never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: community

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.


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.


When I posted that I was weary in preface to Glahn’s post – saying “I grow weary of metaphors in church that always deal with parenting or marriage. I grow weary of hearing other women define the pinnacle of female identity as motherhood. I grow weary . . . perhaps I am jealous, but I do not think so. Instead I think I am living the life God has given me to live, and it is right for me to do so. Sandra Glahn reminded me of that today.” – a friend, a man I admire, suggested that I might be denying the fulfillment that some women get from mothering. I started to cry.


It’s that time of year for counting blessings and I can’t say enough about how wonderful the Gateway Women forum is (now over 1000 members strong):

Even though I’ve passed through my grieving process, I still “wobble” occasionally. In just the past year, some of the women I’ve had long, intimate talks with about childlessness have gone on to find partners and/or get pregnant, and if it wasn’t for the forum, I imagine these instances would have once again triggered profound feelings of failure and a 24-hour loop in my head going “what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with me.”

Instead, I check in with the forum and realize I am far from alone and that every sentiment I’ve explored in this blog is echoed there many times over. It’s been my virtual support group, and I can’t imagine how I’d be feeling without it.

Thank you Jody Day!

siren songs

Two of the artists I’ve been enamored with this past year went to the same college as a friend of mine, and they often draw upon that college setting in their work. My friend actually knew one of them personally.

A few years ago, this friend would have been just as enamored with these artists and just as interested in their movies and books, and we would have conversed for hours about them. But she has a toddler and an infant now. She valiantly tries to touch base with me occasionally, but she has no time for books or TV shows or films, even when they are about subjects that once would have been dear to her heart.

I understand completely now why I was so drawn to L.A. As my interesting friends became consumed with their families and dropped out of my life, there was no longer any filter between me and my favorite writers, musicians, and filmmakers. These artists were no longer intriguing distractions that helped me to process the drama in my own life. Their work, which spoke to me figuratively and often literally, became the only thing speaking to me, and they moved from the background to the main event.

And just about every artist that captured my attention lived in Los Angeles.

Had I not tried living there and had remained single here, I think
I would have regretted it deeply. I would have imagined that I missed my chance to connect with the world of ideas in the absence of having a family.

Even now, knowing that the expense and logistics and stress of living in Los Angeles preclude much of anything else and that most of those artists have little time left for anything outside of their own families and struggle to “make it,” I am still occasionally pulled by the siren song of the place. Still pulled even though I know I would likely end up in the exact same situation as before if I returned.

That’s why I hope I don’t have to make any kind of decision about a job. If I only get one offer and thus have to go back or have to stay here, I will ascribe it to fate and make the best of either situation. But I don’t want to choose all over again.

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But just as my childhood was made better by teachers and other mentors whose unique perspectives were, in some cases, a direct result of not having their own kids, a lot of folks who work with young people recognize that the best thing they can do for future generations is to play a role other than parent — at least when they’re not driving their Porsches and hitting the snooze button.

And that’s why this whole childlessness discussion needs to be reframed. It’s great that Time is moving in the direction of validating those who, by choice or circumstance, will never be parents. But the point is not simply that society should stop judging those of us who don’t have children. It’s that society actually needs us. Children need us.

It may take a village to raise a child, but not every villager needs to be a mom or dad. Some of us just need to be who we are. The children we never had would thank us. And so should you.


Based on Maynard’s story and my experience, I recommend that a single person contemplating adoption look carefully at their motivation and at the resources for support that they could bring to single parenting. Recognize that raising an adopted child is not the same as parenting a biological one. Try to separate your real feelings about parenting from negative external stereotyping of a single, childless person. Consider alternative ways to have children in your life. In research for my book, The New Single Woman, I found that one of the six criteria for living a satisfying, long-term single life was a connection to the next generation. Such a connection does not depend on raising a child. I include many examples of single women without children who created rewarding relationships with children and young adults.

One needs a community and friendship network to adopt successfully as a single parent, but such support also forms the basis for a happy single life without parenting. As a society, we need to reevaluate family as only one among alternative ways to live a good life.

the perplexed

This passage from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath reminds me of conversations I have had on the farm:

One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car
creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a
single tractor took my land. I am alone and bewildered.
And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another
family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat
on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the
node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these
two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each
other. Here is the anlarge of the thing you fear. This is the
zygote. For here “I lost my land” is changed; a cell is split
and from its splitting grows the thing you hate–“We lost our
land.” The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and
perplexed as one. And from this first “we” there grows a still
more dangerous thing: “I have a little food” plus “I have
none.” If from this problem the sum is “We have a little
food,” the thing is on its way, the movement has direction.
Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are

dream states

I currently have eight job applications outstanding, but only six of them are within my field, and of those, only one of them is within this city.

This definitely has had an impact on my psychology. My move here was intended as a bid for permanency, but now I have begun to think of this place as a mere interlude, a relaxing way-station of sorts. I spent months fixing up my home, but I might well be selling it rather than settling in. When I see my extended family over the holidays, it might be hello and goodbye.

I saw a flurry of acquaintances when I first moved back, but I continue to see only three or four of them on any kind of regular basis. Communication has petered off with a few because they work for my former organization, and that makes for some awkwardness.

It felt slightly surreal being back, and now that I might not stay, that feeling hasn’t dissipated.

Of course, it’s likely none of the jobs will pan out, and I’ll be here longer than anticipated. In that case, instead of my dream of working part-time, I might end up working full-time for a part-time salary, the worst of all possible worlds.

For the next few months, however, I’m in a suspended state.