never married, over forty, a little bitter

Month: January, 2014


I hope (vow, actually) to never let myself again get to the point where “I hate my life” is my first thought upon waking:

In fact, it’s an issue that’s becoming increasingly problematic now that redundancies have left the remaining staff to cope with impossible workloads, too afraid to object for fear they’ll be next in the firing line.

Dr Borysenko believes women suffer so severely because they are more likely than men to be people-pleasers who ignore their own needs.

Trapped in a cycle of trying to do their best, but not realising the toll it’s taking on them, they end up in a cycle of despair.

‘Burn-out is a disorder of hope. It sucks the life out of competent, hard-working people. You lose motivation and vitality,’ says Dr Borysenko, a Harvard-trained scientist and psychologist.

‘It happens when you feel you can’t stand it for one more minute. You have such thoughts as: “I hate my life.” The risk for women is that so many don’t notice it’s happening to them until they’re so far down that road it’s hard to come back.’

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gap years

So what did I get out of my year? Time for myself, time to relax and time to do many things I’d always wanted to do. Physically I’m fitter and healthier than I have been since I was in my teens. Simply sleeping more, leading a much less frenetic life and eating better was a big part of it. Before I had to wear glasses – my optician told me that as I was getting older, the muscles around my eyes got tired more easily and needed the extra help. But I haven’t touched my glasses since I left work well over a year ago.

Having so much more time to spend together and do so many things with my girlfriend refreshed our relationship; it was more like dating in your 20s. It has taken our relationship to another level: now we have a daughter and are soon to be married.

I spent a lot more money than I originally planned and we could have avoided some expensive (and polluting) trips. But since my return I feel more settled and at ease in my job. I have a renewed enthusiasm for work. Switching to a new department has given my career a real boost and opened up many new opportunities. I have a much clearer vision of why I am working and what I want to get out of it and I don’t resent the time I have to devote to it. Many of the activities during my year off developed skills that will benefit my employer directly.

In many ways my life now is identical to how it was before I left – but I have these tremendous memories and a wealth of new experiences and skills to draw on.

I’d encourage anyone who has the chance, to take a career break … and I won’t hesitate to do it again myself.

the exotic

I used to love moving; I always liked the adventure of a new place. After forty, though, I wanted to be rooted, so it’s ironic I’m having to move again.

How did you guys make the decision to live the way you do? It’s clearly a challenging lifestyle, so it must have taken a great deal of conviction.

MS: When I was a teenager, I read about Mohandas Gandhi’s ashram in India. It was a place he lived among others simply, but also a base of social and political organizing for the larger culture. I knew then I wanted to be a part of such an endeavor. It took me nearly 20 years to realize the commitment I needed to make to be a part of such an intention. I’ve lived in urban intentional communities but often dreamed of living in a rural community.

In 2004, Val and I decided to quit our nonprofit jobs in the city and take steps to find Shii Koeii. We had become disillusioned with how people we knew in the city simply move away to another city or were unable to create intimate mutual relationships and community with each other. We wanted to either join or help create a community to heal the relationship with the natural world and each other. We’ve taken some risks. Not all of them have worked out. What we hold onto is faith. Faith in the natural world to heal, and, faith that other people will feel like-minded and either join us or start their own similar projects.

Most people want the “freedom” to move around, travel, and not be rooted in a place. The irony is this “freedom” is all within the confines of what capitalism allows and imposes on you. Living in a distinct place, building an intimate relationship with that place is fundamental to our freedom from domination and control. Most people don’t realize this. So, psychologically it makes it hard for people to even consider joining Shii Koeii—we are a foreign, almost exotic, experience for many people. When actually most of the “third world” lives like us, rooted in land where all of their culture comes from.


As I head back to the big city and paycheck, I found this interesting:

On the plus side, unlike the man being interviewed here, I will have no commute this time around, so that right there should lessen my stress.


…bad to write the naked, the true, the confessional. I think that is often why we pull back. These great lulls on the Internet. We are sometimes horrified by what we have written, we press erase, or some literally scratch out the post, the strike-through bisecting the words, so that you can still read underneath. We are stricken with this sense sometimes that we are too much self, we gaze at our navels. Often we threaten to take down our blog. This act called “suiciding.” Or we put ourselves on a hiatus, and then come back a few days or a month later. Our dramatic disappearing acts. The theatrical comebacks in broad day.

We are always ready to shut down the blog because we’re worried about who’s reading it, family members, workplaces surveilling us, would-be employers. We worry over being disowned for writing the autobiographical, for divulging info about our psychiatric histories, the truth about our toxic-girl pasts, our gooshy, goopy, confessions. We worry over being found out– by coworkers, family, our students. So some of us already veil ourselves in pseudonyms, in password-protect.

I think about this need for public confession, and how this is often denigrated as not writing.


Although the blog is an emerging form, this question of women swallowing panic about the autobiographical, and often censoring themselves, or being asked to, is nothing new.

The horror/ shame/ worry: of being discovered, disciplined, ostracized… the reason why women use pseudonyms, women have always used pseudonyms.

So the decision to write the private in public, it is a political one. It is a counterattack against this censorship. To tell our narratives, the truth of our experiences. To write our flawed, messy selves. To fight against the desire to be erased. Why try to make these personal confessions public? Why write one’s diary in public? To counter this shaming and guilt project. To refuse to swallow. To refuse to scratch ourselves out. To refuse to be censored, to be silent. Or to circle around that silence, like a traumatic scene.


But the important thing now is to write. To write. To not hold back. To tell our narratives. To not be stopped. Publishing, even, can come later. But if you censor your writing with a view towards employment, what you’re writing is probably going to be safe and hygienic anyhow.

— Kate Zambreno, Heroines, pp. 289-291


The purity of the ideology of the Second Wave, I believe, makes us lie about the dividedness and contradictions of our lives for fear of being seen as bad feminists.


Does literature written by women need to be feminist, or does it need to be honest, to document the cultural reality? Yes, to critique it but also to explore its nuances and perhaps even to subvert it. For sometimes we are destroyed by love. Or we don’t want to get old. These thoughts still haunt many of us. The novels of Rhys address the complexities of both our subjectivity and objecthood, our psychic colonialism, in a way that seems still so modern.

— Kate Zambreno, Heroines, pp. 270-271


Yet when things are too intense, when I cannot do anything productive, I can still blog the emotional upheavals and anxieties of my current and changing existence. I compulsively blog through the slog and sludge of my days. Anais Nin’s “opium habit” of her diary that Otto Rank wanted to cure her from. Gratifying to know I have readers at the other end, fellow writers from around the world writing me little notes of encouragement in the comments sections. The Internet cages me. The Internet also allows me to communicate through the day, a dialogue. It allows me to fight against my own erasure.

– Kate Zambreno, Heroines, pp. 173-174


The evolution of women’s rights has propelled tens of millions of bright and talented women into the workforce over the past several decades — a very good thing. Our successes in business and commerce, in the arts, sciences and humanities have given so many of us great satisfaction and a sense of personal fulfillment. But there have also been unintended consequences, among them a dramatic surge in the number of women who do not have children, whether by choice or happenstance.

I am one of these women. Moreover, in my decades as a holistic psychotherapist, a great number of my clients have been, and continue to be women trying to come to grips with palpable feelings of loss over the unimagined void of not becoming a mother. As a consequence I have felt compelled to build a platform to engage this growing population. Opening the gates of acknowledgement, conversation and connection yields opportunities for all of us to share our experiences, struggles, triumphs and possibilities with one another.

hard-won lessons

Most important, I’ve realized I never needed a long boyfriend résumé for the experience. In the 20 years before I met Mark, I learned a lot of hard lessons: how to be a self-respecting adult in a world that often treats single people like feckless teenagers; how to stand at cocktail parties while my friends’ in-laws asked me if I had a boyfriend; how to have warm, friendly dinners with strangers I had met online as we delicately tried to determine whether we could possibly share our lives together; and how to come home to an empty apartment after a rotten day at work.

I realize these less-than-giddy examples may conjure up those deadly words: “desperate” and “pathetic.” But I wasn’t desperate. If I had been desperate, I would have settled for a relationship I felt ambivalent about because I was afraid to be alone. Instead, I learned to relax into the open space of my quiet home and unknown future. I also learned there is a difference between feeling something unpleasant (loneliness, longing) and being something shameful.

Being a single person searching for love teaches you that not everything is under your control. You can’t control whether the person you’ve fallen for will call. You can’t force yourself to have feelings for the nice guy your best friend fixed you up with. You have no way to know whether attending this or that event — a co-worker’s art opening, a neighbor’s housewarming — will lead to the chance encounter that will forever alter your life. You simply learn to do your best, and leave it at that.


I considered having a little goodbye gathering at my home before leaving town, but now I think, “Why bother?” My time here never really gelled; it feels more like a “passing through.”

Part of my reluctance to throw a party is that I’m also coming to terms with the fact that someone–maybe more than one person– stabbed me in the back when it came to finding a job at my old org here. I’m also realizing that the people who said they would help me find a job at their companies did so halfheartedly, if at all.

Without getting into specifics, I think there were several possible motivations: the desire to get their own friend or relative in a position; the fear of competition; the feeling that it would be uncomfortable to work with a former supervisor; the feeling of dislike for me for one reason or another. These people are my former co-workers, supervisors, or employees, and I had, in the past, hired them or helped them out as a reference or as a source of guidance. It’s been a tough lesson to learn that they wouldn’t do the same for me. When it came down to it, they opted instead to protect their own hides.

One or two did try to help, but when their efforts failed, they lapsed into silence, which hurt. Only one or two friendships here have remained untainted from this debacle.

I’ve met a lot of lovely new acquaintances, but I didn’t have the time to get to know them enough to invite them to a goodbye party.

In the end, I saved myself. I scored a top position elsewhere– still in the process of confirmation– based on my work history and excellent references from my former job.

So, sayonara to this city…it’s been real.