That’s how long it’s been since my wife, Cathy, left for her five month sojourn to Africa. That’s how long I’ve been “baching it.”
Many friends have asked, “How’s the single life?” Well, let me tell you.
When this adventure was coming along we both conceded that five months is a long time, but it can’t be that bad. I’d be busy with many of my normal activities. And many people promised to invite me over. I figured I’d be inviting lots of people over here, too. Our time apart would be challenging but we’re both pretty strong people. We’d do just fine. Funny, but it didn’t turn out that way.
Being alone sucks. Here’s why.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love to cook. It’s about sharing food with good conversation, whether family or friends. Take away the people and it just seems a waste of time. Eating becomes a method for fueling the body, no more. Why bother spending time creating a good meal when you quietly sit down alone and just feed yourself. So, when I’m alone I may just slap together a sandwich and be done with it. The other problem is quantity. Most food, especially fresh produce, is sold in quantities that are best suited to a family of four people. Have you ever tried to eat up a bunch of asparagus or a squash by yourself? It’s hard! Salad? A head of lettuce or a ‘salad in a bag’ is a stinky pile of mush well before you can eat through it unless that’s all you eat until it’s done. Friends have suggested preparing a dish for two (or more) then saving the leftovers for another meal – or two –or three. Well, I now know it’s a sure-fire way to become sick of something really fast. And some foods just don’t reheat well. I refuse to eat out all the time. Not only is it costly, but I feel silly sitting in a restaurant by myself. I’m afraid I’d start talking to an imaginary friend!
Most people in this world fall into one of three camps: 1. They work in an office and go home to a family or roommates (people)!; 2. they work in an office and go home to an empty place; or 3. they work at home alone, but can expect to be joined by family or roommates at the end of the workday. But I fall into a fourth category: I work at home alone but cannot expect anyone to join me at the end of the day. Double whammy. So that means there’s nobody there to just talk about the day, listen to a rant or share a funny story. In other words, nobody to share life with.
Don’t get me wrong, I have not been moping for all of the past 100 days. I’ve been busy with church (Sundays and weekday), pottery class and my volunteer activities. But there are days which seem totally empty.
Some people can do it, I can’t.
Mondays seem to be the worst. Maybe it’s because they fall after a day that is guaranteed to be full, but I have come to dread them. On the whole, I’m doing OK, though. There are good days and bad days, but as time progresses, I find the good days being overtaken by the days that just seem too quiet. Can you blame me for counting the days left? (47, by the way)
Pity party over.
I have learned a few things in this solo lifestyle:
- Dependence on others: We are dependent on others much more than we think. Sure, I crave company. But I’ve believed for a long time that we are genetically wired to be social animals – relational beings, as our pastor puts it. I have also learned that I cannot be independent of my social circle or my community. I need people, even if it’s just to help me move a big piece of furniture. I simply can’t do it alone. Being dependent on other people is not a sign of weakness. It is a fact of life and it would be unhealthy to deny it.
- A new perspective: I have to admit that, before now, I’d never really considered the situation of people living alone. I can now completely empathize with them. I understand the importance of reaching out to a friend or calling my mother, who lives alone – and making firm commitments to see them. No more “We must get together sometime.” Those are such hollow words to me now. When I want to connect with a friend, I will set a date – right then and there. I’ve also had a chance to talk to my mother about the time my dad was away at war. They were separated for 6 months, which was a relatively short time compared to so many others. My time alone seems almost trivial compared to that.
- Technology is a good thing: How did missionaries do it 50+ years ago? No instant communication, no lifeline. The mind boggles. We couldn’t have done it without technology to stay in touch with each other on a daily basis.
- What we’ve been called to do: This was not a selfish thing that Cathy has done, going to Africa. We made the decision together and I’m confident this is what God has called us to do – each of us having a part in the adventure. We have both been to Kenya this year and we have both learned so much. This has been a team effort every step of the way – Cathy, God and me.
- I love my wife: OK, this is not something I just learned! I have always loved her – and known it! But this time apart has really amplified how much she means to me. It has strengthened our relationship more than almost anything else we have experienced. In fact, we are both alone. I am by myself in the family house and she is alone in a crowd – lots of people around her, but they are often speaking another language or leaving her culturally on the outside. As a result, we have turned to each other for support – through constant emails and online chat.
So, there you have it. My main thoughts on the bachelor life. All I can say is, here’s to the knowledge that bachelorhood is soon to be over.
[For the record: being apart for this long won’t happen again! We’re agreed on that.]