The Greatest Love Of All

I had a friend who routinely confessed that she just wanted to sleep with a man, any man. She didn’t mean sex, although she was “willing” to have sex with the man if it meant she could sleep in his arms.

The first time she told me this I was still married and heard her statement as a proclamation in a foreign language. I couldn’t possibly begin to understand her motivation. Once I was stabilized in my widowhood and dipping a toe into the dating waters, she said it again. It felt just as foreign to me at that point and I assumed she knew something I didn’t having been at the dating game for at least a decade. I’ve now been unmarried for a respectable amount of time (6 years) and am no closer to understanding how a stranger in my bed could be anything short of a reason to call 911.

I love going to bed and when I don’t have evening plans I skip off to my sanctuary rather early in the evening. The satin bedding (a birthday gift to myself, the first birthday there was no one to buy me presents) is turned down as are the lights. Frank Sinatra’s voice and lavender scent fill the air. Most nights the windows are open (as it is only my own body temperature that needs consideration) and a breeze blows over my toes. My 5-pound narcoleptic dog is tucked into his bed, silent and immobile for 12 hours. There is always an engaging book (usually more than one) propped open on my nightstand, and sometimes a small glass of scotch. The idea of a stranger invading that slice of heaven is horrifying. (I am delighted to share my bed with people I love, and do so from time to time. My friends Kim and Joe sleep like statues and share my king size bed (separately) whenever they visit (restless sleepers are relegated to the couch). It is a great pleasure to awake and remember someone I love is just inches away.)

I can not imagine how long it would take for a new someone to feel like a welcome addition to my sanctuary. Even if I could get past the intrusion of my tranquility I would need to contend with all the middle-aged man stuff: the snoring, the sinuses, the thrashing (I’ve been hit more times in my sleep than I care to recount), the sleep talking, the smells, the neurosis, the apnea… ‘Nough said, right? Part of me is charmed of how utterly lacking in self-consciousness these men are. A 63-year old man who has never once slept through the night without listening to A.M. radio through earphones? Bless. Another who had no compunction about looking for an outlet in which to plug his breathing machine? Cheers.

Something happens as we get older. Well, lots of things happen, but something good happens too. If we’re lucky, and I think I am, we get much more comfortable in our own selves. Our lives become less external. We are less susceptible to trends or FOMO. We know who we are, what we like, what we dislike and what we’re willing to compromise. I have always been a very private person (says the woman posting this on the internet) who actually enjoyed quiet and solitude. But for several years after my initial widowhood I was completely unmoored, “a housewife without a husband”, and looked to immerse myself in someone else’s life to regain the rhythm of a life lost. I no longer feel that way. In fact I feel much like I did when I first met my husband. Back then I was not looking to date, let alone marry. I had survived a perfect storm of personal tragedy and was doing the best I could skating atop of a very disorienting new life. I met him and blah blah blah. I’m older now by far and more settled into myself (in more ways than one, thank you gravity!) and delighted by the peace I have cultivated.

I’m not that evolved that I don’t harbor romcom fantasies. Who doesn’t dream of a cinematic romance? But losing myself in someone else’s life is not on the table nor is sharing my sanctuary with just anyone. If there is another great love in store for me, I’ll know. In the meantime I will bask in the love of my peaceful life filled with small moments of joy and enormous amounts of gratitude.

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The Nature Of Aging

Growing older never bothered me. Well, that’s not entirely true: I had a terribly anxious time turning 21. I felt that once one turned 21, everything counted. I was now formally an adult. Never again could I hear; “well, whatya expect, she’s just a kid.” Though truth be told, no one had ever said that. Growing older suited me. I was born middle-aged and was delighted as my body caught up to my psyche.

I did have a troubling relationship with the passage of time while I was married. My husband was significantly older than me. Our birthdays and new years reminded me how limited our time was. The idea of living without him was intolerable. I’ve been without him for over five years and I was right. It is intolerable.

 

Friends and the world at large suggest that getting older is a nightmare; a blow to vanity, ego and mobility; moaning and whingeing of sagging skin, creakiness and dryness whirl around me like white noise. It strikes me as no different than complaining about menstruation. It’s nature. What is the big deal and more to the point; what is the alternative?? Getting older doesn’t bother me in the least. I have a treasure trove of amusing and delightful memories that serve as a riveting mental documentary. I’ve seen things and done things and gone places. I feel no urgency, no pressing need to accomplish anything. I don’t fear running out of time. I aged out of the most compelling choices ages ago (i.e., F.B.I. agent, astronaut, chorus dancer, mother). I take each day as it comes, delighted to discover how it unfolds.

 

I will never be young in someone’s eyes again and that hurts. But it is nothing compared to the pain of losing the keeper and creator of my most precious memories. I am the sole repository now, and when I die (hopefully in my sleep at a very very old age) the memories of the best of years of my life will die as well. And that is nature.