For a long time, I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted to do, or where I belonged.
Married for 33 years, and divorced at age 70, I’m clearer now than I’ve ever been. And who am I? An author, a spiritual seeker, and a solo world traveler.
No one was more surprised than me to discover that I am happiest living alone. That’s because, for most of my life, I was terrified to be on my own. I always imagined that I would be married. Even my closest friend said she never thought I would leave my husband.
When I eventually did separate, the first six months were difficult. Mornings were the hardest time for me, I panicked—my chest tightened, my stomach cramped, and my pulse raced, as if I were being dragged downstream by a raging river. Living through that experience taught me that my fear is not insurmountable. I survived and became more firmly anchored in myself.
I love the sense of freedom that being on my own inspires. No cooking or cleaning for anyone else, just me. My day starts early around 5 a.m. I write for a couple of hours and then go hiking with my women’s group. I feel so grateful for my women friends; we share a special connection, and being together in nature is beautiful. In my spare time, I read, journal, and socialize with friends. Evenings, I sit in my green recliner, watch the golden pink sunsets over the San Francisco Bay, sip a cup of freshly brewed tea, and nest in the comfort of my own home.
My spiritual life is very important to me. I have a special relationship with an unlikely teacher, a Thai woman who is both a Buddhist and a feminist. Nicknamed the Rebel Monk, she was the first woman in Thailand to be fully ordained in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. I have known her for 18 years and make annual visits back to Thailand for the month of December to stay in her monastery.
When I’m with her, my whole world softens and my outlook brightens. Her presence is so healing; she is kind and caring and teaches me how to be a more compassionate human being.
At 70, I am entering the most creative and productive period of my life. I published my first book, a memoir in 2020, and am currently writing a second book about Dhammananda’s life and teachings. In addition, I host Casual Buddhism—a weekly virtual program now in its second year. Each week a guest is invited to have an informal conversation with Venerable Dhammananda about their spiritual practice. Casual Buddhism will become a podcast in 2023. All these activities keep me busy and active.
I love to travel alone. Coming into a new city is an exciting adventure for me. The first thing I do is pull out the local map and walk the city streets, feeling the pulse of the people, the traffic, the ambiance. I choose a restaurant that appeals to me and settle in for a good glass of wine and a delicious meal. There is something so nurturing and grounding about feeding oneself; it centers me wherever I am.
This year, prior to visiting Thailand, I am headed to Vietnam to a place called Sapa. The town stands at the head of a deep valley of magnificent rice terraces that are still farmed today as they have been for centuries. I’m so excited to travel there.
All this is not to say I never get lonely—I do. There are days when I miss my former partner and my heart breaks. On those days, my loneliness eats me up on the inside. I have thought about having a companion, and that appeals to me, but the truth is, I’m not trying that hard to find one. So, on days when I am really feeling lonely, I get outside in nature—the one thing that eases my sorrow.
It’s impossible to predict how anyone will feel after a divorce. It can be incredibly painful for some, but in my case, I feel grateful to have had the loving relationship I shared with my former husband for so many years and grateful that I had the support to grow and change into the person I have become.
Who would have guessed that at 70 I am single, flying solo, and experiencing more happiness than I have ever known?
All I can say is: it’s worth growing older—we carry with us the wisdom and understanding that eluded us when we were young. It’s a time to be grateful, a time to be inspired, and a time to realize our dreams.