“Senior” Middle Age?

Is there a zone between middle age and “senior?” I’m different than I was when I first came up with my “middle aged woman rules.” I look at those now and I think they’re kind of juvenile and stupid. I find myself at a point in my life where I just don’t give a crap anymore about styling myself to please others.

This is actually the second time in my life I discovered (and it was a discovery, not a decision) that I was just being who I am, without worrying about whether who I am pleases others.

That last time I settled into my own skin so comfortably, Mike showed up.

Hmm.

I’ve back to level of self-acceptance that allows me to just “be,” where in years past I would have doubted, criticized or or been disappointed in almost everything I did or said. I’ve calmed down. I’ve become a better listener. Weird shit that seems to be related to aging is happening to my body, but I shrug and think, “whatever.”

It doesn’t feel quite right to refer to myself as “middle-aged” anymore, but hell if I’m going to say I’m “old.” Is there such a thing as senior middle age? Advanced middle age? Not thinking about age?

Angelic daughter and I went through a low patch last year, but we’ve pulled out of it admirably I think, and now things are rolling along nicely (knock wood, cross fingers, whatever you do to ward off a reversal when you say something like that.) The great-creator-power-that-is has bestowed upon me the gift of work I love, at a place populated with genuine, and genuinely kind, people. I honestly didn’t believe such a workplace existed, as I have never experienced it before. Every job I’ve ever had was at an organization fraught with egos, anxiety, competition, backstabbing, stress, resentment, rumor-mongering, and a constant, threatening undercurrent that something bad would happen to someone, any minute. (HA!, reminds me of a certain House in the news lately, but I digress.)

But now, at this stage of my life, I have been welcomed into a workplace where there’s none of that negative stuff, and I get paid to spend the day doing something I love. I’m stunned, and stupid happy. I look forward to going to work. I don’t mind getting up at 4:45 a.m. to get there by 6:30 so I can pick Angelic Daughter up from her new, fabulous, welcoming, caring place by 3:20.

At that place, Angelic daughter has reconnected with a friend she hasn’t seen in years, gets to choose among many activities and decide how she wants to spend her day, and hops into the car smiling and chattering about singing to her friend when I pick her up.

I remember when my favorite film actor, Russell Crowe, won the Oscar for Gladiator. He said, “for anyone who’s on the downside of advantage, and relying purely on courage, it’s possible.” (If you want to skip the intro, start at about 34 seconds in):

There were times, from the moment Mike was diagnosed, through these past three and a half years without him, when I felt hopeless, or ready to give up. I don’t think I can say that I relied on courage – I guess I relied on my version of faith. But I did make a conscious decision to make conscious decisions about how I’d spend my time. I started writing, and I don’t intend to stop, for as long as I still “have my marbles,” as my Dad used to say. I feel wired – a little manic – in the good way I used to feel when I was directing my high school talent show, or improvising with some very talented people in clubs in Chicago, giving packed houses big laughs.

I’ve been blogging since October 2017, a little more than a year after Mike died, and since then, I have cried and despaired vicariously with other bloggers going through their own tough times and tragedies – and I’ve stuck with them long enough to read their stories of getting through it, getting better, finding what they needed and finding themselves exhilarated, reinvigorated, even triumphant.

If you’re in a dark place, going through a tough time, having trouble seeing a way out, hang in there. Things can get better. It’s possible.

Yours with prayers for Australia, Puerto Rico, the people of China and everyplace else on our hurting, pissed-off, melting, diseased, once-beautiful-and-still-could-be-beautiful- again-if-we-get-our-collective-shit-together-and-do-something-about-it planet, I remain,

Your loving, grateful, hopeful,

Ridiculouswoman

P.S. Have fun watching the Oscars this weekend, even if, like me, you haven’t seen any of the films (I’m working, OK?) And here’s another list, related to this post, up on my 27 Things page.

I Get It Now, Mom

Mom died six years ago today, three days after her ninetieth birthday. Our relationship was often tense; I thought she was hypercritical, she thought I was, well, not everything she wanted in a daughter. Particularly regarding my hair, and my husband.

Every once in a while, though, Mom would surprise the hell out of me. One spring afternoon when I was 16, after weeks of nit-picky arguments about what I chose to wear, how much time I spent reading instead of going outside, and innumerable other stupid things mothers and daughters fight about, she told me to come outside with her.

She marched right up to our little Datsun station wagon, parked in its slot in the driveway, handed me the keys, and told me to get in. She walked around to the other side and got into the passenger seat.

The Datsun had manual transmission. I didn’t know how to drive a stick. My jaw dropped and I was rendered speechless (highly unusual) when I realized Mom was going to teach me how to drive a stick.

When I graduated high school, Dad gave me that car. Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me drive it off to college in southern California (a mere 2000 miles away, only a four day drive, I’ll stop at night, I’m eighteen, what was the problem?) but after my merciless whining, begging, pleading and explaining that life in California was impossible without a car,  they let my eldest brother, who had moved out to California to pursue his career in music, drive it out there for me. And at the end of my freshman year, I drove it home to Chicago, alone. And back, and home, and back, and home until I graduated college (except for that semester abroad.)

I gained a lot of experience and confidence by learning how to drive that car.

Thanks, Mom.

Mom had a weird way of descending stairs; she’d stick one foot out, look down, and hesitate before she actually took the step. Uncharitably, since I was (and am) overweight, I thought it was just because going downstairs was physically difficult for her after three kids and some extra pounds.

I wear progressive lenses now, with a “distant,” “computer,” and “reading” zone.

Ahhh, now I get it, Mom. You wore bifocals, and you were trying to get the right view of the next step to gauge its depth and distance. I find myself doing the same thing now.

Sorry, Mom.

In my twenties, after a weekend visit home from law school, when Mom had a negative thing to say about absolutely everything, we were cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner and I asked her, “can you think of a single moment in your life when you were truly, completely happy?”

She paused, and said, “Yes. It was a winter night in Boston and I had just come off my shift. It was a clear night. I looked up at the stars. I felt absolutely happy.”

My first reaction was hurt, that her moment of perfect happiness occurred when she was alone, and had nothing at all to do with her children. As Moms do, she read my mind, and said, “sorry” with a smile and a shrug.

But I get it now, Mom. You were really proud of becoming a registered nurse. You earned a scholarship.  Your parents didn’t want you to leave home. But you did, and you launched your professional life solely through your own hard work.  You loved being a nurse.

That night, you had something that was entirely your own. I’m envious that you pursued your vocation when you were relatively young. I muddled through job after stressful, unfulfilling job, always feeling out of place. It’s an enormous blessing at this stage of life for me to have found a job smack in the middle of my “flow” zone – where I experience a sense that I’m doing exactly what I should be doing – writing.

About 4 months before your 90th birthday, you got your hair cut, really short. Your magnificent head of white hair, that had revived itself after years of thinning, styled pretty much as it was in your nurse graduation portrait, above, was gone.

“Like Judi Dench,” you said. You loved it.

I was appalled, but I kept it to myself,

But Saturday, I got the most radical haircut of my life. Short, naturally curly pixie. And I absolutely love it – low maintenance, wash and wear, and it makes me feel renewed.

I hope I live long enough and still have my marbles when I get a radical haircut a few months before my ninetieth birthday.

That portrait of you? It’s on my writing desk.

Because I get it, now.

Remembering Mom with love and gratitude, I remain, your newly pixie-cut, happily writing,

Ridiculouswoman

The Obligatory New Year’s Post, or, I’m Too Old for Revolutions

A few year’s ago, I explained that we used to call them “New Year’s Revolutions.” This was supposed to indicate an intention to shake things up by changing something, irretrievably.

I’ve had quite enough shaking up the past few years. Just read my posts under the tag, “how not to” and you’ll get the idea. I’ll keep it simple, and more age appropriate this year, to wit:

A Sixty Year Old Widow’s Age-Appropriate Resolutions

  1.  If it’s an available option, always choose sleep.
  2. You really can’t eat that much anymore. So don’t. Embrace portion control.
  3. Enjoy your invisibility, and protect it by keeping your opinions to yourself.
  4. More reading, less TV.
  5. Prepare, and begin to pursue, bucket list.

That’s it.

I went back and reread last year’s obligatory New Year’s post, and found that I either didn’t do what I said I would, or did, and backed off quickly. After floundering around for most of the year, I got a really great job. Now I’m focused on doing it well, and keeping it for as long as I can.

Figuring out how to keep up with writing while working full time is a challenge, but I’m determined to do it.  I think goals are different than resolutions, so:

A Sixty Year Old Widow’s Writing Goals for 2020

  1. Finish querying first book.
  2. Write next book.
  3. Submit one piece of creative non-fiction or essay per week.
  4. Tally rejections proudly – they mean you tried.
  5. Find something to write about other than yourself.

Easier said than done.

OK, bucket list. Hmm. Don’t know if a bucket list should meet that organizational standard, “SMART” goals – specific, measurable (how do you measure the happiness you get from doing something you always wanted to do?) attainable, relevant, and time-bound (a bucket list is by definition time-bound – it’s a list of stuff you want to get done before you die). I don’t know if any of these are “SMART,” but here’s stuff I want to (or must) do before I die, in no particular order:

  1. Downhill ski, again.  Apparently, ski equipment is so different since I last went, I’ll have to relearn skiing altogether. Or find some really old skis and boots on eBay.
  2. Learn how to skate, and stop, on hockey skates. Just because.
  3. Find the money to go and someone trustworthy to care for Angelic Daughter (and get Angelic Daughter set up with an acceptable, safe, happy independent living situation – that’s a must do) while I visit New Zealand, Australia (what’s left of it, after all the fires, so awful! thinking of you, Aussies!) Alaska and Ireland. Can’t think why I haven’t visited Ireland yet.
  4. Get a book published. By a real, legit publisher. I want my obit to say, “Author of…”
  5. Find a sane, non-pyschotic, non-gaslighting, non-mansplaining, binary, heterosexual he/him to love, who loves me back. If such a being exists. There’s always hope.

Recently, I’ve been behaving as if I have lost hope – eating too much, not working out- and I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to give up on myself, my well-being and my chance, if there is any, to find love. I’ve been encouraged by my recent discovery that sleeping a full 8 hours a night takes ten years off my face. Who knew?

Today, I woke up feeling great. Yes, I woke up on New Year’s Day feeling wonderful. Probably because I spent the evening reading, and went to bed early, without watching on TV or participating in any of the forced gaiety of midnight celebrations and associated consumption of mass quantities of alcohol, a/k/a getting shitfaced (pissed, legless, paralytic, sloshed, plastered, wasted, etc. The English language has an extraordinary selection of words to identify the state of inebriation). Not that I didn’t raise a glass or three, but at least I had the sense to cut myself off and go to bed at a reasonable hour.

These past few years have given me, individually, and us, collectively, a lot of reasons to lose hope. But let’s just not. New year, new decade (yes, I’m on the “2020 starts the new decade, not 2021” team) and new chances to try to do the right thing, every new day we’re granted, every day we wake up, miraculously, again.

Happy New Year and Happy New Decade: may yours be filled with hope and mornings waking up feeling wonderful (and at my age, just waking up at all should count as feeling wonderful, even when my joints go snap, crackle, pop when I first get out of bed). I think of those sounds as the music of movement, and a reason to keep going.

Until next time, I remain,

Your tart-cherry juice drinking, ginger-turmeric tea swilling, arising gratefully, and absurdly early, to get to a great job on time,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay