LIVING ALONE IN OLD AGE – AND LOVING IT
I confess: this is the tale of an aberrant. I took a survey among “my people” – and it seems that the feelings I express herein are not shared by the majority of that (or any?) population. Thus, in the interest of the current rising tide that focuses on diversity, I owe “the public” my piece of waywardness.
At our last meeting of “Writers Who Wish Not To Be Anonymous,’ one member bemoaned the fact that his recent widowhood had left him bereft in so many areas of his life, emphasizing the significance of the fact that he, a man currently just barely past his eighties, had married at a very young age, and in actuality, had never truly lived “alone.” And somehow, the “alone-ness” has magnified the loss.
How many ways can I dispel that mindset, as a contemporary who sees “alone-ness” as the final freedom to become my authentic self – and as the ultimate bucket of gratitude for my having been given the largess of several good years to explore “me.”
Notwithstanding the many good years of my 59 year marriage, along with the requisite life challenges that accompanied it, I view my widowhood as a challenging new phase of being. Instead of thinking of the good things about the person I miss in marriage, I now stress the good things I have in single-hood.
There is the business of coming and going on my own time line – of being free to eat or not at any prescribed hour, at making plans based totally on my own whims. I enjoy the challenges of seeking out my own entertainment, of investigating the possibility of new interests, and new people in my life, and of the “guilt-lessness” of the ability to reject — both new people and new interests. I am acutely aware of the physical pains that come and go, and particularly of the ones that come when I am too long without being “occupied.” I am very tethered to the mind/body connection. “Being Occupied” for me, is having imaginary conversations with myself that are way more interesting to me than those I often have with “real” people.
So much of this attitude, is dependent upon “independence.” I have always lived my life being willing and able to do pretty much of what is required of daily living. Although my husband was dependent on me for almost all of his life comforts, I was not dependent on him, not even for changing a light bulb, and I willingly accepted my marriage role as “the one who ….”- you name it. In fact, I often teased my mate, accusing him of training me to be a widow.
The fact is that I am happily able to engage in all of my personal requirements for satisfactory living conditions – so far. I will tackle the problems of changing conditions only when I must.
I am very much aware that such a life style can easily lead to the emergence of “the selfish old lady,” – too self sufficient to embrace the warmth and good will of the several people who surround me offering a variety of solutions to problems I don’t believe exist.
There is an element of brittleness that is mysteriously concurrent with independence, and is a condition I seek to avoid. The soft, fuzzy cuddly me, who exists in my own mind, is constantly at odds with the persona who wants also to be sharply efficient.
And yes—these are only some of the insights I have collected as I discover more and more of me, while at the same time struggling to cast aside any suggestion of an obsessive need to overindulge in “me–ness.”
The foundation of a well-adjusted “living together” partnership is based on compromise – not the kind of compromise based on resentfulness, but compromise freely and lovingly extended. Nonetheless, the very definition of the word means to “give up” something in order to achieve something more desired. And sometimes, over a long period of time, and without fully realizing it – compromise can result in “giving up” your own person-hood.
The bottom line – and granted, this refers specifically to one who is aging in relatively good health – – living alone offers all the options coveted by someone who dreams of a carefree life – someone whose inner resources sustain the ongoing challenges of the unknown —someone for whom “being alone” has a more positive than negative subtext, someone whose past life of compromise falls into the category of BTDT —( been there , done that) and is ready to try something else.