In this day and age I know I’m an anomaly: a middle-aged woman who has never lived alone. But it’s true. Never. Not ever.
In my first year of college I lived in a small town in a grand house with white siding and a friendly porch–all framed by a pair of graceful oaks. Nine other young women crammed themselves in there with me. We were watched over by the owner, a widow who lived in an in-law unit tucked away behind the house. I imagine she probably raised her family in that large home, and then came to renting the rooms out to other people’s children as a way to make ends meet after her husband died.
My roomies and I cycled back and forth to the campus, cooked some of our meals together, even had some silly mock sorority parties, complete with Martinelli’s and salty junk food (very extravagant on our miniscule budgets!). We dubbed ourselves “Psi Psi Psi.!”
It was a lively, bustling place (except when the daytime soaps were on and three or four girls would line up on the couch silently soaking in the drama). With so many of us living there, there was always someone who would run to the store with you, commiserate with you over a heavy courseload, or just sit and chat with you late at night on the creaky front porch swing. I lived in that home for a year, then transferred to a college in my hometown where my next stop was a sophisticated 1940’s era apartment with shiny wood floors, brass handles on the heavy wooden doors, lovely raised ceilings and tall windows.
Two other women shared the flat with me. They were a bit older and more involved in their jobs and friends outside of our little trio. So I remember feeling a bit disoriented and disappointed that there wasn’t more “there” there. It was such a different experience than the place I had just come from.
But then, I did have Steve. After three years of dating we had become quite serious at that point. We eventually got engaged and married three months later. So (at just under the age of 20) my third and final roommate was Steve. Our first twenty years as a couple, we lived in flats, a pool cabana, apartments, and a rustic treehouse in the woods. Ellie joined us for the last four of our eighteen years there. Then, thirteen years ago we transplanted our little family to a simple, sunny suburban home here in Sonoma County. (This is dwelling number eight, if I haven’t forgotten any!)
There were three of us, now just two. Soon I will be the only one left. Now, I know what you’re thinking: I shouldn’t be feeling sad and lonely yet because I still have my teenage daughter, Ellie, living with me. But don’t overlook the operative word there: teenage. Ellie is so invested in life at the ranch where she works (and plays!) that I have been getting lots of practice at living alone. Meanwhile, I’m all too aware there are precious few weeks left before my girl moves to Southern California for college.
So what’s a mom to do? I talk to my dogs a lot more (probably good for them), eat a lot more ice cream (probably not so good for me).
And then there’s the dancing. It feels like I’ve been doing a very good job of sitting all alone at the edge of the dance floor, resisting standing up and joining in. Then this really big, outgoing, well-meaning (but overwhelming) Disneyesque giant just won’t let me sit. He keeps insisting I get up and dance with him. It’s awkward because I don’t know him, don’t know these strange dance steps he’s attempting to teach me, and I really just don’t feel like engaging with anyone. I find myself wishing he would just take his very friendly self away. (I think I hear a pint of Haagen Dazs beckoning me home.)
But something tells me to stay. I have a profound sense that these really are my only two options: stay stuck by myself on this hard, metal chair (at least this is something I know I can do!), or stand up and, with an open heart and mind, join in the dance.
I want to learn to not only do this “single” thing well, but to practice the steps enough that I can truly feel the blessings in the dance. I want to move forward into my new life with confidence, grace and joy.
It’s not the dance I would have chosen, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a lovely one all the same.
Thanks for dancing with me, through all of the phases and stages.