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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I Dreamed A Dream

I still dream of him and it is always, without exception, deeply troubling. In the morning I feel mildly ill and exhausted. I mean; “take to my bed” exhausted, if I were ever to take to my bed. I never did by the way. Even in those first few days, I got up and showered every single day. I could not indulge in that kind of high drama. Had I not had a houseful of people, perhaps I would’ve considered it. But I had no desire to swoon with a rapt audience in the next room.

These dreams I have are not lush or lovely, or chick flick material. They are not snippets of our past life together. I do not get to relive our happiness through the miracle of REM. They are always, each damn one of them, about him betraying me. Often they are about him faking his death so that he could have a multi-year break from our life together. I am never happy to learn this, but am outraged on everyone’s behalf. How dare he put everyone through that! In the most recent version of this dream, I learned that everyone else was complicit. Family, friends, colleagues et al., were all just fine with it. No matter which version of this dream it is crystal clear that I will not take him back. I am never happy to see him and am adamant that he will not change this new life.

There are so many troubling aspects to this dream. First and foremost is that I’ve been having it for years and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. I have had it while in new relationships and while single. I have had it when things are good and when things are bad. The supporting players, set and time period change but the theme is always the same; betrayal.

I don’t want to have this dream. If I must have it can I also have a pleasant Lifetime Movie-ish one? It doesn’t have to be tit for tat. I’ll settle for a sweet dream for every two of this dark and distasteful one. It doesn’t even have to be terribly creative, just show me a clip of the past. How about that memory that steadies my heart rate and dries my tears? You know…when I’m in the hammock with our dog, swinging gently and looking up at the leaves. On cue, Jacques jumps up from between my legs as he hears “daddy’s” car slow to turn into the driveway. Husband walks through the house to the sliding glass doors and comes out to join us. Once upon a time that was my life.