Eating Alone

One afternoon, pre-pandemic, I was searching for the courage to get divorced and drove alone to a small restaurant about 30 minutes out of the city. It seemed safe. I couldn’t imagine bumping into anyone I knew, and when I arrived at about 5pm, only two other tables were occupied. The young hostess approached me with menus in the crook of her arm.

“Just one,” I said.
“Just one,” she repeated, leading me to a small table.

Just one, I thought with a sigh, as if one isn’t really enough. It doesn’t count. It is “less than.” Parties of two have substance. Larger parties are impressive, especially when the staff has to move tables together to accommodate all the people. But I’m “just one.”

I wondered if being “just one” would be enough. Could I separate those two words, “just” and “one”? Had I ever been able to do that? I couldn’t remember.

After the waitress took my order, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t very good at eating alone. I imagined people thinking, “Oh, look at the poor lady eating by herself. She must be so lonely.”

Yes, I was … more than they could ever imagine.

Eating alone was going to take practice, and so was being alone, if I chose to divorce, though I’d felt more alone in my marriage than I had been willing to admit.

That evening, I understood my decision to divorce had already been made a long time ago, and it was time to acknowledge and honor it, no matter how painful.

It was also time to acknowledge my overwhelming feelings of loneliness and chose to sit with those feelings without judgment, without trying to talk myself out of them. I simply listened as my loneliness spoke to me. We talked a bit, sighing sometimes. It was as if I was comforting a younger, sadder version myself, and together we began to heal.

At the same time, dear friends appeared, bringing with them love, a willingness to listen, extra tissues, chocolate, and even laughter. During a pandemic you may be isolated from friends, but they are always virtually available, though you will have to supply your own tissues and chocolate!

My friends reminded me that I am not “just one,” and neither are you.

My loneliness reminded me that the most damaging isolation I was experiencing  was being isolated from myself, and when that connection returned, I would find peace … and so will you.

Excerpted from “The Seasons of Divorce: Insights for Women in Transition” by Barb Greenberg