Here I am, tucked in a studio apartment in the center of Orange, California. Historic Americana outside—red brick buildings, old-fashioned cars parked in front, clean sidewalks sparkling in the sunlight. Inside, though, is pure me—faded jewel-colored drapes, scarred violin leaning in its open case. A bed full of pillows.
The thing is, I’m 36 years old. Older, really, by months. Really, I shouldn’t be living in a tiny room with only myself to take care of me when I’m sick. Really, I should be married, which I’d like to be, with a child or two. My body tells me this constantly. As does my heart. All of my friends have ventured into familyhood, that journey inward. I’ve missed them. Lately, I feel like I’m missing everything—the big boat and the wacky, wonderful world it rides by.
I have spent the last decade trying to figure out how I’ve missed it. And I’m not alone; when people meet me they can’t believe I’ve never been married. I’m “cute.” I have a Masters. I’ve been a Peace Corps Volunteer, thru-hiked the John Muir Trail, canoed the length of the Mississippi River. I rock climb, practice yoga, and am an avid sports fan. “It will happen,” they say, so sure. “You need to stop looking,” they say. “Get out, look.” “Do this. That. Nothing. Be happy. Then it will happen.”
I have tried the advice, humbly accepting societies’ efforts to school me in the art I feel I’ve failed at so miserably: meeting a good partner. Nothing’s worked. And no one offers advice anymore; there’s none to give.
So…now what? I began to ask, especially during three days bed-ridden with the stomach flu. It felt awful not to have someone to play cards with, or make me soup. Perhaps the sickness is what yanked me under, into depression. Suffering loneliness seemed too much for a long future; my life, in spite of its amazing adventures, seemed valueless.
When I became well enough, I made my way to the floor. Crawled to my meditation pillow, long unused, pulled it from under my easel. I fished through my jewelry box and found three rings: my grandfather’s wedding ring—a wide band of swirling ivy; my grandmother’s thread-thin bands, and my dead mother’s engagement ring…a small diamond, sitting high on a thin circle, the same brassy gold as the others. I placed the rings on the pillow and lit a candle.
I didn’t speak—no incantation or prayer. I just sat, straight-backed, before them. And let them give me hope. I’m a staunch non-theist. But I believe in the power of faith and hope. And when there’s no advice left to help me find what I feel I need so desperately, I create symbols for the practice of hoping. I sit now every day. In my little studio apartment, in front of my rings, my candle burning. Just sit for a while. And each time I rise, I feel a little more lifted.
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