Dispatches From the “Sweet” Single Life
An old friend and I were whipping messages back and forth to each other after having been out of touch for 30 years. “You seem really happy,” he commented. Wanting to be honest, I shot back a quick response, “Yes, I am really happy… and I have my hard days, too.”
What does it take to be happy and single in midlife? What labels feel most empowering and true? In our culture, “single” implies alone, seeking, lacking something. It suggests that you are young, available, and seeking your one true soulmate. Missing in this label is the possibility that “single” could imply a sense of ease, contentment, joy, and partnership with oneself. Not necessarily forever, but for now.
My entire life I have felt drawn to independent female archetypes—those who have carved their own path and chosen their own direction. It began at a very young age with a wild bunch of female cousins and many aunts who, whether married, partnered, single, or widowed, appeared to be free, happy, empowered, creative, and true to themselves.
As a little girl and teen, I relished stories with strong female characters, such as Anne LaBastille in Woodswoman and Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gifts from the Sea. The traditional route of partnership—a long-term commitment or marriage—is often glorified, so being single can seem like a defect or a missing puzzle piece waiting to be found.
I remember seeing a friend’s post on Facebook a few years back. It was a photo of her partner on the beach. She wrote a list of three things that described the moment, with a checkmark after each item on the list. The last thing read, “Life Partner.” Upon reading it, I remember feeling a bit of shame, sadness, disconnection, and confusion. I couldn’t relate to it, yet I felt I “should” want to have that box checked, too. Isn’t it interesting that we might, as humans, feel bad about not having something that we don’t even truly want?
Now, this is not to say that I haven’t had moments of partnered bliss. I have. But my overall sense of ease, joy, peace, and balance comes much more easily when I’m not partnered in the traditional sense. Is that selfish? Perhaps. Or, it could be that after living half a life, I’ve found my stride, know what makes me happy, and have chosen to live in a way that feels just right for me.
I’d love to leave you with five tips for living a soulfully single and completely joyful, connected existence:
Be Honest with Yourself. Tell yourself the truth about what you want and need and know that it’s perfect. Give yourself permission to honor and own what works for you. This can take some serious soul-searching and it may change over time.
Flip the Script. It’s easy to get mired in stories of loneliness, despair, or “everyone has this but me.” Try adjusting your thinking. What is great about being single? Are you truly alone or just feeling a bit lonely? Who is there for you that you could reach out to? I’ve often felt more alone within an intimate partnership than when I’ve been single.
Honor the Richness and Diversity of Life Stages. Perhaps you travel through a period of time when partnering up feels great, and then, somewhere down the line, the act of keeping it solo feeds your soul. Know that life is dynamic and everything is always shifting and changing.
Find Your Chosen Family. For me, one of the challenges of being single is missing out on having that one “built-in” person with whom I can cook a nice dinner or head out for an adventure. It’s important to find those dear friends who feel like family and are easy to be with on a whim.
Create a Vision. What would your ideal single/partnered/some-of-each life look like and feel like? Let yourself think outside the box of cultural norms and expectations.
What is your experience of the single/solo/soulful life? If you want to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d love to hear!
Anjali Budreski teaches yoga and is an entrepreneur, life coach, and joyful spirit. She founded Yoga Mountain Center (now Embodied) in Montpelier in 2003. She teaches classes and workshops at Embodied, National Life Group, and other locations within and beyond Vermont.