Solitude suits me. I have always been a bit of a loner, an outsider. I grew up seeing plenty of examples of life without men. In fact, men were a pain in the ass from what I could see. My family was full of unmarried ladies who lived alone and they were the coolest characters around. They were the ones who had careers. They lived comfortably. They set their own rules. There were no men around messing up their lives. My maternal grandmother had divorced my grandfather when she got fed up with his traveling salesman, womanizing ways. She was a retired math teacher/school principal. She lived on her own and took care of me after school. I miss her greatly. Words fail me when I try to describe the incredible impact she made in my life, how indebted I am to her. Without her example, I would probably be a complete wreck, I may not even be writing this now. She was so awesome and so strong.
Compared to them, the most immediate example of married life I saw growing up may not have been the best. My parents were married for thirty-something years, until my father passed away. But they were not a good match and I don't think either of them was very happy. They had their own demons to fight. My father was an idealist who became disenchanted with human greed and the corruption he saw around him as a career employee in local government. He was also an alcoholic. It was lethal combination. My mom was frustrated. She had married too young, had kids too soon. She lived as if trapped.
When I was a child I was convinced I was going to be the old maid of my generation. I was too tall, not pretty or popular enough. I did not know how to flirt, how to be comfortable around boys. I was a bit leery of them. The ones I liked did not give me the time of day, or ended up confiding in me their love for my girlfriends. My life was a never ending string of crushes. I adored boys from afar; classmates, friends of my older brother. My brother's girlfriend used to tease me mercilessly about my biggest crush, a college buddy of my brother's.
I was resigned to be an old maid. I accepted what I understood to be my destiny, although it made me somewhat sad that I would never get to know real love. In a way it was good to know I had a path.
A few months after my father died, something in me snapped. Maybe mortality scared the hell out of me. Maybe I realized I did not really have to be an old maid. Sometimes the reasons for our impulses, for our decisions are hidden even from ourselves. For whatever reason, I allowed myself to fall in love with someone who reciprocated me. I discovered I was highly sensual, highly sexual even. I had fancied myself shy and demure, but turned out to be quite the opposite. I was floating in the clouds.
Reality yanked me down. A few days ago I wrote about what happened. It was one blow too many. Magical thinking took over. I was convinced the Gods and the Universe were punishing me for abandoning the celibate life, cursing me for dabbling in the pleasures of the flesh. Or maybe it had been a test to see what I was made of. In any case, I had failed miserably.
Halfway through our marriage my ex declared he did not love me anymore. I could not wrap my head around the concept. My life was deeply entrenched in the here and now. I lived in a dense fog, unable to see past my nose. Life without him was simply out of the question.
But why? Why the utter terror? I was not happy back then. I was downright miserable. I was not sure I loved him. But without him, I would have been totally adrift, and that terrified me.
There is so much history that I have forgotten, so many details that escape me now. My memory is a Cliff Notes version of my life. All I have are sketches of my past and old feelings that flare up when I write. Sometimes it's hard to make the connection between the people in my past, the feelings for them that my memories evoke, and their present-day incarnations. My relationship with my mom has evolved considerably. I am no longer her emotional crutch, she who helped her cope with life as the wife of an alcoholic. My relationship with my ex is different than it was. We have a child together and we both want what is best for her. There is no resentment. I look at him the way a soldier may look at a fellow member of his platoon. We are both survivors, the war is long over.
My view of what love is has also changed. What I need is different. I realized that love does not equal losing myself in a man. I don't fear being alone. Gabriel understands this, and gives me my space. And for that I am bonded to him, knowing that I don't need to be, I just want to.