A few years ago – soon after my divorce, my daughter and I took a beach vacation. As we walked along the soft white sugar sand of the Gulf Coast, I saw a woman of about 80 strolling purposefully with her dog.
“I wonder if that will be me some day – walking alone, not with a partner,” I wondered aloud, thinking how sad that would be.
My daughter, responding to my words and mood, said, “What’s wrong with that? She looks happy. It would be o.k.”
At that moment, I couldn’t believe such a scenario would be okay. But I could now.
Let’s chew on that while devouring some of Jamie Oliver’s potato cakes with smoked salmon.
The beach memory was triggered by a temporary change in my current living situation. A couple of years ago, my son, like so many adult children, returned to his parental home (or half of it given the divorce) to pursue a second college degree as an entre to a new career.
There’s more to his story just as there’s more to the story of what happens when adult children live with their parents, but that’s not on today’s blog menu. I will say that, for the most part, the arrangement works well.
But the situation prevents me from truly living alone, something I wanted and needed to do after my divorce. Other than a random week or two here or there, one or both of my children have lived with me except when they were in college. And during that period, I was married so the house was not empty. Going back in years, I went from living with my parents, to living with college roommates, to living with the man who would become my husband.
So, I skipped that whole part of life called “being single and living alone.” And I was both eager to experience it and a little nervous as well. How would I navigate living alone and would I be lonely? Fast forward to a couple of days ago when my son left for a week’s vacation to visit a friend.
Finally, I could invite some friends over for dinner while having the house truly to myself. And I could see what it would be like to live alone while in a pretty good place – healed from my divorce, stronger, and more centered than ever before.
This temporary break in shared housing got me thinking about solitude, being alone, loneliness, and all variations of that theme.
I’ve always been someone who enjoyed a certain amount of time spent alone – whether reading, writing, taking a walk, or going for a drive with music blasting. But it’s not something I want to do 24/7. At a certain point in my day, I start to feel lonely and need to be around people.
For more on the balance between solitude and company, see the wonderful Brain Pickings blog post on experiencing at least one prolonged period of solitude in life.
After I divorced, I needed to learn not only how to be without a partner but also how to be independent – to rely on myself for everything from adding oil to the car to tightening a loose toilet seat (thanks You Tube). A solo road trip no longer seemed liked a scary impossibility. Solitude helped build strength. Strength begot resilience.
All of this doesn’t mean I want to be alone.
There is nothing more important to me than finding one of the ones, a partner to love and share life with. The crucial thing is to live well and to be happy while searching for that special person and to never stop searching – even if you’re the oldest person on Match, Bumble, and Plenty of Fish.
Until next week, happy dating or not dating.