In my novel The Island of Always, Lena (my protagonist) compares her ex-husband to Jesus—in that he loves everyone, just no one in particular (meaning her).

I was thinking about that today as a friend and I were exchanging emails on the subject of being alone later in life (I'm 63, and have been alone or on my own or however you want to put it for some years). My friend and I both agreed that writing (which is what we do, or at least how we think of ourselves) plays a part in that, both as a prerequisite, solitude being implicit in the writing life, and as a proxy, providing the joy and meaning that might otherwise come from companionship. 

Then I thought about Lena's line, and it occurred to me that there might be another alternative: compassion. Or perhaps the more personal counterpart: kindness. Maybe being kind to others, not just to other people, but to all the life around you, generates in you some of the same well-being that partnership might. It’s more spread out, certainly, easier to miss, no doubt. But maybe in aggregation enough to keep the heart alive. 

Perhaps in the end it all comes down to endorphins and complex neurochemical reactions. Or maybe there is a higher accounting, a karma to be built. But I wonder if the choice to engage with your little patch of the world in this way, each day, to smile at a neighbor, give a treat to a dog, or leave bread out for the birds and squirrels, can sustain the heart through the solitary years ahead. 

I hope so.

Hearts are important.