There I was, on the rooftop of the Thermal Spa in Bath, wading in a heated pool and watching the sun go down. My body was warm and blissfully unaware of the outside temperature until I raised my arm to move a strand of hair. Steam floated off the water’s edge and the light was just so. I was surrounded by people and yet for the first time in a long time, I felt really alone. No matter which way I turned, there was love. There was Young Love, as evidenced by the belly-button piercings and awkward silences. There was Old Love, shown through wrinkles and comfortable silences. There was Friend Love, as heard through belly laughs and then gossipy whispers. There was Motherly Love as seen through tender touches and look-alike mannerisms.
There were too many stories of which I did not belong.
The song from Love Actually started to play in my head:
Love is all around me, and so the feeling grows…
Except the feeling was most definitely not growing. In fact, the feeling was making me want to punch someone in the face. Or splash them real good with ice old water. Or just cry.
Sometimes — most of the time, actually — I prefer being alone. I like the freedom it affords me; to go at my own pace, to reep the benefits or suffer the consequences of my own decisions, mistakes and triumphs.
I know what you’re thinking. I used the words “own” and “I” quite a lot. How could there be room for love when I’m so busy fine-tuning myself?
And there’s the rub.
Should I spend my days and nights looking and searching for The One, or waiting for a friend to join me on that trip or dine at that restaurant? Or, should I enjoy and live and make the most of the “me” I hope someone will want to swim with one day in a thermal bath? The latter just seems like a more fulfilling, rewarding way to live.
Usually, doing things alone opens me up to the most memorable experiences. I meet a stranger on the train platform only to realize just before we part ways that her name is also Sara. I get completely lost on twisty cobblestone streets without Google Maps — or a paper one, for that matter — only to find the more scenic route back to my hotel. I meet a cute British boy at a greasy spoon four days after arriving in a new city. I attend a discussion at a synagogue and think, for the first time, I may actually understand the true meaning of God. (Eek. That one was heavy!)
Of course, I am aware that many things in life are best shared. And not via Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why I felt so alone. Those baths were a shareable experience. I’ve just become so accustomed to fending for and with myself, that I just assumed I’d relax, read my Sunday magazines and become one with the minerals of earth without being reminded of that one bit of it that’s missing.
But don’t cry for me London and New York. I got to watch the sun disappear into the horizon from the rooftop of a thermal spa in Bath, England. Not to mention that alone as I was then, the following day I shared a proper Sunday roast lunch with a group of fantastic, successful, independent women (thanks to Ellie, actually!) We talked about dating and fashion and success and Yorkshire puddings. We drank three bottles of wine and laughed a lot. In fact, at one point, I looked around and knew that if I were on the outside looking in, I might be jealous of the sharable experience we were having. And yet, as soon as we got up and left, I was completely content to spend the rest of the day alone, allowing my story to write itself.