It is 7:30 on a Saturday night. I walk to the local Asian restaurant wearing bedroom slippers and no makeup. I used to order take-out for two so that the host wouldn't know I was alone.
Nowadays, I don't care what the host thinks. Besides, he will probably gobble down his dinner while hunched over a sink stacked with half empty rice bowls and greasy woks.
As I reach for the front door, a couple exits. I recognize them immediately. Our daughters went to school together. Her name is Barbara and I never knew her tall, attentive, wildly successful, handsome husband's name.
They don't recognize me immediately. She calls me Nancy.
"No," I say, "it's Shannon."
I think about telling them that Nancy is the name of my daughter's, father's, first wife, and coincidentally, his girlfriend, but quickly realize how ridiculous the truth sounds.
I politely ask how they are doing and how their children are doing. I even ask how their dog, Buddy the beagle, is doing. Everyone is doing well. Very, very well.
I seem to remember everything about this happy family. Mainly, I remember that Barbara was the only mothers from my daughter's class who attended my son's funeral.
It is their turn to ask how I am doing but they say nothing. They just stand there smiling and I wonder if they are afraid to ask.
I think about blurting out, "I've had cancer, all sorts of horrible cancer. And I'm divorced, again."
Instead, I tell them how proud I am of my daughter. How happy she is and how, at this very moment, she is in Colorado with the man she loves, volunteering at a camp for autistic children.
I stop short of saying, "Last Saturday we had dinner together. I wasn't alone, like I am now."
"Name please?" asks the host.
"Shannon," I tell him.
He hands me a small, brown paper bag marked, SHAMOO. I think about telling him that my name is not Shamoo. Instead, I decide that the next time I order take-out I will say my name is Nancy.
I come home with my take-out for one and find a neighbor's party in full swing. She recently moved into the condo directly below me. She seems like a lovely woman. She keeps to herself. She is quiet, except for tonight.
My plan was to eat my sushi-for-one beside a roaring fire while listening to jazz trumpeter, Theo Crocker. But all I can hear is their gayety so I eat my sushi over the sink, with the water running to drown the sound of their laughter.
It is 9:00 by the time I crawl into bed with a cup of green tea, my knitting, and an audiobook.
In my stretch of singleness between marriage number 2 and 3, I would line up Saturday night dates by Wednesday. I had a collection of suiters to choose from. It didn't really matter what I thought of them as long as they were wild about me. My self-worth was measured by male approval.
I remind myself that I am here, alone in my bed, by choice. I would have preferred to stay married to a man I loved if I could have controlled his actions. And I would have preferred to avoided multiple cancer diagnoses, and treatments, and scars and ongoing healing, if I had control over my genetics.
But I do have control over how I respond to life's disappointments. I have responded with courage and conviction. This is how I now measure my self-worth.
I awake Sunday morning feeling refreshed. After a leisurely walk in the park with the dogs, I retreat to the loft with a large mug of french pressed coffee. I savor my solitude. And I write.
“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.”