Beware of middle age (“Alone and Together,” continued)

Sometime during the second year of my relationship with David, I went out of town. I was gone for about a week.

It was the longest we’d ever been apart.

The people that were renting my house had just moved away, so I had to go home to do some repairs. I didn’t mind leaving, though, and I didn’t mind the work. I wanted to remember what it was like to be there again, living in the house that I was so proud of for so long, and to remember what it was like to be alone.

I took the train into town, then took a bus the rest of the way. When I got there, it was about five in the morning and I was tired, so the first thing I did was to put some blankets on the floor. Then, I fell asleep. A few hours later, I woke up and there I was in my house again, just like old times.

I was alone, and yet, it wasn’t like it used to be.

As I worked on the house that week, I kept trying to figure out what had changed. I tried to remember what it was like when I lived there before, when I was still lonely, and writing a lot of poetry, and feeling strong and independent for living in my own house that I bought all by myself and that I loved. I remembered how I used to tell myself to never get married because if I did, it would change me forever and I’d become like everybody else.
Was I right? I wondered as I painted and hammered and cleaned. Maybe I was. I have a wonderful boyfriend, and I am rarely lonely and I love being this way so much. But I’m not the person I used to be.

These days, I’m almost like everyone else.

Then, the realization: This is the very beginning of middle age.

I never believed it would happen to me.

But I don’t want it to, I thought. I want to keep growing.

I need to find a way to keep growing.

The repairs went well and I worked hard. After the week was over, on the way back to Seattle, I made a decision: I would not live only for David anymore. Instead, I would do what I wanted to do, too.

I would be more of me.

And so, that is what I did. I started working harder than before. I started doing more of the things I loved. On my next trip to my hometown, I visited my mother and slept alone again for the first time in a long time and, that time, I enjoyed it more than I had before. I enjoyed having the bed to myself, and staying with someone other than David, and waking up to them instead of him, too.

For the first time in a long time, I was glad to be alone.

It felt like a betrayal.

It reminded me of a story by Albert Camus called The Adulterous Woman. She was married, but she didn’t cheat on her husband.

She just took a walk alone at night.

When I came back from that trip, David and I lay in bed for a while talking. He said he really missed me when I was gone, and I said I really missed him, too.

“But you don’t normally miss people,” he said. “You never missed your husband after he was gone.”

“That’s true,” I said. “But it was different. With him, if I ever did want him back, I could just remember the bad things and change my mind. With you, though, there wouldn’t be any bad things to remember.”

But the truth is, I am sure I would think of something.

Of course, I wouldn’t be as happy without him as I am now. And I’d probably start looking for another man again eventually. But not right away. I’d need time—probably a lot of time—to get over it.

And that’s something, after all.

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