It’s been three and a half months since my partner died. Three and a half months of living alone. Sort of. Initially, there were family around who stayed with me. But everyone eventually returned to their lives, as is appropriate. So now I’m managing living alone for the first time in my adult life. And oh, I do not like it.
It would be easier if I didn’t also have a bad knee that has me hobbling on a cane. But even before the injury made everything harder, I was conscious of how much time I was spending doing things my partner used to do to keep our household going.
It’s not hard but it needs to be done.
He took the dog on her mid-day outing. I would wave at the two of them, as they left the house and I continued to work at my desk. Now, I need to interrupt the task I’m engaged in to attend to her need to go outside. The first couple of days, I completely forgot and it was only when I caught a look in her eye that I remembered her mid-day walk.
He took out the compost and took our recycling and garbage to our local waste management depot. It’s not hard but it needs to be done. He vacuumed the house. He did the laundry. He cooked dinner and cleaned up the kitchen.
He took over the cleaning up of the kitchen when he moved in twenty-three years ago. Without him in the kitchen, I am genuinely shocked by how often it needs to be put to rights. It seems like it never ends. In fact, I’ve been so surprised by this that I asked two dear friends, each of whom has a spotless kitchen, how they do it. Each says she has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and can’t help herself. And that, yes, cleaning the kitchen is a constant activity.
My partner used to do all the food shopping. Now I’m the one who must remember that I need cat food, milk and toilet paper. What I haven’t learned to do is to make a list and do one big shopping. Instead, I go to the store on an almost daily basis just for a few items. What a time-waster!
Last week, we had an early snowstorm that dropped six inches on everything. It was very pretty. It’s still pretty as I look out the window into the woods. But the day before Thanksgiving I realized that my guests, one of whom is elderly and uses a walker, would need a clear path into the house. If the temperature dropped overnight, the wet snow would turn to ice. So I got the shovel out to move the snow. It was very heavy. Imagine shoveling heavy snow with a bad knee. Fortunately, the weather warmed up and the snow melted.
So much work to simply maintain a home. And now that I’m doing all of it, I’m noticing how much time it takes!
I don’t like how easy it is to be alone.
It’s too easy to spend time in my own company without others. I have plenty to keep me occupied and entertained. I have my lovely companionable four-legged housemates. (Pictured above.) And in the first months of grief, I’ve often preferred not having to talk to anyone. But what I don’t like is that, without doing the work to have a social life, I can easily spend huge chunks of time without any social interaction.
It takes planning and inviting to have a social life. It requires thinking ahead, reaching out, and making arrangements. It can take two to six texts, calls, and emails to settle on a plan. Who has the stamina to keep doing that? No wonder we have so many chronically lonely people in our culture! Before telephones, people just dropped in on one another. Now we have so many different ways to connect but none of them are in real life. Real life, person-to-person is substantially different from any of the digital mediums. Real-life, in-person connections feed the soul in ways that are mysterious. But oh, how easy it is to stay at home and not go out!
I’m planning on having a housemate.
Of course, I don’t intend to live alone long-term. I will be looking for a housemate. I want help in managing the home. I look forward to the enlivening connection of a person whom I like and respect. It will be different. It will be better. Also, I’ll have more income and that will be a welcome change. But first, there are renovations that need to be made to the house to make it more comfortable for sharing. More on those changes in the future.
Here’s another post about loneliness and social life that you may find interesting: Anxiety Attack Raises Questions About Living Alone.