I have not gone on a ‘date’ since 1971. Okay, I was married between 1972 and 2012, but I have lived alone since 2010. During the first couple of years on my own, my younger friends kept trying to persuade me to go on match.com or other dating after fifty sites. I admit that I looked at them, but, I was not motivated to sign up. I can’t tell you precisely why. My gut just said, NO, this is not you.
My first winter of solo living was spent in an idyllic secluded little house on the coast. This was a blissful solitude that I had never known. This was the most nurturing period of my adult life and I shared it only with my dog, Shiloh. During these seven months, I learned that the difference between being lonely, as I had been in my marriage, and being alone. The two do NOT go hand in hand.
My friends were worried that I was isolating myself out of grief and depression. In fact, it was just the opposite. I was becoming acquainted with the real me and coming to realise that I could be my own best company.
I would have loved to have stayed in that sweet little house, but summer was approaching. Soon people would be returning to the enclave and the rent would quadruple. So I moved back to my hometown and to the job that I’d left behind.
Special people can be better than a special someone
I found myself in a very social setting. The job that I loved, managing and then later owning a gallery, was in a building with its own popular restaurant and bar. I met new people every week. My circle of friends and acquaintances was expanding. That inner peace I had discovered during the winter had carried over into my every day, as my life filled with new people and responsibilities. Life was, for me, truly engaging.
As my life changed, it was natural for the people in my life to change. I enjoyed spending time with my new friends and didn’t at all feel that anything was missing. I thought about dating. My now ex-husband had a significant other and saw them frequently. It’s a small community.
My friends continued to offer their introductions, but I told them and myself that I was not ready. I did not feel a need or a desire to find a significant other or even someone to join me for dinner. My life felt full – a comfortable full. I’ll admit there was a period when I obsessed about an old boyfriend. Double knee replacements and the snowiest winter in decades resulted in a very different sort of isolation from my winter on the coast.
By the beginning of the following year, I had regained my balance, physically and emotionally. I took a cruise by myself and came home comfortable in the realisation that I still liked my own company and didn’t require a significant other to fill the void. I had Shiloh and a cadre of pretty incredible friends. Male. Female. Straight. Gay. Young. Seniors. Mostly new, but a few consistent old friends had made the transition with me to my new life. My network. My core. My inspiration. My connection. They keep me busy, make me engage, make me laugh, and nurture me.
Then I decided to retire
Galleries are inspiring places to work, but not always financially viable. I was ready for a change. I needed time to heal some physical issues, including those knees. There were a few trips I wanted to take. But most importantly, I was ready to explore my own creativity. So I decided to try my hand at retirement.
Once again, I turned inward. I began journaling. Meditating. Thinking. Learning. I made a promise to myself and even announced publicly that I would make NO career or big life decisions for at least a year.
It reaffirmed that I really do thrive in my own company (and that of Shiloh of course). We can go for many days without speaking to another person. I know that, if and when I am ready to socialise, that network of wonderful people, who accept my quirky life, are just a text message away. I am available when one of them needs me and they understand when I need time alone. I see how integral my friends are to my well-being. But more importantly, I have come to realise that I am at the core of my own happiness. Should karma bring someone into my life – someone that I want to be a more intimate part of my life, I know I now will be a much better participant in such a relationship.
But right now, I’m not actively looking and more importantly, I’ve reached a point in my life that I have realised, I don’t need a ‘special someone’ to be happy.
Tamera Layton Grieshaber is a retired gallery owner, photography enthusiast, addicted reader, mother, traveller of life and the world, and a lifelong learner. Wondering constantly what she might do when she grew up, she realised at the tender age of 68, that she was as grown up as she was ever going to get.