By Catherine Siskron
Note from the Editor: As an integral and steadfast part of the Break-up Blog, I asked my godmother to write the first post of the new blog on the subject of being single in your sixties. Here are her words. Thank you for sharing, Catherine.
Accompanying you for the past forty days of your blog has been a chance to revisit my younger self while remaining mostly anchored in the present. How much of my own journey can I share with you and the community of your friends? You were wondering, what it is like to be single in my sixties? Actually, except for a five-year marriage (from 20 to 25) and my sojourn as your grandfather’s consort for seven years, much of my life I lived alone, in uncommitted relationships.
So before I go on, I want to tell you how much I admire your courage, your ability to communicate so many facets of yourself, your way with words that makes everything you write accessible to the heart, mind and gut…
I feel a bit melancholy. I am not used to being open, especially in writing, beyond my journal or an occasional missive to a close friend.
I wrote a draft for this entry in a blank journal I must’ve picked up in the late 80’s and only started using last month. Every page has a quote from a woman in the arts. Today’s quote is from Margaret Atwood, “The Eskimo have fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them: there ought to be as many for love…”
Perhaps we can add “healing” as a love word since it’s a lifelong project to learn more about ourselves and others and the world we occupy. It’s about staying reasonably sane in the chaos we call life.
Back to the title of this entry, “Unavailable Woman.” Like you—actually much more than you and for much longer periods of time— I thought I made myself “available” to men. I sacrificed my own wants and needs, my own bigger, wilder self to second guess men’s needs, acquiesce to their demands, help them heal, in other words to love them into compliance. I worked on whatever man whose potential seemed irresistible to me at the moment, to prop him up so he would someday be strong enough to fulfill my dream of being held, loved, desired, emotionally and sexually fulfilled… Not a particularly kinky fantasy, and as I read your blog, perhaps still a well-trod path to happiness that does not materialize, but nonetheless, a fantasy.
I imagined myself to be an openhearted woman who loved my men unconditionally. It seemed only fair that I would expect the same in return and this expectation was the hidden, unstated, un-negotiated price that I attached to my love. At the time I did not realize that the very fact that I could not negotiate my wants and needs, that it felt too risky to speak my truth, made my love a heavy burden.
Looking back I can see that I was an emotionally unavailable woman who chose emotionally stunted men and the pay off was that being in such a relationship I could be the “good” one—the man was so deficient in the qualities I claimed I wanted that I did not need to examine my own deficiencies.
So what is it like to be twice your age, to be single in my 60’s? Compared to my teens, twenties, thirties, forties, it’s absolutely blissful. I started consciously working toward healing myself in my late forties. A bit late in life, I would say. Yet the change from inner drama to a much greater sense of peace, of feeling that I have choices as to how to respond even in the heat of the moment to an event in my life, and that even if I screw up, there is usually a way to remedy the problem, is a freedom that made the years of therapy well worth the hard work.
Living alone can be lonely, but not as lonely as being in a relationship where the fire has turned to ashes. And that can happen at any age. Being alone means being free to pursue my life unfettered. The yearning for love, for passion, for companionship is still there. But it’s a yearning, not a need. I watch married couples and can’t think of any that I would want to change places with. There are trade offs, either way. I am less hopeful than I was four years ago, when I accepted an invitation to the jungle in Yucatan to see if A*** and I had the potential for a marriage. We didn’t. And it wasn’t the jungle that stopped me. In fact, the jungle was a big part of the attraction.
I wish we had 52 names for love. Because so many different kinds of love fill my life. The love for you, my spiritual child, whom I have known since birth and who has grown into such an amazing woman. For my family and friends, for strangers in distress, for animals and plants, for the sun and the moon, for this life, that has been so hard and so rich in experience. As I age, more and more love spirals from my heart, and the spiral grows to envelope all of existence, the entire universe with its quirks and quarks. And at the center of that universe, I find the dot that I recognize as myself, and I love myself with my own quirks and quarks, my own strivings to grow and heal, my failures and achievements.