My social life comes in waves: the tide comes in, the tide goes out. At the moment, I have a handful of holiday gatherings floating on my social horizon, but right now, I’m looking at seaweed on the beach. Yesterday I wrapped and packed and mailed, and ran my normal component of weekend errands. I spoke with a close friend on the phone, but it was mostly a quiet day by myself, which I needed after a hectic workweek that included two after-hours mixers. Today was much of the same.
As an only child, I have a love/hate relationship with the act of being by myself. On one hand, time alone is critical to my sanity, something that was a key part of my formative years. Yet too much space to myself knocks me off-kilter, too. I need more people in my life, and how can I find them when I’m inside the house? Sometimes I’m too much of a homebody for my own good.
I have few relatives, and we’re not close; I’m essentially one parent away from being by myself. Despite my natural independence, I need other people to lend support and bounce things off of, offer a shoulder to cry on or a hug on a bad day. I have a small cadre of close friends who have shown me that they will be there if I need them, but sometimes it’s the day-to-day aloneness that gets me down.
I love being single. I love the freedom, the independence, the control over my life at home that being un-paired affords me. I have been lonely in a relationship, and I wouldn’t go back there for all the party invitations in New England. I’ve gradually gotten more comfortable with living on my own, but it definitely has a downside. When I feel like I’m missing something, I look at people I know who are lonely in their marriages, too, and count myself lucky.
Marriage doesn’t have to be that way, does it? Then why, so often, is it? We tune out, take for granted, just get tired of trying. It’s damned hard work, marriage, and both partners have to be committed to doing it.
In the end, we’re each responsible for our own happiness. Someday, I tell myself, I’ll find the right balance between together and alone – the point on which a life balances. Maybe I just need to work harder at it.