Several months ago, one of the speakers in church was reflecting on the many reasons why he’s been married to his wife. What he said hit me, not because I hadn’t heard it before, but because I understood it differently this time. He said they were “witnesses to each others’ lives.”
Later that night, I the opportunity to catch up with some old college friends who were here in Dallas. The reminiscing on old times and catching up threw me into a weird time warp. Talking with them reminded me of so many things and brought back so many memories from past lives.
In my relatively short lifetime, I have already had several ‘mini-lives’; smaller, compact sub-segments of my life that neatly compartmentalize themselves. There was the time when I was growing up at my parents house, pre-mission college, my church mission, post-mission college, my short professional career in entertainment, and my current life in Dallas. Each life has presented me with a new set of friends, opportunities to focus on different talents, and a chance to redefine myself over time. Some of the people who might only have known me for a few years would be surprised to meet the WhiteEyebrows of 10 years ago – not that I’ve changed unrecognizably, but I can see how I have changed and morphed over time – and certain individuals have gotten to know me in many different lights.
I think it’s partly because we get defined externally (by others) by what we do, rather than by who we are. If you’re spending all your time in a theater or in a music studio, people look at you differently than if you are spending your time in the library or computer lab. Even if you spend time in both, or are perfectly capable at both, you are defined only by what those people see you doing in that particular phase of your life.
Catching up with these old friends made me think: when the past intersects with the present, it’s kind of creepy. Your old lives start doubling back over each other, and you are presented with the challenge of revisiting your old self, and reintegrating that old self into your current self. In a way, it’s good. It keeps you honest. It makes you own who you’ve been as much as you might not want to be that person anymore. In a way it’s also uncomfortable though, as you can never quite express to the people from the different epochs of your life how you’ve changed over time.
As I consider this idea in the context of my singleness, I wonder how it is different for single people vs marrieds. If I invited someone to be that “witness” to my life, how much would my life change and in what ways? Certainly it will open up a new chapter in my already chapter-filled life. But how would I integrate my single life into my married life? Would there have to be wholesale cuts and changes?!? “It’s a fire-sale! Saturday only… All singleness must go!”
Being single, it is very easy to re-make yourself. Every time you move, every time you change friends, you have an opportunity to cast yourself in a different light. However, having a ‘witness to your life’ certainly changes all of that. They become a stake in the ground; someone who anchors you, someone who knows you.
I think having that ‘witness to your life’ might be a good thing. It’s the ultimate honesty check. Just as your parents and siblings were the ones who knew you the best as you grew up, your spouse becomes the one to know you the most as an adult – being fully aware of all your buttons and knowing which ones to push and which ones not to. They see you go through your life. They watch you make decisions and change over time. Those who reach those 30, 40, and 50 year anniversaries blow away the 20 years you might have spent with your immediate family.
But until that happens, let’s just keep celebrating our singleness.