Yes, But how ARE you?

“It’s OK, I think I’ll walk back,” I said, as we stood outside the restaurant, in that warm glow of not wanting the evening of good food and good company to end. “I need the steps.”

And almost as soon as I turned away, the tears started to slowly roll down my face.

I thought I was over it by the time I’d walked back to the marina where the boat was docked. My sailboat hosts, people whom I’d know for decades, arrived by dinghy and we spent an hour socializing on the deck as the sun set, talking about our day and their friends whom I had just met. But when I said goodnight and closed the door to my cabin, the sorrow washed over me again and it was hours before I slept.

Most of the time, I am fine. I’m doing well enough that when I’m not I can put on a brave face, well enough that only a very few people, after listening to my assurances and tales of adventures will pause, then say, “Yes, but how are you?”

There’s always something new to mourn. I’ve said goodbye to my husband and our relationship, so thoroughly that I can speak dispassionately about him, and even see the many positives of being on my own. With a little distance, now, I can recognize how much I had compromised and made the best of what was sometimes a bad situation, and I’m enjoying getting to know myself again. Freedom is trumping security, and I’m glad.

But that night I’d had dinner with couples who had all been together for over 30 years. And watching their comfort in so much shared history, in such intimate knowledge of each other, I realized I would never have that again. I might have relationships that are amazing and supportive, but they will be new.

They will not have been there as my children grew up. They won’t have met the friends and relatives who are no longer here, through death, divorce, or moving away. References will need to be explained. They will not have known me as a student, a business person, a new mother, a grieving daughter. There will not be many choices to complete the sentence, “Remember when…”

Everything will be new, and perhaps that is a good thing. Choices can be made deliberately, instead of coming out of entrenched patterns of interaction. We can start from where and who we are now. We can make our own history.

And we can travel forward, bravely.

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