While this post seems strange to me on Valentine’s Day eve, it is the approach of February 14 which fostered my curiosity about my current sense of singlehood. I began looking closely at what it means to be on my own after half a century. While searching within, I also, of course, searched the web. There are lots and lots of articles and blogs on being single. I had to diligently drill down in order to find articles, which weren’t how to’s on dating again or finding a new partner. Searching my heart and soul, I already knew I want neither. According to the Pew Research Center living without a spouse or partner under the same roof means I’m single.
Yes, yes I know. I can already hear someone saying, “But…but it’s almost Valentine’s Day”. For those of you with another partner after the death of a spouse or a divorce, I wish you a happy life together. You are all very fortunate people. You are also people who most likely made the choice to seek another partner. Or, perhaps, there was a bit of serendipity at play. Although I’m now single by chance and location, I’m choosing to remain single for several reasons.
I had the good fortunate of a long, long marriage to a man who enjoyed cooking together, shopping together, working with me in the garden, while I went on motorcycle rides and hikes with him and cheered him on at bicycle time trials. If something needed repair whether bicycle or house, I was the extra pair of hands. We supported each others careers, with Martin even becoming the trailing spouse for my job move. Fun for us was creating great meals at home, stopping at our favorite pub for lunch or supper, going to art galleries, museums and historical sites, an occasional play or concert and later creating our art. We raised two kids and were rewarded with wonderful grandkids. We had good times and some bad times. It was all a lot of work, compromise, give and take. It took years and a mutual commitment to create what we had.
Then, this unthinkably horrible disease took away our beautiful life together, making me Martin’s caregiver and slowly stealing his mind and spirit. And, now, leaving me to carve out a future of my own, on my own. I still have our loving family as does he. They give me support and advice, but the reality is I’m single, alone, but not alone. As I do today, I will always have a hole in my heart for this profound loss.
However, at this juncture in my journey I’m also savoring buying my land, planning my new house and making the inherent dozens of decisions with no other consideration than what I want and can afford. While it’s sometimes scary because all errors in judgment fall squarely on my sagging shoulders, it’s also exhilarating to be forging a new identity. I feel like a kid again, only with lots of experience.
As is my habit I didn’t make New Year’s resolutions. But, I did write goals for 2022. Perhaps, they are one and the same. Topping my list is self-care. Self-care is not being selfish. It’s putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can help your fellow passengers. More than one well-meaning person recommended I volunteer as a way to handle my grief. When I’m fully breathing again, I’ll go back to volunteering. Following years of caregiving and putting Martin’s needs first, self-care is putting my needs, health and well-being first. It doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten Martin. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love him. It doesn’t translate into I’m no longer grieving. In fact, part of my grief is finding myself without my lifelong partner. It’s possible to grieve and, at the same time, feel joy again.
Accepting my single status allows me to envision my future. I was one-half of a pair in an egalitarian marriage. The chances of finding another partner wanting or even willing to cook, shop, clean, do laundry and be supportive of my activities outside the home is pretty much nil, especially since at my age, there are far fewer single men. The reality is women still live longer than men. Consequently, we outnumber them in the millions.
I’m also set in my ways. After five decades with one man, adjusting to a new partner is not anything I want to tackle. While there is a void with Martin’s decline and subsequent absence, it’s not one I feel a need to fill. I handled all the finances, paperwork and our social calendar. As he declined I even learned to make repairs around the house by watching YouTube how-to’s. I’m most proud of unclogging the dishwasher drain after a glass broke filling the drain with shards. With family and friends, as already mentioned, I’m not alone or lonely. I’m finding new meaning and purpose in my life, including my return to blogging. I’m quite capable of caring for myself and have every desire to continue doing so.
All of the above adds up to my choosing to continue living my life in singlehood. One of my other goals for 2022 is finding me, the real me, the self-directed me, the me without a partner. I have a house to build, classes to attend, books to read, people to meet, places to go, music to listen to, art galleries, museums and historical sites to visit, trendy and not so trendy small towns to explore, along with locally owned restaurants where I’ll savor good food and wines, cooking great meals at home and creating a new landscape to go with my new house. Whoopee, more plants, more gardens! And, of course, not doing anything at all…just being…just me…and my cats.
I love your honest and meaningful posts. My brother in law lost my sister to Alzheimer’s a year ago and he still struggles. You have a positive attitude and I have a feeling Martin would be glad you are figuring out how to enjoy each day. Take care.
My heart goes out to you and your brother-in-law. I’m sorry for your loss. It takes an average of about two years to really move forward after the death of a spouse. I do hope he is going to a caregivers support group or a grief counselor. Talking to someone else helps. There is also a certain amount of guilt with moving forward. Most of us feel like we are abandoning our deceased partner. In my case, Martin is still alive physically although we’re not sure he knows who I am. I feel a certain amount of guilt, but I also know the reality is he’s not coming back. I have no other choice but to forge a new identity and life. Hugs to you and your brother-in-law, K
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Kathy you are an inspiration to so many of us aging women. I am still working and have begun to realistically think about what the next season of life will be like. I appreciate you sharing your journey to give sound advice and practical wisdom like the wisdom about self care. I have raised a child with special needs and had neglected the self care all those years. I am learning to give myself permission to care for myself and that it is a good thing not a selfish thing. I will keep you in my prayers and look forward to learning with each blog. Thank you!
Thank you Sus. I’m glad you are learning to care for yourself. I hope you are engaging in some indulgences, however small. Creating a new identity after working and caregiving takes a lot of self-examination and work! I started by dragging out an old vision book I started before we retired. You may have heard of the vision board. I prefer a book of blank pages where I can tape photos, sayings and my thoughts about reinventing myself. It’s fun and self-caring at the same time. It also provides clarity. Best wishes for finding your future! K
You have a great attitude! I have followed your blog for a few years and think you have handled his illness with grace and honor. I, too, find myself facing singleness for the first time in 40 years. My circumstances are completely different than yours, however I feel you pulled the words right from my own heart and head. I wish you love and comfort as you move forward on this new part of the journey.
Yes, as the capable, bright woman that you are moving forward does not exclude the grief you will experience along the way. What I read from your post is the appreciation and love you have had in a solid marriage that will support your future goals. There is room for excitement and contentment, and I look forward to reading about your journey.
Peace be with you. I am fortunate to still have my husband. Yet someday. One of us will be gone. I don’t dwell on this but the thought creeps up on me. Thank you for your posts. They are enriching. Deb
Your blogs seem to appear just when I need some inspiration. How open of you to let the rest of us tag along on your new journey. Please keep blogging. We keep cheering you on.
Lovely blog. You write so well. There’s somebody out there if you want him but I can see committing to the single life. You are blessed with an inner richness.
Thank you for the encouraging post. I hope I never need that encouragement, or at least not for a long time, but your experience and that of some of my friends tells me to be prepared for possibly being the last go rather than the first.
Thank you for writing your blog again. We missed you! I too am on the newly single again journey and am inspired by your winning, adventurous, fulfilling attitude toward this adventure. It is indeed a new chapter and one to be lived well.
My 82 year old aunt told me that being a Caregiver to a terminally ill husband is a process. I’ve been scared, sad, mad and now I have days of acceptance. There are days when a thought pops into my mind about something I really want to do but can’t now. I feel guilty at first, but then my life will go on. Accepting the thought and being okay with it does in no way take away all the love and caring I am giving him now during the end of his life. I truly value your blog and all the encouraging comments.
Rae, my heart goes out to you as I’ve experienced all those emotions and more. None of those emotions invalidate what you are doing for your husband. You are a strong, resilient woman. Yes, your life will go on. Even though you can’t go out and do the things you want right now, be sure to give Rae some self-care. You need it and deserve it. No guilt. Even if it’s as simple as a warm bath with after he’s asleep, do it. Hugs, K
I loved reading about your plans Kathy. It’s such a lot to navigate, but so exciting at the same time . I also can see the grief you are dealing with on a daily basis . Sending loving thoughts to you both .
I am almost sixty five. I met Michael in 1979 and he passed away in 2020. It is so hard and I am not sure what I feel. Sometimes I talk about him like he is still with me and other times I struggle to remember what it was like. Its a hard transition
I have enjoyed your blog over the years. After eight years of retirement, I find myself making changes along the way. I’m trying to try new things, meet new friends, etc. I’m 72 and in a wonderful 42 year marriage and wonder, when will it end for us. We have weathered some serious health issues (mine) and have thankfully are going through a good period. Thank God for woman like you Who tell it like it is. We need to support each other. Keep blogging. We’re all in need in some way along this journey called life!
Thanks for sharing your heart. I completely understand. You are such a
I’ve often thought if anything happened to David, I could never
“break-in” another husband. He is so accustomed to all my quirks and I
have a lot of them!
Also, my cousin had the situation of her step-dad’s children from his
first marriage wanted him in assisted living in TX, but Pam wanted her
mother in assisted living in SC. It gets to be quite a trouble as we age
to have step-children on both sides that want different things. After
hearing her story, I don’t want to do that to my two daughters. There
were issues with money too!
I’m sad you are not still in SC, but I understand that too!
Kathy, Thirty years ago, I did a research project on single women (of all ages and including the always single, the divorced, and widows). One of the striking themes that emerged from my interviews with older women, especially those widowed after long happy marriages, was how many of them shared a fantasy of a companionate relationship with a man who would not live with them. As one of them said, “I want someone to go out to dinner with, to go on vacations with. And then I want him to go home. I don’t want to give up my independence.”
You are an inspiration. If I ever have to face what you’ve had to face, I know the first person I’m going to call for support. Hugs.