Monday, October 13, 2014

Being Alone Doesn't Have to Mean Being Lonely

I'm an extrovert--somebody who draws her energy from other people and has for 60 years preferred togetherness over solitude. In all these years, I've only lived completely alone for 2 years--from age 23 to 25 when I had my own 1-bedroom apartment before marrying my first husband. Otherwise, I lived with:
- My parents and 4 siblings
- Roommates in college and grad school
- Husbands and kids

Now, everything has changed. My second marriage ended in March, 2012, my last child left the nest in June, 2014, and I parted ways with the man I'd been dating for 2 years and saw every weekend during that time. I've been by myself in this house for over 3 months--both living and working (since I'm self-employed working from home).

You'd think I'd be lonely...yearning for companionship, hungry for people contact. And, yes, I have my moments like that occasionally. I'm still adjusting to being an empty nester and definitely do miss my daughter. So, for the last couple months, I've been filling my social needs with Meetup group and hobby activities, lunches or dinners with friends, hosting parties, etc.

But this past week, something strange happened. I decided NOT to go to 2 get-togethers I'd put on my calendar. The reason in both cases: Even though the activities were fun things I'd usually love to do, I felt more like staying home by myself. And I couldn't figure out why, because I'd been home alone all day working, hadn't had any clients in, and had very little interaction with people on the phone, Facebook, or email.

This was really surprising. This was a new me...someone who preferred her own company and the simple things I enjoy doing on my own rather than going out to socialize and try new things. Certainly not behavior characteristic of an extrovert!

And what, you may ask, are the "simple things" I opted to do with me, myself, and I? Here are some examples:
- sipping some wine with dinner while reading a favorite magazine
- watching a couple of my favorite comedy TV shows
- going to a local park, town, or college to take photos
- walking around my neighborhood or into town to browse around in the shops
- perusing books at the library
- immersing myself in a book I just picked up.
- attending a meeting of my local photography club
- going to a poetry reading group to listen to some local poets
- checking out the newest indie film at my local theater

One dating coach I admire said "If you're looking for the love of your life, STOP. He will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love." Well, I guess that's what I've been doing. And it feels good. Sure, a great guy to do some of these things with would be wonderful. But, until we cross paths, I'm content and enjoying hanging out with me.

How about you? Do you enjoy your alone time? Are you good at making your own fun and enjoying your own company? If so, the experts say you're more of a natural attractor for love. Tell me your story!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Am I Ready to Date Again?

"How do I know when I'm over my wife's death and ready to date again?" was the question from the 70-something man at my recent "Dating in Midlife" seminar. My answer: "You'll know when you're ready because it won't feel strange to think about being emotionally intimate with someone new. And you will have completed all 5 stages of the grieving process."

Those are the stages outlined by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, written to help terminally ill patients and their loved ones cope emotionally with their prognosis (more info on the stages is at: Over the ensuing 40+ years, the book has been used by therapists and grief counselors worldwide to help people move on after widowhood, divorce, relationship breakup, and even job layoff. Yet many grieving individuals are unaware of the 5 stages and/or have skipped one or more. Their head says they're over the loss, but their heart is still healing. 

As anyone who's gone through a heartbreak can attest, the heart takes much longer to heal than the head does. I know...because I've experienced the struggle of trying to stop thinking about a man I still loved even though I broke up with him. The head knew he wasn't right for me, but the heart wanted to hold on. I've also seen this with widowed friends. Two years after her husband's death from cancer, unstoppable tears are still triggered on his birthday or their anniversary. Nine years after his wife's sudden death, he still has everything in the house just as it was the day she died.

The elderly man at my seminar (just 9 months after the loss of his wife of 44 years) was possibly ready to meet some new people and date casually, but he probably wasn't yet ready to pledge his heart and soul to another woman. As dating coach Roy Biancanala of says, a person is ready for commitment when he's "not attached to someone else in any emotional, physical, legal, or logistical way." And, according to Biancanala, there are 3 signs a person is definitely not ready to commit:
1. He is not yet officially divorced.
2. He was divorced or widowed (or experienced a major breakup of a long-term relationship) less than a year ago.
3. He is still bitter, angry, or in drama with an ex-partner.

How about you? Are you struggling to finish grieving a relationship loss? Or are you truly ready to move forward and start fresh with someone new? If you think you might benefit from help from a grief counselor, I can refer you to one. Only when we clear out the past are we able we make way for the new.