See Me: Defiantly Single (pt. 2)

Can I be brutally honest for a minute?

If you ask me why I’m defiantly single, I’d say it’s because I fear choosing the wrong partner. Yes, I believe in God. Of course, I trust that He will confirm the man He desires me to be with in more than one way. Yes, I have a community of trusted people who will step in if they believe the man I want isn’t deserving of me. While I recognize that all of these safeguards are in place, there’s a part of me that thinks it’s still not enough.

Let’s be real. How many times have we heard of stories where a God-fearing woman married a God-fearing man and ended up dead or in jail because that man was a wolf? For those who don’t understand the reference, Matthew 7:15 talks about false prophets appearing as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Don’t get me wrong, men aren’t the only perpetrators. There are women who fake it, too. The point is that people may pretend to be charming, humble, and just about everything we desire in a spouse—that is, until after the wedding day.

I don’t mean to be a cynic. Because I believe marriage is a beautiful thing, I want to trust that mine will be all I’ve ever hoped for and more. But I have come to terms with my reality that I’ve made poor choices in the past. My sister (in Christ) will tell you that, after years of listening to my “boy stories,” I’m drawn to fixer-uppers. That is, the men with potential who don’t seem to be doing much with themselves. Looking past the physical, I pay more attention to the possibility of what a man can become (with the right woman by his side). I egg him on when he talks about his lofty dreams, even though he doesn’t take any steps toward accomplishing them. I support him when he makes otherwise reckless decisions, although I don’t agree with them. I praise him when he excels in one unrelated area, despite making no progress in the things that get him closer to reaching his goals.

When I think about it, I have been just as complicit in the failure of these past relationships because I ignored the obvious warning signs and chose to believe my own narrative, not what was in front of my face all along. Why? I don’t know. I wasn’t blinded by love—not even close. It’s not that I didn’t know my worth. I think I just got too caught up to want to do anything about it—but that’s a different post.

I thank God for my sister being truthful and telling me about myself because she saved me a lot of wasted hours, days, weeks, and months remaining with someone who didn’t deserve me. I wish more of us would do that for those we love. Yes, the person may get angry and not speak to us for a little while. But, I believe, they will eventually realize the error of their ways to see that we acted out of love.

Ok, back to the issue at hand. I stated in a previous post that I don’t believe my generation views marriage through the same lens as those who came before. Somehow, we’ve accepted the notion that a lifelong commitment is not something worth entering into with anyone. For me, thinking about being with someone for the rest of my life sounds lovely, but it’s also really scary if that man wakes up and decides he’s going to become someone completely different. That’s one of the reasons I don’t believe in putting up a front in the getting-to-know-each-other phase. I want my potential suitor to see the good, bad, and crazy from the get-go. That also sounds like it might be a future blog post.

But I have come to terms with my reality that I’ve made poor choices in the past.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

Although I’m afraid of picking the wrong person to spend the rest of my life with, fellow navigator, I still welcome the thought of marriage with open arms. I trust that my parents have raised me well enough to know what I should and shouldn’t accept. I believe I’ve seen enough couples succeed at married life, despite the obstacles that were in their way. I rest assured that God speaks to me in ways others may not understand, so He will prevent me from choosing a spouse who will not honor Him. I am confident in the fact that my intuition is almost always on point (when I listen to it) and will go off like a bullhorn if I’m about to make a mistake.

Fellow navigator, there’s an amount of risk involved in getting married. It requires a level of vulnerability and trust that you’ve chosen someone who will love, honor, and cherish you until death. That’s heavy. Be honest, are you like me? Do you choose to remain defiantly single because the thought of possibly picking the wrong person troubles you? Tell me about it!

Not I: Waiting on a Fairy Tale?

Disney did me dirty. I’ve definitively decided that my daughters will not be exposed to Disney princess stories during their formative years. Why? Because I am absolutely sick and tired of the way young girls are conditioned to believe they’re in need of saving. Of course, Disney is not the only guilty culprit in this atrocity against girls. No, there are other companies producing content that teaches girls that they are the inferior sex. I wasn’t born in this country, but Disney’s reach goes far beyond the United States. From a young age, I was informed through fairy tales that my life was incomplete without a man by my side. He was my protector, source of financial security, and only hope in avoiding a life of utter loneliness (aka being an old maid).

“From a young age, I was informed through fairy tales that my life was incomplete without a man by my side.”

After spending some time in introspection, I realized the lessons I learned from princess stories took root deeper than I’d known. As a young, impressionable child, I was taught that girls were dainty, well-mannered, prudent, homely, and soft-spoken. We were to wear beautiful dresses, perform our domestic chores, and remain silent in the presence of men. I was shown that our fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, and grandfathers had final authority over us. It was acceptable for us to be locked away in a room somewhere to only enjoy the company of animals and imaginary friends, and it was perfectly alright for us to sacrifice our dreams to make another’s come true.

Arguably the biggest lessons princesses taught me were about romantic relationships. In books, TV shows, and movies, I saw that girls were expected to be married at a young age. Many of them were not educated or did not pursue higher education. A proper young lady was also trained in domesticity and had very few friends outside of family members. She never explored foreign lands or conquered dragons. No, she stayed in her father’s house until a man came to take her to his.

She waited patiently for a man to come and to rescue her. She didn’t question his decisions, wonder why he never asked for her opinion, or consider that there was more to her life. When conversing with a suitor, the young lady never inquired about his goals, fears, past relationships, or plans for their future. She didn’t want to know whether he was kind to his mother, had character flaws that might make the success of their marriage challenging, or cared about what she wanted in life. There were no discussions about children, religious affiliations, or political sidings. To make matters worse, there was never ever any talk about finances or how money would be handled in the relationship. These are all important things young girls must learn prior to marriage to avoid becoming stuck in relationships where they are unheard, unloved, and unappreciated.

“She stayed in her father’s house until a man came to take her to his.”

The fairy tale was filled with smiles, laughter, music, dancing, and colorful outfits, but it always ended before the real relationship began. The man endured adversity and braved whatever obstacles came in his way to get his human reward, but that was all she was—a prize. Once the rush of the pursuit was over, the story ended. After he won her heart, things miraculously became spectacular. We were told they lived happily ever after. This is not reality, and it’s far from what I desire.

Relationships are messy. People are fickle. We’re hot, cold, and wishy-washy when it comes to just about everything. I’m not waiting on a fairy tale because it is riddled with untruths. I’m not helpless. I’m unwilling to always be the one to sacrifice what matters most when my partner consistently gets what he wants. I’m more than my cooking, sewing, and cleaning skills.

I wish someone had told me fairy tales weren’t one-size-fits-all from the very beginning. This isn’t what I want my daughters growing up to believe. It’s probably safe to say that the dream of obtaining the fairy tale, as presented through the lens of Disney, no longer applies to me. Nevertheless, I continue to proudly reject its stereotypes and stand as a dissident. Life was never meant to be lived according to a specific blueprint. Quite frankly, outside of serving God and representing Christ well on this earth, everything else is up to me.

Fellow navigator, which fairy tale did you enjoy growing up? What love story did you secretly wish would become yours? When did you have the realization that life was not a fairy tale? Tell me about it!

Dear Navigator, There’s Always a Choice.

Admittedly, being told I have a choice is not what I want to hear when I’m in a relationship that’s falling apart at the seams. No, I want to wave a magic wand and return things back to how they used to be. I want him to initiate contact and make me feel like I matter. I want us to go back to our long phone calls and deep conversations about our beliefs. Instead of facing the reality that is in front of me, I want to hide and pretend like my only option to is to ride the storm out.

The truth is, this is an all-too-familiar scenario. Last month, I wrote about being in a relationship where I nearly lost myself. If I could add to that post, this is the follow up to what I wish someone had said to me during that time. I wish a trusted friend would have pulled me aside and let me know that I didn’t have to go as deep to almost reaching the point of no return. I wish a sister, friend, or random stranger on the street had told me that, when it comes to dating relationships, I always have a choice.

In any relationship, even in marriage, we have choices. If God, the Creator of the universe, gives human beings free will to choose whether or not to accept His existence and follow Him, then I am able to decide if I want to remain in a toxic relationship. Granted, not all relationships appear toxic at face value. We, as humans, have gotten incredibly good at hiding the truth from the rest of the world. We post our best and happiest moments on social media to maintain the façade of our false reality. As a result, it becomes easier to transport ourselves to that alternate world when what’s in front of us appears grim.

Even though we don’t always remember, we can choose to walk away from men who no longer love or respect us. We don’t have to endure listening to their harsh words and criticisms. There’s no need for us to stay and be used as punching bags. We can come out of the kitchen and enjoy the company of our guests. We are more than just pairs of legs spread to give them pleasure when they so desire. As women, we are not sex slaves, cooks, washing machines, childcare providers, or any other position that has been assigned to us by men who don’t appreciate us. We are visionaries, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, politicians, diplomats, revolutionaries, and freedom fighters.

After nearly losing myself, the epiphany came that I didn’t have to stay with the guy who claimed to love me yet stopped communicating that love in a way I understood. I stopped trying to make a relationship work when he began making me less of a priority. I ceased being vulnerable as he continued to stray far away and make less time for me. I allowed the walls around my heart to go up when he decided I was no longer worth the chase. I chose to walk away the day I cried because he made me feel unworthy.

I stopped trying to make a relationship work when he began making me less of a priority.

It’s a vicious cycle we have to go through sometimes to truly understand our value, but I’m honestly glad it happened for me. While I don’t wish to be in a place where I no longer recognize myself because of a man, I am proud beyond words to have come out victorious. There’s always a choice. I am the daughter of a King, and I deserve to be with someone who will treat me as such. No, our lives won’t always be filled with mountaintop experiences. But the man for me will wake up each day eager to find ways to express his love for me because he doesn’t want to lose me. I will rise each morning ready to show how much he means to me because he’s a good man trying to make it in a world that’s constantly tearing him down.

Fellow navigator, I want a love so real that we both work to make it work because we understand each other’s value. If you’re in a position right now where you feel like you have to stay, allow me to be the one to say that you always have a choice. You don’t have to entertain abuse–ever. The relationship may dissipate, but it’s better than losing yourself. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you couldn’t get out? What made you finally end things? Tell me about it!

See Me: Before Walking Away

Really? you didn’t see it coming?

It’s taken a lot for me to get to a place where I’m confident in who I am and what I bring to the table. That’s why it’s so easy for me to walk away from a man who doesn’t value me. It’s not that I’m some callous woman who entered the relationship with the intent of breaking his heart. No, I didn’t mean to start something I couldn’t finish. The truth is that somewhere along the way we lost ourselves. I’d most likely sat around watching and waiting for him to step up and treat me the way I deserved, but he never did.

While I don’t speak for all women, I can say that it takes quite a bit of messing up on a man’s part to get me to walk away. It’s not a decision I take lightly because, to some degree, it means accepting that I also played a role in the failed relationship. Walking away also means that I made the wrong choice. Maybe I was too infatuated by his captivating looks, intellect, or witty humor to see that we were incompatible from the start.

Regardless of the rationale for getting into the relationship, walking away is a step that indicates my desire for more. Yes, me walking away means that I wanted more. More of his time, affection, attention, and respect. Oftentimes I hear conversations about women who are portrayed as heartless individuals because they walked away. Their intentions are called into question, and the men (usually) in the group get upset and wonder if the women ever expressed their unhappiness in the relationship.

After kissing some frogs, I’ve learned to be upfront about what I need from my romantic partner to make the relationship work. As a result, I have no problem telling a man I’m interested in or dating how I receive love. I do it for two reasons. First, I want him to know what makes me happy. Second, past experience has taught me that I’m not the most communicative when I’m about to check out from a relationship. If I’m upfront with this man about some of my quirks, he can at least know what signs to look out for. Maybe I’m doing the most, but I don’t want a man to say that I didn’t give the relationship my all. As someone who’s been accused of being a workaholic, too busy for a relationship, and a slew of other things, I want the person I’m with to know I’m going into the relationship intent on making it work.

I’ve read tons of articles about why women walk away from relationships. I’m not proud to admit this, but I am definitely guilty of walking away once my threshold for nonsense has been crossed. Yes, it really exists. What’s the fastest way of losing me? Ignoring me. That’s it.

After kissing some frogs, I’ve learned to be upfront about what I need from my romantic partner to make the relationship work.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

I understand busy. I lead a pretty busy life at times, too. But I am capable of carving a few minutes or hours to spend exclusively with the one I’m with. Whether we’re texting throughout the day or talking on the phone before going to bed, that is his time. I make sure to do what I need to on my end to give him my undivided attention. That’s what I expect from him in return.

When we go days without speaking, I feel like I don’t matter. When he sends a good morning text and is silent for the rest of the day, I begin to question my worth in his eyes. When I tell him I miss hearing his voice and he continues the conversation as if I hadn’t just poured my heart out to him, I feel like a fool. It is at that exact moment that the walls around my heart begin to go back up and my mind starts to rationalize life without him.

It’s not that he’s a bad man—he just isn’t the one for me. I promised myself a long time ago that I would not beg a man for his attention. If he doesn’t give it willingly, knowing that that is one of the few things I ask of him, then I know he isn’t for me. No, fellow navigator, the man God has for me will understand the importance of this ask and strive to please me in that area. Even when he’s had a long hard day, he’ll pick up the phone and spend a few minutes with me before calling it a night.

Fellow navigator, what’s the final straw that causes you to walk away from a relationship? Do you give the one you’re with advance notice before you leave? After leaving, have you ever looked back and regretted your decision? Tell me about it!

Not I: Side Chick? Mistress?

Call me conservative, old-fashioned, a prude, or whatever term you want, but I still believe in monogamy in a relationship. For decades I have watched the older generation in communities I’ve been part of at various times in my life exert the energy needed to make their relationships work. Yes, some of those marriages ultimately fell apart. However, the vast majority are still alive and kicking to this day.

As an observer on the outside looking in, I’ve often wondered if either partner ever had the urge to cheat. I mean, some of the relationships appeared to be so bad that I wouldn’t have blamed one partner for filing for divorce and walking away in search of love in another’s arms. Watching these couples work through their mess, I learned some valuable lessons about love, marriage, and why side chicks and mistresses are so common these days.

If our earthly unions are supposed to be representative of Christ’s love for the Church, then I think we fail miserably when we throw our hands in the air and give up on each other too quickly. Believe me, I am the first to admit that I am guilty of walking away from people and relationships too often. At the first sign of conflict, I am usually ready at the door with my bags packed. It wasn’t until a few years ago that God and I had some real conversations about my aversion to conflict, resulting in my inability to grow in this area of my life.

“If our earthly unions are supposed to be representative of Christ’s love for the Church, then I think we fail miserably when we throw our hands in the air and give up on each other too quickly.”

I believe the Bible when it says that marriage is intended for one man and one woman, meaning we shouldn’t have multiple marriage partners. It’s 2020 and people live all sorts of lifestyles, but I choose to hold firm to this belief. I trust that when my husband finds me, he will leave his family so that the two of us can become one. It is in that union that I pray we will walk alongside each other on good days and bad ones. Call me an idealist, but I want to be with one man “until death do us part.” Those aren’t hollow, meaningless words—they represent a love that I believe people long for but seldom desire to work toward.

Some years ago, a guy asked if I would consider being his side piece. True story. Of course, those weren’t his exact words. No. He only stated that he wanted me to remain in the picture as a romantic interest even though he was about to marry another woman. Clearly, he didn’t love me or this woman. I had finally decided to give in to his pursuit, but the timing ended up being bad. But I learned more about this guy’s character in that brief phone call than in the years I had known him. I also recognized that his reason for asking me to play a romantic role in his life was not because he was madly in love with me; he had no intention of calling off his wedding.

Rather, this man didn’t want me—he wanted victory. I was the woman he couldn’t charm for years, so he jumped at the chance to finally say he landed me. It really is true that men enjoy the chase. To him, me saying that I was open to the idea of a relationship (prior to learning he had become engaged) was a sign of status because he could flaunt his trophy to the world. Yup, I said it. That’s what I was to him—a trophy. At that time, I was leading a different kind of life, so people knew my name and my ambition was my driving force. After that call, he made several attempts to contact me and start something romantic, but I blocked them all. Eventually, he must have realized he didn’t stand a chance and went away.

“That’s what I was to him—a trophy.”

The thought of sharing a man with another woman makes me cringe. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that so much is exchanged in a romantic relationship that I wouldn’t want my man to be intimate in that kind of way with someone else. No, I’m not just talking about sex. Being with someone means being intellectually, emotionally, and physically vulnerable. When it’s just he and I, it brings me some comfort to know that the connections we share are just between us. However, when he is that same way with another woman, I question the authenticity of what was exchanged.

To sum it all up, I don’t think I would ever become a side chick or mistress. I love too hard and too deep for that. If a man can’t or won’t commit to me, then I’d rather walk away from the relationship before it gets too serious. What about you, fellow navigator? What are your thoughts concerning polyamorous or polygamous relationships? Tell me about it!

Dear Navigator, I Nearly Lost Myself.

Growth is what happens after we make a conscious decision not to go through the same thing while expecting the same outcome. If you’re like me, this can be quite challenging because you find yourself becoming numb to the impact of the end result after experiencing it time after time.

Fellow navigator, you may grow accustomed to being called out of your name, shamed because you don’t look like the next top model, and ridiculed because your skills are not as sophisticated as the one he dated before you. His words pierce because they are said from a place of hurt and pain. He is unsatisfied with himself or the surrounding circumstances, so he takes his frustration out on you and verbally assaults your abilities, character, and physique all in one fell swoop. And you, not wanting to go back to life as a party of one, dwell on his words until you begin to believe them.

Like a robot.

Despite having entered into a relationship knowing your value and all you brought to the proverbial table, you allow one conversation to strip you of your dignity and self-respect. It might be ok if this had been a one-time thing, but you know it wasn’t. In fact, this is a regular situation you find yourself in. Of course, the lead male character is played by different men, but you are always cast for the supporting female role. Like sandcastles on the beach right before the tide comes in, you’re built up only to be washed away. As you go from relationship to relationship, you become more desensitized to his words. How can all the men you date know so much about your character flaws? Are your insecurities that obvious? You really are lucky he’s still with you, even though you’re not good at many things.

Does this sound remotely familiar? It does to me. While some aspects of the aforementioned story are fictitious, the underlying message resonates to my core because I was that woman. Regardless of all I brought into a relationship in the beginning, those things became less important as I made him and his needs more of a priority than my own. I allowed myself to believe that all relationships required compromise, so I had to put him first. Fellow navigator, this is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves or permit others to tell us.

Until the man you’re with expresses his intent to exclusively pursue you, he gets to be whatever number you assign him on your priority list. Realizing that I was about to go into another cycle, I pulled back.

The first time you find yourself at that fork in the road where you must decide to continue living life as usual or do something else can be rough. At least you know what the outcome will be if you choose the familiar route. Going the other way means potentially losing the one person who seems to get you. But does he? Does he really? If he understood, cared for, or valued you, would he really just stand by as you lost more and more of yourself trying to become what he wants? That, fellow navigator, is what we don’t talk about as much.

In the process of getting to know someone or dating, we see important character traits in them. Whether good or bad, they give us much insight into the true nature of that man. A man who cares for you will not be able to stand watching you lose your joie de vivre, especially if it’s because you’re too busy attending to him. One of the things being single until this point has done is allowed me to spend time with myself to learn about my character. There are things about myself that I absolutely love. I know that the absence of my smile is always a marker when things aren’t right in my world. Because of that, I’ve learned to pay attention when a relationship no longer brings me joy. When the sound of his voice, his presence, or his contributions no longer leave me feeling happy, I know that something is wrong.

To regain control of the narrative, I ultimately walked away from him. It was emotionally painful, but I experienced a freedom that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Once he was no longer my primary focus, I began to laugh and smile. My love for those things I used to do returned, and I unlocked new gifts I never knew I had. There were nights of endless tears and thoughts of going back to him, but I told myself I couldn’t. When I felt weak and like I was going to regress, I leaned on God’s strength to get me through. He wanted better for me; this man was not His best. That singular truth helped me get out of what would have been an otherwise toxic relationship.

Fellow navigator, I’m not suggesting that you become a cynic when it comes to relationships. No, I’m merely asking you to firmly hold on to who you are. While it’s ok to make small compromises for the man you’re dating, you shouldn’t be made to feel as though your needs don’t matter. Have you ever been in this sort of position? How did you pull yourself out of it? Tell me about it!

See Me: Not the Same, Know My Name

To the Next Man Who Captures My Heart: An Open Letter

I’m sorry I made you jump through so many hoops, but I needed to make sure you were willing to work for my heart. I say that only because men before you have pranced around and behaved as though they could handle a woman like me. As you look around and see that you’re the only one standing, it means they failed in their follow-through. In the process, believe me that I stopped to ask myself what made you different. Was it because you refused to allow me to push you away? Or maybe it was because you were patient and gave me the space I needed to work through my mess?

Regardless of how you became the last man standing, know that you are now the recipient of a love that will fight for us. I am prepared to honor, respect, and cherish you. Although we hope and will work toward a love that leads to marriage and a beautiful God-fearing family, anything can happen in this life. Despite all of that, you are the only man I see. There may be others who try to make themselves known, but they will always be in the background as you take center stage.

Only you!

When we met, there were many misunderstandings. We struggled with being vulnerable with each other because past hurts from relationships made us guarded. Though we never talked about it until later in our relationship, neither of us wanted to give up on the other because this time it felt different. When I try to explain it to others, I’m at a loss for words because I can’t. There was something about you; I wanted to see where things would lead.

Even when you annoyed me and made me want to tear my hair out, I couldn’t get myself to completely walk away. There were times when I turned my back on you, but you followed me and showed me why I should stay. There are many uncertainties on the path we’re on, but I know that I’ll be ok with you by my side.

Let’s do this!

You are not my savior; you are my partner. You support me when I feel like giving up. You cheer me up when I’m sad. You tell me I’m awesome when the world tries to beat me up. You defend me when others question my abilities. You endorse me in public, regardless of what others may think. For all these reasons (and more), I gladly (and proudly) call you mine.

There are many uncertainties on the path we’re on, but I know that I’ll be ok with you by my side.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

It is now my turn to speak some things to you. I am not her. I will never try to be her, nor do I ever want to be her. I won’t ever resent her for all she put you through. I’m sorry that it led to heartache and feeling like you were unworthy, but that made you so much stronger. The harsh reality is that, if she hadn’t completely been blind to the amazing man you are, you wouldn’t know how to recognize the one who would when she stares you in your beautiful eyes.

The truth is, I’m grateful to her. Because she couldn’t see all you could be, she gave up and left. It wasn’t that you were without vision, ambition, or goals; she just wasn’t the one meant to accompany you on the way to where all that’s in you leads. Who knows why God allows things to happen the way they do. Oftentimes, in the midst of what seem like horrible storms of life, we wake up to realize we were actually spared from what could have been worse. The growth you experienced while with her makes you an even better man for me because you see me and understand my worth. As much as I hate to admit it, she made you a better man.

You just weren’t meant to stop there.

We’ve been through some hard times and made it out on the other side. After all of that, I can’t possibly abandon you. As your number one fan, I promise to do all I can to encourage you on your way to the top. I’ll stand by your side when everyone else says it’s impossible. I’ll show up and be the loudest one in the crowd when you prove them wrong. From the time we met until now, I’ve seen your character, and you’ve seen mine. At the end of the day, all I can say is that she and I are not the same, know my name.

Fellow navigator, do you know how you are in romantic relationships? Do you test your prospective partner until he proves he’s deserving of you? What would you want the one who dares to stick around when everyone else has left to know? Tell me about it!

Mental Musings: Writing to Remember

words Can break cycles

My published words kept me from ruining a relationship that was being tested.

Almost two months ago, I published the book, Defiant! Redefining Singleness at 30+, because I wanted to document some critical life events that have led me to being 30 and single. What originally started as a series of letters to my unborn adult daughter, reassuring her that being 30+ and single isn’t a bad thing, turned into a manifesto of sorts. I poured a lot of my personal life onto the pages because I needed to get out my frustrations, joys, and feelings of loneliness that I’ve experienced on this journey.

While writing Defiant!, I felt like I was setting myself free from people’s expectations and assumptions about my relationship status. I intentionally chose to write it in the style I did because I wanted it to serve as a reminder of the thoughts and emotions I experienced; I knew those feelings would creep up again during the most inconvenient times on my journey as a single woman. I wrote about the pain of relocating and feeling like I didn’t have friends. In the book, I share about my struggles with my body image and other insecurities.

Yeah…

In as much as I wrote this book for my unborn daughter, if truth be told, I also wrote it for myself. Being single at 30 doesn’t feel the same as other ages. I don’t know if I’ve quite nailed down why this age carries so much weight in the life of a single woman, but I’ve decided not to allow a number to define who I am and what I’ve done. I thought being able to chronicle my experiences was a sign that I had conquered this area of my life; I was wrong.

Have you ever written something, put it aside, then gone back to it only to realize it was just what you needed in your lowest point? That’s what Defiant! Redefining Singleness at 30+ is for me. I wrote it because I didn’t want my unborn daughter listening to the lies of this world about her relationship status and what it means for her identity.

I’ve decided not to allow a number to define who I am and what I’ve done.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

A few weeks ago, I had a moment where I felt like I was going in a cycle with a particular relationship. A guy friend and I were having horrible communication issues. It was so bad that I had been feeling really low about myself. He made some pretty harsh comments and said things that left me questioning my identity and consistency as a friend. (In hindsight, his behavior was probably triggered out of place of his own pain and frustration with what had happened in our relationship.) The problem was that, though I’d never uttered the words, I had been entertaining the idea of this friendship becoming more. He never knew these thoughts were going through my head, but I had been closely observing our interactions to see if he was someone who could have a more valuable role in my life. Therefore, what he said took an even greater toll on me because I questioned whether I measured up as someone he could be with.

After his painful words, I wondered if there was truth to his remarks. Had I been exhibiting those behaviors? Was I the cause of confusion in relationships? Did I really push people away? The questions kept coming, but I saw no answers in sight. One day, when I was ready to do something that was out of my character in desperation to keep this man in my life, I had a passing thought that I should read my book. I found my copy on my bookshelf, opened to the chapter about not chasing dudes, and read. In those pages, I found the exact words I longed for someone to tell me in that moment.

Totally needed that pep talk!

You know what I did after closing the pages? I pushed pause on moving forward with my plan to communicate with this man, opened my laptop, and allowed my thoughts to fill the pages. I didn’t want to appear emotionally unstable by saying something to him I wouldn’t be able to take back. I’d been in this place before. I know that when my emotions are running wild, my ability to think rationally goes out the window. If I’m unable to break things down into logical steps, I go into panic mode because my brain can’t process what’s going on. This is not the case for everyone. Being single and having more than enough time to get to know myself, I’ve learned to recognize my patterns.

It was then that I saw the value of my book. Whether I sell 20 copies or 20 million, I don’t care. If writing this book was simply for me to have a guide for when life felt like it was going in cycles, I’m glad I did.

Gotta encourage yourself!

Fellow navigator, books, like music, are powerful tools that can bring healing and save lives. Are you an author? Did you ever have a similar experience? What’s the name of a book that has changed your life? Tell me about it!

Living Single While Quarantined

PSA: Please check on your single friends who live alone.

Several weeks ago, I got an email from a married friend asking if I was okay. It was weird because she almost never emails me. Her message said she was emailing because I hadn’t responded to her text messages; she was concerned. She sent the email because it was uncharacteristic of me to go days, much less more than a few hours, without responding to her texts. Knowing that I live by myself and because of all that’s been happening with COVID-19, she wanted to make sure nothing had happened.

Feeling so special!

Fellow navigator, can I tell you how much it warmed my heart to receive that email from her? I mean, I nearly cried reading her message. After about a week and some troubleshooting, we were able to begin receiving and sending texts. It turns out there was an issue with the phones/network where, for whatever reason, she didn’t receive my responses to her texts (only mine).

Living single while quarantined is not for the faint of heart. In fact, if you’re not used to being in your own company on a fairly regular basis, it can be darn-near depressing. I feel like I have it even worse because I’m also self-employed; I spend a lot of time in my apartment or by myself somewhere. When you’re married, you at least have another adult to communicate with about everything from the most mundane to the overly complex. There’s someone to bounce ideas off, and you can easily find things to do that allow you to decompress or forget that you’re essentially confined to one space indefinitely.

“In fact, if you’re not used to being in your own company on a fairly regular basis, it can be darn-near depressing.”

While this quarantined life wasn’t a huge adjustment for me, I’ve definitely had my share of struggles being home alone almost 24/7. Minus the once a week (if even that) grocery, mail, or trash run, I haven’t left my apartment in over a month. Although some leaders in Georgia have not taken this pandemic seriously, I shut almost everything down when they closed the schools. I live in a place where people don’t check in during normal conditions; I can’t dare count on them to so much as pick up a phone in the middle of this mess.

Yeah…

There’s no doubt that the number of cases of people struggling with mental health issues and depression will increase the longer quarantined life continues. I’m sad to even think about the number of suicidal attempts that will take place because people are lonely and uncertain how to survive their new normal. This is real, and we don’t want to assume people are alright until it’s too late.

Take it from me: there are many days when I’m not ok. My one constant is literally taking stock of my life and remembering how good God has been to me thus far. I lost about 85% of my income when this pandemic began; I honestly can’t tell you how I’m still living day-to-day. As the one who has contingencies for my contingencies, I did not see this pandemic hitting us as hard as it has. All I know is that I’m grateful for a father who helps when he can, past life experiences that have taught me how to survive with little, and a God who continues to provide opportunities for work.

“Take it from me: there are many days when I’m not ok.”

We’re deviating from the “not I” theme this week because this needs to be said. It takes less than five minutes to pick up a phone and actually talk with a single friend who lives alone, especially someone you don’t talk to regularly. Don’t send a text. Don’t shoot an email. Call. I’m the person who will give a generic response to a text if someone I don’t unusually talk to decides to “check on me.” If the person was really concerned, they’d pick up a phone. It’s as simple as that.

It’s that easy.

I’m grateful that my friend was resourceful enough to find another way of trying to reach me when texting and calling wasn’t working. It showed me that she was determined to reach me when one avenue failed. It told me she valued me enough to try until she was certain I was ok. It made me feel loved beyond measure. That’s what us singles need. There’s but so much a man can do. In these times, the knowledge that we matter is enough. Period.

Fellow navigator, have you been having some of the same feelings living this quarantined life? What are you doing to help pass the time and stay sane? Who has made you feel like you mattered recently?

Dear Navigator, Relationships are Hard.

Recently, in a series of exchanges with some people who have begun playing somewhat significant roles in my life, I found myself being consumed by their harsh words and criticisms. The barrage of what, from my perspective, seemed like unwarranted and unnecessary attacks sent me into a spiral of confusion, insecurity, and frustration.

Fellow navigator, if we were to ever meet in real life and become good friends, one of the first things I would tell you is that I strive to display consistency in my character. This is something that I began intentionally putting forth effort regarding because, growing up, my peers often made comments about how I wasn’t who they thought I was. I think back to one instance in school when a classmate told me (to my face) that she initially thought I was a total witch but was pleased to discover I wasn’t. Now, that’s the cleaned-up version of what she said. In short, because of how I presented myself, she thought I considered myself to be better than others.

Can I tell you a secret? This wasn’t the first time I had heard someone say I came off as being “holier than thou.” In fact, my entire life I’ve been misjudged by people. I don’t know what it is—honestly. Yes, I was very much devoted to academics and performing well in school. Yes, that meant focusing more on learning than being social. I wasn’t antisocial. I had friends and got along with lots of people.

It’s a bit of a stretch, but you get my point.

Nevertheless, this is something I’ve had to face head-on well into my adult years. I guess hearing these similar thoughts expressed now should come as no surprise to me. Well, it still does. I’ve learned to recognize my patterns, identify the root, and distance myself before I have a major case of word vomit.

It was as if some of the people I had allowed to begin getting close to me all banded together to do their worst over the past few weeks.

I mean, it was so overwhelming that I had to remove myself socially, take several steps back from those relationships, and spend time assessing the varying situations. This is something I’ve learned to do because, admittedly, I make unhealthy, irrational decisions when I don’t keep my emotions in check. I needed to see if there was a common thread in their accusations and comments. Was I in the wrong? Did I misrepresent myself? Was I giving off false signals? I needed answers.

Rather than blocking you, I need to process on my own.

Aware that my conscious decision to almost completely remove myself socially would cause alarm, I informed the ones I typically conversed with of the need for space. Uninterested in having to explain myself, I kept the message short and sweet (there was no need for details). It was difficult not speaking to them regularly because they had come to play such important roles in my life, but the space allowed me to see our relationships objectively.

In one case, I saw how our relationship had strengthened over a short period of time. While it was platonic, there were definitely areas that left room for mixed signals. Accusations were thrown around that left a bitter taste in my mouth. How can someone be jealous when they’ve never expressed interest in the first place? Suffice it to say, I needed time to assess if it was worth it to be in a relationship where I didn’t feel truly heard.

So many issues can be resolved when we listen better.

While reflecting on the second relationship, I saw how this friend was projecting feelings of insecurity and fear onto me. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I was definitely the one receiving the brunt of this friend’s frustration. Because I understood where my friend was coming from, I was quickly able to recognize the projection for what it was. Nevertheless, having someone project his or her insecurities onto me is not something I enjoy enduring. There’s no judgment. Most of us have projected our feelings onto someone unfairly because we didn’t want to deal with what was going on in our emotional world.

Regardless of why we do it, it’s never fun for the person who has to endure our attacks. Because of this episode with my friend and the habits I saw forming, I needed to decide if this was a person I wanted in my life. It’s taken years for me to get to the point where I am mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. While my friend isn’t someone I would consider “toxic,” I began to recognize the patterns and saw that this relationship would require a lot out of me.

The third relationship was similar to the first. We spent time talking about things that mattered in life and became close fairly quickly. It was exciting having this person in my life because I was able to just be myself; there were no expectations. The problems began when promises were made but not kept. After the first time this happened, I let it go. The second time it occurred, I gave in to my emotions and erupted. Now, I have reached a point where I’m ready to give this person the gift of goodbye. Why? Because your word is bond. If a person can’t honor a simple promise to do something, how can they be trusted to come through in a life or death situation. I’ll pass!

I have too much self-respect!

Fellow navigator, I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to figure out if I want these people in my life. They’re not necessarily bad people, but I know my areas of struggle. Some of these relationships will push me to a point where I lose myself. Others, although trying, will allow me to grow into a better human being. However, the real question is determining which ones are worth keeping. I don’t want to run from conflict because it can make a relationship so much stronger, but I don’t want to be someone’s emotional dumpster, either. Honestly, the only thing I got from me mini-social retreat was that I shouldn’t rush a decision about two of the three relationships. We’re imperfect people who are at different places in our lives and levels of self-awareness. While I consider myself to be pretty self-aware, my personality may be too much for those who have yet to embark on that journey.

Have you found yourself in a position where you had to assess the relationships around you? Maybe they weren’t necessarily bad, but you felt underappreciated or like someone was always projecting their emotions onto you? Tell me about it! In the process of writing your story, I hope you experience the catharsis that comes with release.