Learning To Enjoy Solitude 9 Months After The Loss Of My Spouse
“One’s not half of two; two are halves of one.” — E.E. Cummings
The definition of the word couple is: “two persons married, engaged, or otherwise romantically paired.” After 47 years of marriage Peter and I would joyfully declare: “we were one.” I gave Peter a key chain which he kept his whole life with an inscription from E.E. Cummings that read: “we are so both and oneful.” Our lives were wholly intertwined.
I now miss him every time I pass a picture. I miss him every time I see a movie we treasured. I miss him while watching the finale of The Good Wife and am even sadder to miss him throw his shoe at the TV in frustration. I miss him when I am in the car and have to do all the driving. I miss him when I go to a restaurant and want him to sample my food even though he hated green veggies. I miss him in my bed, cuddling at night. I am all too aware that I am no longer a couple with two joined parts. I am single. I no longer have someone to share my innermost feelings and thoughts. I don’t have a trusted partner as a confidante and a champion. I have lost the reflection of my love. Peter and I had a single language, a single sense of humor. But now I am single, without a sense of humor.
I used to look at single people with a smugness that I now regret. I would twirl my ring on my finger and stare at the symbol of my couplehood with pride. I didn’t have to submit myself to online dating. I didn’t have to find a friend to join me at the movies or theatre. I didn’t have to invite people to dinner. I had a live-in “bestie” and we spent cozy nights together watching TV. Now that I am single, I feel unspeakably lonely. I find I feel envious of other couples as they march two by two, hand in hand, towards a phantom Noah’s Ark. Do I feel envious? Damn right I do! But deep down in my soul, I know that I have to find the strength to fill my life with my own form of entertainment and believe in the fact that I can find companionship and joy again, especially in my own company.
Mother Teresa talked honestly about loneliness. “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” Loneliness is the hardest thing about grief. Loneliness is not the same as solitude or aloneness. Loneliness is a feeling of isolation, feeling disconnected from the rest of your world. Not only do I miss Peter but, I mourn the life we had as a couple. I miss making plans together for dinners, movies, travel, and even a walk in town. Yes, he hated exercise but, we would chatter along and despite his protestations, he would feel great after. I feel the loneliness now because my life has been reduced to being internal. Who can share my life with me? The world is moving forward as couples stroll and hug and talk and yet I am grieving still. Even being with family, I feel that I have lost a limb and can’t heal.
So I have decided not to plan too far in advance. The summer is looming large but I can’t even think about travel to faraway lands. I can’t go down the road of the future or it will make me sad. I have to live in the moment and yes, be mindful of what is happening without looking ahead. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade — or at least diet lemonade. I must find the power in myself to examine what kind of person I will become after this trauma. I have choices as a survivor of the hardest crisis to befall a human being and I have to figure out how to reclaim my true self. I will go from widowhood to selfhood kicking and screaming but moving forward. I am still a mother, grandmother, sister, sister-in-law, friend, but no longer a wife. I have to learn how to enjoy solitude. I don’t have to lose my identity; I just have to find it again. The animals walked onto Noah’s Ark two by two. I now have to find a way to be one by one or at least take steps to be kind to my one and only.
“The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.” — Mark Twain