Singles are coming into their own: Each year more and more people are single either by choice or by circumstance. This book celebrates the joys and challenges of living life single.
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About the Author
Jack Canfield is co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, which includes forty New York Times bestsellers, and coauthor of The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. He is a leader in the field of personal transformation and peak performance and is currently CEO of the Canfield Training Group and Founder and Chairman of the Board of The Foundation for Self-Esteem. An internationally renowned corporate trainer and keynote speaker, he lives in Santa Barbara, California.
Mark Victor Hansen is a co-founder of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Hometown:Santa Barbara, California
Date of Birth:August 19, 1944
Place of Birth:Fort Worth, Texas
Education:B.A. in History, Harvard University, 1966; M.A.T. Program, University of Chicago, 1968; M.Ed., U. of Massachusetts, 1973
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CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SINGLE'S SOUL
Stories of Love and Inspiration for Singles
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne, Marci Shimoff
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
SINGLE AND HAPPY
A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.
Room at the Table
Have you ever noticed that dining room tables seat six, eight or twelve—not seven, nine or thirteen? I've been single all my life, usually not thinking much of it. But on holidays even the place settings conspire against me, rendering a silent rebuke against my single status.
You can endure holiday dinners two ways if you're single: 1) Bring someone you don't particularly care for; 2) hear the awful words "Pull up an extra seat," a euphemism for either a collapsible chair or one that is too high or too low for the table. Either strategy leaves you uncomfortable.
At Thanksgiving two years ago, while my calves cramped from straddling the leg of my brother's dining room table, Aunt Nell took the opportunity to ask for details about my love life, which was seriously lacking at the time. The event was excruciating.
Though I enjoy singlehood in the main, there have been times when I've worked myself into a mad frenzy looking for someone to fill a void I thought I couldn't satisfy on my own. Someone, anyone with a pulse would do. Over the years, I dated quite a few guys I liked—I was even engaged once, but "till death us do part" seemed a very long time. I was relieved to be alone again.
So holidays, especially with the Aunt Nells of the family leave me a little bereft. One day, noting my frustration a friend of mine suggested we try something different on the next such holiday.
"How 'bout you and I go down to a homeless shelter and help out? Then maybe we'll be grateful for what we have," she proposed.
I had a thousand reasons why this wasn't a good idea, but my friend persisted. The next Christmas I found myself in an old warehouse, doling out food.
Never in my life had I seen so many turkeys and rows of pumpkin pies. Decorations donated by a nearby grocery store created a festive atmosphere that uplifted even my reluctant spirit. When everyone was fed, I took a tray and filled a plate with the bountiful harvest. After a few bites, I knew what everyone was carrying on about; the food was really good.
My dinner companions were easy company. Nobody asked me why I didn't have a date. People just seemed grateful for a place to sit and enjoy a special dinner. To my surprise, I found I had much in common with my fellow diners. They were people like me.
My experience that Christmas brought me back to the shelter the following year. I enjoyed helping others so much that I began seeking more opportunities to serve. I started volunteering for the Literacy Foundation once a week. I figured I could sit in front of the TV, or I could use those evening hours to help others learn to read.
Caring for others has abundantly filled the void in my life that I had sometimes interpreted as a missing mate. When I stopped trying so hard to fit in, I realized I was single for a reason and found my own special purpose.
There is room at the table for a party of one. And sometimes "just one" is the perfect fit.
The Professor and the Soulmate
The sounds of the wedding march filled the air. Jennifer and I, bride and groom, were radiantly happy as we stood at the altar. After decades of searching, I had found and married my soulmate. It was the most thrilling moment of my life.
There was only one thing wrong with this scene. It was taking place solely in my own mind. I was in fact pacing up and down my own living room in a state of exhilaration, as my cassette player belted out the familiar music. Being something of a classical music and opera buff, I had selected Wagner's opera "Lohengrin" because it contained the traditional wedding march, and it was really firing my imagination.
The real truth was that I'd just returned home from only my third or fourth date with Jennifer. We hardly knew each other yet, so I was, to put it mildly, jumping to conclusions.
This was a familiar pattern with me, having begun many years ago when I was a shy, sixteen-year-old boy growing up in England. I had a friend named Simon, and he and I would sometimes amuse ourselves by posing the question, "I wonder what my future wife is doing now?" Speculating idly on this unanswerable question allowed us to forget the unfortunate fact that since we attended an all-boys school, not only did we not have girlfriends, we didn't even know any girls.
It was at about that time that I began to entertain the notion of a cosmic soulmate, the one who would appear at some unspecified point in my future and miraculously supply whatever it was that I lacked. This soulmate had neither face, nor name, nor form, and yet she was somehow more real in my imagination than any of the flesh-and-blood girls that I was soon to encounter.
Throughout the ups and downs of my skirmishes with the opposite sex during my teens and early twenties, this belief in a soulmate showed no signs of abating, in spite of the fact that the soulmate chose—as soulmates do—to postpone her appearance indefinitely.
In 1981, when I was thirty-two and still single—and still looking, perpetually—I left England behind for America, where I was to take up a job as a professor of literature at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest.
Never having been to America before, I had little idea of what to expect. For a while, culture shock—everything almost the same, nothing exactly the same—spun me in a whirl of disorientation.
But that changed on my second day on the college campus. I was taking care of some business in one of the administrative offices. As I made my inquiry, a look of delight crossed the face of the attractive young lady behind the desk. "Where are you from?" she asked, smiling at me. "You have such a wonderful accent."
So it was true! Americans really did say that when confronted with a perfectly ordinary BBC voice. I began to sense that living in America might have advantages that I had not hitherto suspected.
Thus emboldened, I plunged into a decade of Serious Quest for Soulmate. After all, she was there, somewhere in this New World. She must be. I certainly looked. At faculty meetings, for example, my eyes would dart around the room for clues, as if American Soulmate, Ph.D., might, in a mystical moment of recognition, disclose herself by look, word or gesture understood only by me.
One thing I did notice was how much psychic energy this took, and how restless and unhappy it sometimes made me, particularly when my relationship with Soulmate du jour would fall apart after only a few months.
Take Jennifer. Jennifer, in my eyes, had class, dignity, intelligence, beauty. And reservations.
"It doesn't feel quite right to me," she said to me over dinner one night.
"Would you like some more pasta?" I replied.
"I think you have too many expectations."
"No, I don't," I shot back, demonstrating my finely honed ability to deny the obvious.
A few more hops and skips, and Jenny and I had reached the familiar conclusion: tension-filled silences followed by angry outbursts, culminating in Jennifer's coup de grace, "I don't think we should see each other again."
And so the long-running play continued. A series of unsuspecting women found themselves filling a position they neither asked for, nor (with some exceptions) wanted. And often in the background, my tapes of "Lohengrin," as well as the Mendelssohn wedding march from his "Midsummer Night's Dream" music, would rotate merrily around their spindles. Still the real soulmate eluded detection.
One morning a few years ago, I had just returned from the gym, which I had found to be an interesting, if so far unproductive, place to scout for Soulmate-in-Skimpy-Workout-Gear. It was spring and the lilacs in my yard were in bloom. I sat on the deck with a Styrofoam cup of coffee in my hand, looking out on the display of nature's greenery. It wasn't the high from the workout or the coffee that did it, but I gradually became aware that everything in that moment was perfect. Everything was exactly as it should be. Nothing else was needed. Nothing added or subtracted from that minute could possibly "improve" it. This certainly wasn't the way I normally felt, having conditioned myself to believe that what every minute really needed was a quick infusion of Soulmate.
And yet that moment shifted something inside me. I don't know how or why, but I do know that it has continued, that there is a tranquil "place" inside me, that is no place at all, because it is everywhere and nowhere, and it is still and silent and has neither beginning nor end and is not alien or foreign to me or outside of me. After years of searching, I have found my soulmate, and it is myself. The bachelor is content. Oh, he still dates women from time to time, and he listens to the wedding marches sometimes, too. But only because he likes them.
Is Fire Goddess Spelled with Two Ds?
Happiness depends upon ourselves.
When I was eight years old, I saw a movie about a mysterious island that had an erupting volcano and lush jungles filled with wild animals and cannibals. The island was ruled by a beautiful woman called "Tandaleah, the Fire Goddess of the Volcano." It was a terrible, low-budget movie, but to me it represented the perfect life. Being chased by molten lava, bloodthirsty animals and savages was a small price to pay for freedom. I desperately wanted to be the Fire Goddess. I wrote it on my list of "Things to Be When I Grow Up," and asked my girlfriend if "Fire Goddess" was spelled with two Ds.
Through the years the school system did its best to mold me into a no-nonsense, responsible, respectable citizen, and Tandaleah was forgotten. My parents approved of my suitable marriage, and I spent the next twenty-five years being a good wife, eventually the mother of four and a very respectable, responsible member of society. My life was as bland and boring as a bowl of oatmeal. I knew exactly what to expect in the future: The children would grow up and leave home, my husband and I would grow old together and we'd baby-sit the grandchildren.
The week I turned fifty my marriage came to a sudden end. My house, furniture and everything I'd owned was auctioned off to pay debts I didn't even know existed. In a week I'd lost my husband, my home and my parents, who refused to accept a divorce in the family. I'd lost everything except my four teenaged children.
I had enough money to rent a cheap apartment while I looked for a job. Or I could use every penny I had to buy five plane tickets from Missouri to the most remote island in the world, the Big Island of Hawaii. Everyone said I was crazy to think I could just run off to an island and survive. They predicted I'd come crawling back in a month. Part of me was afraid they were right.
The next day, my four children and I landed on the Big Island of Hawaii with less than two thousand dollars, knowing no one in the world was going to help us. I rented an unfurnished apartment where we slept on the floor and lived on cereal. I worked three jobs scrubbing floors on my hands and knees, selling macadamia nuts to tourists and gathering coconuts. I worked eighteen hours a day and lost thirty pounds because I lived on one meal a day. I had panic attacks that left me curled into a knot on the bathroom floor, shaking like a shell-shocked soldier.
One night, as I walked alone on the beach, I saw the red-orange glow of the lava pouring out of the Kilauea volcano in the distance. I was wading in the Pacific Ocean, watching the world's most active volcano and wasting that incredible moment because I was haunted by the past, exhausted by the present and terrified of the future. I'd almost achieved my childhood dream—but hadn't realized it because I was focused on my burdens instead of my blessings. It was time to live my imagination—not my history.
Tandaleah, the Fire Goddess of the Volcano, had finally arrived! The next day I quit my jobs and invested my last paycheck in art supplies and began doing what I loved. I hadn't painted a picture in fifteen years because we'd barely scratched out a living on the farm in Missouri and there hadn't been money for the tubes of paint and canvas and frames. I wondered if I could still paint or if I'd forgotten how. My hands trembled the first time I picked up a brush, but before an hour had passed I was lost in the colors spreading across the canvas in front of me. I painted pictures of old sailing ships, and as soon as I started believing in myself, other people started believing in me, too. The first painting sold for fifteen hundred dollars before I even had time to frame it.
The past six years have been filled with adventures: My children and I have gone swimming with dolphins, watched whales and hiked around the crater rim of the volcano. We wake up every morning with the ocean in front of us and the volcano behind us.
The dream I'd had more than forty years ago is now reality. I live on an island with a continuously erupting volcano. The only animals in the jungle are wild boars and mongooses and there aren't any cannibals, but often in the evening, I can hear the drums from native dancers on the beach.
Well-meaning friends have tried countless times to introduce me to their uncles, neighbors, fathers and even grandfathers, hoping I'd find a mate to save me from a lonely old age. They use phrases like, "a woman of your age ..." and "You aren't getting any younger ..." to push me into blind dates.
I gently point out that "a woman my age" has paid her dues. I enjoyed being a wife and mother and believe in my heart that I was a good one. I did that job for over a quarter of a century. And now at my age, I have grown into the woman I wish I could have been when I was in my twenties. No, I'm not getting any younger, but neither is anyone else, and honestly, I wouldn't want to be young again. I'm happier than I've ever been. I can paint all night and sleep all day without feeling guilty. I can cook or not cook. I can live on cream puffs and Pepsi for a week at a time and no one will lecture me on the importance of a balanced diet.
It took a long time to find myself, and I had to live alone to do it. But I am not lonely. I am free for the first time in my life. I am Tandaleah, the Fire Goddess of the Volcano, spelled with two Ds ... and I'm living happily ever after.
Lessons from Aunt Grace
Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.
The day we moved away I hit bottom. Saying good-bye to my friends and to the house I had loved made me feel as though my moorings had been ripped loose. Now, in what my husband kept calling "our new home" (it wasn't new, and it wasn't home), I was so awash in self-pity that I almost ignored the white leather book I found while unpacking an old trunk. But something prompted me to examine it.
The gold Victorian script on the cover spelled My Diary. Opening the book, I recognized the spidery handwriting of my great-aunt Grace, who had lived with us when I was a little girl. Aunt Grace belonged to a species now extinct—the unmarried, unemployed gentlewoman forced to live with relatives. All the cards had seemed to be stacked against her. She was plain-looking; she was poor; she was frail.
Yet the thing I remember about her was her unfailing cheerfulness. Not only did she never complain, but she never seemed to lose her gentle smile. "Grace always looks on the bright side," people said.
I sank down on the rolled carpet to read her diary. The first entry was dated 1901; the last was the year of her death, 1930. I read casually at first, and then with riveted attention.
Three years have passed since my dear Ted was killed at San Juan Hill and yet every day is still filled with pain. Will I ever be happy again?
Ted? I thought of Aunt Grace as the complete old maid. She once had a sweetheart! I read on:
My unhappiness is a bottomless cup. I know I must be cheerful, living in this large family upon whom I am dependent, yet gloom haunts me.... Something has to change or I shall be sick. Clearly my situation is not going to change; therefore, I shall have to change. But how?
I have given much thought to my predicament and I have devised a simple set of rules by which I plan to live. I intend this to be a daily exercise. I pray that the plan will somehow deliver me from my dismal swamp of despair. It has to.
The simplicity of Aunt Grace's rules-to-live-by took my breath away. She resolved every day to:
1. Do something for someone else.
2. Do something for myself.
3. Do something I don't want to do that needs doing.
4. Do a physical exercise.
5. Do a mental exercise.
6. Do an original prayer that always includes counting my blessings.
Aunt Grace wrote that she limited herself to six rules because she felt that number to be "manageable." Here are some of the things she did and recorded in her diary:
Something for someone else. She bought three calves' feet, simmered them for four hours in water, with spices, to make calf's-foot jelly for a sick friend.
Excerpted from CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SINGLE'S SOUL by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne, Marci Shimoff. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Single and Happy
Room at the Table Vivian Eisenecher 3
The Professor and the Soulmate Bryan Aubrey 5
Is Fire Goddess Spelled with Two Ds? Linda Stafford 9
Lessons from Aunt Grace Nardi Reeder Campion 13
Seeing 20/20 Bill Asenjo 19
Have Freedom, Will Travel Dawn McKenna 22
The Visit C. J. Herrmann 26
Fascination with Dree Megan Martin 30
I Don't Even Know Your Name Jean C. Fulton 34
Surviving the Shipwreck Cara Wilson 39
A-Head of the Game Katie Mauro 45
Bowled Over Jan Coleman 47
Reply to Box 222B Barbara Baumgardner 52
New Year's Eve Dilemma Judith L. Robinson 56
Dave Barry's Guide to Finding a Mate Dave Barry 59
On the Rocks Dick Purnell 65
A Good Catch Jeanne Marie Laskas 70
The Surprise Date Rosemary Laurey 74
A Cure for Cold Feet Pamela Elessa 79
Dating Again Joan Rivers 83
Loving Henry Terry L. Fairchild 87
The Last Date Cindy Jevne Buck 91
3 Finding Your Mate
The Invitation Oriah Mountain Dreamer 97
How David and Lily God Together Arnold Fine 99
The Moment It Happens Carol A. Price-Lopata 104
The High School English Teacher Arnold Fine 108
Perennials Jackie Shelton 112
The Letter Doris Byers Shirley Byers Lalonde 118
What's Your Sign? Janice Lane Palko 122
An Educated Woman Christine E. Belleris 127
Love at First Bite Christine Harris-Amos Cliff Marsh 129
A Chance of a Lifetime Michelle Wolins LeAnn Thieman 132
The Right One Diane Goldberg 138
4 Making A Difference
Mrs. Grodefsky Arnold Fine 142
One Day at a Time Cathy Gohlke 146
Can You Love Me? Pamela J. Chandler 149
Christmas Is Coming! Deb Gatlin Towney 152
Mama's Heart Toni Fulco 155
The Angel at the Bank Arnold Fine 158
5 Single Parenting
Hands to Go 'Round Linda Butler 165
Take Heart, Mom Cielle Kollander 168
A True Christmas Nancy Rue 172
Sidelined Judith Black 178
One Man and a Baby Paul Breon 182
Marty's Friends James M. Jertson 185
Outside the Circle of Possibility Patricia Lorenz 187
For Forever Rob Gilbert Karen Wydra 192
Where the Heart Is Brenda Nichols Ainley 193
For the Record Rob Loughran 198
A Wish Seed Lizanne Southgate 199
Message in a Mug Tina Fenech 203
Dr. Mom Melanie M. Watkins 206
A Real Family Christmas Kay Bolden 209
No Time for Dreams Barbara Feder Mindel 212
A Faded Card Louise Lenahan Wallace 215
What I Did on My Son's Summer Vacation Tom Durkin 218
Making the Grade C. L. Howard 222
6 Single Again
Love Is Just Like a Broken Arm Christie Craig 228
LET the MAGIC BEGIN Cathy Lee Crosby 231
The Drawer Wouldn't Close Jan Nations 237
The Ten-Dollar Bill J. A. Jance 241
Looking Toward the Light David Haldane 245
Lightning's Gift Maggie Baxter 249
Starting Over Jennifer Harris 253
My Sailor Man Linda Ross Swanson 256
Paid in Full Bobbie Reed 260
7 Losing a Partner
Rudy's Angel Wilma Hankins Hlawiczka 264
He Has Not Left Me Joyce Brothers 266
Love, Leo Doris Delventhal B. J. Connor 272
Cultivating My Garden T. J. Banks 276
A Widow's Workshop Shirley Pease 279
The Journey Christie Craig 282
The Voyage Anne Marion Eileen Lawrence 285
Unk's Fiddle Steven Burt 288
A Single Long-Stemmed Rose Mary Livingstone Benny Hilliard Marks Marcie Borie 292
8 We Are Not Alone
Angels, Once in a While Barb Irwin 296
A Small Miracle in Nashville Yitta Halberstam Judith Leventhal 300
The Best Seat in the House John Morris 305
Santa Redeemed Jean Bronaugh 310
A Bunch of Violets Carol Fannin Rohwedder 313
Everything He Had Judith Gillis 315
Heart Reconstruction Barbara Lighthizer 317
Rescued by a Drowning Dog Carren Strock 320
The Face of Compassion Michael Clay 323
9 Friends and Family
A Lasagna Kind of Christmas Linda LaRocque 328
Between Two Worlds Kari West 332
Dad Is There for Me Again-and Always Cynthia Mercati 335
Life's Final Pieces Barbara Jeanne Fisher 339
The Makeover Maggy Rose McLarty 344
Unbroken Circle Laurie L. Oswald 347
A Shining Thing Arthur Gordon 351
Turning the Page Jan Coleman 355
Full Circle Meredith Hodges 358
Who Is Jack Canfield? 361
Who Is Mark Victor Hansen? 362
Who Is Jennifer Read Hawthorne? 363
Who Is Marci Shimoff? 364
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book has helped be renew my belief that being single is not a curse. I live in a town where everyone is married - not always happily so. I have to remember, and this helped - that single and happy is better than married and miserable.