Although the psychological reasons for my choosing as I did make sense, I don't recommend my course. Living alone, being alone, at least for a time, is important. How better to learn that you are your most reliable and steadfast companion? How better to discover that you are strong and whole?
Oh do I ever adore my husband and children. But when we are out and about, it is more and more seeming as if there are two units: the three males, and I. On vacation, every choice that's made to accommodate all four of us is a compromise. Nothing wrong with that, you say. And there isn't, except that in the compromising we risk missing the thing that might have changed our lives.
When I started blogging, some of you might remember, I was slouching towards forty. Now I am slouching towards fifty. My forties were about laying bare my past in order to overcome it. I am freer now, to say what I mean and to be the self I always was, underneath a shell formed and deformed by sadness, anger, and fear.
What I am seeing now is that my fifties are going to be about saying yes to those experiences and people that enrich me. They are going to be about me, not in the trite and narcissistic seventies sense, but in the sense that I have this one life, and I am going to use it wisely.
I will go to the beach and dig my toes into wet sand. I will race into the cold Atlantic and shiver with shocked exhilaration. I will travel, oh yes I will travel. I will not mind others seeing me in a bathing suit, no matter what the state of my body. I will try new foods. I will not return to my hotel room after dinner. I will stay out as late as I want. I will spend as long as I want at museums, bookstores, libraries, parks.
And I will do some or all of these things alone, if need be, not even slightly disappointed to do so. I like my own company, and I have earned it.
I will talk to strangers, those friends I have not yet met.
At a restaurant in a different city my family and I spy a man wearing a t-shirt with the logo of the university at which my husband is a professor. Joking, my husband turns to me, says, "Go see if we know him, Sarah." "OK," I agree, as if he hadn't been joking, and I start to rise out of my chair. "No!" my teens cry in tandem, united in this, if nothing else. "You can't, Mom," they plead. "That would be so embarrassing." My husband smirks. I look from one to another of these faces I love, and I choose to defer, this time, to the thought of their pain.
Later, as we leave the restaurant, my older son leans into me and offers his thanks, adding, "You know why."
I smile. I am happy to spare embarrassment. But my smile lasts longer than one would expect, and if you were to look closely, you would see a secret playing across my face:
It will not be long before I am talking to all the strangers. No, not long now.