This time next week, my ex-husband will have married again and I will have not. It has been nearly eight years since we parted ways and I wish him nothing but joy, and that is a good thing to hold a hand to your heart to and know to be true.
My own unmarriedness feels correspondingly bigger for it though and I find myself newly self-conscious of my solitude. I had not given it much thought in recent years until suddenly, these last few weeks, I had again. It is unusual to be on your own at 36 and not looking for somebody, I know that, and yet it's true and I am not. Dating culture leaves me cold and is not a game I want to play.
Love has found me more than once in the years since my marriage. Each time it was not in a shape I could keep or mold to my wanting despite my every effort to squeeze it until it was. I have grieved hard for that at times until I saw that what I grieved wasn't just what was lost but what I imagined should have been. In my sorrow, I had felt sure I'd been denied some kind of wholeness. It took time to see the illusion of that. It took time to see it was a lie.
It was this determined, wilful jigsawing of lives that made me stop and try a new way. I didn't want to do that anymore. I stopped insisting to myself that I held a gap to be filled and I should do everything I could to shore it up. I stopped believing that people I met were supposed to fit me. The idea of some missing piece in me assumed that either the love I found and lost was the wrong shape, or I was. A tempting, dark hole of thought to fall down at times, but although I know I am difficult sometimes, I also know I am not difficult to love. Far from it. And what an arrogance to think that the people I adored and what they offered were wrong somehow, just because we couldn't come and stay together smoothly. No, each was as was, and all right and good in its own way. The measure of something's goodness isn't determined by how well it goes my way.
And so there is no searching out or sizing up of potential mates these days, I just can't bear it, but where I once imagined an absence that needed new love to fill it, I now rejoice in finding older loves already there. I have friendships that feel as romantic and intimate as any marriage; a deep passion for my work and interests that leave me as distracted and obsessed as any crush. And there is motherhood, of course: its own adventure in love entirely. I relish in my own time and my own autonomy. What's more, in not looking, not hunting, there is a peace that feels like sitting at home with the doors wide open. There is more air here than I have ever known. Things happen here.
I am not so naive or so jaded to think that love won't find me again or that it can't ever last. I expect it will, it's just that next time, I think it will feel very different. When I picture it, I imagine absentmindedly throwing something over my shoulder and turning to find someone's caught it perfectly, and us both saying "oh." I think it will feel like that - not a filling up, but an offering out.
However it comes, I am not in any rush for it, and I think that, more than anything, is what makes my solitude feel newly awkward. I think, deep down, I am a little embarrassed at how much I am enjoying my life, especially when the world insists on telling me that I really shouldn't.
And so today, here's to that: to my contented unmarriedness.
I wanted to write down my truth: that I am secretly so glad to have me. I wanted to write this down alone and mean it.