Back when I was happily married, I used to have these moments that made me long for another life. I’d be doing something like picking out eggs at the grocery store while I fed my baby Cheerios, and I’d see something out of the corner of my eye. Maybe it was a magazine with a cover story on European train trips or a newly-in-love couple trying the free samples together. Whatever it was, I’d wish for a little bit of excitement, a little bit of something new. I’d think, I like my life. I am happy. But I just wanted a little bit more.
Now I want to go back and slap my pre-widow self. I had everything! Why did I want more? How greedy of me.
But I think it’s something that’s actually pretty common in this world. It’s hard to sit with what you have, see your blessings, and not want anything else. It’s human nature to strive, I think.
So here I am today, feeling a similar feeling. One where (all obvious caveats aside) I know my life has gotten to an okay place. I have three awesome, healthy and happy kids, I have a loving extended family and community, and I can pay my bills. I miss Shawn desperately. That will always be true. But when outsiders see my life, I think they think I’ve pulled it together fairly well.
And I feel like I’ve done okay too. I am not a wreck all the time anymore. I have hours, days, and sometimes an entire week when I feel mostly okay.
But then I’ll see something out of the corner of my eye.
Maybe it’s an older couple getting out of the car at the parking lot, moving slowly together. Or a middle-aged man trying to pick out an anniversary card at the drugstore. Or a father carrying a child on his shoulders.
And I will wish for another life.
Since I’m a proactive person, when I feel like this, I’ll resolve to try and meet someone. I’ll go back on my dating apps, scroll through a few available men and tap out some sort of message to them. I’ll go back in a few hours, and reply to any new messages. I may even try to set up a few dates.
At that point, this is what will happen: one or two of those dates will actually happen. I’ll go out and share a drink or a coffee and some banter.
And I will be disappointed every single time – either because I don’t have any interest, or he doesn’t have any interest, or neither of us have any interest.
Do you know what I should feel in those moments? I should feel glad that I’m able to recognize what a good relationship is. I should feel grateful that God/the universe gave me three great kids with a man who loved me every day he knew me. I should feel appreciative that I am surrounded by friends who will listen to me gripe about dating.
Do you know what I actually feel in those moments? Totally demoralized. I’m not sure I can fully describe it to anyone who isn’t single in midlife, but just trust me, it’s terrible. I don’t even really understand it myself. I mean, I am a self-confident individual. I do not need a man to validate my life or assure me that I am happy. I have so much that is good in my life and furthermore, my 2020 goal was to notice the happy parts of my life and be grateful for them.
But when I have a brief peek at a life where I could be back in love, I want it so badly. And when it doesn’t work out I feel crushed.
I’m working on re-framing my narrative, but it’s tough. After one failed date, I decided I was going to be positive and I texted a friend, “It wasn’t a match. But I feel proud of my resilience. None of the guys I’ve gone out with have been remotely right for me. But I am still trying. And that counts for something.” Of course, my friend was super encouraging about my future, as any good friend should be. But I knew it was an act. I didn’t feel proud. I felt sad that it didn’t work out, again.
I keep telling myself that having a positive attitude is the only way I can face my life, if I want to try and find new love. I have to put up with setback after setback because that is dating. And if I want to find someone else, I have to date. That’s just how it works.
But damn it is hard. I mean, sometimes it’s crying-in-the-bathroom hard. That’s a bit embarrassing to write, actually, because (according to my own goals) I’m supposed to be seeing the beauty that surrounds me. I’m not supposed to be constantly looking around the corner for what’s next.
It’s a strange thing to do, if I’m being honest. I’m trying to see a future in which I can be happy and alone, but I’m also simultaneously dating and hoping for a future where I’m not. Holding both at the same time can sometimes feel impossible to do.
Would it be easier to barrel down, focus on my kids and my teaching job and not look up for the next 10 years? Maybe.
But I know myself. I’m still a striver. I know it makes me a bit less happy to constantly want more. I tell myself to focus on what’s good and not to get derailed by trying for something new.
But then I see something out of the corner of my eye and I think, “I want more.”
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.