quotient, but I’m having a bad day, people.)

In an article called “My Secret Grief: Over 35, Single, and Childless” by Melanie Notkin, the author says  “This type of grief, grief that is not accepted or that is silent, is referred to as disenfranchised grief. It’s the grief you don’t feel allowed to mourn, because your loss isn’t clear or understood. You didn’t lose a sibling or a spouse or a parent. But losses that others don’t recognize can be as powerful as the kind that is socially acceptable.”

This sadness, this disenfranchised grief, is what I feel on a semi regular basis. I have not lost a child, but I have never had a child. I have not lost a marriage, but I have never had a lover.

It’s a strange kind of grief, because people don’t often understand it as a loss. It is not socially accepted as a loss. There is not a lot of empathy for it.

It is a loss that is subtle yet constant, like when you suddenly notice birds singing even though they were singing all along.  That’s the kind of loss I am feeling today. Suddenly, I hear my heart aching. A heart that has been quietly seeping out sadness for a long time.

Here’s the part where I say that despite my pain, I am thankful for my singleness.

Here’s the part where I say that married people are lonely too.

Here’s the part where I say that there is a God shaped vacuum in me that only He can fill. (oh wait. That’s not in the Bible. Dang.)

Sorry friends, I’m not going there today.

Today, I am going to have compassion on myself and know that I am experiencing a true, deep loss. Even if it is a “disenfranchised loss” it is a grief that is real and painful.  I don’t have to explain it away or justify it.

Today, I am going to let myself cry.

Today, I am probably going to eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s. (They should make a flavor called I’m Lonely And I Need Ice Cream. Who knows how many millions of dollars those guys have made during our bouts of sadness.)

Tomorrow, it will be wise for me to wake up, take a shower, have coffee with some friends, eat a salad, and remember that my life is still beautiful. If I don’t choose to have a balance, I will get really depressed.

I don’t want to be stuck in this grief on a constant basis. I need to allow myself to have moments of sadness and moments of gratitude. Moments of longing for a family and moments of building a different kind of family. A ying and a yang. (Because ying ying is not a healthy way to live. It is the name of a panda bear.)

But today, I am going to let myself grieve.

Today, I am lonely. And that is okay.

*Side note: where the heck is your heart of hearts? Is that a medical term? Because it sounds sketchy to me.

SPEAKING OF ME PLAYING AND TEACHING: I am teaching and leading worship at a wonderful women’s event called Uniquely Made  April 20 and 21 in Denver. If you are in the area, we are really needing more people to sign up to make it happen.  I’d love for you to come so I can meet you!