Love in Later Life

Last June I sent a small group of friends an email I described as “one of the strangest I’ve ever written.” Noting that the coming October would mark 10 years since I had separated from my first wife, I wrote that while “living alone has been good and necessary… I really don't want to do this the rest of my life and should look for a companion… Since one of the best ways to meet new friends and possible partners is ‘referrals’ from old friends, I'm writing to tell you — and the universe — that I'm open to new possibilities.”

I was poised to hit the SEND button, when the inbox suddenly logged INCOMING mail. That’s interesting, I thought. The new email was from American Singles, an online dating service that I had registered with some ten months earlier. Registering is different from becoming a member; membership costs money. Just registering, however, gets you a weekly batch of “profiles.” But the eight women whose profiles would arrive each week proved so uniformly uninteresting or inappropriate — I could specify age (50-64) but not spiritual sensibilities, distance from Chapel Hill (a 50-mile radius) but not political affiliations — that there were weeks when I simply deleted the unopened email. The new email was different. There among an otherwise undistinguished group was Lisa (a.k.a. “Catwoman”):
 

“Aphrodite in search of Adonis

I look 50, feel 40, and am an active person with a young and playful spirit and a good sense of humor who likes to laugh and have fun! I love my friends and am a good friend; I’m warm, affectionate and giving, and enjoy spontaneity and adventure. I love movies (old and new), the beach, nature, walking my dog, cooking, reading, theater, music, and trying out new things. I work part-time in the health care field and help people lead happier lives. I'm more spiritual than religious. I stay healthy with exercise and yoga and like to dance. I also volunteer at the homeless shelter.

Catwoman


I wrote Lisa: “I was writing the email I’ve inserted below and simultaneously got something from American Singles in which your picture jumped out. I don’t ignore such synchronicity and have spent $25 to become a ‘premium member’ and write you. Would you like to meet for coffee?”

It took six weeks for her to get my email and respond: her American Singles membership had lapsed months earlier and she had to “re-up.” It took another two weeks for us to have that cup of coffee, because I was in Oakland — testing the waters for what is now the upcoming August 4-7 Visioning Council at Santa Sabina — when I got Lisa’s email. It took a second date for us to fall in love and another seven months for us to set a date for our wedding.

Southerner that I am, I’m a bit uncomfortable sharing this intimate story. I do it for a reason.

In last June’s email to my friends I wrote, “The likely truth is I could not have done the work I have done if I'd had a partner. It was too intense.” When you are single, your work can be your life — as Second Journey has been mine since I founded it in December of 1999. Once you open the door to a relationship, however, you must strike a better balance between work and LIFE. My conversation a year ago with Reb Zalman is pertinent. I had just turned 60; he was approaching 80 and intending to “retire.” I knew he had begun his work with “Sage-ing” when he was 60, and I expressed the hope that I also would have 20 years to complete my work. He told me, “I will give you a blessing -- a blessing which carries all the good will of all the ancestors who have made me who I am. May you complete your work in 10 years and have 10 years to enjoy it!

As I wrote last October:

A number of people have thanked me for “holding the space.” It’s as if I’d arrived early for the picnic, staked out a lush spot by the river and put dibs on the place by scattering blankets and chairs all about. I do not have THE VISION; no one person does. It is scattered in pieces among us, and we will find our way into the future only by coming together in community and delighting in the different treats we each bring to the celebration.

So it is for you I have been holding this place. What would you like to bring to our potluck? What are your thoughts about where Second Journey should go, and what role do you wish to play, what contribution do you wish to make? What kind of organization or container do we need to create TOGETHER, to hold and direct this energy?

Yes, I have been holding this wonderful space beside the river for YOU! It’s now time for you to take your place there, time for Lisa and me to welcome greater spaciousness into our lives, and time for all of us to enjoy life.
 

 
 

We live the given life, and not the planned.

— Wendell Berry