My sister, Chris, was born 13 months before me. My brother, Jeff, 13 months after me. Throughout our childhoods and teen years, we did the same things, met the same people, experienced the same milestones of life at virtually the same times – or each on the heels of the others. That all changed in July 1980. On a very hot day, July 19 to be exact, Chris married Dave Finnegan and began what has, this week, been 30 years of life together. Not too many years later, in 1982, Jeff married Marsha.
On Monday, Chris and Dave’s 30th anniversary, I was in Cedar Falls visiting Jeff and Marsha and marvelling at the passage of time, the beautiful family and life they have created together, and realizing that my life stopped including the same milestones as theirs way back in the 80s. Back then, I didn’t think much of it. I assumed that, like them, I’d meet someone, fall in love, get married, have a family.
As time passed and that didn’t happen, I rolled with it. Throughout my 20s, I didn’t worry much about getting married. Sometime in my mid-30s, I started to realize that it might not happen. It was easy, for the next decade or so to imagine that the problem of a husband or lover would resolve itself if I just lost weight. As long as I told myself the reason no one wanted me was a physical issue, I could allow myself to believe that other people’s shallow feelings were to blame.
But deep down inside, I wondered. I was a lot like Jennifer Anniston’s character in the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You”. At her sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner, a cousin gives a toast, intended to include good-natured ribbing about the character’s single status, that goes too far. Anniston walks away from the table, and her father comes up and says, “Cousin Joe’s a jackass. Always has been.” Anniston’s character says, “I know. And yet, even HE is married.” As in, “If that ass can be married, what is so terribly wrong with me? Because I must be really unlovable or things would be different.”
Next week will include my 49th birthday. Not really a milestone year (watch out next year, though!). I’m still single. As I’ve lost weight, I’ve had to confront a host of toxic beliefs I’ve been carrying around in my heart. One milestone I’ve recently celebrated is actually believing I am someone to love, not just someone who can love. Another is that, after years of wishing for a passionate lover to sweep me off my feet and change me or my life for good, I’m actually happy with my life and am not looking for a hero or savior.
Here’s what I find myself wishing for now: an intimate friend like my siblings have found. Someone to share my daily life and mundane tasks with — someone to split a sandwich with, if I’m not hungry enough to eat a whole one. These are the things I envy when I see my siblings’ and parents’ marriages. Well, that and the way they run interference for each other, softening the blows life deals out, soothing hurts, or telling each other the truth when they need to hear it.
Don’t read this post and think I’m sad or lonely. I’m not (well, only a little and only some of the time — and I understand this is the case for married people, too!). I accept that I don’t control what the future holds and I’ll be okay whatever does or doesn’t happen. More importantly, recent insights make me, finally, feel that diverging from the path Chris and Jeff took, and hitting a whole different set of milestones, has been a worthwhile journey, after all.