“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.

Hired

Featured Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

The other shoe has dropped: I got a job. I GOT A JOB. Not just any job, either – it’s a writing job. Full time, with benefits starting the exact day I must have them. I start mid-November. And the best part about it is that I’m not anxious about it at all. I know I can do it well and I won’t get all squirmy about it. A little of that is inevitable, of course, as it would be with any new job.  But I’ve signed the offer letter accepting the job and I have enough to do before I start that I don’t think I’ll spend any time worrying about the myriad ways I could imagine screwing it up.

Because I’m not going to screw it up. As God is my witness, I’m not going to screw this up. If I can avoid it. And if I can stop worrying about screwing it up over something I didn’t realize would screw it up. OK ENOUGH, Annie. YOU GOT IT. THEY WANT YOU (Note impressive self-restraint in not going the Sally Field quote route, here).

I wrote the below about 10 minutes after the call offering me the job. As you can see I was a bit excited. I still am, I’m just not going to scream at you in ALL CAPS. But reading it through it was kind of funny so I thought I’d go ahead and inflict it on you.

So here’s my brain on “holy crap I actually got a job I’m going to like that pays a living wage!”

I GOT THE OFFER AND THEY BUMPED UP THE PAY RATE SO IT WILL ACTUALLY BE WORTH THE COMMUTE I GOT THE JOB I GOT THE JOB I GOT THE JOB THANKS FOR ALL YOUR GOOD VIBES SORRY TO SCREAM AT YOU IN ALL CAPS BUT I’M SO EXCITED BECAUSE I’M ACTUALLY GOING TO LIKE THIS JOB IT WILL BE FUN IT IS WRITING AND I WILL GET PAID FOR WRITING HOLY CRAP WITH HEALTH INSURANCE AND EVERYTHING GOD IS GREAT FAITH WORKS HANG ON GOOD THINGS WILL COME OMG OMG OMG NOW I HAVE TO HIRE SOMEONE AS A COMPANION FOR ANGELIC DAUGHTER BUT WE CAN HANDLE IT OMG OMG OMG AN ACTUAL JOB WRITING WRITING WOWEE ZOWEE AND ON TOP OF THAT ONE OF MY LIFE’S AMBITIONS JUST CAME TRUE OF HOSTING A FAMILY MEAL IN THIS HOUSE I’VE SPENT SO MUCH MONEY AND ENERGY ON MY BROTHERS AND ONE OF MY SISTERS-IN-LAW CAME AND WE HAD SUCH A FUN MEAL IT WASN’T LONG ENOUGH AND I WAS RUSHED MAKING THE SOUP AND OH BY THE WAY I DID MAKE THE SOUP HERE’S A PICTURE IMG_20191022_141943840~2.jpg AND NOT EXACTLY PIE BECAUSE I DIDN’T HAVE  TIME FOR THE CRUST SO I MADE A FRENCH FRUIT TART CRUST WHICH WAS OK BUT NOT MY BEST IMG_20191022_141935304~2.jpgAND I BROWNED THE ONIONS IN THE SQUASH SOUP BUT THE BURNT-ISH FLAVOR WAS ALMOST COVERED UP BY SOME EXTRA APPLE JUICE AND BROWN SUGAR AND THEY SAID THEY LIKED IT BUT EVEN IF THEY WERE LYING I DON’T CARE BECAUSE THIS HAS BEEN A SPECTACULAR DAY EVEN THOUGH IT IS COLD AND WINDY I DON’T CARE MY GOD I ACTUALLY GOT A JOB OFFER AND BESIDES THAT ONE OF MY CNF ESSAYS HAS BEEN ACCEPTED IT’S A BLOG BUT IT IS A BLOG ASSOCIATED WITH A MAGAZINE AND IT MEANS SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT WRITING THINKS I CAN ACTUALLY WRITE THIS IS AMAZING WHAT DO I DO WHAT DO I DO AM I SUPPOSED TO POST A GIF LIKE THIS

OR MAYBE THIS

THAT REMINDS ME I’VE NEVER SEEN THOSE MINIONS MOVIES I SHOULD WATCH THOSE ANGELIC DAUGHTER WANTS POPCORN SO MAYBE WE CAN HAVE MOVIE NIGHT OMG OMG OMG A WRITING JOB WITH HEALTH INSURANCE I HOPE I DON’T HAVE A HEART ATTACK WITH JOY BEFORE I EVEN START BRING IT I CAN DO IT I CAN WRITE ANYTHING TO ORDER LIKE FALLING OFF A LOG THIS IS SO AWESOME I’M JUMPING OUT OF MY SKIN WHAT DO I DO NOW I HAVE TO WAIT FOR AN EMAIL TO SIGN OFF ON THE OFFER WHICH MEANS I REALLY SHOULDN’T BE CROWING ABOUT THIS SO MUCH IN CASE I JINX IT BUT LIVE WITHOUT FEAR I GOT IT I GOT IT I GOT IT I WILL BE AN EMPLOYED PERSON AT A JOB I ACTUALLY WILL LOVE WITH ENERGETIC FUN PEOPLE WHO LOVE WHAT THEY DO IT DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS OR MAYBE IT DOES KEEP DREAMING KEEP BELIEVING MAYBE GOOD THINGS WILL KEEP HAPPENING OK ANNIE DON’T GET GREEDY JUST BE GRATEFUL GRATEFUL GRATEFUL I AM I AM I AM WHOOP WHOOP THIS IS AWESOME

Trying to resume decorum, I remain,

Your newly hired,

Ridiculouswoman

Validation Celebration

Those of  you who follow me on Twitter (@ridiculouswidow) already know this, but I wanted to let blog readers know that a piece of mine called “Imperfection”  has been accepted by Ruminate Magazine’s blog, The Waking, and is tentatively scheduled to appear on November 14. My Submittable scoreboard stands at one acceptance (that one), one rejection (of a piece I intend to submit elsewhere and keep trying) and one “received” that hasn’t turned into an “in-progress” yet, but I think it should soon, since it is for a December issue.

Big shout out to RomComDojo‘s Maggie Dove, the Mother-Goddess of my budding attempts to get published and build my “platform,” without whom I would not have known about Submittable and the opportunities listed there. Read everything she writes. She is awesome. And hilarious. And frequently pissed off, sometimes tragically, but usually in a tragicomic way.

This will be the second time my work has appeared on a blog other than my own, which is giving me the idea that I can actually think of myself as a writer, and the motivation to keep writing.

Receiving an acceptance reminded me of a charming, quirky TV show from the ’90s called “Northern Exposure,” about a young doctor who (reluctantly, initially) serves a small Alaskan town, and the characters that inhabit that town. I loved that show. There was one episode that was particularly memorable for me, focused on the character Ed, a young Native American/First Nations man, who is pursued by a Little Green Man who presented Ed with various psychological demons (Season 5, Episode 8, couldn’t find a video). Little Green Man famously says,

“Ed, you’re dealing with the demon of external validation. You can’t beat external validation. You want to know why? Because it feels sooo good.”

(Northern Exposure, Season 5 Quotes. Quotes.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 25 Oct. 2019). (Scroll down).

Truer words were never spoken.

Ruminate Magazine and its blog, The Waking, are about “cheering on life, faith and art.” They provide a “contemplative and imaginative space” to slow down, “for people feeling overwhelmed by life’s frantic pace.” The piece they accepted is highly personal, and it is the first submission of  mine through Submittable that earned acceptance. When I found out, I was ecstatic – I’M A WRITER! I’M A WRITER! – and then, predictably, freaked out, because this essay exposes even more of my flaw-filled self than I have exposed to you here. But I started writing again because I was determined not to be ruled by fear anymore, even if living up to that is often a battle. When Mike died, I decided I would try to really live – both as a way to honor his courage and because his brave path showed me how fragile, ethereal and brief life can be. It would be crazy to carry on as usual, mired in routine, without being “awake,” to use Ruminate’s word, to the beauty of the world and the people all around me, and even in myself, with my talents and my many flaws, and to be grateful for them, and to find joy in life, even with, or despite, its brokenness.

So On November 14, I’ll be breathing deeply and staying as calm as possible until (and after) the piece appears, and I’ll share the link, and we’ll see where I go from there.

I have other good new to share but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop on that one so until I’m really, really sure it is tied up in a bow I can’t tell you now, but I’ll tell you as soon as I can.  Don’t mean to be a tease – I’m anxious about it, but I didn’t see a reason to wait on this announcement about progress in my fledgling writing “career.”

Until then, I remain,

Your grateful, humbled, anxious but breathing deeply,

Ridiculouswoman

Photo from Pixabay but I lost the link to the (not required, but I like to give credit where credit is due) attribution – will post if I can find it again.

Motion Sickness

It’s October, and I’m back on the query train, and I’m queasy as hell. Someone get me a dramamine. Sent two off today and I feel like crawling under the covers and moaning ’til dark,  succumbing to the writer’s interior monologue that goes, “who the hell am I kidding? What was I thinking, to write that book, much less send out queries about it? Why do I think anyone would want to read my crap? ARRGGH! Oh this is horrendous! I should be so embarrassed! These New York agents are going to laugh my queries out of their inboxes faster than you can say “memoir,” while they’re venting to their colleagues, “DAMMIT ANOTHER F***ING MEMOIR!”

Why can’t I write YA fiction like everyone else on the planet? You know, stuff that appeals to a market that actually seems to exist? Why can’t I write fiction at all? How does anyone do it, come up with characters and plots and settings and stories that break your heart? Why are all my heartbreaking stories true?

I had a great phone interview yesterday for a job I want. I have to write something and send it in before I show up to an in-person interview next Tuesday. Which means I have less than a week to go full overthink on a 300-500 word piece that should be as easy as falling off a log and then have a full-blown wardrobe crisis. Already scheduled a haircut. Can’t afford new clothes or the haircut but what else can I do?

I have four CNF pieces pending with lit mags, one of which is for an October issue and Submittable still says, “In Progress.” But October itself is “in progress.” WTF? Or am I just such a rookie that I don’t know how this is supposed to work?

I feel another round of displacement-activity-wallpaper-stripping-and-painting coming on. After the downstairs bathroom, the big finale is going to be the front hall, which has two layers of wallpaper:  some kind of heavy striped 1970’s looking fabric, over an adorable 1940s-1950s red-kerchiefy-Betty-Crocker-cookbook-cover looking kind of pattern, as far as I can tell, from the snippet of it that shows in a spot where the stripes have eroded. I’ll have to try and remove or go around an old doorbell chime thing that’s almost a foot square and the paddle on the steamer thing I rented last time is way too big to go above doors and into corners so what do I do about that? Shouldn’t there be some kind of attachment for that? Why am I asking you? I should be asking the guys-who-know-how-to-do-things-who-should-be-enjoying-retirement-now-but-have-to-keep-working-at-the-big-box-hardware-store-for-the-health-insurance. These nice guys give good advice. They all appear to have suffered back or hip or limb injuries in their past professions. One of them even showed me what’s left of one of his fingers.  Note to self: don’t use power sawing equipment. Good thing I don’t need a power saw to steam off wallpaper. Not that I might not want to use one by the time I’m halfway through the job.

I am now in possession of my brother’s power washer and if it ever stops raining I have to use it to clean my deck, which I have never done before. Apparently the force of the thing is capable of “puncturing” skin, and probably breaking toes, so I’ll wear my reinforced toe boots from my warehouse days. Then if I succeed in cleaning the deck I’ll have to go back to the big box store and get the guy-who-knows-about-paint-and-stuff to limp over with his bad back and show me what kind of stuff I have to spread all over the deck once I clean it and which variety of said stuff is the least toxic variety, and how to apply it and whether I have to wear a gas mask or something while I do it. Oh, God! This do-it-your-self-ing will be the death of me if waiting for an answer on my writing doesn’t kill me first.

The kitchen floor needs washing and the second load of laundry is dry and Angelic Daughter needs me to make a vat of her late father’s “magic” chicken soup which does have a way of miraculously curing what ails you, if he helps me from beyond with the proportions of things, because he was an on-the-fly chef who didn’t write down his recipes, which makes me an on-the-fly-cook who prays, when I’m not cowering under the covers with writer’s meltdown.

There’s only one way to handle this.

Nap.

A good two hours of oblivion will at least be a good two hours less of anxiety.  The floor and the laundry can wait, and I’ll still have time to make the soup.

Off to the land of Nod, I remain,

Your overthinking, obsessive, oddball

Ridiculouswoman

TweetFace

Alright, already! I did it – connected this blog to a Twitter account (@ridiculouswidow, because someone already had ridiculouswoman) and Facebook, where I recreated a page for it, which was no small feat, because Facebook’s soulless algorithm didn’t believe I was me.

It thought using my logo as the profile picture on my personal page, which I have to have to have a Page page, which is the only way WordPress can be connected to Facebook to automatically post your posts on a Page, was “suspicious.” It said the first post I added, which said I created the account so I could have a Page, violated “community standards.”  It seemed to think I was impersonating myself and locked the new account. It asked me for a photo that looked like me, and I sent one, and it still didn’t believe me, and disabled the new account, thereby destroying two hours work in setting up the page.

Facebook, dear, I am not some Russian bot loosed upon your bandwidth to wreak havoc across the land. I’m a short, stout, suburban widow who writes a blog. Is that so hard to believe? I almost decided not to bother trying again.

But resistance is futile.  I must have a “platform,” that virtual thing you stand on to convince literary agents and small publications that you’ve got something people might want and your writing is worth a look. Ergo, I must have a social media “presence.”

Things haven’t been going well on the job front or the query front, so I figured I’d better get serious about building the “platform” –

I’m working to overcome my social impairment enough to think of something to tweet and people to follow, and to gather some new readers, commenters, and “likers.” I hope to build a larger community of wonderfully,  um…eclectic people (that’s enough italics for today, old girl) out there who actually enjoy reading what I write, even if the subject matter is a little all over the place.

Because in addition to the problem I identified with my book (no grand social themes, except cancer and autism, which affect more and more people every day, and love and death, which affect everyone), I’m not the “marginalized voice” they all seem to want (except for my age).  I have also belligerently deliberately avoided strictly confining myself to a “niche” like all those “how to succeed in blogging without really writing” pundits demand – I want my “niche” to be 800 words of something worth reading. Oh, and a few published books, so I can legitimately add “author of…” to my bio (and someone will add it to my obit, when the time comes).

I decided when I started this blog that, although I would write about grief and life as a widow, I didn’t want to be a “professional widow” – I want to be a writer – an engaging, entertaining, occasionally heartstring-plucking and often, I hope, funny, writer.

So, the “Twitterverse” and the Empire Facebook will now have the benefit of my blatherings, or links thereto, at least.

Starting with my next post (I thought we decided enough!)

Because I’m pretty sure if I post this to Facebook, their soulless algorithm will shut me down again, just for saying I don’t like Facebook. Today as I was setting it back up, it thought it found “suspicious activity” in my account again, and made me prove who I was two more ways before it let me back in. So I put the actual photograph I cartoonified to make my logo on there as my profile picture. See, Facebook? That IS me! (oh, all CAPS now?) Take that, Facebook!

There are a lot of not-nice people on social media. But by avoiding politics and “niches”  I hope to interest a few of the nicer people – people who like words, reading, gardening, stargazing, redecorating, failing and trying again, laughing, crying, loving their kids, remembering their lost loved ones, and being gentle in the face of human foibles and frailty.

I hope we can learn something, or share something, or just commiserate along the way.

So, welcome, Tweetie birds, and hello, again, Facebook friends, if you manage to find me.

After my next post (well, the CAPS were too shouty!)

But this one is just for you guys – current followers of this blog, some of whom have been with me since the first few posts – it’s a comfort (and a bit of a thrill) to know you’re on the receiving end of this, and, I hope, actually reading it and enjoying it from time to time. And liking, commenting, sharing with others who might.

Stepping reluctantly, tentatively and fretfully into, or back into, the social media morass, I remain,

Your skeptical, resistant, but biting-the-bullet and getting it done,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by ijmaki from Pixabay

800 Words

The day I wrote about losing confidence in my writing, I discovered a television series called “800 Words.”

“It’s a sign!” I thought.  The show is on the Acorn channel (British-y programming). It’s about an Australian columnist, a widower with two kids, whose column always comes in at exactly 800 words.

That’s a game I love to play, too. He even uses the same trick of hyphenating-things-to-count-as-one-word.

It’s more about grief and the stupid impulsive decisions (often stupid financial decisions) you make when coping with loss.

Sound familiar?

I watched the first episode of the first season and was hooked.

And then I discovered I had to pay a subscription fee to watch the rest of it.

Curses! I coughed up my Roku account and subscribed.

More money spent that I shouldn’t be spending, without a day job.

That sent me into another spiral of anxiety and doubt.

How could it be a sign? Yes, I like to write blog posts of exactly 800 words –  but my book is 60,000 words.

The protagonist on the show actually had a job as a newspaper columnist, left it, and was coaxed back.

I’ve lost or had to leave jobs I wanted and was never, ever “coaxed” or asked back. It was more like “don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Buh-bye.”

My recent job search experiences make me feel like I couldn’t buy a job – if I had any money to spend – which makes me more anxious about getting a job.

I’ve got an idea for a business, bought the domain, and I’m hoping to get a website designed and the business going by September.

But the numbers for this blog (over 5,300 views and 2,300 visitors, but only 162 followers) indicate I suck at social media self-promotion.

I’m going to have to force myself to return to Facebook to build pages for this blog again and for my new business. AAAAAK!!

I’d rather curl up in a little fetal ball and pull the covers over my head, but as I lie there whimpering, I’d be picturing myself wearing a name tag, saying things like, “would you like fries with that?” or “have you tried our new spicy shrimp?” or “can I get you that dress in another size?”

Between the morning workouts and the yard work and the house work and grocery shopping and the meal preparation and the caring for and helping Angelic Daughter, I can’t seem to find the time to write more than one or two blog posts a week, and no time at all to search for other places to submit writing for a chance to get paid.

Much less apply for that glorious future name tag job.

All the job search engines I’ve got going keep sending me jobs that have nothing to do with me.

LinkedIn seems to think I’m a nurse or other health-care worker, just because I’m looking for jobs in non-profits, and there’s a big non-profit hospital near me.

Glassdoor keeps sending me technical writing jobs that I probably could do but I’m sure I’d never get hired for, and the idea of making a mistake writing technical manuals or pharmaceutical label information sends me into paroxysms of anxiety.

All the NPO’s want fundraisers (“development” people) but asking people for money makes me squirm, and researching how much money people might have to give makes me feel like a creepy voyeur.

I indulge in silly rescue fantasies, typically involving younger men who know how to do things, and who are willing to do them for me, for free.

And who then move in and pay for things.

While also making wild, passionate love to me.

Hey, I said it was a fantasy.

I’ve figured out what’s wrong with me, and what went wrong in my career, but I can’t fix the past and the past follows me everywhere I go.

I try to focus on the now – on the incredible, cool air we have today, on the squash blossoms growing in the former chicken run, on the green beans starting to come in.

But I spend more time feeling frustrated by the dozens of bean seeds I planted that haven’t sprouted at all.

I’m a whiny, self-doubting mess.

The ancestresses are getting restless – I hear them telling me to get my ass outside and weed something. Not self-improvement, but yard-improvement, at least.

Perhaps other improvements will follow.

And as for signs?

Just as I was editing that line about anxiety and doubt, a monarch butterfly fluttered down and landed on the beans.

The ones that are growing.

Thanks for the Sign, Mike – of love and understanding – and the reminder to enjoy this beautiful day and stop taking myself so seriously.

Because what matters is now.

About-to-get-sweaty-and-dirty-and-feel-virtuous-about-it, I remain,

Your calming-down,

Ridiculouswomann

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay