Holiday time. Crowds of people milling about – yes, even in 2020, when it’s not the smartest thing to do. Some folks still holding or planning to hold dinners for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other holiday they may be celebrating as 2020 ends and we come to 2021 – in just over a month!
It’s a time when my friends usually invite me to their celebrations, and I always appreciate their caring about me. But I often don’t want to go – even in safe times.
The idea that I must be lonely because I live alone is one that they often voice, even though I know we all enjoy each other’s company. But even after all these years, some still don’t quite believe that a woman living on her own can be quite content, and rarely lonely, at least not any lonelier than she might have been in relationships.
Been there. Done that. Twice.
And I was lonelier in each marriage than I have been the last 25 years on my own.
For some, that’ll be hard to believe. For others? I’ll bet I’m not the only one.
There were issues in both marriages, and much of my loneliness in each was due to my expectations … I know I thought we were more aligned than we proved to be, and that was hard to deal with. Not accusing my husbands or myself in each marriage, because each of us played a part.
But I was terribly lonely throughout most of those years. It seemed as though I was always playing a part on a stage, one that just didn’t fit.
Daughter. Wife. Mother. All good roles, but that’s what they were. Labels that just didn’t quite fit. There was always something missing, something I couldn’t have articulated if my life had depended on it.
Whoever Susan really was meant to be stayed hidden, just out of reach.
The second divorce came in 1999. I had been working internationally as a seminar leader for five years, and that killed the marriage. Can’t argue with that; he never imagined I wouldn’t be there 24/7 to take care of his needs. Actually, neither did I.
But the woman I wanted to be started showing up during those years, as I realized what I could do on my own. Although I was terrified at the first trip away from home (in the U.S. in the first few months), I managed to get most things done right. And I learned that I could handle a few tough things – all on my own.
I could travel around the world and lead 200-person workshops that largely brought glowing reviews from the attendees.
When a meeting hall hadn’t been booked (OOPS!) in Malaysia, something I didn’t know until I got there at 7:30 a.m., I coped. Materials obviously hadn’t been sent from the home office, so I had to cancel the workshop for 300+ attendees. Wasn’t easy. Wasn’t fun for anyone. Lots of angry folks who expected something quite different.
I could and did decide immediately that of course I would stay a little longer in Australia and fly from Melbourne to Perth and then to Paraburdoo and do a seminar that the company had just booked. I had NO idea that one trip would make my whole year in terms of happiness! (For those who are curious: International Trips See the picture of the “sperm suit” I wore there.)
My support staff never showed up at a workshop in Hong Kong, but I was able to find a couple of folks who volunteered to check the other attendees in for me. And afterwards, I was able to get their workshop fee canceled.
Thanks to the many adventures I had during those years – remember, this was long before cell phones here (1995-1999) – I began to realize I could make it on my own. Not just manage, but thrive. And suddenly I really wanted to.
I finally felt as though my skin fit me. I finally felt like I knew who I was. I finally felt like a whole person. Not perfect, but ME.
So does lonely still happen? Sure. I’m human.
But it’s a cleaner kind of feeling, one that simply goes with the territory. It’s still often about expectations, but they’re usually ones I put on myself, not anyone else.
All in all, I know who I am. I like who I am. I like who I’ve become. I love the way I’m living, making my own decisions, holding myself accountable when I need to. Cutting myself some slack occasionally, too.
I’m living, growing, learning, loving – and enjoying nearly every minute of the time I have while I have it.
So, I’ll just head back to my Kindle and continue reading a so-so mystery, have a glass (or two) of wine, hug my dogs, and thoroughly love this life I’ve been lucky enough to have.