Hard thoughts on single life from a widow


January 09, 1994|By SUSAN DEITZ | SUSAN DEITZ,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I thought you might be interested in some thoughts on midlife singleness, ideas that have been on my mind during the nearly three years since I became a widow. My husband committed suicide when I was 45.

The large adjustments I seem to be able to handle quite aptly. Day-to-day business, constant changes in the family structure, meals for one or for many, developing new interests, and even single parenting -- all eventually click in. It's the relationships with those outside my sphere that I have so much difficulty with. I'm either respectfully or suspiciously distant, which leaves me lacking connection, or I come too close too soon and end up disappointed.

I think the first clue to a solution is to settle myself with the clock; I'm constantly aware of its ticking. Rather than cherishing the moment for what it is, I lose it by thinking it will never come again. Now that my awareness of the fragility of life is so strong, I fear it will run from me again before I can even touch it.

I realize that I skipped over 25 years of singleness; while the world was changing, I was home loving, baking, laughing, crying and just being a wife and mother. History evolved in those years, and I didn't pay it a whole lot of attention. Women became equal, independent, recognized. Morality evolved into amorality, and taboos became causes for rights.

So I step into a foreign place uneducated and unprepared. I sense that I'm not the only maladjusted one; my awkwardness reverberates back to me from equally misplaced people. Most of either give up and isolate ourselves, or we end up in the therapist's office wondering how life got so confusing when wisdom was supposed to come with age.

A: Your journey from a coupled life to singleness has jolted you into a search not only for love, but also for answers to the big question: how to relate to others. For a quarter of a century you were cocooned in the safety of a happy marriage, only vaguely aware of the upheavals outside. Now you are looking around at the changed landscape and wondering.

Don't forget that this second phase of adult singleness finds you a changed woman because of that hiatus; and every day of it transforms you further. My survey on the subject found most over-30 singles more tolerant, less judgmental and in many ways different people because of widowhood or divorce. Some even told me of changed sexual fantasies, freer and more imaginative, as if the mind had been unbound.

This is a time of growth for you, so be gentle to yourself and tune out that ticking clock; each life has its own timetable, so there is no hurry. Readiness is all, and when the time is right, your journey through singleness will come to an end.

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