I started writing this blog two-and-a-half years ago and the changes that have slowly come over me during that period have been profound. To wit:
1. When I get up in the morning my first feeling isn’t “Why get out of bed?” but the desire to fire up my computer and read my favorite websites and blogs and do a little writing.
2. On the way to work I practice Spanish via listening to audiobooks– I haven’t let full-time work prevent me completely from pursuing some other long-term goals.
3. I no longer have the sense, as I did throughout my twenties and thirties, that I’m waiting for the “main event” but it isn’t happening. When I was younger I would get distracted for long periods of time by interests and hobbies but was often hit by the feeling that another year was passing and I was still in the same dreary position. I had chosen my career out of practicality and had never expected it to be my whole life. At some point it was supposed to either end or be supplemented by a husband and kids. That expectation is gone and with its disappearance has arrived the anticipated relief that the wait is over.
4. My solitude has become gold. Being social is still valuable and gets me out of my head and introduces me to new ideas, but having alone time feels like the bigger treat. When occasional loneliness strikes I reframe things so that I view time with myself as the ultimate luxury. I truly have become my own best friend and have to fight not to see other people as an imposition. The upsides are that my expectations of other people have become almost nil so I never stew anymore over perceived slights, and I don’t feel the need to verbally “vomit” everything I’ve been holding in when I do have conversations. Part of this change in perspective is that the conversations I have with other people, while enlightening, are rarely as rich as the conversations I would like to be having and that I have with myself (and in my head with other writers).
5. I have meditated nearly every day for close to two years. That probably factors in.
6. After my recent bad experience with having a roommate, I no longer want one.
7. I have “recolonized” my mind while at work. As I’ve written recently, I’ve had to rein in my personality on the job. At first that felt painful, but it’s amazing how easily I’ve since adapted. What keeps me sane is the idea that my mind is still my own, even while on the clock.
Regarding your points numbered 3 and 4:
Imagine the people who have had children, whose family and children, as I think has been observed on this blog, seem to overtake that person’s life. The people who, in middle age, come face to face with the reality that the children are now gone, and they have to confront loneliness at its starting point. And perhaps they confront the need to make other adult friends — also at its starting point. And it may take years, or decades even, for these people to go through the process of dealing, not with the “main event” not having happened as you described, but rather, with the “main event” having ended. And those people, perhaps, have to go through a similar processing that you underwent, only you now are at the end of that processing, but they are at the beginning.
There is only so much time in life. In the end, perhaps, as some have suggested, we all die alone. Even if we are surrounded by people, if only at the very moment before death, I imagine that the dying person will be utterly and totally alone.
Perhaps the purpose of this life is for one to learn how to accept that final sense of being alone, how to accept solitude, how to spin solitude into gold (as you have said, your “solitude has become gold.”)
For you, you have found the gold. For others, those who have had children, for example, they may now have to, in late middle age, start the process of digging for such gold, they may have to start the process of becoming comfortable with solitude, which solitude, in the end, may be the final straw that holds them to this life before they leave it.
[And since you have mentioned it in your point 5 as possibly informing your perspective, I imagine that the fact that I have meditated every day for almost 40 years likewise factors in to my perspective disclosed above.]
In addition to the meditation I forgot to mention the nice slice of time I just had away from the workplace– another big help!
I love this post. Especially #4. And I’ve a post on #3 simmering myself.
A most interesting and relateable post. Thanks. Hope you continue to write on these subtle but fundamental changes.
I just found your blog yesterday, through Jody Day’s book “Rocking the Life Unexpected.” I started at the beginning and then jumped to the present and back to this entry. Cool for me because I’m meeting you both then and now in just a day.
What you write resonates with me so much!
I also felt like the “main event” was ahead of me. And though I tried to live in the moment, that moment was not what everything was about, because it was not a moment in marriage with children. And for so many years I have felt that it was my job to go out as often as possible, because I wasn’t going to meet someone sitting at home. I still feel guilty when I don’t go to a gathering where a potential partner might be.
I want to be able to change my expectations, as you express, and feel the relief you describe.
I understand, and it’s only recently that I don’t beat myself up about “getting out there.” The reality is that “getting out there” rarely results in anything or else results in some kind of problem on my hands (a guy pursuing me I’m not interested in, etc.). I mostly only go to events now that I want to go to regardless of whether I meet anyone and feel like that should be enough.