Archive for the ‘Aging’ Category
I find myself in one of those “dreaming of the future” kind of moods. I blame the financial planner I met with last week.She got me thinking again about buying a house, having a little land, a couple of alpacas. . .I think I need this dream just now.
When I dream big and let myself go into what I really want in a house, here’s what I imagine.
A timberframe structure with about 1800 square feet of living space. A separate bedroom/sitting room and bathroom for me, and then an open floor plan with kitchen, dining, and living rooms all connected in a wide open space with a double-sided fireplace. Guest rooms upstairs off the lofted library. A tiny little cabin separate from the house that would be my office.
I’d have a few acres of land where I could raise a garden and probably a couple of alpacas. There would be a stream nearby, close enough that I could hear it at night with the windows open. Lots of tress and seclusion, no neighbors in sight.
I’d live in the mountains in a rural community where people do things for themselves out of necessity rather than vogue. A city would be within 45 minutes so that I could see concerts and watch movies and spend time with people in anonymous settings if need be.
It’s not much, but it is so much . . . so much that would fill me and thrill me.
What would your dream house look like?
I woke up in the middle of the night last week scheming some expensive plan that involved travel and new outfits; probably something to do with the “resort” clothing catalogs arriving each January I thought, “Oh. You’re too old for that.” I’d also need a serious Brazilian Wax and pedicure.
I’m past my fourth decade. I never was able to have children. I’ve danced at my friends’ weddings over the past decade. They each had children and entered the Mommy Universe – a place I’ll never be: with them or otherwise. I’m still the same person I was when I was 32, except I’m not.
I still exercise 5 mornings a week in order to be “ultra sleek”. There is nothing to be “ultra sleek” for – except for me. There are no more nights spent dancing or having parties at each other’s homes. There are parties at homes of course; for other people in the Parental Universe. I’m lonely.
At a time in my life when I thought I’d be married with children and a career – I’m married with a career and an obsessive exercise habit. I also have a nasty addiction to clothes and shoes. I need a twelve step program because, honestly, WHO ever sees me besides the four other people I work with? I could wear the same outfit every day for two weeks and I’m nearly certain no one would notice.
I notice myself. I notice when that dress makes me feel like an elegant Druid. I notice those boots that looked great on line but make me feel like a Storm Trooper. I also notice the extra 5 pounds so no matter how much I want to raid the Hershey Kiss stash in the office – I don’t.
I strive for a healthy relationship with my self and with my husband. I don’t think any of us ever truly gets it perfect. For instance, on New Year’s Eve I had tears streaming down my face because I’ll never have children. I thought I was over that. Apparently not.
So what’s a woman to do? Call her girlfriend who has entered the Grandma Universe and plan a weekend away to a SKI RESORT. No new outfits required; or skiing for that matter. Strike a Pose!
Shawna Martin studied Philosophy at Temple University, is a huge Prince fan, a voracious reader and very content with her odd family of two humans, two cats, and a wily Brittany Spaniel. She works for LMI Advertising.
There are clods of dirt on the roof of the Audi.
The Audi is always perfectly clean, and something of an incongruity. It’s the fire engine red of a Ferrari, but it’s a station wagon. It possesses a sporty engine to match its color and enough trunk space to hold the gear of small children.
Let’s rewind to the night before. I return home from work late, and it’s already dark outside. There are a row of condos on the hill overlooking our house, and there’s a noisy party going on at one of them. Mom and Dad are clearly out of town, and the back porch appears to have been taken over by their high school son and a dozen of his friends. The music blares loudly but not out of control, and I look at them more out of envy than annoyance. I disappear back into a home where nighttime means dinner and baths, stories and bedtime. We may watch a DVD if we’re feeling really adventurous.
The next day, there are clods of dirt on the roof of the Audi.
How, one might ask, could dirt end up on the roof of the car? Particularly on the roof of a car that is washed a couple of times per week. There are a few more on the car port, bombs of green and brown that had fallen a few feet short of the car. A quick look around for potential trajectory leads my line of vision to the wreck of the porch above me.
The partygoers are eating breakfast. It is eleven o’clock in the morning. The boys are wearing boxers and no shirts, even though it’s cold outside. The girls are buried in hooded sweatshirts, long hair falling in their cups of coffee.
I make a big show of walking around the car and putting my hands on my hips. I huff. I say, “WHO COULD HAVE DONE THIS?”
My children pick up the charge, suckers for anything with intrigue, “WHO DID THIS TO OUR CAR?”
My husband comes outside, and we wait for him to notice that something is wrong with his baby. In case he doesn’t, I stir the pot by pointing it out, which moves things along. He doesn’t look as angry as I expect, and this is somehow disappointing. We all get in the car and head out for a quiet, family Sunday lunch.
On our way down our street, he suddenly turns sharply to the right to take the steep bank up to the condos.
“Dadddyy…..” say the children, clearly excited by the possibility of a dispute.
He wordlessly parks the car and storms away. I have some moments of doubt, wondering if children were playing outside the previous day, if I had pointed the Adult finger of blame too quickly.
He returns about a minute later.
“Well?” I ask.
“He didn’t deny it,” said my husband. “I told him not to let it happen again.”
Telling them not to do it again just seemed like they were getting away with something.
“I also said that the next time, I would come up and kick his ass.”
We start to snicker. This sounds better, both menacing and on a level a teenager might appreciate. Evidently, the kid agreed fully that this was the last time. He might have even used the word “sir.”
We wonder for a moment how we became those old folks it’s fun to torment on the street. Throwing things at someone’s house, at a certain age, isn’t malicious so much as it is a solution to boredom. I wondered if they were actually aiming for our gutters, and the car got in the way. Cheers probably ensued. It may have looked like a basketball game. It’s hard to begrudge them that. We live out in the country where there isn’t a lot to do, except throw dirt off your front porch. Hey, maybe we would feel like throwing dirt too if we could stay up late enough to drink more than one beer. No one’s ass was ever getting kicked, but our young neighbor doesn’t know that…and maybe that will make the game more interesting for them the next time.
Amanda Callendrier teaches composition and coordinates the Writing Center at the Geneva, Switzerland campus of Webster University. She blogs for Skirt!.
Each December, magical benefit elves descend on my nonprofit’s office and try to woo us. They hold up shiny objects like life insurance policies and 401(k) investments and flexible spending plans.
I am immune. I have to keep my paycheck focused on things like mortgages, student loans, and Cheez-its.
However, for every employee over 55, it is bug eyes and copious note taking.
Sensing my seat on the sidelines of this mature discussion always has me self reflecting about getting older. Am I aging gracefully or am I kicking Father Time in the shins while plotting my escape?
It’s the shins.
Here’s a few of the ways I’m throwing a punch:
1. Fitness: Please don’t get crazy. I’m not actually fit. But I do like to push my knees to the brink with rafting, skiing, and 4-square. Plus, it never hurts to schedule in daily dance breaks.
2. Drugstore Choices: Hair colors, face serums, and sparkly spackle are the best way to place the ravages of time in time out.
3. Pop Culture: I’m not afraid to love that which may be age-inappropriate. Phineas & Ferb, Demi Lovato, The Muppets, and one RobertDouglasThomasPattinson.
4. Muffin Top: Carrying extra pounds leads to a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. However, those Cheez-its are a great over-the-counter collagen to fill out pesky hand wrinkles and brow lines. You may die 10 years earlier, but your coffin-side 16 x 20 portrait won’t need airbrushing.
5. Menu: A gourmet bowl of Cookie Crisp with a side of apple slices makes for a delightful meal. It’s all the better when served with a full-bodied grape Kool-Aid
How do you stay young?
Jamie Golden is a single 30-something from Birmingham, Alabama who likes to follow the conversation wherever the medication may lead. She majors in sleeping and minors in photography, baking, party-planning, traveling, and changing out handbags. Jamie blogs at Jamie’s Rabbits and tweets at @jamiesrabbits.
I’ve noticed a trend in the last year. It’s not a trend I like. It’s a trend I especially dislike when it’s directed at me.
Maybe it’s because I lost my mom that I’m more sensitive, or more it’s because most of these women know that I lost my mom and think, thus, I need mothering. Whatever it is – I don’t like it.
Older women seem to think if their job to mother me, and by “mother” me, I don’t mean make me cookies and crochet me scarves – those things I like. Nope, instead, they seem to think that the best way to love me is to give me advice. I don’t like advice.
You see, my mom was really not one for advice. I can only remember one time when she directly gave me advice, and that was in a letter, and it was clearly advice hard-wrung from her hand. It was about being not only “innocent as doves,” but also “wise as serpents.” She was concerned that I was being naive. She was right.
But that’s it. The only advice she ever gave me.
Somehow, though, these older women seem to think I need a lot of advice. Maybe it’s because I’m open with my struggles; maybe it’s that they think that trying to show me a way through these struggles is what I’m asking for; maybe it’s because they don’t like to see me struggle and, thus, want to get me past the challenge as fast as possible. I don’t know exactly why they do it.
But I wish they’d stop.
What I need are people who listen, people who tell me their stories and let me draw my own wisdom from their experiences, people who hold my hand and laugh with me and hand me a cookie. I don’t need answers. I need support.
So please, if you know a woman who is struggling, don’t advise her. Don’t tell her how to “get over it” or get past it or get beyond it. Instead, sit with her and listen. Then, share. Be a friend.
That’s what my mother did, and she was the best.
On Tuesday, I wrote about complementarianism, particularly as some people see it pertains to The Fall of humanity. As expected there were some fairly heated reactions to my post, and I appreciate all of them. This topic stirs people up, and I’m glad to hear respectful, reasoned arguments about the ideas of gender-roles in marriage.
One of the things that is difficult for me in the complementarian position is that as a single woman I’m kind of stranded without a role. I can’t take care of my spouse and children because I don’t have them, and I have to be the financial provider for my household, namely me. Thus, I don’t fit the complementarian model.
But this reality is only one small indicator of the major flaw I see in complementarian thinking – it doesn’t take into account the passages of Scripture that call for a higher sense of identity than gender or race or class. As it says in Galatians 3:28-29:
In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.
When I read this passage, I see a sense of purpose that extends beyond gender identity and beyond our relationship to each other, as important as that is. Instead, our central identity is in our relationship with Christ.
Yes, we have other identities. I am a woman. I am a daughter, a writer, a reader, a teacher, a (reluctant) runner – and those things are important elements of me, but they are not THE important part.
When I consider having to squelch my gifts of leadership and teaching and submit them to someone who gets to claim those gifts simply because of his gender, I don’t see this as finding my true identity in Christ. Instead, I am finding my identity – or refusing the use of my “talents” – because I wasn’t born a man. That just doesn’t seem to mesh with the rest of my understanding of Scripture or the nature of God.
Not to mention the whole issue of same sex marriages (which is, I know, another hotbed of controversy). I know many people in the church, whether or not they hold to complementarianism, do not believe same-sex marriage is acceptable. I, however, do (and will write a post about why at a later time), and so this particular teaching becomes especially problematic when there are not two genders involved in the marriage. How does this get sorted?
So while I truly do respect people who choose to enter a marriage where both parties agree to a complementarian pattern of life and while I can absolutely see where Scripture could be read to uphold this patter of life, I do not understand, and I honestly disagree with it on some significant levels. I could not be a part of such a marriage; I think it would quite literally damage me.
All of this said, I am not an expert on these subjects, nor do I want to pretend to be such. I’m simple a Believer, trying to walk by faith more than by sight. And my faith says that God honors all that I am and doesn’t need me to hold part of that back because God decided I would be born a woman.
What do you think of complementarianism? Why do you hold to it? Why do you not?
On Tuesday, I wrote about the pain of being single, so while I’m on a role with pouring out my most sensitive spots, I thought I’d tackle the other life issue that hurts me deeply – being childless. Actually, it’s not really being childless that hurts; it’s society’s reaction to this situation that is painful.
I have never been one of those women who really wants kids or who wanted her life’s work to be raising children. I honor and respect that desire, but it has never been mine. In fact, I’ve never even really wanted to be pregnant – just wasn’t given that desire.
At times in my life, I have really wanted to be a mother – to care for children and have a world that is circumscribed largely by the people who live in my house. At other times, I have wanted to be married (that desire never changes) but not have children – just enjoy my life with my husband.
As I’ve gotten older and most of my friends have had children, I have been blessed to love those kids with a passion. (Given, now I need a calendar to keep their birthdays straight – and I still miss some – but I love them all the same.) But more and more, the fact that my friends are parents and I am not has been a challenge for me in my friendships.
Some of that challenge comes from the sheer realities of life – their lives are focused on raising other humans to be healthy, wise, loving people, and those smaller humans require a lot of time and energy and thought and care. My life is dictated by what works for me on that day; I think about other people all the time, but ultimately, how I spend my day is my choice. This is a drastic difference in perspective – a difference that can be hard to overcome when we are making conversation or talking about our life’s struggles.
But there’s another element of the challenge of friendship between people with kids and those that don’t have kids – it’s subtle, but it can also be hurtful, especially if you’re among the few who don’t have children. As this article from Shine sums up, I can easily begin to feel inferior or clueless, and sometimes it seems like people think that you can’t understand children or empathize with them if you aren’t a parent. (I wrote a huge rant about this once because an NPR commentator implied that only a mother could understand the pain of children ). I know that part of my sensitivity is that I feel like I’m missing out on something, something that may entirely pass me by, but part of it is, genuinely, a subtle belief by some that parents are better people.
Most people I know who are parents are incredibly gracious, loving people who talk to me like I’m an equal, thinking, insightful adult. Most folks treat me like I am, indeed, fully capable. But once in a while, someone responds to me – particularly in discussions about kids – like I am so dumb I’m lucky I can find my way out of bed in the morning. Those responses make me angry, but more deeply they hurt me because they imply that because I have not spent days and months at a time parenting children I am an idiot. This is not so.
Just because I am childless does not mean that I care less for children, that I don’t know what it is to feel profound, unquestioning love, that I am not tired or worn out or frustrated, or that I am somehow less of a person because I don’t have children. It also doesn’t mean that I want my friendships to flag or to be left out of birthday parties or gatherings just because I’m not a mom. I want to be a part of all that life can give me.
So when you know someone who doesn’t have children, don’t assume the choice was theirs or that it wasn’t. Don’t assume that they don’t want to be around you or your kids. Don’t assume that they can’t show your children love and grace in profound, fresh ways. Don’t assume anything, in fact, at all.
One of the things that this journey of life has taught me is that although our paths may be very different, our struggles, our questions, our joys are often very much the same – and I have also learned that we all are trying to do the best we can. Parent or childless. Single or married. Gay or straight. Rich or poor. Black or white. We are all built in the Image . . . and to that we must live.
Yesterday, Shelva wrote about the issues of body image that Barbie brings up for her and her concerns about raising children in a world where Barbie is part of the standard of beauty and where people lament a Barbie who looks like an actual woman – pink hair, tattoos, and all. I wholeheartedly agree with my friend Shelva – Barbie has done me some damage.
I had Barbies as a kid, and while at a young age I didn’t think anything of them (besides that they bored me and didn’t really provide much entertainment, at least not as much as books), I certainly grew up to internalize the standard of beauty that Barbie represents. Tiny waist, big boobs, shapely legs, and great hair. I also internalized that beautiful meant you had perfect skin and stylish clothes. My parents didn’t teach me that, and by herself, Barbie didn’t teach me that either.
But the truth is that by the time I was 11 or so, I already knew that I was not beautiful in the way American society judged beauty. I had terrible skin, big thighs, crazy hair, and I wore glasses, and much to my dismay, there was nothing I could do about that – at least nothing I could do to make myself look the way society said I SHOULD – not could but SHOULD as a woman of value.
As an adult, I have learned – at least intellectually – that beauty is internal and my continuing acne, my encroaching gray hair, and my still larger than I’d like thighs do not take away from my beauty. On good days, all of me believes that. But most days, I still want to look like Barbie – thinner, blonder, and with those feet that naturally fit into heels.
But as an adult, I have also learned that I am beautiful in more ways than physical ones – my intellect, my writing, my compassion, my ability to make a great cup of coffee – these are the places where I find my beauty.
It’s just too bad that I didn’t grow up believing and knowing I was beautiful. It’s a shame that I had to learn to find my beauty – that I lost it somewhere along the way with all those Barbie dolls. It’s a shame any girl has to learn that lesson.
Yesterday, Shelva wrote about her experience at “The Middle Aged Table” for her cousin’s wedding. Like her, I do wonder how I’ve ended up being the one in the middle of life instead of at the beginning.
Or maybe I should be historical in my definition and think about getting a suit of armor?
Lately, this idea of middle age has come up a lot for me and not just because my 37th birthday is in a few weeks. Last night, I heard about a gathering of women – all women I know – who were brought together because they were middle-aged; I wasn’t invited – I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s because I don’t have children.
Then, a friend today posted about Generation X and talked about how we are in middle age with our houses and our retirement plans.
I don’t have a spouse, kids, or a house. And yet, here I am in the middle of my life.
So how do we define this idea of “middle age?” Is it in years or accomplishments? Family? Possessions?
Middle age seems to be defined – for some – by a certain place in life – the common place of kids and houses and looking to retirement – but that’s not my definition. Instead, I define it this way – middle age is the time when you know who you are and pursue that path with all that you are. I like that. Not stuff, not relationships, not even years – but identity and security in that identity – that’s what makes you middle aged.
But since it seems often that middle aged is defined by something other than the number of years on the planet, and since I don’t have – at this moment – any of those things – spouse, kids, house, retirement plan (okay, I have one, but it’s pretty paltry) – I’m going to say I’m still a “young adult” and enjoy the joy of that “age” while also embracing the identity that each of my nearly 37 years has brought me.
How do you define middle-age? Young adulthood? Old age? Is it a set of things or relationships, a state of mind, a chronological fact, or a matter of identity?