Funny how lately my (very intermittent) posts are all about relationships, because today I want to talk about being single. The topic came up yesterday when I had coffee with a relatively new widow (her husband died 2 years ago) who admitted that, while she misses her husband, she’s adjusting to her new life just fine, thank you very much. Not surprisingly, she is also an artist. So she was was already accustomed to spending large amounts of time by herself.
When the subject of dating came up, we both admitted to not being interested enough to go looking for someone. “Who has the time?” she shrugged. I agreed, “If it happens naturally, organically, and it’s easy, I’m all for it. But I’m not wasting time seeking out a partner. I have too much to do!”
It’s not just that we’re busy with our creative pursuits. It’s also that we don’t feel the need for a partner.
Personally, I’ve never been one of those people who always needs to be in a relationship. I’ve pretty much mastered the art of living alone and being perfectly content. My friend remarked that this is usually something men struggle with more than women, but I don’t know.
I know A LOT of people who are miserable alone. If they’re not in a relationship, they feel like there’s a void in their life, like they’re inadequate, and they’re lonely. Worse, like there’s something wrong with them.
I look at these people probably the same way the religious look at me – wishing they could understand and feel the amazingly empowering feeling of being single and happy. It’s like a superpower.
We all know the benefits of being in partnerships. But people don’t talk about how great it can be to be single too, especially as a woman. So, here goes.
When you’re single, you are in complete control of, and need not consult anyone else about, your time, your living space, your schedule, your finances, your body, your life. You are totally autonomous. An independent state. No discussions or compromising necessary. You want to do something, you do it. You don’t want to do something, you don’t. The only person you answer to is you.
Of course, the flip side is that The Only Person You Answer to is You! Some people don’t like that kind of pressure, they want to discuss things, get input, share the responsibilities, and so on. And I get it. When you’re single, you have those discussions with friends, family, and therapists.
When you’re single, you can focus on your passions without interruption and distraction, other than those of every day life (which can be significant). This is something I think about often.
I’ve always admired relationships between artists where there seemed to be a real symbiosis, where the artists respected each other’s work, and actually made it better. The couple that comes to mind is Joan Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne (if you haven’t watched the documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, you should – here’s a review about it).
Of course, Didion and Dunne had their issues, but their partnership seems to have been one of immense respect, a partnership of equals. They were both writers. They edited each other’s work, supported and understood each other. They gave each other the requisite space to create. They worked in different ways, but also shared a similar rhythm. They spent lots of time apart, and then came together. They could exist in the same space without speaking, and they could also have long discussions. They cherished alone time, but were also quite social and threw (apparently wonderful) parties.
If I were ever to be in a relationship again, that is the type of relationship I would want. Anything less is just a waste of time and energy.
In the meantime, I’m rocking the single life and happy! I focus my energy on taking care of myself, my dog and my house, on being a good friend and a good community member, and on being as creatively productive as possible. I spend a lot of time by myself (with my dog), but I also socialize a lot, host frequent dinners, and make a point of keeping in touch with people.
I do not feel like I’m missing anything by not being in a relationship.
I had a great love, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. But now that I’m alone, I’m good (and as any of you who have followed this blog for a while, you know that did not happen overnight).
I do not need a companion to feel loved, valued, worthy, legitimate, or safe. I make myself feel those things, and in doing so I feel more powerful, more capable, and more content than ever.
There is power in the number one.