What if loneliness is just a bad friend, you know, one you hang around with but know isn't good for you. I had a visual cue of this idea in the hotel outside of Venice. At dinner I sat next to a man also dining alone. My immediate thought of seeing him, face downward toward his plate, was that he was not dining but eating. And that's what I'd be doing as I took the empty table next to him. Why not engage him in conversation? (I have the stupidest better angels; they don't know me at all.) So we both sat across from one another and ate alone.
I have prided myself on doing a good job of living alone after Carolyn. I have grieved, but have not wallowed in it. I have strode forward on my own as a solo traveler, after not living alone since my mid-twenties. I was living my life just as I wanted, without the eyerolls from partners perplexed by my choices in living that life. But I realized those eyerolls were only part of what I was missing. Somewhere along the path of grieving, I must have realized I was not built for being alone, that I was built to love - and to give it all I had.
Of course I had my children and grandchildren, but they have lives apart from my own. Carolyn proved there was such a love in this world that could absorb all that I had to give, return it in kind and then some. Fission is what I told Carolyn it was: making more than what was there to begin with. But what was the point of making more of something if there was suddenly no one to give it too.
Why not throw yourself into some social or charitable work? (Sometimes I'd like to take my better angels and knock their heads together like Moe.) There is, as I've come to learn, a better, more complete outcome for those not built to live alone. It involves a lot of elements like remaining open, positive and aware. But what it doesn't involve is luck.
Widows who have loved deeply and completely are imbued with a grace borne of that love. It adorns them, enriches them and, yes, enables them to love again. Perhaps even more deeply and completely than before, because of that fission thing. And you don't even have to be “out there” looking for it. (I can just imagine trying to fill out a dating site profile and thinking, Only a lunatic would be interested in…)
Whether you call it a meeting of minds or a joining of souls, we can find each other, provided we remain open, positive and aware. I know this from personal experience. And it's taught me one other thing I hadn't counted on: you remain a widow, even as you find new love. Not in the empty or lonely sense of widowhood that most see it as, but in the very real sense that widowhood imbues new love with the love that preceded it. We took that empty loneliness and made something warm and real of it. The widow has a power to love that non-widows don't. We should seek to use it. I think you're going to be all right after all. (That's the first sensible thing my better angels have said to me.)