My ex-wife moved out five years ago today. There is a picture of me laughing at something a friend of mine said at work that day, and I have always thought that ear-to-ear grin was less about what he said than how I felt knowing when I got home that night she would be gone. It should have been an auspicious beginning, but five years on, my overriding emotion is loneliness. Not at the fact that I miss my ex-wife - I haven't given her a meaningful thought since before she left, but rather, at my inability to find someone to share my life with.
I know, because I have been to therapy, that focusing on what I do not have is not constructive. Similarly, *not* focusing on the things I have, and more importantly, the things I have done to better myself in those five years, is counter productive. And yet, in those quiet moments when Pumpkin is looking at me quizzically or Ghost is lumbering upstairs with me, it is hard not to dwell on what is missing.
You see, I have been alone for a long time. Even before I divorced, my ex-wife and I rarely talked, living what were essentially separate lives Monday through Friday before briefly connecting during the weekend for errands and chores, but there was little intimacy, love, or affection for years before we finally called it quits. Naturally, as soon as she was gone, I went searching for that connection like a thirsty man in the desert. The early results were not good and in retrospect, I now know I was not ready to even articulate to another human being what it is I wanted or needed.
When someone did come into my life who I felt an instant connection to, who I described as someone when I woke up the morning we met I did not know existed in the world and when I went to bed that night did not know how the world could exist without her, things did not end well. More than two years later, we have spent countless hours talking to each other - on the phone, in meetings, by text and email - it is a special kind of torture to have someone who you feel such comfort with and around, who you care about so much and want to be with but has absolutely no interest in giving you a second chance. And while I have gone on a lot of dates since we broke up, the feelings are still there and no one I have been out with makes me feel like she does.
It is a hard thing to explain to people who have friends and family what it is like to lead a solitary life. It is not just the awkward explanations for why you do not drive home for holidays or rarely go out on a Friday night, it is the day-to-day struggle that grinds. Last winter, I got caught in a bad ice storm. While I made it home ok, I fell in my driveway, badly bruising my ribs. It could have been worse - I could have landed on my head, elbow, or wrist, but laying there, slightly stunned, my immediate thought was what would happen if I had really hurt myself? What if I needed to go to the hospital or have surgery? Who would help me? Who would take care of Pumpkin and Ghost? But once I got up, I just made do. For weeks I could not sleep on my side and I winced when I put my clothes on in the morning, but the pain eventually faded and life moved on without a shoulder to cry on or a helping hand to make life a little easier.
Being entirely self-reliant is both a blessing and a curse. You just get used to doing everything yourself and do not even both asking for help, even when it is needed. The more you muddle through life without the help, the more you prove you do not need it, from surviving Hurricane Sandy to the raccoon who shimmied its way into your attic and literally crashed through the ceiling while you were sleeping, the winters filled with polar vortexes and the money you needed to buy a new car, you just put your head down and do it, until you are in a heap on your icy driveway, hoping you did not seriously injure yourself.
It is not an easy life, but one I am becoming more and more resigned to living. My demographics, as they say, are not great. After all, most people my age (45) are married and/or have children - I have neither one. You will not find me hauling the kids in the minivan to soccer practice or plastering Facebook with neatly manicured images of my perfect marriage (ok, you will find me plastering Twitter with pictures of Pumpkin and Ghost, but still …) Perhaps I will find a "companion" later in life, hopefully, while my heart is still healthy enough for sex (as the ad says), but I have no expectations at this point.