Having recently gone through a phase of feeling lonely in my second marriage, I came out of it with the nagging feeling that the expectations for how a woman belong in her second marriage are over-the-top unrealistic. But, my revelation didn’t occur to me in any timely fashion, they only came after months, years, and countless “why the h–l is THIS happening to me?” sorts of ponderings late at night.
The good news is that I don’t feel lonely so much any more and I have a greater resiliency to roll with the flow, thanks in large part to reducing expectations, keeping a strong focus on NOT doing too much to fix the world for every person who walks into my circle of contact, most importantly my husband or my stepchildren. They will sort out their life, I am not around to be the fixer. I’m my husband’s wife, I’m my own person, I’m a daughter, sister, lover, friend, worker, dreamer, and loner.
My revelation came to me when I woke up one morning feeling VERY sorry for myself. I mean down-in-the-dumps sorry. Like there was just no hope for a better way of feeling. I was alone in my life, or so I thought. At first, I was mad. What the heck? I was married, there were people around. Why was I feeling so lonely. I thought then, with some indignation, that I hadn’t felt this lonely since my FIRST marriage. And, the rationalizations went so on and so forth. Blame came and went. I was feeling lonely because of this or that or the other thing.
But, one morning everything felt strange and unfamiliar. As I brushed my teeth which is hard to do when you’re gritting them, I was thinking I’ll just have to accept that marriage is about me being lonely. Maybe that’s just fine. I was thinking I’ll connect with my husband around the things we can connect about and then the rest of the time, I’ll be, well……lonely.
Out of nowhere, a word popped into my head.
Huh, so? So what that I’m lonely? What the ….? This was a big deal. For sure, I’d made it a big deal for a long time. I was indignant. I was mad. I felt lonely.
And then I remembered that as a child I spent long, long hours in solitude. I walked the hills of our town with my dog roaming after rabbits. I hung out with girlfriends and felt lonely. I went to my tiny high school where everyone knows everyone and I was popular and had lots of friends and was well-liked by my teachers. And, I felt lonely.
I got married the year before my mother died and even before she died, I felt lonely. I always wondered if I had inherited her loneliness, because she had loneliness in vast quantities. But, you can inherit the legacy of behavior, or so goes my world view, so it’s more likely than not that I did come away from my two dozen years of being her daughter with some repercussions of her depression and inability to express her suffering.
I divorced in 1994 and lived alone for the next 12 years. Some of that time I was lonely and some of it I was not. When I travelled to Europe for 9 weeks after my divorce, I saw some of the most amazing places on earth and hung out in some of the most inviting environments. During the first few weeks of the trip, I was lonely and alone beyond belief. I had never really spent time alone. There was no one I could lean on. No one to be frustrated with, who wouldn’t respond or be involved in the way I wanted to be involved. It was as if all the distractions and confusions were gone and the full feeling of loneliness came crashing in.
Then, came a week of nothing-ness. I could tell something was shifting, but couldn’t tell what it was. The last month of my travels were amazing. I let go of feeling sorry for myself that I was alone and I went out and enjoyed being a roamer on the planet. I went to countries and cities and met many people who didn’t speak my language and found a way to connect with them and share meaning about our shared human-ness.
The weird thing is that there were no expectations for me to belong anywhere in France, Germany, Switzerland, or Italy. I was not expected to behave in any certain way. I was just me, doing my thing in life, wandering some days, resting in others. The freedom that came with that was incredible and I forgot it until that morning not so long ago.
Being in a marriage is not the ingredient that causes loneliness. In fact, loneliness is part of the human experience. We will come into this world on our own and we leave it on our own even with loved ones by our side. It’s a myth that by living in community we won’t feel alone. In fact, look around. You’ll see the great and zany ways we humans attempt to not be alone.
Exactly. So what if you’re feeling lonely. I can think of 10 things worse. Can you? Get up, go outside and see what’s out there. Let me know how it feels.