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Author & American athlete Jeremy C. Holm has spent over half his life in the fast-paced winter sport of bobsled, including as the Head Coach for the US Adaptive Bobsled Team. He has a degree in Journalism and is pursuing a degree in Military History at the American Military University. In addition to motivational speaking and corporate appearances around the world, Jeremy is the author of three books and spends his time camping, hiking, writing and trying to make history, one day at a time.
*Note: This essay is the second of seven authored by Jeremy for the LDS Midsingle (31-45+) community. The opinions and thoughts shared therein are his own and unless otherwise noted all names and circumstances of stories have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
As a published author/writer you quickly learn that 1. your written words carry tremendous power and 2. not everyone will agree with what you have to say.
I'm pretty sure Jesus was well aware of both facts; he knew that every word he spoke would guide the future generations of the faithful and that a lot of people would disagree with or twist his words to their own benefit. When I look at the world today, from a Christian perspective, sometimes it seems like the words of Christ have less and less impact in the hearts of men. "Spiritualism", without religion, is the new thing and we have ISIS/IS/IL (whatever the crap we call them, terrorists is the right term) doing more than just persecuting Christians in the Middle East; they are murdering them in ways that would make Rome's Emperor Nero blush (well, probably not).
By the media accounts it almost seems like those who want Christ and his commandments to "go away" are winning. Look at the battles over public prayer, the Ten Commandments displayed in public, the "offensive" phrase Merry Christmas, using "under God" in the pledge of allegiance", the disorganization of Christianity and on and on. While I am extremely optimistic about the future of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, if I had to put on a cranky-face I would say that a lot of people in this world seem more worried about the latest iPhone release than they are about their standing before God.
I don't think that's the case with the average LDS midsingle, however. While statistics show that we have the highest inactivity rate for our demographic in the Church, I could never categorize us as non-caring when it comes to Christ. I'd almost say the problem is that we care deeply, but that sensitivity of soul leaves us exposed to deep wounds as well as exquisite joys.
I think it is our hurts that lead midsingles away from the Lord's kingdom on earth, not wickedness.
*Note: This essay is the first of seven authored by Jeremy for the LDS Midsingle (31-45+) community. The opinions and thoughts shared therein are his own and unless otherwise noted all names and circumstances of stories have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
In his piece, "O Me! O Life!", American poet What Whitman wrote in 1892, "That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."
As I recently reread those words I couldn't help but feel like those two lines aptly describe the state of most LDS midsingles I know: that the powerful play of life is going on and we deeply desire the opportunity to contribute a verse. Shakespeare tells us that "life is a story" and "all the world's a stage"; it is on that stage that we as midsingles have passed through some of life's greatest joys and experienced much of its deepest sorrows. By definition as midSINGLES we are trying to write the story of our lives, with all its ups and downs, without a mortal co-author, a spouse with whom we can share the burdens and the pleasures, the brightest of days and the darkest of nights.
While we would never admit it on social media (because Heaven forbid we share our hurts and struggles online), a high percentage of us battle loneliness; we ache for the companionship that far too many married couples blindly take for granted. Some of us (hand raised) don't even have the joys of parenthood and all the incredible memories (and yes, heartbreaks) that it brings. How many of us are striving to find the "be happy single first, then you'll be happy with someone" mixture in our lives? How many nights do we reach across to the pillow next to us, wishing someone was there snoring away blissfully or cooked a meal over the stove, wishing the table was set for just one more?
Oh, yes, Mr. Whitman; the play of life is going on and while we do our best to not let it get to us, the weight of charging forward without a fellow Thespian (actor/actress) is enough to weigh down even the most faithful heart. As the mighty Job asked, "though I forbear, what am I eased?" (Job 16:6). The original Hebrew word translated here to "forbear" is damam, which means "to sigh, but not aloud." How many of us as midsingles are sighing in our hearts (but not aloud) as we strive to keep our chins up and be faithful, no matter how hard the struggle becomes?
After attending several midsingle functions over the past few weeks, I felt a desire in my heart because of my own damam-ing, if you will, to know what I could personally do to help those inner aches and how I could "contribute a verse" to this play of LDS midsingle life. The answer to my prayers came in the form of an idea to write 7 Essays for LDS Midsingles, of which this one is the first. These essays, while far from all-encompassing, will strive to cover various pertinent topics for our demographic from the standpoint of, What Would Jesus Tell LDS Midsingles if He Were Here Today? As precocious as that sounds, I should clarify that I will not attempt to speak for the Savior, but rather to use his words as recorded in holy scriptures to expound upon each topic. In doing so, I pray my thoughts and His words will alleviate some of your own heartache and inner burdens.
Ready? Let's begin.
Now, before you start laughing, it's not what you think. This isn't one of those "How to get your man/woman" articles that you see on the grocery store racks, nor will I patronize you with ridiculous promises like, "They'll fall for you in five minutes!" While I have been asked to give dating advice seminars in the past (hilariously ironic), this is more of a "find the best you"-type post.
You see, I get it. We all get "sick of dating" and need to "take a break from dating" because we get burned out or fear that we'll "never find someone." I've played the "what's wrong with me" game while looking in the mirror and come up with lists of things I can improve, from more chiseled abs to being more well-read, getting my mental "stuff" together to working on my personal faith, there is always "one more thing" on the list that could explain my singledom.
And you know what? That's exhausting. I try to remain pretty optimistic, but I'll be the first to say that I some days I struggle with being jaded about dating, wondering when I'll have to stop putting myself out there and when I can, as one ward bishopric member explained, "go out on a nice date and then go home...together only to wake up...together."
I've tried to maintain a good job, do some good things with my time and talents (bobsled, speaking, charity work and books count, right?) and overall lead a life that a future wife could be proud of (honey, let's both agree to ignore our 20's). I even try to keep up my physical appearance and not to dress like a slob (Saturday mornings don't count).
A friend and I once did some mental math about how much I've spent on dating over the years. If you take 2002-2015 = 13 years. If we low-balled an average date at $40 and low-end estimated 50 dates a year, that's ($40x50) x 13 = $26,000. By the math, dating has been a horrible investment; I've spent $26k on other men's future wives!
Several Summers ago a dear friend of mine who I have known for a long time returned from what should have been a fun-filled adventure to Lake Powell with a rather large group of single adults. I know she had been looking forward to it for months and to see her so crest-fallen caused me to feel both sad and angry at the same time.
What had gone so wrong?
She then proceed to tell me what was eating her up inside: the trip, while filled with well-meaning people, had been full of what she described as "shallow socialness." She related being surrounded by shaved chests, chiseled abs, bleached white teeth, perfect hair, impeccable swimsuits, implants, toned arms, and so on. I'm not saying all that is bad, but the next part irked me. When she talked of the "cliques" and "groups" who (while they would never admit it before God) secretly treated themselves as if they were better than others, as if their looks or popularity gave them some advantage over the "less" physically attractive ones, well, I felt it in the pit of my stomach. She had been marginalized by those who were so focused on having fun that they pushed a dear soul to the sidelines.
If you haven't read any of my previous articles regarding the joys and wonders of the LDS midsingle world (examples here, here and here), then perhaps you aren't aware of my satirical take on all things midsingle. Disclaimer: don't take everything I write seriously, although I have put my heart into a few such posts, including The Future Spouse Jar and The Case of the Tin Soldier.
But like many of you, the preparation for attending an LDS midsingle event can be both time and energy consuming (which is why Facebook invented the "Maybe" going option). First you have to read about the event on Facebook, then click on the "Attending" list to see who is going, then reach out to your friend group (aka "the team") to see what everyone is thinking. Should we go? Is there another party or dance or bonfire or hike or Powell party or game night or or or etc. etc. etc. You get my drift.
And then, once a decision has been made (which depending on the size of your friend group could be a miracle in and of itself), then comes The Preparation. Now, ladies, I won't even begin to comment on the labors you go through to get ready for the dances or parties or any of the midsingle social events, really. But I think what you'll read below speaks for all of us when I describe what we feel when we get ready to head to whatever event we've decided to attend (thirty to sixty+ minutes late, mind you; best to be fashionably late).
Raise your hand if checking your cell phone is the first thing you do in the morning. Come on, be honest, you know it is. You check your texts, then your Facebook, Tinder for a bit then maybe, just maybe, you do something big-kid-like and look up the news or perhaps even the weather. But somewhere in there, you are mentally checking your schedule. Thank goodness for calendar reminders, right? And Facebook's convenient "Events" tab to keep us on top of our social outings.
On a more serious note, I highly recommend spending five minutes in the morning putting together a To-Do list and outlining what you'll do that day. I have seen Olympic gold medalists do this, international CEOs do this and even award-winning artists do this. It is well worth it!
"Are you going tonight?" Who knows that at lunchtime? I mean, we still have the rest of the afternoon to decide, plus a few hours after work. No need to make any decisions just yet; we might get a better offer or invite at the last minute, right?
While you're trying to decide, if you need any more indication about our demographic's inability to commit then just look at the "Attending/Maybe Attending" ratio on any event's page.
While siting in a seminar recently that delightfully I was able to just listen to instead of speaking at the well-intentioned speaker listed tips to appear more attractive to members of the opposite sex. I wanted to raise my hand and ask, "What is your true purpose in listing those things, is it to educate or to flatter?"
Let's see if any of this sounds familiar. While I agree with some of the traits/items mentioned in these lists online and in magainzes, the others just sound plain sexist if not over the top. For example, ladies you apparently are supposed to be fit (more than one list specifically said so you can look good naked), wear dresses or form-fitting clothes, be submissive, cook well, be a good mom or not have kids (because that's not contradictory), don't swear too much, be educated/intelligent, be giving, be a good friend, don't be overly emotional, and the lists go on and on. I'm not even female and that list felt overwhelming.
Which brings me to the ten-thousand lists out there online, in magazines, journals, etc. that list "Things Women Find Attractive in Men." Now, a little background. This topic has come to mind after years and years of private conversations with some of the greatest guy friends and teammates, coworkers and fellow members of my church. This is not a "poor us" article, but rather one designed to stand as a voice for these men who are amazing dads, hard workers, great athletes, genuine friends and even powerful disciples of Christ who are doing their best. They may not have won the genetic lottery or even the financial one, but these are incredibly good guys.
If this were a Sherlock Holmes story the title would be, "The Case of the Tin Soldier."
Let's face it: the LDS midsingles world is a complicated conglomeration of faith and fun, uplifting moments and crushing disappointments. And while there are plenty of jokes to be made, spiritual experiences to share and experiences we love to cherish (and other we can't wait to forget), the truth is that we all have to stick together during this period in our lives.
That being said, some midsingles want to live in the neighborhood of Singlesville a bit too long. The goal of every midsingle should be to move out of this community as soon as possible. And by possible, I include all the no-brainer qualifications: finding a worthy companion who respects you and the Lord and desires to cherish you both through honoring their covenants.
But I digress. We have to laugh at ourselves sometimes as Latter-day Saints and I can't think of a more humor-filled era of this life than the LDS midsingles world. I would know, I've been in it for far too long so based on my years of experience (my dad is shaking his head), here are the 13 Midsingle Articles of Faith. And yes, read this with a large grain of salt and a healthy sense of humor.
Social Media: noun, websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.
With over 1.65 billion active mobile social accounts around the world, social media has become a way of life. And maybe too much so. I mean, how many cat videos, food images and duck faces do we need to see each week?
But we love to share, don't we? Teens spend an average of 3 hours a day on social media, 30% of all time spent online is on social media, and our total time spent on social media beats time spent eating/drinking, socializing, and grooming combined. In fact, it is estimated that people will spend an average total of 5 years and 4 months of their lifetime on social media. Wow. That's a bit much.
In fact, the study of social media addiction is a very real issue nowdays with programs being designed to help users tame their dependence on likes, shares and comments.
Well, I don't want to get into all that. What I DO want to do, however, is poke a little fun at all the, well, pokes and shares and comments and posts. So I created a weekly Social Media Bingo Sheet for your to use and hopefully enjoy a bit of a laugh at how silly we as human beings can be online. Don't get me wrong, I like social media as much as anyone for its ability to connect, but we do have some entertaining habits and trends as a society. So download or print your Social Media Bingo Card out and have some fun this week!
Admit it, the title alone intrigued you. "Is he trying to grow a spouse in a jar like this?" No, this is more of a proactive suggestion for all my single friends, although admittedly this project could be good for any healthy couple to try.
Now, I'm not crafty by any means. I love being creative through writing, graphic and web design and advertising/marketing, but I'm probably going to pass on from this life without ever posting some idea to Pinterest. Sorry, Pin-aholics (update: I've given in and joined this Pinside).
That being said, I have had plenty of experience being single and in a moment of 100% honesty I'll admit that yes, I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about my future spouse. Who will she be? What will she be like? What will be her likes, dislikes, hobbies, passions, insecurities, strengths and faith? How will she spend her time, what career path has she followed, what books does she like to read or TV shows does she like to watch? What have been her greatest achievements and her deepest secrets and fears?
When people ask, "Why are you single? You should be married!" it takes a lot of willpower not to shout, "It's not like I don't want to be!" And that's what I've come to realize over the past decade: I do want to be. Sorry all you marriage-haters and "I'm too happy just playing to get tied down again" mid singles; I'm not swimming in your pool.
Public Service Announcement Ahead:
Having spent a few years now in the wonderfully diverse world of LDS Mid Singles, I've learned that there is no such thing as an "average" or "typical" mid single. Sure, many of our challenges are "similar" (kind of like a Ferrari and a Pinto are both "cars"), but our personalities, backgrounds, goals and individual situations in life are as varied as the sands on the seashore.
That being said, I feel like there are some big divides (some intentional, some through ignorance) between mid singles and everyone else in their family wards. And while I say this with love ("bless your hearts"), I have to be honest: it's usually not the mid singles' fault. These problems often come from the members of their family wards themselves.
"We try to include everyone in our ward family!" you cry. Ok, when was the last time you made an effort to reach out to a single person in your ward or neighborhood? If you're in a family ward (indicating the relationship majority) I'm willing to bet that all your activities, lessons and efforts are focused on the traditionally married families. Yes, the family unit is central to God's plan, but have you considered that you could be making the mid singles in your ward feel ostracized, forgotten, belittled and like failures?
Let me put this as lovingly and clearly as possible: please stop making your mid singles neighbors feel like they have a big scarlet letter on their chest. Whether divorced with kids, divorced with no kids, widowed, never married with kids or never married with no kids, here are things you are doing or saying that make mid singles feel UN-welcome.
Bless your hearts.