It’s been two months since I’ve posted here. It’s been the busiest summer in recent memory and is not at all the summer I imagined I’d be having. I’m astounded at the incredible nature of change. Here’s my submission for the Sun Magazine’s next Readers Write topic, and it pretty well encapsulates what has been going on for me:
I’d been searching for a good partner for years, and was thrilled to have found my guy. Over the course of a year, we settled into a loving, stable relationship. Early on, I confessed to him that one of my biggest fears about starting a family was that I would end up having a tribe of boys; he smiled and said, “No, you’ll have girls. I’ve had dreams for years about having two little girls.” After that, I’d see little girls, and in them, I’d see his long eyelashes curling up from dark eyes or my dimple and straight-line smile, and think, “Oh, maybe she’ll look like that.” Once, I was shopping for a dress for a formal wedding we were to attend together and I somehow ended up in a gorgeous bridal gown, and I didn’t feel silly or stupid. It felt inevitable that we’d be married. Still, I resisted talking about the future too much with him. I am 34 years old, I’ve been in love and in hope so many times, that I was waiting for a sign from him that this was as sure a thing as love could get.
It came on our first anniversary. He was in the midst for preparing for a grueling career-related exam, but he spent some time writing a beautiful passage about our relationship. In it, he recounted all the things he loved about me and ended with what he was looking forward to in our shared lives. After I read it, I looked up at him. His eyes were watery and filled with a surprising tenderness. Tears spilled over as he said, “I just love you so, so much. You’ve made everything better.” It was in that moment that I decided it was safe to believe in the long-term promise of “us.”
Seven weeks later, in a strained and wounded tone, he told me he didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore. He didn’t cheat or lie to me; no bad, ugly thing happened. He felt like something wasn’t right, that he was holding me back from a full life, felt unsure that he could be the partner I needed and deserved. After trying to assure him, convince him that his fears were wrong and our love was right, I gave up.
After all, we’d made no promises to each other, probably because we were both too scared to look honestly at what building a life together would mean. Our hearts settled in an illusion, which resembled so very much the life we wanted, that it was easy to ignore what wasn’t right between us. Until it wasn’t anymore.
I spent some messy weeks feeling the acute heft of this ending. There was a raw ache in me where the dream of partnership and parenthood had taken root. What was once a fertile swath of calm, now lay barren and cold; confirmation of my lifelong failure to find and keep a good man in my life.
And yet, healing is a mysterious and magical thing, and brings with it surprises of its own. In the course of pulling tight to me supportive friends and family, a few of them planted a hopeful, little seed: single motherhood. “You could do it,” they all said, “And I will help.” Despite initially dismissing this possibility (I grew up without a father, and I didn’t want to intentionally do that to my own child), the idea unexpectedly moored me. I felt the dread about having to date again ebb away and the loneliness began to feel bearable.
I’m learning that I don’t really believe in promises, but becoming a single mother, at this age, in this situation, feels like a promising possibility. I suspect that’s enough to bring into focus what shape love and companionship will take in my life.