I like to collect stories from people who are single at heart – people who live their best, most authentic, and most meaningful lives by living single. Some single people like to say that being single is better than being in a bad relationship, but for the single at heart, that's way too grudging. For them, living single is better than being in a good romantic relationship.
Until I read Maria Popova's discussion in her Brain Pickings post, I did not know that the most beautiful expression of the single-at-heart sentiment had already been written nearly 200 years ago (in 1818) by the poet John Keats. He was writing to his brother and sister-in-law when he said this:
"Notwithstand[ing] your Happiness and your recommendation I hope I shall never marry. Though the most beautiful Creature were waiting for me at the end of a Journey or a Walk; though the carpet were of Silk, the Curtains of the morning Clouds; the chairs and Sofa stuffed with Cygnet’s down; the food Manna, the Wine beyond Claret, the Window opening on Winander mere, I should not feel — or rather my Happiness would not be so fine, as my Solitude is sublime. Then instead of what I have described, there is a Sublimity to welcome me home — The roaring of the wind is my wife and the Stars through the window pane are my Children. The mighty abstract Idea I have of Beauty in all things stifles the more divided and minute domestic happiness — an amiable wife and sweet Children I contemplate as a part of that Beauty. But I must have a thousand of those beautiful particles to fill up my heart. I feel more and more every day, as my imagination strengthens, that I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds — No sooner am I alone than shapes of epic greatness are stationed around me, and serve my Spirit the office which is equivalent to a King’s body guard… I melt into the air with a voluptuousness so delicate that I am content to be alone… I have written this that you might see I have my share of the highest pleasures and that though I may choose to pass my days alone I shall be no Solitary… I am as happy as a Man can be…"
There are so many things I love about this excerpt in addition to the gorgeous prose. First, he does not begrudge or deny the happiness of his married relatives. He feels no need to put down other people's choices in order to embrace his own. Second, he doesn't hedge his bets. He doesn't say he likes his single life for now, until someone amazing comes along. He knows he has chosen the life for him, and would do so even if "the most beautiful Creature were waiting for me…" Third, he does not just describe what he does not want; he also waxes poetic about what he finds so magnificent about the life he does want.
Thank-you, John Keats, perhaps the world's first and most elegant chronicler of the deep rewards of the single-at-heart life.
In other matters:
#1 I'm honored to note that How We Live Now was just named to a list of 12 Nonfiction Books Every Woman Needs to Read, alongside books by authors such as Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem. (Previously, it was described by Kirkus as one of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2015.)
#2 Thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law, Kelly Griffin DePaulo, for the heads-up about the Brain Pickings article.
#3 Maybe also of interest: