I have not gone on a “date” since 1971. OK, I was married from 1972- 2012, but I have lived alone since 2010.
During those first couple of years on my own, my younger friends kept trying to persuade me to go on match.com or other dating sites. I admit that I looked at them but not motivated to sign up. I can’t tell you precisely why. My gut just said, NO, this is not you!
My first winter of solo living was an idyllic secluded little house on the coast. This was a blissful solitude that I had never known. There are not many places more beautiful than the Maine coast, and the Maine coast during the winter is eye candy for a photographer and the moment for a meditator. This was the most nurturing period of my adult life, and I shared it only with my standard poodle, Shiloh.
Being lonely is not the same as being alone.
During those 7 months I learned the difference between being lonely, as I was in my marriage, and being alone. The two do NOT go hand in hand.
Friends worried that I was isolating myself out of grief and depression. But it was just the opposite. I was introducing myself to the real me and learning that I was my own best company.
Shiloh made me laugh every day.
We took long walks whenever the spirit moved us. We sat in silence watching the tide come and go. We shoveled snow and hauled wood. Still married, I was going through marriage counseling. That brought up many things to think about but loneliness was not one of those things.
I would have loved to stay in that sweet little house but summer was coming; people would be returning to the enclave; and the rent would quadruple. In May, I moved the 30 + miles back to my town and the job that I’d left.
I was now in a very social setting. The job that I loved, managing and later owning an art gallery, was situated in the same building as a very popular restaurant and bar. I met new people every week. I was in the middle of the renaissance of our small downtown. I was part of that movement. My circle of friends and acquaintances was expanding. That inner peace I had discovered during the winter carried over as my life filled with new people and new responsibilities. Life was truly engaging.
As my life changed, it was natural for the people IN my life to change.
I enjoyed my new friends and acquaintances and did not feel that anything was missing. I thought about dating. My now ex-husband had a significant other, and I saw them frequently. It’s a small community. Friends continued to offer introductions, but I told them and myself that I was not ready. I did not feel a need or a desire to find a significant other or even someone to join me for dinner. My life felt full…a comfortable full.
I admit that there were a couple of months in late 2014 when I obsessed about an old boyfriend. Double knee replacements and the snowiest winter that New England had seen in decades brought me to a very different isolation from my winter on the coast. Now I had pain, medications, healing and inactivity playing with my head. I wasn’t lonely. I was needy. Convinced that I no longer wanted to go it alone, I tried, unsuccessfully, to make a connection with that person from the past. Karma protected both of us.
By the beginning of 2015, I regained my balance-physically and emotionally. I went on a cruise by myself and came home comfortable in the realization that I still liked my own company and did not need a significant other.
I had Shiloh and a cadre of pretty incredible friends. Male. Female. Straight. Gay. Young. Seniors. Mostly new people in my life, but a few consistent old friends had made the transition with me to this new life.
My network. My core. My inspiration. My connection. They kept me busy; made me engage; made me laugh; and nurtured me.
I retired 18 months ago. Galleries are very inspiring but not financially viable. I was ready for a change. I needed time to heal some physical issues, including those knees. There were a few trips I wanted to take. More important, I was ready to explore my own creativity. Once again, I turned inward. Journaling. Meditating. Thinking. Learning. I promised myself, and announced publicly, that I would make NO career or life decisions for one year.
I discovered that I REALLY thrive on my own company (and that of Shiloh). We can go for many days without speaking to another person. I know that if and when I am ready to socialize, that network of wonderful people, who accept my quirky life, is just a text message away. I am available when one of them needs me, and they understand when I need to be alone. I fully realize just how integral my friends are to my own well being.
But more important, I have come to realize that
Should karma bring someone into my life…someone that I want to be a more intimate part of my life, I will be a much better partner to a solid relationship. But I’m not looking and more important, I’m not needing that someone.
This article previously appeared on Sixty and Me, in February 2016.