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Getting Real About Being Alone

If you are in a relationship, no matter how long you have been together or how well (or not) you get along, one of you will be alone someday. It happens that this is top of mind at the moment.   My new possible solution: Line Dancing.

Really? Line Dancing?

Yes. It came to me when my wife,  Brown Eyes, said to me, “I’m going to have to be careful to live a big enough life if you aren’t around.”

Through the years she has wandered around Shanghai with me, drunk wine with locals in Spain’s La Rioja, attended a Buddhist banquet near a Florida river with signs warning of alligators, had a massage in Halong City conducted by a tiny woman who walked on Linda’s back, watched Sushi the Drag Queen descend onto the stage in a sequined red slipper in Key West at midnight on New Year’s Eve, eaten in places she would never have explored on her own (for example, Martha Lou’s Kitchen in Charleston, SC) and attended a Christmas musical performance in an ancient church in Paris’ Le Marais, sitting in wooden chairs so small that our knees were near our ears.  And these are just a few examples of our adventures.

Don’t get me wrong.   She’s a highly accomplished powerhouse in her own right.  She’s just not as aggressive about seeking out the strange and offbeat when she travels.

Why is sudden aloneness on my mind?

  • Our friend Bob is recovering from a major stroke.  His incapacitation means that his wife is doing more things on her own, by necessity rather than choice.
  • Our friend Alex was just diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. His wife is asking herself how she is going to want to spend her time when he dies.
  • My friend Eric just had surgery and has begun talking regularly about how old we are getting.
  • My friend Dee, after a year and a half of widowhood, finds solace in keeping very busy. Especially with her grandchildren.

Brown Eyes and I are in agreement that, regardless of how important our interdependence is, we both need to cultivate some of our own independent activities and relationships.

Her answer will be somehow wrapped up with Osher’s Lifelong Learning Institutes, I think. This is a network of intellectually curious and stimulating learners. She hasn’t yet come up with how she’ll manage physical activity, but I know she’s thinking about it.

My answers balance vigorous exercise with activities that are purely creative/intellectual and/or have a social element:

  1. Riding my new bike alone and with friends
  2. Creating and running a manageable number of small businesses
  3. Building new and expanded networks of relationships around #2
  4. Sogetsu Ikebana; I just qualified to be a Sensei (instructor)
  5. Writing and speaking
  6. Quality time with my grandchildren and friends
  7. Volunteer board memberships I really believe in (in my case, WUSF, which is both a PBS and an NPR affiliate)
  8. Photography

Which brings me back to line dancing. My wife and I both love to dance.  Line dancing is something we can do for a long time, either together or individually. It’s great exercise, it’s social, you don’t need to be in a couple to have fun, and you can happily avoid hearing and doing the Blue Danube Waltz.

Let me know what’s on your list. I’d like to share the information with my readers, especially those who are willing to look ahead, too.

3 responses to “Getting Real About Being Alone”

  1. Judy Chermak says:

    Very thought provoking, George. Thanks for bringing the subject to the surface! It’s a BIG one. We, too, have reminders through friends all around us who have or are presently facing this life changing event. The biggest message coming through for now from our friends is to be certain all financial affairs are disclosed to one another, name changes are made before death where possible, and all legal papers are in impeccable order for the surviving spouse/partner. In one case, the dying spouse went into denial. He felt if he shared or took action to change his financial paperwork, he would have to admit he was dying. It placed his wife in a huge double bind. It was a nightmare for her after his death. Not only was she in deep grief, she had to spend hours on the phone with large companies sorting through the maze, finding new tax advisors, etc. My husband and I are also instigating honest conversations with our surviving children. Thanks, George!

  2. Siri Allison says:

    I like your positive attitude and pragmatism. Neither of you seems to feel the least maudlin or guilty in planning to be happy alone, and of course, it’s clear that you also want your Other to be happy after you’re gone. This kind of action-oriented talk should go a long way to helping the other person pick up the pieces afterwards.

  3. Jari Searns says:

    Hi George!

    What a great subject…although Rick and I have decided that we will die on the exact same day at the same time…i.e. When we are 105 years old!

    Since I have “retired” and done all those many, many things I had been putting off which have taken me the better part of the last four months, I have been giving a great deal of thought to this very issue as my home is now just the way I like it , my closets are cleaned and neat and my painting requests have currently been fulfilled.
    I’ve decided that I want to explore learning more on subjects like ancient architecture and historical biographies and I’m thinking that I want to monitor a course or two at the University of Buffalo because I love learning and I love to be around thinking people who challenge me…like you my friend!

    I’m not so certain about line dancing, given that Rick hates to dance; but he wants me to play tennis again because he wants to and doesn’t want to without me…Lord knows why, I’m just awful at playing tennis…but, perhaps we can compromise.

    Thanks for the great topic, love to you and Linda.

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