I should make it clear that sometimes I can sound like I’m “telling you the way it is”. I don’t mean to do that at all. I hope that what I share here will resonate with some readers. We can never touch everyone in the same way, but sometimes we might say something that seems small and it could have a big impact on another human being. Aren’t most of us really looking for a shared experience? Have you ever described something near and dear to your heart only to get a blank look from the listener? Either they weren’t listening or they seem to have no idea what you’re talking about. Every once in awhile though,we may actually touch someone with our words and it’s a gift to both of us.
What motivated me to write this blog is to have others join me in my current journey through this stage of life, (thus the title of my blog). I am at one of those crossroads. I realize that some people have kept things constant in their lives and may actually come to this point in time feeling very gratified and fulfilled. This blog is probably not for that person.
I have never been a content person. I’ve often left bad situations rather than stay in them because it seemed like needless suffering to me. Looking back I walked away without a fight. There were things I wanted to stand up for, and didn’t. Many people make the opposite choice and stay in bad marriages, jobs and relationships. My marriage is an example of how I leave when I’m unhappy. I ended the marriage when my sons were 1 and 3. We had been together for 10 years but married only 6 of those. The relationship was full of red flags before we got married and after the wedding day everything changed for the worst. It wasn’t the person I was married to that was bad, it was a bad match. I had no idea at that time in my life how to judge who would make a good partner and a good person to have children with.
Looking back at our differences, you couldn’t have picked two people more ill suited for each other than us. At the same time, I can understand why we came together because there was also some common ground. We had two sons together and divorce only magnified our differences and our contempt. Those who choose to stay in those situations, (and many do) have other long term effects. The point is, there is no right decision or even better decision from what I can see. Had I stayed, there would have been different problems. I wish I had stayed in the marriage longer, for everyone’s benefit. I was headstrong and determined to leave. Eventually though, I would have ended it.
When I became single at 35 with two very young sons, I didn’t know that my life was about to take such a dramatic new direction as a result of that decision. It did. I learned to manage on my own and to become financially responsible and successful in order to provide my children with as much as I could under the circumstances. I also delved into a spiritual journey. I used my spiritual community as my main support. I got the answers I needed there. I got the inner guidance from my daily spiritual practice. I made lasting friendships with like minded individuals. I could not have had as much success with my individual quest without all the spiritual seeking that I did in those years.
Now when I meet women who are becoming single for the first time in their lives in their 50s or 60s, I can appreciate all that I had to learn quickly and under pressure at a younger age. The women that have to do that now, at this time in their lives due to divorce or death of spouse, have challenges that I didn’t have. I had youth on my side when it happened to me. They don’t. I have known some very resilient women that come up with creative ways to make it in the world in their later years after loss. It is sad though when I meet some along the way who are struggling to make ends meet because they never paid attention to financial matters and now are being forced to. How can a person enjoy single life in these later years if daily survival is the main issue?
I don’t have any family members beyond my two sons that can offer emotional or practical support. I have very little contact with the relatives who were part of my childhood and some have passed on. Friends die too. Some just move away. I currently live in a small town in the northeast where people are close to family and friends from childhood. My life experience has been the complete opposite and I feel that I have never fit in here. I kept trying to make it work until I realized, or someone pointed out to me, that I was trying to make the impossible possible. So once again I’m moving on.
This stage of transition is all too familiar to me. It’s about detachment and loss. It’s the phase of leaving one area but not arriving in the new area yet. It’s the array of feelings, senses and thoughts that go along with that. Was my life meaningful here? Did I make a difference? Who did I help? Who helped me? Could I have done more? What didn’t I do that I can do in the next place?
My younger son is autistic. I’m looking for places for him to get some transitional training in areas where I would like to live. So far he has been living with me and is dependent on me financially and for many other supports. This will free me up to have a more normal experience at this stage of life. I won’t be a 24/7 caretaker anymore. It feels frightening and exciting at the same time. I have doubts and enthusiasm all at once. I don’t want to get too excited in case he has to come back home after the 2 years. The program is supposed to teach him to be better able to live on his own but that will remain to be seen based on his limitations and what’s available. I’ve managed to work my life around his and without him being at the center, I think all things are possible for me again. I will write more about this as we go along. Government assisted housing for Autistic Adults is a major lack in this country. The cost of care is left to the parents and siblings. Only those who can afford to help can provide their children with suitable situations. Those who can’t are placed in the wrong level of care and are treated improperly. If you care to know more about this topic go to http://www.autismhousingnetwork.org
#aging #transitions #moving west #retirement #pre-retirement #agingsingle #parenting disabledadults #caretaker #autism
Many of us in this age bracket can fall into the trap of living in the past. “I used to be able to do that”, I often say. Or “I was married once way back when”. Or the ones I am most known for are “I used to be a dancer; I used to be a figure skater; I used to be fit; I used to be active; I used to live in NYC”. I guess the only things that those statements are good for are to divert the attention away from how awful and boring I have become as I passed 55 and am hovering around the pending and looming Six Oh. I will hold onto 59 as long as I can because who in the world wants to be in their 60s?
I met a woman in CO who wrote a book about how wonderful her life was after menopause. She says the “pounds came pouring off” and her marriage ended leaving her to really find her true self. Well that is all well and good for her but Menopause is about the worst thing I have ever experienced. In many ways it has been the beginning of the end for me. The drop in Serotonin levels made me more depressed than I was before, my weight soared without provocation and losing the pounds seems near impossible now. The fatigue has been immobilizing at times and well…if you want me to put a positive spin on Menopause, I won’t. No one ever told us the truth about this. I wish I had known some facts. I turn to Jane Fonda for my information about this later phase of life.
But we travel through the phases of our lives with ourselves. There may be some of the same people in our life that were there in the past and some may havec drifted off, but one thing is always consistent. We are still here with ourself. That can be a good thing if you can see good qualities in yourself. I rather prefer my own company to anyone else’s so it works for me. I think I’m a hoot to be with. I make myself laugh.
But back to the topic, as I look at this fit young women at the gym doing these very complex things with machines and weights, I think “I was like that too at that age”. Or “I was just like that once”, but I am not anything like that anymore. There is a moment of remorse and then I quickly recover, because what is the point of living in the past? It cannot move you forward at all. I have to set a baseline now for where I am in all areas of my life and then work from there. There really is no other way. It’s nice to know that I was once so much better but I honestly can’t say I was happier because of that.
What was the happiest time in your life? For me, besides the day I held my first born son after an excruciating birth, it was a particular day when I was 17. I had achieved success in many areas of my life and had reached many of my goals after always being the underachiever. It was a night when I was ice dancing and had tested in front of judges and had passed all of the tests. I was being praised by the judges and had reached a goal weight after much work. I had learned that nothing comes without effort and if you do the work it always pays off. It was a lesson for life that served me well in terms of achieving. But at this stage of life, how important are goals and achievements to us? I don’t have an answer to that. I’m sure it varies from person to person. Those who were particularly goal oriented throughout their lives probably continue to be. For me, there it’s taken a back seat to just enjoying the day. My priorities are changing. I am able to take moments to appreciate the very smallest things like my cat staring out the back sliders as she breathes in a little fresh air through the screen. It is this unseasonably warm weather in the northeast while also looking at trees turning to indescribable colors in the yellow and orange families. It’s appreciating being cancer free in this moment until someone tells me otherwise. It’s having choices and options that I never had before. There are some pleasant sensations while staying in the moment. It doesn’t have to be all bad.
Here is my story up to this time in life. I write for the 50-70 year old set. I hope my story helps someone else.
When I was younger I did a lot of writing, took writing classes and have always enjoyed writing throughout my life. I thought I “knew my voice” on paper but now I realize that I am searching for my voice. The voice that I had in that freshman year course at Ithaca College in 1976 is not my voice anymore. I remember her. I’m not her anymore. The essence is there but life experiences have changed me. She was in love. I am not.
I think it would be better if I just share with you what my current situation is and how this stage of life is affecting me. At first, when I started this blog I thought I would come from a professional angle. Then I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to say at all or the audience that I wanted to reach. I just want to share my story and see if it helps anyone or if it touches someone in any way.
I am 59. there I said it. Some say “no need to tell your age or to keep repeating your age to yourself”. But I think it’s relevant here because I’m right in the middle of the 50-70 year old range. The 50s went by so fast. I was young at 50. I was young at 52, but something happened around 53 that I had never anticipated. My body began to really fall apart. I had taken good care of it. I had eaten healthy foods, and had been pretty athletic throughout my life. Because of all of my athletic pursuits, my body began to strike back. I had multiple injuries, illness, balance issues. Lots of work ups at the doctor’s office. The main issues have been breast cancer in 2013 and Lyme Disease in 2016.
I have been a single mother since 1992 when my kids were 1 and 3 years old. That has taken its toll too. On top of that, my youngest son, now 26 is autistic and my older son, 28, has had his share of mental health challenges as well. For many years I worked 2 and 3 jobs and tried to juggle their multiple special needs at school, and at the many doctor’s appointments. There were therapists, psychiatrists, geneticists and endocrinologists for the kids. It was really hard. Looking back, it was impossible to achieve what I was trying to achieve, which was…perfection?
It wasn’t a fun life. It was quite the opposite and yet I managed to make it very meaningful and full of great memories in spite of it all. Post divorce, I found a spiritual path that helped me to stay on track and to not give up hope. I became extremely involved in that path and spent hours at the spiritual center at classes as well as teaching and guiding others while also being guided and helped in tremendous ways. We went to seminars all over the country and I managed to get to these several times/year. It saved my life, literally, and helped me to keep going.
Then 2010 happened. Life turned upside down again. But then I put the pieces together. I relocated to a new state. I got licensed in that state in my field. I found work. I bought a townhouse. Life was pretty good for awhile. I lost both parents in 3 years with lots of drama and turmoil associated with each death. My son got married and moved away. He graduated from college and grad school between then and now and has been in his field of work for 3 years.
Where am I today, you ask? It’s the end of 2016 and I’m anticipating a move across the country. I wanted this blog to be about that. I wanted to share my journey with you, the reader and to hear about yours too. Like everyone else I feel disconnected and seek more connection in my life. I want to be part of a community but cannot find a community that I want to be part of. I sort of fit in one place but “not really”. I kind of fit “there” but “not really there either”. My mother used to say I was the “princess and the pea” and I think that is so accurate. I can never really get comfortable and I can feel the tiniest pea at the bottom of my mattress which would keep me awake all night. I am hypersensitive and have learned to appreciate that about myself. My intuition is not my enemy but I’ve learned to keep my inner thoughts quiet because I can rarely get agreement from others but I am right sometimes. Not always. It’s better not to have opinions about others’ situations and to remain neutral. As for my own, it’s best to follow my gut. I am often right about what I need to do for me.
What can we do to enjoy this stage of life more? Instead of giving up all hope and shrugging and saying “that’s just the way it is”, we need to take charge of our health and habits. Never before in our lives have our bad habits mattered as much as they do now. One way to dig yourself out of poor eating habits and lack of exercise is to slowly incorporate healthy steps. The more you add healthy things to your life the more you will crave them. I am not a nutritionist but I do know from reading as much as I can on healthy nutrition that Omega 6s, or avocados, fish, fish oil and walnuts are really good brain food. Why wouldn’t we want to do all that we can to slow down the deterioration of our brains? Sleep is important and setting up a bedtime and wake up that is consistent at least 5 days/ week.
As long as we compare ourselves today to our younger selves or to those younger than us, we will feel defeated. It really doesn’t matter what we used to do or what we used to be. It helps to get a baseline on yourself today. Be honest. That is always a good first step. Are you on lots of medications? What is your weight and how far above a normal BMI is it? Yes, maybe you used to be very active and you exercised all the time but what is your activity level right now. Then take just tiny steps toward improving that. If you go full throttle into a new healthy regime, it will be very hard to maintain that unless you are a super type A personality.
In my work I have counseled people with type 2 diabetes and post cardiac events from a behavioral perspective in healthy lifestyle programs. Often I found that many of the cardiac clients were actually thin and fit and after they were hospitalized they returned to work as fast as they could for fear that they would lose their momentum, but that was exactly the issue that landed them in the hospital in the first place. They were often healthy eaters and avid exercisers but they way in which they lived their lives was way out of balance.
What can you do today that would be reasonable to take your life in a different direction and to change the trajectory of your future? There are many things we don’t have control over but it’s important to take control where we can. You don’t need a lesson in what’s bad for you and what’s good for you. Most people already know the answers to that. The question is why would you continue to participate in destructive behaviors when you can always choose the opposite?
Health becomes the #1 concern at this stage of life because it’s now that we can set up a better future and plan for an active final stage. There can be much sadness at this time. We lose our parents, our children may have issues that we didn’t anticipate. We face financial problems that we didn’t expect. These years for many are not at all as we had pictured or the way our parents lived them. If it isn’t at the forefront of your thoughts, perhaps it should be.
As “boomers” we were used to getting lots of attention up to a point. Then the other generations were born and to advertisers, they seemed to be a lot more interesting. What has divided “us” from “them” in my view, is technology. I was fortunate to have had a father who was a high tech aeronautical engineer. He introduced me to computers in the 60s. In a speech class I gave a talk on computers in about 1969. The class was very bored and they giggled at my ridiculous topic. I felt humiliated. My father used to take me to his office which was involved in missile defense. Downstairs in the basement were several large frame computers kept cold because of necessity. He showed me how the information went in and was processed and then released printed data. My father was always scribbling bizarre formulas on yellow pads. He loved his work and would sit in his chair and scribble his formulas long into the night.
His generation went to school and graduate school in order to excel in their fields. I felt there was a promise made that if we just put our time in after college we would eventually climb the ladder to promotions. This was not actually the case. When we came out of college, many women with college degrees still had to be secretaries or administrative assistants. Things have changed. Expectations of graduates have changed. It wasn’t long before my supervisors were much younger than me and had very little experience in the field of mental health. Something seems to have gone amiss in our group. Somehow it feels like we were born just at the wrong time. It was the wrong time for getting attention because we were such a large group. There was a population explosion and we were part of that. There was a women’s movement that literally turned our lives and our thinking upside down. I remember in the 1970s, having been raised one way, to marry and have children, how suddenly everything seemed to have changed. After taking some women’s studies courses in college I felt very confused and angry. The awareness of how unequal marriage really was and how unfair the job market was, was pretty infuriating. I wasn’t even sure why I was in college except for the fact that I grew up in an affluent Jewish community that expected academic excellence. I was getting different messages at home from my “old school” parents. My father didn’t believe in a college education for a daughter and often said “you will get married and your brother will have to make a living”. That’s not the same messages my peers were getting but that’s how it was in my house.
In my work and my career as a licensed mental health professional I have encountered so many people in person and through phone counseling programs across the US who are in our age group. Many women are disillusioned. They find themselves in their 50s, divorced, without support, barely making ends meet and not sure at all how they will ever retire. Some, like me, have a disabled child. My son is autistic and has become 100% my responsibility. Others had kids with drug problems or mental illness or both. Since 2008 there have been many home foreclosures and people in these later stages of life who are starting over. There seems to be more agism in the workplace. I experienced that myself in a corporate setting. Proving that you’ve been mistreated because of your age is not an easy task.
It feels at times that we are the forgotten generation. There is a lot of attention put on the elderly or the young. Many men and women are having children in their 40s and 50s and so by the age of 60 they still have young children. I find that many women, especially, that I have worked with are unable to keep up with the technical demands of today’s world. These are observations that I’ve made and it seems important to bring out these issues. Our generation doesn’t always ask for or expect help. We muddle through. We manage but we suffer silently. We’ve put our kids’ needs at the forefront of our lives, more than, perhaps, many of our parents ever did. We are more in tune with the needs of our children than they were. We are more educated and aware of their needs because our own weren’t always met.
The point of this blog is not to complain and bring people down but to point out how resilient and intelligent our group really is. We are undervalued in today’s world and our talents are often overlooked by younger superiors at work. I noticed that I have become more and more silent in group situations as I observe people of varying ages so full of confidence and certainty about their abilities even though I’ve had years more experience. Sometimes it feels as though experience has no value at all.
How can we age gracefully? How can we start making our needs known as a group? What sets us apart from other generations? What makes us unique and special? How can we regain our voice? We were so vocal in the 60s and 70s and we were the center of it all. Now I sense some disillusionment and disappointment over a world gone mad in many respects. Many marriages haven’t lasted but our parent’s generation stayed together “no matter what”. Many women are single in their 50s and 60s and wondering what retirement will be for them. How can we make the rest of our lives rich and satisfying? I am struggling with that question myself.
I was looking for a way to tie together all the valuable things that I feel I can offer others. After 30 years in the mental health and health care fields I have accumulated some knowledge about many different topics. I have a private practice in a small town outside of Hartford, CT but I want to reach more people in more places. I have noticed that there is this forgotten group of 50-70 year old. It’s a group which I am a member of and I’m smack in the middle at 59. There are many things that I have noticed about our group and the value that we bring to the world. Right now, especially, more than in past generations, this group is devalued at work, at home and in life. I would like to be just 1 voice in this group to encourage others to speak up and find their own new callings at “This Stage of Life”.
Wikipedia defines Baby Boomers as:
Baby boomers are the demographic group born during the post–World War II baby boom, approximately between the years 1946 and 1964. This includes people who are between 52 and 70 years old in 2016.
What stands most about us, to me, is that we went through such tumultuous changes in the 60s and 70s including the women’s movement, followed by the technical age. None of us grew up with cell phones or GPSs or laptops. When some of our babies were born in the 1990s, it was unusual for them to play with computers but that changed with time. It wasn’t long before we were experiencing agism in the workplace and having difficulty keeping up with the latest technology. There are still many among my peers and clients who do not or will not text or who struggle to upload a photo in an email.
When we were young the best jobs were saved for this age group. Our parents would get steady promotions throughout their careers and their prime was in their 50s and 60s at work. Now there seems to be a downward spiral for so many. I encounter women everywhere in this age group that are single now, divorced or widowed or never married and really don’t think they can ever retire from jobs that they are not happy with and are not treated well in.
It’s wonderful to be positive about aging and act as though it’s a glorious experience and maybe for some it is. There is also a silent majority of people in this age group across this country who are struggling in ways they never dreamed they would. Foreclosed homes, lost jobs, demotions, accepting jobs far beneath their education level. Studies have shown high rates of depression in this group of baby boomers. We were idealistic, wild and crazy in the 60s and 70s and now some are disillusioned. I want to provide a voice for them and some hope that we have our strengths and we certainly have more value than we are being credit for.