thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

the lulling

http://www.centerprogressive.org/lulled-into-numbness/

Successful movement through this Transition Zone accounts for some of the data about that upswing of happiness after the 40s, but not all. A larger source, in my experience, of later life happiness is more likely masked resignation and accommodation: People who more or less give up trying to grow and change. They decide, consciously or unconsciously, to lope along in the life they’ve been living and define that as happiness.

It’s illusory, though, because over time they tend to become “comfortably numb,” emotionally and spiritually. And, increasingly vulnerable to physical ailments, an upsurge of late-life depression, alcoholism or drug usage.

My daily meditation practice has provided me with a lot of benefits. My health has improved and I’m much calmer and more forgiving of others.

It hasn’t changed my actual circumstances though– despite the popular theory of “abundance”– and so, at the same time, I feel numb. Undeniably and remarkably numb. Numbly adapted to my circumstances.

I have trained myself not to expect romantic romantic fulfillment and not to feel disappointment over the lack of deep, meaningful friendships in my life or any kind of consistent intimacy. I have cultivated an appreciation for pleasant diversions and have stopped expecting much more than that in my time away from work. Having recently been bruised on the job market, I have stopped hoping for a job that truly engages me and instead appreciate the fact that I have one I don’t hate and that may allow me to retire early, if I hold my lifestyle steady.

All of this “accommodation” has taken a toll, but I’m unsure what choice I have. I could try online dating again, but chances are slim that anything will come of it, and I don’t particularly feel up to the psychic drain. I already participate in a number of social activities, but rarely do I meet like-minded peers. Occasionally I’m really, really enlivened by and drawn to a performer or artist of some kind, but outside of polite exchanges, nothing ever develops. I don’t see any solution to the job problem, but feel it could be greatly ameliorated by a satisfying personal life, but then that brings me back to the beginning of this paragraph.

I would like to keep growing, but I feel like I am reaching the limits of how much I can grow in solitude.

Accommodation. Resignation. I can’t see a way out.

pencil to paper

http://thoughtcatalog.com/katie-devine/2013/09/im-35-and-im-glad-i-dont-have-kids-or-a-husband/

I am the sales rep, I am the apartment dweller, I am the car leaser. Nothing too permanent, nothing that lasts. It’s a life lived in pencil instead of pen. It can be erased in an instant.

I’m not where I always thought I would be at 35.

the upside down

https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/help-desk/bank-robbin-in-brooklyn/#rf8-5159

Everything is upside down. Your life is sold to serve an economy that does not serve your life. So should you turn to crime, if you haven’t already? Do whatever it takes to avoid participating in this “construct,” risking hunger, imprisonment, or dependence on people with real jobs, who’ve learned to keep their heads down?6 Should you learn to do a better job hiding your soul from the oligarchs and make what is beautiful on nights and weekends, if you can get them, when you are not too tired, and have not drunk yourself into numb oblivion? Or should you sacrifice years of your life to educate yourself, incur massive debt,7 and “put in your time” to qualify for a job that might feel more like “creating something beautiful,” only to risk turning that very beauty into “the most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” too? Should you try to work harder, save more, get your hands on some capital, even though the game seems impossibly rigged, so that if you do work out how to make a profit, it will be incredibly difficult to do so without replicating the system of exploitation that enrages you?

[…]

What I will have to say to you, by the end of this, is that anyone who has found a way to transform anger into purpose and even some measure of peace about work has learned to reckon with two contradictory truths:

Most work seems designed to make you feel absolutely alone, and
Almost everyone, if they are honest with themselves, feels exactly like you about much of the work they do.

[..]

With my butt up in the air, I have meditated on how everything is an illusion and tried to learn to detach from my boredom with bending over, jumping back, and putting my butt up in the air, trying not to think about the possibility that one of yoga’s most important historical functions has been to help people cope with a caste system cultivated by the Aryan invaders of India in 1500 BCE and institutionalized by the British invaders in the 19th and 20th centuries, a system organized by color like South Africa during apartheid, in which the lightness of your skin coincided with your class and thus the kind of labor you might do. To believe that because you were born dark-skinned and a servant you must remain a servant until your next reincarnation is perhaps easier when you have learned to endure repetitive compulsory movements, especially when the dominant movement is to prostrate yourself with your butt up in the air, while practicing detaching from your desires. I have tried not to think about the fact that more and more Americans are finding this practice incredibly helpful, if not necessary, to keep this whole thing going.

[…]

But I suspect that for most of the members of the upper 10 percent, and even the 1 percent, the real story is different—it is the system that is exploitative, and they have chosen to fight for a position in that system that is the only way to have a kind of personal power that should be everyone’s right. Do you think that if they weren’t so scared of falling into our position, so many people would choose to work in finance, for example, an industry built, in large part, on preying on the debt of others? Employment in that sector is currently the one of the best bets for ensuring one’s basic needs are met, and sending one’s children to college, if they want to go, and getting to live where you most want to live, and traveling to other countries, and getting good health care, without going into debt. It’s not bad to want these things, it’s just that everyone should have them.

the buffet

This is a major, and ridiculously exhausting, shift in how we mate as a species, the biggest, it seems, since birth control. As online dating becomes less stigmatized—just 21 percent of Internet users think online dating is “desperate,” down eight points since 2005, according to the Pew Research Center—more and more singles, hoping to meet their match, are turning to the digital world. It isn’t the age of the hook-up; it’s the age of the never-ending first date.

While any slut can game the system if he or she so pleases, bedding the city via Tinder or any number of online dating apps, what’s less often acknowledged is that regular people are going on an inordinate number of dates and getting very little—sexual or otherwise—in the process.

Read more at http://observer.com/2014/07/50000-first-dates-online-dating-makes-finding-a-partner-in-nyc-harder-than-ever/#ixzz38jffX8mV
Follow us: @newyorkobserver on Twitter | newyorkobserver on Facebook

boosters

Of course I advocate for four eight-hour days, not four ten-hour days, as many governments have adopted:

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/24/5_reasons_its_time_for_a_4_day_work_partner/

Let’s be honest. Being on a treadmill where all you do is work, eat and sleep, is a crappy way to live. That’s why the four-day work-week is good for morale and worker happiness. Spending more time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies and interests outside of work, and engaging with the community are all things that boost well-being and keep employees, sane, focused and committed to their jobs.

Ryan Carlson of Treehouse says he finds his workers “invigorated and excited” when they come in after a three-day weekend. He also finds that it’s easier both to recruit and retain workers with a four-day work-week policy, because their lives are more balanced and they feel much happier.

And this is one reason I’m glad I don’t have kids (from a commenter):

How many young people, if they truly understood what the future held for them, would cheerfully embark on a working life made up of a soul-killing 5/7 or more of our weekdays spent working, 50 or more weeks out of every year, for forty to fifty years?

No one at age 18 thinks that’s what’s in store for them, just like everyone thinks they’re going to become (m)(b)illionaires someday. Yet by the time we’ve figured out that this is indeed what adult life is going to be – even in jobs we love – we’re committed, locked in, and find there is no reasonable escape from a system that considers it a virtue to sacrifice family and home for work.

And self-employment offers no solutions; the self-employed usually get to work even longer hours with fewer vacations, less time for family and less hope for a comfortable retirement.

If humans are so smart, how come we can’t devise an economic system that is more humane and is a better fit for our species?

skipping it

Since my first job in my early twenties, I’ve tried to be careful about “wishing my life away,” thinking about nothing but my next vacation (or, as I got older, retirement). To this end, instead of putting all my hopes and dreams into exotic vacations, I tried to find activities I was excited about that I could look forward to on a weekly basis.

And yet, I’m starting to feel like I’d be willing to give away the next ten years of my life to get to retirement already. That makes it sound like I’m seriously depressed, but I’m not. I just don’t have high hopes for this particular phase of my life. The physically uncomfortable transition of menopause is looming, I can’t count on finding romance, the activities I enjoy are pleasurable but no longer thrilling (salsa, swimming, etc.), and I can’t seem to get excited about taking a vacation since I’d have to travel solo, which has also lost its thrill. Additionally the novelty of exploring California is gone. I’m in a job that overall I’m happy with and appreciate having but my career field has never been my dream. The new challenges that come with promotions are helpful, but I’m less and less interested in the field as a whole. Finally, while my new home is pleasant, I can’t shake the sense that I’m just “passing through” and without a family I will remain on the periphery.

The pull of just doing my own thing, sleeping in and having time to read retains its hold on me. In the meantime I continue to look for things that will seize me, engaging me with today as opposed to tomorrow.

scrapbooks

I’ve written about this before, but I have almost no interest in seeing movies or watching television anymore. Today I have even less interest than when I started this blog. This is probably fairly common as one ages; after all, the targeted demographic ends at age 34.

But I think there is an even bigger reason, which is that I no longer feel a part of the culture. I am at the exact midpoint of life, and this year closes the book on the first half. That tale didn’t end as expected, and I no longer believe in or identify with the major story threads promulgated by our society.

Daily meditation likely adds to this strange feeling of being outside the accepted narrative.

Blogging is probably the ideal format to tell my arc-less story. There are no big turning points or neat endings, just buffetings, false starts, recoveries back to baseline, and ferreted scraps pointing the way to fellow wanderers.

conclusions

For the most part, I found Bryan Callan’s interview of Kristin Newman to be sensitive, supportive, and astute (I could only get it to play in iTunes):

http://bryancallen.com/2014/05/19/ep124-kristin-newman/

At about the 19 minute mark, however, his co-host says something to the effect that we all know “the conclusion is a family and kids” and then goes on to say that she can appreciate those things more for having taken a detour. He probably didn’t intend it this way, but again it makes it seem that it’s okay to take a detour, even a lengthy one, as long as one comes back to marriage and kids. But what if one doesn’t?

What if the story has no conclusion?

the obligatory

I have to confess that a small part of my recent isolation has to do with my healthier ability to say “no.”

As I’ve written before, after two decades of Christmas with my mother, I’ve made other plans this year, and will be taking a trip alone (albeit one that will bring me in close contact with other people).

In addition to that, for the first time, I’ve actually stopped returning one old acquaintance’s phone calls. I met her in my early twenties when in a job and a town I was briefly passing through. I would have been happy enough to have kept in touch with over the phone and via letters, but instead, over the course of the last two decades, she has routinely invited herself to stay with me, leading to some situations that caused me a certain amount of strain. I’m afraid to call her back, which is my natural inclination, because I’m fairly certain she’ll start making plane reservations if I do.

I’ve felt guilty about ramping down this friendship because she is a fellow NoMo, but at the same time, as the friendships I’ve truly enjoyed have faded away, I have become resentful that the ones that are left are all about guilt and obligation. I’d like to change that dynamic, if possible.

Finally, I have a friend here who I do like spending time with, but we have differing desires when it comes to a night on the town. I like low-budget, low fuss, and low ticket prices; she prefers the opposite. I’ve agreed to several events in the past (beggars can’t be choosers, I’ve got to be more flexible, and so on), but decided with her last invitation that it would be unreasonable for her to be angry if I turn down a $100 event that I feel “meh” about. We’ll see.

And so, in the meantime, I entertain myself.

the squandering

I had a place I could afford to write and live in alone in New York City, and I was squandering my time there. I tried not to think about that, and so I stopped noticing. But the years ticked by, quite linearly I might add, and somehow one day I was twenty-eight, and the next I was thirty-eight. I assumed I’d have that rent-stabilized apartment forever, which at twenty-eight seemed like a great thing for a struggling writer. But at thirty-eight, still lonely and with few details of my life changed, I started to imagine that I’d grow old and die alone in that run-down shoebox, and it scared me.

– Sari Botton, “Real Estate,” Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, p. 158

When living in Hollywood, I, too, was scared of becoming one of those odd older women still living alone in a small apartment, hanging on to a rent-controlled space. Yet none of my moves seem to help me escape that fate.

Ms. Botton, on the other hand, despite being a self-proclaimed odd bird and die-hard loner, did eventually meet her match, a fellow artist and peer (42 to her 39). They married and shortly thereafter left NYC.

I’m almost at the end of the book and I can’t quite recall if every essay ends with the writer leaving NYC with a partner or spouse and (excepting a few cases that I can recall) one or two children in tow. They still miss the excitement of New York, but it seems to me that those feelings are tangled up with nostalgia for their heady days of youth.

One of the essayists moves away with a spouse and a child she adores in order to live in Europe, where she can afford to stay home and write. And yet, she still rues the fact that she can no longer live in New York. I am inclined to roll my eyes and think “boo hoo, poor you,” but I realize that a lot of people would look at my life– decent job, living on the beach– and feel the same. I do count my blessings.

And yet. There are so few stories out there about women like me, women whose stories don’t get tied up at the end with the nice pink bow of marriage and kids (even if it happens a decade later than the norm), that I feel compelled to convey the reality of it, warts and all.

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