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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Life Reclaimed

There are a lot of different kinds of marriages. There aren’t “as many as there are couples” as people don’t differ that much. People’s interpretations of marriage and people’s relationships do differ. My marriage was perfect. For me. I won’t speak for my late husband as that would simply be self-serving. But I can speak for me.

I married my best friend. Not like; “my child is my best friend” (ick) or “my dog is my best friend” (really? would he come get you after your colonoscopy?). I married my husband because he was the sleepover date that I didn’t want to go home. That is not some clumsy allusion to sex. It’s that I never grew tired of his company. He didn’t make me nervous he never made me doubt myself or him. I felt at home with him and had gobs of fun. So when he began to plan our wedding out loud (yep, that was my proposal!) I didn’t even flinch. I did have one moment of bridal jitters: we had checked into our lovely ocean-side honeymoon suite and I was standing by the window, as he was unpacking his bag. All of a sudden I became panicked. “What have I done!!” My very next thought was; “oh, it’s okay, it’s him.”

My marriage was a seventeen year pajama party. That is not to say we didn’t struggle or have our share of crap. We did. But throughout it all, there was nowhere we’d ever rather be than we each other. We would make living room nests and binge watch before it was even a thing. We’d get in the car every weekend for an adventure (when we lived in a cultural wasteland). We were each others touchstone and playmates. We took classes, went to opening nights at the opera, traveled, and read together (yes, he read aloud to me every night.) We shopped together (my husband loved to sit outside the dressing room as if at a department fashion show from a bygone era.) There were years in which we even worked together. That kind of togetherness is not for everyone, but it worked for us. The sound of him coming home never ceased to thrill me.

I miss going out with my husband. I miss sitting at my vanity as he watched me primp. I miss how I felt on his arm. But it’s our home life that I loved most of all. I am a homebody, an honest to goodness closet introvert. Being married to my best friend was a license to hermit. There were hundreds of Saturday or Sunday afternoons spent reading in bed while listening to Jonathan Schwartz’s American Standards show. (I was delighted when the programming changed as it eased that painful reminder.) We both basked in ritual and predictability and loved to nest.

When I began to try and rebuild my life I stumbled out of the house (like a newly born colt) whenever possible. I felt that’s what “living” was and I knew I had to LIVE. I went to the theatre, concerts, exhibits, lectures, classes and traveled. I worked, I volunteered, I took care of other people’s children and animals. And then something changed. I can’t put my finger on it. Was it the man who ghosted me after a brief whirlwind courtship? Was it being with my best friend during his surgery? Was it the three consecutive incidents of sexual harassment in the span of a week? Was it the realization that my family of origin was not going to care for me (I think I’d thought that being widowed would have evoked a dormant empathy). I don’t know, I just know something changed about nine months ago. I’ve started to reclaim parts of my old life. I no longer feel that I need to LIVE to live. I say “no” a lot. No to theatre tickets, dinner invitations, travel, you name it. If the thought of something does not make me giddy with pleasure, I say no. I loved my life with my husband. It was the only period of time in my entire life when I was happy. I’ve discovered that I can reclaim tiny bits of it. It’s exciting and comforting to nest with intention. I’ve even cooked some of our favorite foods…and eaten them! When I catch myself feeling self-indulgent or anti-social I remind myself I wouldn’t have felt that way if he was still here.

I am done flailing around trying to grab onto a new life. I will never be as happy as I was with him. But I can be who I was when I was with him. Enough has changed, I don’t need to become someone new to LIVE.

 

 

Calendar Man

A few months ago I lost interest in dating. It’s not that I checked it off my bucket list once and for all. It’s that I lost the same interest I once had. It ceased to seem important or even worthwhile. Maybe it was the two thoroughly disheartening experiences I had in May. Maybe after over three years of it, I’ve had enough. Potato Potahto.

I still keep a hand in (not the best choice of phrases, I know) but do so in a very different manner. I sort through, looking for the one profile/person I might be able to tolerate hearing from; not date, not partner with, but hear from. I no longer consider choosing to stay home a sign of anything but self-knowledge. The world isn’t watching and my worth is not predicated on someone wanting to buy me dinner. Quite frankly I’d rather not eat than sit across from someone uninteresting or unpleasant. I am done feeling as if I’m being auditioned or worse, not being seen at all. None of us walk through life as kind and compassionate as we could be. But if you can’t treat a friend or date with interest and care, what are you doing with your life? Don’t paw me, don’t ask me to wear something sexy, don’t begin a communication (when you’ve never met me) with “hey sexy.” I am not a prude I am a person. Seeing me as a potential conquest is so dehumanizing.

I haven’t joined an order. I am still open to dating from time to time (okay, once a month) but I do so with a very different mindset. I no longer assess men’s characteristics for long-term partner worthiness. I take them as they present themselves. Does a man express interest in me (which is NOT the same, in fact often the opposite of; does he want to sleep with me!)? Does he appear to see women as equals not adversaries? Is he interesting? IS HE KIND? The intangibles are now meaningless. I don’t care where he lives, what his faith is, what ages his children are…it just comes down to; would I rather watch TV or go out with this man?

Thus far this new approach has resulted in two simply lovely dates. Both men were kind, funny, interesting and seemingly emotionally intelligent and engaged. I may see them again, I may not. But to have spent a June evening debating the appeal of Chekov and a July evening discussing gender as a social construct, all while laughing and feeling a kinship, is enough for now.