I had a mission companion who told me one day that he wanted to travel the world before he got married. Take a backpacking tent, a passport, and nothing else... and spend a few years away from the stresses and pressures of America's fast-paced culture.
At the time, I was confused. Mostly because the conversation was on marriage and when we wanted to pursue it. Marriage and having a family has been the deepest desire I've ever had since I was a little kid. There's nothing I want more, and I had expressed a desire to find a wife as soon as I could, marry her in the temple, and then grow together. If I took a backpacking trip, it would be with someone. The fear of being single for the rest of my life was still somewhat poignant, even though it was at the back of my consciousness.
So when he honestly wanted to put marriage off for a few years of uncommitted single living, that was completely foreign to me.
Ironically, the tables have turned in reality. My companion came home and got married far faster than he or I expected. He never took his trip into the backcountry of the world. I, on the other hand, am obviously not married (otherwise I definitely wouldn't be blogging on a topic like this). I've traveled and spent far more time alone... and that time has given me room to ponder.
I watched a clip from Ty and Danielle Mansfield's interview for Far Between a few days ago. Far Between is a project by LDS filmmaker Kendall Wilcox, asking men and women one simple question - What is it like to be Mormon and gay/same-sex attracted/SGA/whatever?
Ty was a co-author for In Quiet Desperation, a book on same-sex attraction published by Deseret Book. But the part of the interview that intrigued me was his comment on the pathway that got him there. First he had been afraid of being alone. Then he came to terms with the possibility and accepted the reality that he might be single for all of mortality. Then he learned to enjoy life. And then he found someone that he loved.
I've heard countless times in marriage prep courses that "if you aren't happy while you're single, you won't be happy while you're married," but in my heart I don't think I really believed the statement. I mean, the Church teaches that some of the greatest happiness in life comes from having a family and raising children, right? That means that not having a family, not being married, necessarily also equates to having an inferior level of happiness. So the "be happy while you're single" thing must be hogwash.
Except it's not.
There's a reason why raising a righteous family and being married in the temple lead to happiness. It's found in Mosiah 2:41.
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
Lasting happiness comes from keeping the commandments of God and choosing the right. Which means that what I need to do to find happiness is simply based on doing the right things in my life, today. The Church teaches the importance of families because, in most cases, the right thing for young single adults is to get married. In the case of my companion, it was the right thing to do. In mine, the Lord had other timing in His Plan.
I'm not really sure how I feel about being alone. I still have a lot of major issues to work through, and even though I'm convinced I'll get married in this life, I still have a fear in the back of my mind that I've somehow sold my birthright... and lost that blessing for all eternity.
I am learning that alone doesn't mean lonely. I'm lonely when I feel like no one understands, or cares, and that I'm not making a difference in the world. There are definitely times in my life when I feel lonely. I also have depression, and those go hand-in-hand. But there are also times when I feel like I understand what my companion, and Ty, meant when they talked about their happy single lives. The ability to help others without major time commitments. The ability to change directions and take social, professional, and emotional risks without fear of hurting others. And a forced reliance on the Lord as Counselor, Teacher, and Friend.
There are lots of married people who feel lonely... and lots of single people who don't. Part of it may be external - the people surrounding them - but I don't think that's most of it. Loneliness, like happiness, is a feeling - an individual state of mind that comes (barring neurological issues like depression) as a result of choices and perspective... which means that I can choose to not be lonely. It's obviously not that easy, just as choosing happiness isn't as easy as it sounds, since positive thinking isn't really enough. Choosing happiness means choosing to follow the commandments of God, no matter what the short-term outcome. Choosing to not be lonely means, in my case, reaching out to others, being a friend to those who need (or seem to dislike) me, serving, sharing my testimony, and doing what I can to enjoy the beauty of life each day. And I think it would be the same whether I were single or married.
Hopefully the Lord will see me on my world tour as a bachelor and feel like it's time for me to be married. But even if that's still a long way off, that's okay. I can be happy today, and for as long as I need to be, by choosing to do what's right and leaving the rest in His hands.