It was mid-March. I recently came out of a professional sprint–moderating and running logistics for a virtual event series called From the Beauty Shop to the Pew, wrapping up the fifth season of my podcast, and releasing my ebook The Single Christian’s Church Survival Guide.
I opened Voxer one morning to find a message from my pal, Joy Vetterlein. We catch up via Voxer most days–check-ins about how we’re doing, what progress we’ve made in our writing, what’s hard, and what’s great. At the end of the message that day, she asked a question, almost in passing. “Hey, I notice that at the end of all your messages recently, you mention that your brain feels like oatmeal or your brain feels fried. Are you doing alright?”
I hit the talk button and started in with a jovial reply until, unexpectedly, I was leaking from the eyes. It wasn’t until she asked that I was able to admit how tired I was, how easily irritated, how discouraged. “I am so tired of being in charge of absolutely everything in my life,” I said.
If you’re single, and if you also have the joy of being an entrepreneur/creative and living alone, you know what I mean. The reality is, while our life situation gives us a ton of freedom and flexibility, it also comes with a disproportionate load of responsibility. Yes, there are certain burdens we are all responsible for bearing, and one of those is delegating and asking for help. But there is a particular way we singles experience this that is unique.
I’m in charge of it all, from meal planning, to the dishes, to organizing my social life, to building my business, to laundry, to hard conversations with my landlord, to dating, to church attendance and spiritual discipline, and on and on. It starts to feel like it’s all up to me. Because, for some of it, if I don’t do it, it won’t get done. Some of that is self-imposed, but some of it is inescapable.
I’ve thought a lot about this feeling that can be weird to talk about. For one, I feel guilty complaining because it feels like I should be grateful for my independence. It feels like I don’t have a right to voice this challenge because I don’t have kids to worry about, and I know many marriages and parents are at the end of their proverbial ropes. And those struggles feel more important than mine.
Even when I took two weeks off, this feeling I wanted a break from followed me. Anything beyond laying on my couch and staring at the ceiling required the level of initiative I was trying to take a break from.
Recently, I’ve been re-listening to my favorite mystery series from Louise Penny. In most of them, the main character teaches his mentees the four statements that lead to wisdom.
- I don’t know.
- I need help.
- I’m sorry.
- I was wrong.
I tend to approach my problems with a do-more-work-harder-suck-it-up mindset. But more and more, I wonder about the power of releasing things with our out-loud voices. Each of these four statements is a form of release, and the ones that strike me as most relevant in this instance are the first two. What would happen if I regularly admitted, if only to myself, that I don’t have all the answers and that I need help?
I’m not sure this would make the feeling of being in charge of everything go away, but I wonder if it would help to develop fluency in these four phrases. Whether it’s with a friend, in your conversations with God, or just talking to yourself, there’s something terrifically, terrifyingly cathartic about giving ourselves space to be human.
This is a space where I like to encourage and equip. I never want this to become a place where we singles see ourselves as victims. But I also want this to be a place where we can honestly say with our out-loud voices what is not ok and what is not working. If you’re situated in a pocket of time where you find yourself overwhelmed by being in charge of absolutely everything, mayhaps a good start is admitting it with your out-loud voice. And after that, consider with God and/or a trusted friend what you can release.