Profiles in the Gap
Trena Pilegaard lives and works in the Washington, D.C., area.
Life is always in some kind of gap: the gaps between yesterday, today, and tomorrow; physical gaps of distance between loved ones; the gap between breakfast and lunch; gaps between work and home, between conception and birth, between birth and death. We are always swooping between different gaps like electric lines between poles while riding in the car. Sometimes the swooping makes you feel nauseous, and other times it is the most exhilarating feeling in the world.
I think that the gaps aren’t holes that need to be filled, just obstacles that take some thinking, prayer, and trust to get over and around. Singleness is a gap for me that I am learning to navigate. This life is becoming comfortable to me and, if it is the life that God has planned for me for the rest of my time on earth, I am happy to live it. If I said an extended life of singleness is my dream, I’d be lying. But this time has been consistent with my dreams so far. I distinctly remember planning my life in my head my senior year in high school and thinking that I couldn’t possibly have the time to be married before the age of thirty, there was so much I had to do first. To that end I purposely told myself I couldn’t date in college, I knew life would have too much for me to do to be married right away.
Even now, with a few struggles of adulthood under my belt, my life has exceeded my wildest dreams in so many areas. If someone told me at sixteen that I would have an opportunity to spend three years in Europe after college, I would have died of joy right there. Likewise, the sheer amount of amazing friends that I have strewn across the world is also something I never could have imagined. Other times I am simply overwhelmed with the beauty of this life I lead: starlight nights in the Blue Ridge Mountains, fall colors here in DC, a summer spent on Lago di Lugano, standing in St. Peter’s Square, snow-capped Sierras. Sometimes I find myself with tears in my eyes because I cannot believe that I am so blessed to have been chosen to live this beautiful life when so many of my generation did not survive the womb. Sure, there are days when I wonder if I will die alone surrounded by cats (which is terrifying to me because it would mean that so many things have gone horribly wrong – I am allergic to cats and don’t really count them in my list of favorite animals, and, for heaven’s sake, why are they at my deathbed?), but I know in my heart that will never be the case. Even if I remain single to the end, I am confident I will never be alone or unloved.
The biggest lesson I have learned is that when navigating single life it is important to remember that I remain my number one priority. Once I am taken care of, then I can help others. I can hear the gasps of shock now. “Oh, but that is so selfish. You should never put yourself first, always put others first.” But Christ didn’t say to put others first, He said to love your neighbor as yourself. If I don’t love myself, the person I am right now with every aspect of me in consideration (and this includes being single), how can I love others as Christ asks? As a single person my primary responsibility is me. It is easy to forget this when you become wrapped up in living life, a 9-5 job, and just generally trying keep your head above the water. But, if I don’t check up on my spiritual, physical and emotional needs, then I am failing in my responsibilities to myself and will only hinder my ability to help others.
This means making sure that I am working towards a life that I find fulfilling and satisfying. If I am going to be supporting myself by myself for an indefinite amount of time, then I need to be happy in what I am doing. It’s taken a few years and a lot of tears, but I think I am finally on that path! It also means that I am actively pursuing adventures that I enjoy and things want to learn more about. I love ballet – so I found a ballet studio and started taking classes. I’ve scooped up opportunities to study French, to broaden my mind by extensive reading (name that quote!), travel to give myself perspective, and exposing myself to as much culture and life as possible. I see all these things as important tools in developing and caring for me. I have found that the more I am able to know myself, the more I can offer others around me. I am healthy, so I can physically volunteer to help others. I am intellectually sound, so I can offer good advice or help solve the problems life pitches. I am culturally literate, so I can help introduce others to all the things that help make life beautiful.
Loving the single life is an act of the will. Love is always an act of the will, just sometimes it is easier than others. And this life, with all its freedom and charm, isn’t easy. There are hard decisions to be made, by yourself. There are meals to be eaten, by yourself. There are nights to be spent, by yourself. Loneliness lurks around every corner – if you give in and let yourself be lonely. The trick is not to. I find myself often praying for the courage to continue, and that prayer has always been answered. Sometimes it comes in the form of a phone call or note from a friend. Or in the realization of how much I have, like the full night of deep sleep that so many mothers crave. Or it’s when a friend says she has tickets to my favorite band, and I am free to drop everything and go. Until God calls me to another way of life, you can be assured that I am going to keep loving this beautiful and blessed life!