the difference between yesterday and today

Life’s perspective shifts again. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised. I should know by now that this is life. To think that maybe, finally, I understand myself and where I’m headed, and then finding it unexpected that it turns out I don’t know anything at all is like being surprised by the sunset. Huh, the sun’s setting again? I thought last night would be the last of that.

What I realized today is this: I may live my life alone. Maybe lots of people consider this possibility and sure I knew that not every single person in the world ended up with someone to share their life with. But I never considered that might be me. Even after my divorce when I lost faith in the concept of marriage, I still assumed I would find someone to love and grow old with.

I always wanted to be a family. To belong. To feel safe. I never had a great desired to be a mother, but after growing up feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, I wanted to live my life differently. To find someone who I would love. Who would love me. And we would belong to each other. I thought I could will a sense of belonging into being.

When how you view the world is fractured, it’s like you’re falling, falling, wildly reaching out to catch anything that would keep you up, but you find nothing but air. And then you land and everything’s changed. You’re suddenly somewhere you’ve never been and all of your assumptions are wrong. Nothing you’ve learned has prepared you for this. It all looks familiar, but nothing’s the same.

The world in which I have lived until today included a future in which I grew old while holding someone’s hand. Now I live in another world. A world where I may not have anyone to hold. And this world is terrifying.

Sure, if I told my friends they would say that somehow things will work out; that everything will be fine. And maybe that will be true. The difference between yesterday and today is that I suddenly have this knowing that it’s also possible that won’t be true.

Maybe it was too easy for me to get dates in high school and college. Sure, I had lots of heartbreak, but I never had trouble finding someone. On the one hand, it’s good to date a lot when you’re young, so you can make all of those mistakes we all make and learn how to be in a relationship for when it really will matter later. But maybe it’s also good to sometimes have trouble, so we can learn how to face the possibility of being alone.

Now that I’m older, of course, I realize it’s not about having trouble finding someone. It’s about so many other things and all the pieces just might not come together. Not every story ends with “happily ever after”.

So I do what I always do. Funny how I never realized before that this was what I was doing. I focus all of my energy on building a perfect life, alone. If this is my future, I should get on with it. I clean. I organize. I buy things I normally don’t care about at all, things that all the commercials say will make my house a home: drapes, rugs, a hall tree and bench. Before yesterday, I couldn’t have told you what a hall tree even was.

I know I’m not entirely alone. I have friends. I have love. I have a lot of good in my life. I have relationships that matter.

When I think about growing older, I know that death will be at the end of that, and when I think about that, it’s all I can do to keep myself from collapsing on the floor in panic. And when I think about growing older alone, without someone who’s been there with me, loving me, accepting me for exactly who I am, that panic feeling is exactly the same.

I had already accepted that my life wouldn’t be like my grandparents. As they grew old and faced the certainly of death, they had each other: over 60 years of love and support and living life together. 60 years isn’t in the cards for me.

But as I think about turning 37, I have to accept that any duration of that life might not be how things turn out for me.

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