Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Word 'Settling' Is a Most Wonderful Contronym

I have spent too little time alone. I dove straight into a serious relationship in college, which lasted through college and beyond it by three years. Four months after a messy, awful end to that relationship, I met my husband. And here we are, just after our twentieth wedding anniversary.

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.


Ally Bean said...

You've articulated my thoughts about the difference between 40s and 50s better than I've thought them. I hope that by saying "yes" to the good scenarios, and refusing to engage in the bad scenarios, I find my 50s to be the time of growth and fun that I believe I deserve. Well said.

Liz said...

Oh, I loved this post, Sarah!! I have had even less 'alone' time (not to mention serious relationships!) than you, having fell nuttily in love with my first serious boyfriend and MARRIED him in a wave of youthful romance while I was still only part way through my degree!!! Yup, moved straight from my parents' home and in with him. It's all worked out swimmingly (sometimes our most impulsive and romantic decisions can be our best - perhaps this goes with your theme??) and we've been so well matched that I don't regret the lack of other relationships - but I DO regret not having a period of some years on my own, which is something I feel a need to make up for somehow over the years to come, by being brave and doing stuff for me. Had to laugh - I've joined a women's gym recently and have been struck (and delighted) by how at the age of 45 I walk in and out from the car in my stretch pants (no baggy t-shirt) with bottom and other bits gloriously wobbling and just DON'T CARE. Such a change from my gym days 20 years ago! And over the last week I've put my name down to do some volunteer work I've been meaning to get round to for ages, and - gulp - joined a political party for the first time in my life.....and, goddamn it, I went all out and chose The Greens!!! 'Cos I'm 45 and I'm done with being pragmatic. Having taken the plunge I got home to an inbox today full of info about meetings, political coffee mornings, etc - now to be brave enough to GO to some of them. Think I should take your cyber-hand and jump!!

Veronica said...

I slowly reclaimed bits and pieces of my life in my 40s, and began traveling solo, going to concerts alone, taking myself out, indulging my hobbies more, and giving up all the volunteer work that sucked me dry. It was about letting go of guilt as well as rediscovering myself.

I feel my life is fuller and more interesting than ever. I married young and the marriage has endured, in part because he seldom interfered with my independence, and his career meant I was alone a lot.

In the last year, I've learned how little my kids need me and I'm surprised to find I don't need them as much either. For so long I couldn't imagine life without them around and now I can AND it's not empty or scary.

Rima said...

I'm wearing a big smile and looking forward to your fifties.

Christine said...

It's funny... back in the spring I very deliberately told myself that I spent so much of my life saying "no" (many reasons very good, but most for the good of my young family) that I was going to spend my next few years saying "yes." In fact, I made a big collage and I have a cutout from some magazine that is simply the word "yes" repeated over and over in different scripts. It is on my desk now, in fact. I look at it everyday. Our "yes" years are looking bright--and FUN! xoxo

Sarah said...

Thanks, everyone. It's nice to feel understood. xo