I was married for the first time in 1969. I was a teenager and it was no surprise that it was a debacle. I knew nothing about relationships or the real world. I was fresh off the ballet stage. I’d lived in a bubble with a group of other dancers and my life had been extraordinary in a singular sort of way. I’d had my own flat in Monte Carlo when I was 17, I ate delicacies from all over the world and I attended lavish parties and galas thrown by the rich and famous. I’d been an item in a scavenger hunt, I was feted at the lavish home of Harold Robbins, a powerfully successful author and I’d danced in the White House and met the President. Being normal was something I knew nothing about.

When I left the ballet at 19, being on my own was next to impossible. Most adolescents experiment with relationships in their late teens and early twenties but I’d had no opportunity to build boyfriend radar. I was ignorant about day-to-day survival so I married someone who gave me constant attention. He was outspoken and complimentary and he appeared to be shiny, but it didn’t take me long to find out that he wasn’t. He turned me on to drugs, he was controlling and
Narcissistic and dangerous and he was looking for arm candy, someone he could dress like a doll and order around. Who better than an innocent, shy, ballerina with an athlete’s body and a need for direction?

At first, he seemed like a protector but eventually, I needed to be protected from him. Countless women have found themselves in the same position. I ended that relationship by escaping and fleeing into someone else’s arms who swept me away and hid me on a houseboat in Sausalito. I heard from a friend that my husband was irate. He vowed to find me and do harm to the man who rescued me. I was plagued by dreams that I was trapped and couldn’t find my way out until a friend told me that my husband had found someone else. He soon became my ex-husband and I was relieved when I went to court and got my real last name back.

My time with my rescuer was limited and when I found myself on my own again, I dated several inappropriate men. “Your picker’s broke,” a friend once told me. He was right and I’m sorry to say that the condition he described was still in play when I met husband #2. It was great for a while. Relationships often begin with hope and playfulness but this blog is not about the ecstasy of falling in love. It’s about finding the courage to walk away when it’s necessary and find a way to make friends with yourself. I was watching an online interview with end-of-life expert, Ondrea Levine, who said, “When my husband died, we’d been living in a remote area in New Mexico so I had to learn to hold my own hand.”

Life is tricky, especially when it comes to relationships. I was when disheartened when I woke up on my fiftieth birthday with no one sleeping in the bed beside me. That morning, Grace Slick, my favorite client/rock star I ever worked with, literally sang into the phone, “Welcome to the half-century club.” She thought it was funny. I thought it was tragic. I needed to have a close community and I
needed to be my own best friend. That meant being honest with myself and giving myself what I needed. I realized that if I treated someone else like I often treated myself, I’d be arrested for assault and battery.

In 2016, I decided to teach writing in my home. It was the perfect way to counteract the solitary life of a writer. It made me feel fulfilled, so when pandemic hit, I took my classes online and the same people showed up. Today, I have a wonderful circle of friends who find my company uplifting as I do theirs. I had a birthday gathering in January and at one point, I looked around at everyone’s faces. I loved each person who was there, they loved me, and I vowed to
remember that evening whenever I was doubting my choices in life.

Last night, I was happily sitting on my bed watching TV, cuddling my cat and knitting, when I realized that if this were the seventh century, I’d be called “a spinster.” A woman that I used to know scolded me one day about not putting out the effort to meet someone. “What are you doing to find a man,” she asked.

“I joined an online dating site,” I said, “but I didn’t like it. I decided to let life takes its course and if someone comes along that gets my attention, I’ll be open to it.”

“No,”she said in a loud voice. “You’re not open. If you were, you’d have someone.”

I walked away feeling judged. When someone throws shade on our choices, it can make us feel “less than.” Being alone can carry a stigma that we aren’t complete without a partner. As a result, I’ve developed the bad habit of comparing my life to the way I imagine other people’s lives to be, “imagine” being the operative word. Where did I go wrong? I wondered. Why can’t I find my person? Am
I unattractive or unworthy?

Comparing and doubting never end well. There are many ways to go through life and what matters is that we accept where we are. In this moment. And to keep in mind that everything changes, one of the few things we can count on. I’ve lived alone, I’ve had numerous relationships, I’ve been married twice and they all have their pros and cons. Everything does, and I understand that my task is to make my life work no matter what cycle I’m in. It’s all so unpredictable. My
parents were deeply in love and when my father died, my mother lived alone for twenty years. A friend of mine was happy to be alone and when an old friend invited her out for coffee, she ended up getting married.

Some of our most profound and rewarding insights in life happen when we’re alone. On the other hand, some of our most profound and rewarding insights happen when we have a deep connection with someone. An extreme example is Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist who was in a concentration camp for three years. He said. “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

It doesn’t matter what you choose and what you don’t. Life is going to happen in unexpected ways and the only way we can prepare for it is to be our own best friend and build a loving community all around us.