So I returned late last night from camp. I was at a really lovely adult retreat (which just means that it isn’t a family retreat – get your mind out of the gutter) where about 35 Jewish adults studied text, prayed and sang (the songleader was AWESOME ~ and my daughter).
It was very nice and, considering I knew almost no one before it began, everyone was reasonably welcoming.
It had those awkward aspects, too, though. First of all, it wasn’t with my synagogue – it was the one where my lovely daughter works. So even though I’ve met people from the synagogue before, I certainly didn’t really know them, their inside jokes or their history.
It was also a lot of couples. And even many of the people who were spouse-less this weekend are married – they just came without a spouse for various reasons (work, kids, disinterest).
I find myself in situations like this wondering if I’m the only person who doesn’t have a significant other waiting at home. I also find myself thinking a lot about weekends like this on which I’ve been with him. It didn’t help that the retreat was at a camp to which I’ve been going for years and years, and to which we sent our children for years and years ~ so there was a fair amount of baggage to boot.
On the one hand, it was nice to just worry about me. Mr. Ex is, well, not exactly Mr. Prompt. So I’ve spent a fair amount of the last thirty years waiting for him, reminding him when we had to be somewhere, or arriving ahead of him and then wondering when he was going to get there. So this was a refreshing change and an opportunity for me to get in my own hand.
But…it was a teensy bit sad. There was nobody with whom to share a knowing glance when someone says something that strikes a chord – that kind of thing. I watched (as I tend to do) the couples who were there. The ones who have been married 38 years or more and the ones who are certainly younger than I. I wondered (as I tend to do) how the long marriages have managed to last; how the newer marriages will fare. I grieve (as I tend to do) for my marriage and its inability to be sustained “till death do us part.”
But most of all, I shift in my seat, shuffle my papers, and try to figure out where I fit in.
I scope out the room and try to figure out who else is single – not just there spouse-less, but really single. I listen when people talk about their lives – who cooks for one, who lives in a “now too-large home,” who traveled to an exotic location last summer with a sister, a child, a friend. And then I wonder about their lives; how long they’ve been spouse-less, how they became that way. But it’s just a weekend, so I don’t have a chance to really explore that too much with the others. I don’t want to seem like a stalker or make others feel uncomfortable.
I don’t refer to him as my husband in conversation. I call him “her father,” which I feel makes it pretty clear that that is the basis for our relationship these days. I wait to see if anyone picks up on that: “Oh, are you divorced? I am…”
It doesn’t happen. Maybe there just wasn’t enough time this weekend.
I must say, it’s easier than it was 5 months ago. I am certainly confident in my ability to converse with others. I truly enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories. I know that I have something to add to the conversation.
But it’s still hard. It’s awkward and I don’t like to be in the minority. Even when my marriage was at its worst, when it was least fulfilling, I must say, I liked being part of a couple. I truly realize that that is no reason to stay in a bad marriage, but it’s hard to move from being one of two to being one of one when everyone around you is one of two.
How did you do it?