The Importance of a Hug

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

One of the more difficult parts of being single, living alone, and working remotely is the fact that days can go by with me talking “in person” to another human being or having any physical contact with someone. It’s a weird thing when I really sit down to think about it. No handshakes, hugs, high fives, or even a passing touch as you walk by someone. Depending on my call schedule and what else I have going on I might not even talk to another person.

Last January I got the flu and for two weeks the only other people I saw were the nurses in the doctor’s office and the pharmacy technician. Otherwise I was alone, I talked to as little people as possible because I would just start coughing like crazy, and I was just me. It was a long two weeks.

Days without physical contact with another person … it’s not something I think about very much, until it’s been days, like this week. Then yesterday, I talked to a couple of women after Mass to ask them to pray for a very close friend of mine who’s battling breast cancer. One of them gave me a hug; she gives the best hugs. The kind of hugs that last a good long while and aren’t just the ‘hug equivalent’ of the “how are you?” question. You know the ones!

A friend and I are buddy reading the book Unworried: A Life Without Anxiety by Dr. Gregory Popcack. He talks about one of the ways to reduce anxiety and to calm yourself down when you’re having an anxiety attack is a hug.

Go to your spouse or a good friend and ask them to give you a hug. Don’t be quick about it. Relax into the hug until you feel yourself exhaling the stress. Hugging actually syncs your heart rate to the other person and increases the presence of oxytocin, a powerful “calm down” hormone products through interpersonal bonding.

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There’s not a solution to this ‘lack of physical contact’ in my life right now. Truthfully, it is what it is. I have great friends who give good hugs. I was told by a friend who I saw a few months ago after years apart about how great of a hugger I am. Maybe I’ve learned not to take a hug for granted because they aren’t commonplace in my life.

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Things People Say

photo by Peter Goldberg on Pexels

A few days ago I saw this article posted on Verily about what to say to your friends who are experiencing infertility. As I read through the headlines to see if I wanted to read the whole article (isn’t that what everyone does?), I thought, “This applies almost perfectly to the single lady in your life as well” (mainly me).

Here are the highlights for you.

What not to say:

“It’ll Happen Eventually”

“This one couple I knew met…”

“You should try…”

In the past 30 days I’ve received two suggestions (one from a friend and one from my mother) to try a particular online dating site … just letting me know it’s out there in case I’m the one person who did hear that online dating was now a thing people did. Guess what? I’ve heard of it, it’s 2019.

There’s always the caveat at the end that’s either: “I just want you to be happy” or “We all just care about you” and “I’m praying for you.”

My response to those statements (even when they are good willed and from good intentions)?

“I just want you to be happy” (exact words on my birthday last year from my mother): Well, I am happy, if I wasn’t a man wouldn’t fix that. It’s a recipe for divorce to get married to someone ‘just so you’ll finally be happy.’

“We all just care about you” (most recent words from my mother): I know you care, and you know that this is a hard topic for me and that there are no easy answers … so why are you bringing up online dating like it’s the be all, end all, answer to the issue?

“I’m praying for you” (from a friend 2 seconds after suggesting this dating site): I’m glad you’re praying, prayer makes a difference, and it’s important … but instead of sending me to a new, random dating site no one’s ever heard of, maybe host a dinner party and invite all of our friends and a great Catholic guy you met at Mass last week that you’d like to introduce me to. It reminds me of this verse :

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James 2:14-17

Now, don’t introduce your single girlfriend to every. single. man. you. meet. on. the. street. but it is okay to help our friends (if they’re open to it) meet other single people. Dating is hard, and dating sucks in today’s culture. Also everyone knows that! It’s seriously does. Online Dating doesn’t help, it actually makes it worse, in my opinion. If it was about actually meeting other people you’d never known before with the intention of creating a long-term lasting relationship, then maybe it’d be a good addition to our culture. Instead it’s more about talking online only or hooking up or scrolling through pictures until a ‘pretty one’ strikes you.

It’s not actually about quality connection.

Yes, some people successfully meet online and get married. I don’t deny that. They just seem to be more the exception than the rule.

and then this… https://youtu.be/mWX95Pmipow.

So what’s the point of this whole rant about online dating and regular dating and old movies? It’s that this whole thing isn’t just as simple as ‘getting online’ or ‘stop looking.’ It’s bigger and deeper than “I just want a date this Friday.”

Dating is hard because it challenges your self-worth and your confidence (well, it does mine). I’ve been using eHarmony for just four months, but not even a coffee date has come of it. It’s not the way to meet someone, it’s a way to meet someone.

So what’s a gal to do?

First, remember that a man is not responsible for your happiness, your self-worth, or your beauty. God is and He hasn’t taken it away, not for anything. He’s in charge of my life, including love and all that comes with it. It’s hard to say that “He’s all I need” … but it’s the truth. If I’m not satisfied with His love, then I’ll never be satisfied with a human man’s love.

Right now, I’m satisfied with His love, I’m just not that happy with Him. The Lord can “do whatever He wants” … I mean, He takes the most tasteless bread and gives us His Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity. He gave us sunsets and beaches and oceans and mountains and the Grand Canyon and Hawaii and tea and bacon and French bakeries and wine and pizza. He can do anything He wants.

He just doesn’t seem to want to do this right now. If I can be okay with that, I need everyone else in my life to be okay with it too (or do something tangible to help). My main point is don’t instill unnecessary doubt in your single friends … she’s got enough of it already (trust me). Just be there with a Kleenex to catch the tears or a second glass to enjoy the wine.

You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me

yup, sounds about like my night

So a year or ago I talked with a matchmaker and it wasn’t for me. Mostly it was just expensive, and I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on the service. I found another company where you could be in their database for free to be someone they choose from for dates for their paying customers. I joined last Thanksgiving and was called twice in the past year.

The whole purpose of their service is to do the hard work of finding someone who meets your basic criteria, checks off your non-negotiables, and then sets up the date for you. All you do is show up and be your charming self. They even tell you not to talk about the service, how you met, online dating, or past relationships on the first date. Just enjoy yourself, lean in, and ask deep questions to get to know this person. You already know that you’re a good basic match for one another.

The first guy didn’t meet my criteria for age (he was almost two decades older than me), so we didn’t end up going out. Since I’m not paying for their services, I didn’t hold my breath for another date. Then I got a call back in early November about another guy. He’s evangelical, looking for a partner in life, someone who wants him to be the “spiritual leader of his household,” about his age (he’s 37), financially independent, and interested in adventure.

Sounds good. Now I know I’ve said before, “He’s got to be Catholic.” I do mean that – but have you see the pool of available Catholic men lately? It’s shallower than the baby pool in a hamster’s paradise! It’s also filled with a lot of algae and bottom feeders … okay, that was uncharitable – but seriously. I’ve been searching for them in my eHarmony matches and it’s not a wide pool of people. So, I said “sure, let’s set something up.”

We ended up having to put a pause on it because of something that came up with him – but last week the matchmaker texted and asked when I might be available. Things were set up for Tuesday (tonight) – great! Where? Amelie’s … the cutest French Bakery in NoDa. I’ve been there maybe a hundred times (at least) and they have the most amazing desserts.

I spent two nights losing sleep with anxiety for this date. Will he be attracted to me? Will he like me? Am I putting too much pressure on how we look? Will we have good conversation? What will I ask him that’s not job or weather related? Will I have anything interesting to say? (We know I always have something to say!) Hours of sleep (although I did finish this book, which was just delightful) that I lost over the past two nights! HOURS of laying awake anxious in bed!

Then I spent time getting ready tonight, I brought my A GAME! I was ready to just be my amazing self (humble much Katie?) and have a good night of conversation. Worst case scenario was we weren’t interested in each other but had a cup of tea/coffee and a delightful dessert and went our separate ways, never to see one another again. Best case, it would be the beginning of a life altering relationship! But either way, no loss.

Turns out that’s not the worst case scenario. We didn’t even get dessert. I MEAN, SERIOUSLY? WE WENT TO AMELIE’S AND DIDN’T GET A DESSERT! I should go to confession because that’s a mortal sin! (Well, not technically, according to the catechism, but I’ll work on a letter for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and see if I can get that rectified! Their desserts are amazing, beautiful, delightful, and the stuff dreams are made of!)

When I arrived, he was already there – good sign! He was handsome and waiting at the meeting place (we only knew fist names and what color each other was wearing beforehand). He asked if I wanted to get a drink – he was going to have a coffee and I got a tea (because I’m addicted). NO DESSERT! Then, once the woman had taken both of our orders, he asked if I wanted to “SPLIT THE BILL” which was a total of $5.32. Yes, you read that right. It was a little over $5 and we split it because apparently … apparently, I don’t know what. There’s not end to that sentence that makes sense. It was $5 … even if it had been more, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the man to pay for the first date. This matchmaking service has a whole blog about it.

I almost told her to just put the whole thing on my card because it was five dollars and thirty-two cents! I mean, seriously. If you can’t buy me a tea, then you have no business being out on a date with me.

After we found a seat, drank some tea, and I began asking questions – because he sure didn’t. Some of our conversation was okay … well, my portion (humble again) because he didn’t ask a single question of me for the first 25 minutes. I offered information about me – but that’s only because someone had to fill the silences of the room after he answered a question and then just looked off into space. I also learned a lot about his job – which isn’t all that interesting to be honest. He works in customer service for a financial services company … he prints a lot of statements. One time a customer (an oil company, why do I know that detail?) asked them to bring all of the statements that they had ever received from them. It was over 220! (WOW!) Then they wanted them mailed and emailed but the file was too big so they couldn’t email it, and apparently don’t know how to split PDFs, send multiple emails, or place it in a secure place online where it could be downloaded by the other company (okay, I added those last parts – but I’m not even in the financial services business and I can solve that issue!). Again, why do I know this? Why was this good first date conversation material?

Oh, and he’s not evangelical – he’s actually Catholic (or was raised one, more accurately) but hasn’t been to church in a few years and didn’t even know the name of the parish he attended as a teenager! Which is the largest parish in the United States! So, person of faith seeking to be the spiritual head of the household? Really? You don’t know the name of your church! Unless I missed something … he also didn’t know what an offertory envelope was … that’s how I know he’s not a practicing Catholic. We never miss an opportunity to pass the basket. Which is fine, for him (well, maybe it’s not – but that’s his concern at the end of time) – but it’s not what she told me he was.

I really tried. I brought my A game! I dressed nicely, put on make-up, brushed my teeth (the bar is apparently very low). I made an effort. I didn’t talk about the weather or the mundane parts of my job at all. I brought my A game, and we didn’t even share a salted caramel brownie or have a macaroon! Middle schoolers have more interesting dates that I did tonight, and they have to get their moms to drive them everywhere!

What’s wrong with American Singles? I could start a list … a friend is using Bumble and many of the men on there are “ethically non-monogamous” with pictures of wives in their profile shots. WHAT? I bet they buy their gals a tea and a dessert though!

That’s all. I have no wisdom to offer, no lessons to learn – except, cut the crap on the anxiety Katie – stop worrying to much about what he’s going to think, just go and be yourself. Also, buy your own dessert next time – which I did after he left and had on the way home while yelling on the phone with my friend about this terrible date. It was delicious! Made the drive down there worth it!

The Best Plan

daniel-mccullough-348488-unsplash.jpg

Trusting in the Lord’s plan for my life is one of the hardest things about being a faithful Catholic for me.

Lately I’ve had this plan in mind for my life. Husband, children, stay at home mom, maybe even homeschooling, definitely a church attendee with the cutest little girls ever (who says my kids would even be girls, all my friends keep having are boys … but a gal can dream!). I even found a person who I think would be perfect to do all this with.

The problem? Well, I don’t know this person IRL. This person doesn’t know me or have any expressed interest in me. I’m delusional. Okay, at least two of those statements are true.

I’ve written about the qualities I’m seeking in a husband before. This guy checks a lot of those boxes. Practicing Catholic? Check. Seeking holiness? Check. Handsome in my eyes? Check. Gainfully employed? Check. Humorous? Check. Knows who I am? Maybe a check. Interested in dating and/or marrying me? Um, questionable since we don’t know each other and live on opposite coasts in a country that’s wider than 5 miles.

So to rectify that situation, I’ve been telling the Lord “He can do anything.” You know, really buttering him up, playing to the guy’s need to feel like He can fix it all. Or maybe the Lord doesn’t have that quality…

But still, I’ve been saying “You can do anything. You brought M’s husband here from India, E’s husband all the way from Ghana, M’s husband showed up at her workplace, S’s husband found her in the midst of all the noise on a Catholic dating site, you’ve done fantastical things before – you can do it now!”

Answer? Crickets. Nothing. Nada. Nope. Silence.

Maybe that’s the answer. I think the answer is no to this person, and that’s okay. I like living on the east coast, and frankly I really don’t want to leave this community I made in Charlotte over the last 10  years. It was hard. My best friends are here. My godsons are here. My life is here. And right now, I can’t picture a life anywhere else – I’m not saying I’d refuse to move, but until there’s a compelling (ie: man on one knee with a ring) reason, I’d like to stay in Charlotte.

So back to the point about the plan. This one I’ve concocted is pretty fantastic, well definitely fantastical and potentially unrealistic. It would require a lot of moving and shaking by the Lord. People say “He’s saying NO because He’s got something bigger and better in mind.” Is that true?

The thing I’m doubting is whether He’s got something bigger and better in mind or just harder that requires big sacrifices from me and involves me being single forever in mind. That’s what it feels like right now.

I saw this quote in the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKuerst that a friend and I were reading together for our virtual book club. I’ve heard it before, but it really stands out to me this week.

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.
-C.S. Lewis

I almost just wrote “I wonder if what God has in store for me is different than what I have in store for me.” Well, that’s definitely true; I don’t need to wonder about that. This plan I’ve concocted is not the plan the Lord has in store for me. His plan has got to be better, right? Right?

We tell ourselves that, but it might not be ‘better’ (by my definition of better) per say, but definitely different. I believe it coincides with the plan He has for spreading the message of His love in the world. I must be part of that in some way. We all must be. That’s what our Baptism into the Church He left us is all about. To be “priest, prophet, and king” sharing in the spreading of His message, in the building up of His kingdom here on earth until we can all be together in Heaven.

Might that include me marrying a holy, handsome, humorous man and us having cute little girls? Maybe. I really don’t know, but I sure do hope so!

Feeling Important

feeling loved and important.png

Last week I wrote about “finding my way in the single life” and my quest to feel important. This week the Lord outdid Himself showing me how much the people around me love me and think I’m important in their lives. Storytime, my godson’s favorite blanket, baby smiles & kisses, hair braiding, and the love they have for Aunt or Miss Katie is overwhelming.

The other night my godson’s mom sent me a picture (bottom right) of him in his car seat with the blanket I made him before he was born. She said, “He doesn’t do it all the time, but enough that it’s a trend – pulls this blanket on him as he gets in the car.” It made me feel so happy, that something I made for him is one of his favorite things. Every time I see him, He’s nothing by smiles and giggles – even during late-night baby-sitting while mom and dad are working.

On Saturday evening I was over a friend’s for dinner and a movie, they have 5 year old twins (upper left). Every time I walk in, they are SO happy to see me. They love spending time at my house and call it ‘kid-sitting’ when I take them to the pool for a water adventure. Whenever I’m there in the evening, I help with baths and then it’s story time. Each of them gets to pick out a book then we cuddle up on one of their beds for story time. It’s one of my favorite things!

This Sunday was baby Finnian’s Baptism. When I got to the parish, I grabbed this cutie to snuggle with while 8 other babies were baptized (upper right). He loves to snuggle and adores kisses (although this picture doesn’t really demonstrate that!).

After the baptism we went back to their house to hang out for a bit and one of my friend’s little ones, Lucy, wanted my phone to take pictures (bottom left). She followed me around for a bit and was just shooting pictures of me and the baby, other things happening, whatever she could find! After a great chat with my oldest friend here (not in age, but in length of time that we’ve known each other – almost 10 years as we both moved to Charlotte the same summer and met very quickly), she was walking me out and told me what the kids said earlier. She had told them who was coming and there were a few Katie’s on the list. They asked which one was coming, was it “their Katie!” It was!! We’re going to have a sleep over in a few weeks. I couldn’t be more excited!

So I am loved and important, it’s just different. I was trying to see it through my own lens rather than, literally, the lens of children. Each day before Mass, I’ve been just saying one simple prayer, “Let me see your love today” and then I read a spiritual book, look over the readings, or just look around at our new sanctuary renovation. The Lord has outdone Himself this week and it shows me that if I need something from Him, I just need to ask!

Figuring out the Single Life

figuring out the single life.png

You’d think after over 33 years of being single, I’d have this life figured out. If only I did. At the end of last year I was reading a lot of Brené Brown (you know my love for her), feeling angry a lot, and wanting to cry all of the time, so I decided to see a counselor to try and get some things straight in my mind. And also to stop being angry at my friends all of the time. The last 9 months have been good for me, sometimes I know just what I need to talk about with her and sometimes I go in with nothing and come out crying. Unfortunately, or fortunately I’m not sure which, that second one happens a lot lately.

The fact that I’m single and want to be married is a driving force of a lot of things in my life, if you didn’t already catch that with all these posts about my future husband, the single life, marriage, feeling alone, etc… You’re probably tired of hearing about this topic, I know I’m tired of writing about it and living it. However, until he shows up, here we are. (BTW if you meet him [you’ll know it when you see him], please send him my way!)

But this week in counseling I think we whittled down the hardest part of this for me: my need to be important to someone. It reminds me a little of this (image search). For me, the number one reason it’s so hard to be single in a group of married friends who keep having babies is that someone else in their life is always more important than me.

Wow, that sounds selfish, narcissistic, and terrible all written out. Unfortunately, it’s also the truth right now. The God’s honest truth. And the truth hurts sometimes.

It’s not their fault that someone has taken the place as the most important person in their life. I don’t want them to stop having kids – I love having new little ones to cuddle up with and who call me “Aunt Katie” even though we don’t share any blood relations. It’s just the reality of our lives right now.

It’s so hard to talk about too. I mean, to tell a friend who had to cancel because her baby was sick and needed to go to the doctor that “you’re not thinking of me (a grown woman who can take care of herself and is healthy) enough today” feels pretty foolish.

One of my friends who recently got married (actually almost 3 years ago now…) was “my person” for a long time. We were both new in town, single, and were (still are) best friends. She’s the one I call when I need advice, need to scream, or just need to talk. For a while she would talk to her and say “well, Katie and I discussed it and this is what we came up with.” Now she says “Husband and I discussed it and this is what we came up with.” That’s the right thing for them, but it’s hard for me.

She and I shouldn’t be making decisions about her family, the way she’s raising her children, how to interact with her spouse, ways to run their business, or what she should do about working. We can talk about all of those things, my opinion can factor into their final decision if they want, but she and I don’t make decisions about her life because she and her husband do. If the situation was reversed, the same would be happening about my life with my husband. The only reason it isn’t is because I just don’t have a husband (seriously, where is he and what is he doing!).

The hard part is that you were friends with someone when you’re both single so you began to rely on each other with the other one as “your person.” Then when one gets married, the dynamic changes, but just for one. She got a new “person” but I didn’t. My friends are still the ones I go to for advice, talking things through, figuring out what my next house project, working through issues at work. Most of the time these conversations remain one sided because she talks to someone else about these things in her life. Now it’s true that it’s not always this way, there are plenty of times when they come to me for some advice, to work things out, or just talk about something.

The point is that it’s hard to be alone. I don’t often feel lonely or depressed about it, but I do want someone to talk about the both the mundane and important things of life with. Maybe that’s why I write here or share stuff on InstaStories, someone to share the ordinariness of life with – it’s just that most of those people are strangers.

So what to do about it?

Well, I think it’s a matter of recognizing it as the truth and sharing anyway. I tend to clam up, not share, or become irritated when I’m not being seen as important enough. That’s not healthy, really it’s the number one way to lose friends. And I don’t want to do that – I need my friends. Although we aren’t related by blood, we are family. The best kind really – the ones who chose to love you.

Humane Vitae and Me

Well this is a fun day! My friend Laura over at A Drop in the Ocean is doing a month long series about the effects and influence of Humane Vitae for the 50th Anniversary this year. She asked for submissions months ago, and I thought I’d share a bit about my own life, being single, living out this area of the Church’s teaching.

So check it out over at her place!

And the testimonies before mine were all great so far, so I cannot wait to read the rest in the series!!