For the last three years, my daughter and I have lived peacefully on the riverfront*, waking up each morning to birdsong and the ever changing waters of the Georges River and the surrounding bush. It’s been the perfect spot – a house completely unseen from the road with an outlook as if we were miles from everywhere, but actually only 3 stops on the train to the domestic terminal at the airport and 23 minutes to Central.
It’s been a time that has been both transformative and healing for both of us. We finally found a home again and a community where we’ve been welcomed. And we got happy – real happiness – not that constant search for excitement and joy that people often mistake for happiness, but the contentment and peace that is actually the real deal. Anyone who has ever been lonely and felt displaced will understand the comfort of being acknowledged at the local shops and bumping into people who know you. And as a parent, having the house full of my daughter’s lovely friends – even when occasionally they leave something of a trail of destruction behind them – has made me feel like we’ve finally been able to find something of what she lost all those years ago when this single parenting journey began.
For myself, I feel like this home has helped me to complete an important journey. In 2011 when my marriage first ended, I was so terrified to be alone after 21 years of being in a relationship that I probably would have shacked up with anyone had they shown an interest. Fortuitously I was such a basket case that only someone with a penchant for utter crazies who was mentally unstable themselves would have been interested and no such catch came along, so I was forced to face life alone. The next stage of my journey was to date men fully believing myself to be looking for and ready for a long term relationship whilst simultaneously being thrown into an utter panic if anything looked like it was going that way. I wanted to fall in love and live happily ever after, but I was afraid that doing so would make me vulnerable and thought I could not survive another heartbreak if things did not work out. Of course, despite (or possibly because of…) considerable effort on my behalf, no one suitable really came along and I started to resign myself to being alone forever. I could see that this was possible – I was doing alright at life and was pretty happy – so if I had to be alone then I would be, but I carried on looking and endured the old lady dating scene ‘just in case’.
But over time I started to lose interest. I went on fewer and fewer dates. I put up with less shenanigans from single men. My life developed in other ways and was enriched by other types of relationships. And suddenly I found that rather than being resigned to being alone, I was just happily making plans for a future with only me in it and frankly starting to feel like having anyone else in tow was likely to be a detriment to those plans rather than an enhancement. With my children pretty much grown up, I could see a freedom approaching that was relatively unfettered with responsibility for anyone else, and I started to feel excited. And alongside that, I was proud. I realised that I’ve made a pretty good fist of all this. It wasn’t what I would have chosen but the kids are fine (great even) and I’ve got myself to a place of financial security and peace of mind that 7 years ago didn’t seem possible. Go me.
So obviously, now would be the time I’d meet someone and actually fall in love and do all that stuff I thought I didn’t need any more.
The difference now is that I don’t need anyone, but I do choose this man – who is decent, kind, loyal, funny, and smart. And he loves me back – importantly not just in words, but in deeds. He’s willing to put up with my idiosyncrasies and expose me to his. We’re both people who have successfully been alone and we’re determined to preserve that independence whilst building a life together. We’ve learnt that being on your own can be great, as can being together – so we’re going to take the best of both worlds and make it ours. I feel very lucky.
And so it is that tonight is the last night Anna and I will spend in our little idyll on the water. We are trading amazing views for a family home a few kilometres away that has room for all our shared children and very much fewer stairs to the front door.
People say that time heals everything. Some people say love heals everything. I’m not sure either of those things are true. But they certainly help.
*yes – that’s our house, right there. Beautiful isn’t it?
**and yes – that’s him…and me…