thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: hobbies

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.

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square one

A couple of commenters have mentioned that they prefer the personal posts, but I go through periods of hesitancy in terms of revealing my life on a public blog, and at other times I have things I want to write about but feel like a broken record. Especially now, as I’ve started to feel I’m back at square one, waking up on Monday feeling less than enthused about the long work week ahead.

I know a woman who used to work in this area for a good chunk of her forties. She told me she would drive elsewhere on the weekends for a social life, although the temptation to just stick around was strong, as it is so easy here. Another woman, a big reader, told me she thinks of herself as a resident of Los Angeles and acts accordingly.

I’m only at the halfway point in my explorations, but the picture is becoming clear. This is where I work, live, shop, go to the beach, and exercise, but my imagination will likely bloom elsewhere. At the moment the one thing I’m excited about is a small show that occurs on the weekends and is about twenty miles away. The sense of expansion has been worth the trek.

blue mind

I totally get this:

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/19/why_our_brains_love_the_ocean_science_explains_what_draws_humans_to_the_sea/

It’s only recently that technology has enabled us to delve into the depths of the human brain and into the depths of the ocean. With those advancements our ability to study and understand the human mind has expanded to include a stream of new ideas about perception, emotions, empathy, creativity, health and healing, and our relationship with water. Several years ago I came up with a name for this human–water connection: Blue Mind, a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from the color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion.

the hipster

I miss hipsters. In all their various guises they are easy to poke fun at it, but over the last twenty-five years I’ve thrived most when living in the hipster corridors of the United States. Romantically, no, but my failure in that realm cuts across all social realms, so I can’t pin that one entirely on the hip.

The thing about hipsters is they are obsessives. They obsess about music, movies, books, fashion, food, art, and ideas, and they are attracted to the novel and to alternative lifestyles.

When you remain single and childless, what else are you gonna do? Those have been my interests too.

The question is, over the age of forty, can you be a hipster? It’s a look and stance that doesn’t age particularly well, although aging is hard on everyone. Perhaps one’s hipsterdom hardens even as the young move on to various new iterations (http://madmommamoogacat.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/confessions-of-an-aging-hipster/). It does seem that it’s harder to get as excited about all things new as when gets older.

Most hipsters, like most people, have kids, although it seems they do so on the later side. They then turn to creating a hip family.

What about the rest of us? We don’t really fit in at a lot of the usual hipster haunts anymore, especially as older women. On the other hand, it’s really hard for me to relate to people who have spent the past several decades primarily focused on marriage and kids and careers and sports, while I was intently reading multiple books a week, obsessing over certain films and music albums and alternative social scenes, and attending all kinds of unusual events.

Where’s the commonality? I have become a certain type of person after spending the first twenty-five years of my emerging adulthood in a certain type of way. To completely lose touch with all that would be to lose who I am as a person.

bright-sided

I don’t know exactly HOW I got over the things in the prior post, other than not denying my feelings, and reasoning and reading my way through them, and letting time take its course.

This is how I feel about each item now:

1. I’m pretty content with participating in activities that get me out of the house and socializing with other people (strangers and acquaintances)– art shows, dance, tennis, yoga, etc. I also have some NoMo friends and have made peace with the fact that they are scattered across the country and this city and the friendships are not super-close. This might at least help them last longer. I recognize and appreciate the freedom I have to pursue disparate interests.

2. I try to maximize the positives and ameliorate the negatives of my location as best I can. I take some heart in knowing that there’s no place that truly accommodates older single people–so I can forget imagining a move will make everything perfect– but most places offer some things that allow one to grow.

3. Just knowing that endless thorny issues are part of most people’s working lives helps. The meditation helps me keep it in perspective, and I try to clock out after eight hours so I can refresh.

4. Time eventually dulls.

5. In regard to romance, I co-exist with uneasy impressions. On one hand, there’s no real reason I shouldn’t expect to find someone as most others have done; on the other, compatible men who are also available and looking for a relationship seem to be unicorns, at least in my galaxy. I just let that one be. When other people pair up, I just shrug and think, “Huh.” I’ve accepted that there’s not much I can do in this regard. Trying didn’t work, so I leave this one up to fate.

6. At bottom, I only rely on myself, and have a strong sense of self as a result.

This may still sound depressing, but I do pretty well. I don’t take anti-depressants. I sleep well at night. I get exercise every day, and I’m generally in a good mood. I do pretty well at work, I look forward to things, I have a solid intellectual life, I love to escape to shows that make me laugh, and I work on my own goals in my personal time.

I don’t discount this hard-won contentment though. I work with a lot of men and every single last one is married. I don’t see them volunteering for this solo living, and most of the people I know who are stuck in it are not doing all that well. I don’t think it’s abnormal to want love and support and companionship; in fact, enragement at going without is perhaps a normal and logical response.

I do feel from all the reading that I’ve done that the points I’ve made are commonly experienced by older women who are single and childless. Some may get lucky or are more resourceful than I am, but I know a lot of women who are less resourceful and/or less lucky. So hopefully some of them can take heart in knowing they aren’t alone.

recolonization

I started writing this blog two-and-a-half years ago and the changes that have slowly come over me during that period have been profound. To wit:

1. When I get up in the morning my first feeling isn’t “Why get out of bed?” but the desire to fire up my computer and read my favorite websites and blogs and do a little writing.

2. On the way to work I practice Spanish via listening to audiobooks– I haven’t let full-time work prevent me completely from pursuing some other long-term goals.

3. I no longer have the sense, as I did throughout my twenties and thirties, that I’m waiting for the “main event” but it isn’t happening. When I was younger I would get distracted for long periods of time by interests and hobbies but was often hit by the feeling that another year was passing and I was still in the same dreary position. I had chosen my career out of practicality and had never expected it to be my whole life. At some point it was supposed to either end or be supplemented by a husband and kids. That expectation is gone and with its disappearance has arrived the anticipated relief that the wait is over.

4. My solitude has become gold. Being social is still valuable and gets me out of my head and introduces me to new ideas, but having alone time feels like the bigger treat. When occasional loneliness strikes I reframe things so that I view time with myself as the ultimate luxury. I truly have become my own best friend and have to fight not to see other people as an imposition. The upsides are that my expectations of other people have become almost nil so I never stew anymore over perceived slights, and I don’t feel the need to verbally “vomit” everything I’ve been holding in when I do have conversations. Part of this change in perspective is that the conversations I have with other people, while enlightening, are rarely as rich as the conversations I would like to be having and that I have with myself (and in my head with other writers).

5. I have meditated nearly every day for close to two years. That probably factors in.

6. After my recent bad experience with having a roommate, I no longer want one.

7. I have “recolonized” my mind while at work. As I’ve written recently, I’ve had to rein in my personality on the job. At first that felt painful, but it’s amazing how easily I’ve since adapted. What keeps me sane is the idea that my mind is still my own, even while on the clock.

gwendolyn

There’s a type of employee that does well in my field and probably every field– socially adept but reserved, even-keeled, nicely but conservatively dressed, diligent, creative but within established practices, accepting of the status quo. I call this person “Gwendolyn” based on an actual person I worked with in the past. I have to constantly remind myself “to be more Gwendolyn,” even though I’m constitutionally moodier, more emotionally expressive, more rebellious, and more intellectually inclined. Gwendolyn often doesn’t have to work or leaves the workforce early on to have kids. Her male counterpart, Glen, is in it for the long haul and manages to keep up the mask. Most successful men are “Glens,” as I’m learning from my colleagues.

For numerous reasons that I won’t expand on here, this past week brought the “Gwendolyn” lesson home again. Hard. I was starting to loosen up a bit, but I gotta reel it in. The answer to how I’m doing should always be “good,” and conversation amongst colleagues should stay within the realm of local restaurants I’ve enjoyed. I can be sympathetic to the problems of employees underneath me, but that sympathy only goes one way. It’s just too problematic and confusing for everyone otherwise.

I have also come to the conclusion that I’m stuck for the long haul and that my dream career of “writer” is but a pipe dream. A pipe dream for quite a lot of people, it seems, as evidenced by the comments here: http://www.xojane.com/sports/how-important-it-love-your-job

The “reeling in” required by my job is extra difficult because I don’t have other avenues in which to “let it out.” A woman I know who used to be employed at my workplace had a coffee buddy to vent with; I do not. The dawning realization of the lonely road ahead caused a tightness in my chest and pains in my neck that I’ve spent this weekend working out.

I realized that, for all my low feelings in the past, I’ve maintained a pretty good attitude about my situation thus far. I don’t drink or smoke too much to cope; I always manage to get out of bed in the mornings. I consistently exercise to improve my moods, and I “put myself out there.”

This past week I allowed myself a truly bad attitude for the first time in a while. I wallowed in simmering anger and resentment over the fact that no matter my attitude, nothing ever changes and nothing likely ever will and except for the breaks I’ve taken here and there the decades of my life have all looked pretty much the same and the only thing I have to look forward to is retirement.

Having this bad attitude, however, made me feel like crap physically. So even though a good attitude won’t necessarily bring good things into my life, it does make me feel better, which is no small thing.

In reality, I know I am in a better situation than a lot of people, perhaps most, and have much less to feel angry about. So back to making the best of it.

the layering

In my early thirties, I took up partner dancing and became entranced. It led me to ballet and other dance hobbies. I still practice ballet and, in my new home, occasionally salsa and tango. The scene here has been welcoming.

When I was living in the heart of L.A., I enjoyed going to comedy shows, and I still listen to a lot of comedy podcasts. Near the end of my time there I took up kundalini yoga, and I continue to practice it daily and have found a community in my new location.

As I’ve (also) written about here, when I moved back to my former city, I spent some time on a farm and got in the habit, which I continue today via farmer’s markets, of cooking up fresh vegetables weekly. I started learning Spanish and have continued to practice it.

These days, via my job, I spend a lot of time around cops and firemen and engineers and tinkerers– all mostly new worlds to me and not ones I ever sought out in the past. But, for the most part, I’m embracing the novelty. I’m also revisiting my enchantment with surfers.

It turns out I’m a rolling stone, but I do gather some moss as I go.

In my former city I had a couple of friends, a few years younger than me, who were struggling with infertility. Now one is happily pregnant and the other one will likely follow behind soon.

Perhaps it is for the best that, instead of settling in there, I kept on moving and growing.

the policies

http://www.alternet.org/economy/5-ways-american-policies-and-attitudes-make-us-lonely-anxious-and-antisocial?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

By the time Jamie is a full-fledged adult, she has likely already gone through economic shocks that have depleted her savings, if she had any, and impacted her personal relationships. Unless Jamie’s family has enough money to cushion these blows, economic and job insecurity either for herself or her partner will take their toll. The moment Jamie starts getting comfortable in a relationship — planning for a future life as a couple and talking about having kids — the prospect of economic setbacks interferes.

Those constantly tossed around by their jobs and unable to find firm economic footing will have challenges getting to the commitment stage. Jamie may decide that given the insecurity of economic conditions, committing to a partner or a family is just too risky. When the future is unforeseeable, and you can’t really know what you’re signing up for, why sign up at all? Another possibility is Jamie may decide that economic calculations are more important than romantic attraction or compatibility in her choice of mate.

[…]

In middle age, Jamie will want to feel a sense of usefulness and pride in her accomplishments. But American society is structured to make these things elusive.

Americans can no longer count on a stable career, and unfortunately, we have not set up reasonable policies, like basic incomes, to compensate for this situation. Between deliberate wage suppression, deregulation, unfair tax polices, and austerity measures, Jamie, like so many Americans, may find herself at the mercy of ruthless corporate practices. For Jamie, this means that her strong psychological need for security and stability may keep her from achieving social cohesion and stable family life. With little free time and precious few vacations, Jamie has not had enough time to establish hobbies, connect with nature, or engage in civic activities. She may find herself with little deep involvement in the world.

As a woman, things are especially precarious for Jamie. Recent research by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers suggests that the subjective well-being of American women has dropped both in absolute terms and in relation to men.

the new nuns

I had a physical this week and had to answer a barrage of questions along the lines of: Have you been depressed in the past week? Do you feel a lack of hope and how often? Do you sometimes feel life is not worth living? And so on. I checked “no” to all of them, as I don’t see any point in confessing “yes” to any of it. Will my doctor provide me with compatible friends or a list of places to meet viable men? Well okay then.

All in all, I feel like I’m puttering through well enough on my own. The weather, as usual, has been beautiful, and I plan to get out in it this weekend. I’m recommitting to my Spanish and have a bunch of plans brewing related to my job. I do manage to get to some events alone, and I met up last weekend with another NoMo (unfortunately she lives about an hour away). The yoga and meditation continue to keep me calm and stabilize my health.

Having said all that, I am, after all, a monkey. And being a monkey, at some level I will always long for a tribe and for status and mating opportunities within that tribe. Yoga and meditation can only go so far in tamping down those animal instincts.

I’m unsure whether I will ever find that tribe here, as living in this place I’m reminded a bit of when I was in a sorority– I liked many of the women, but I never quite fit. And yet I do plan to settle in for several years. I can’t fathom another move.

A few decades ago, I probably would have turned to church for at least one of the reasons I now turn to meditation– as a way to cope with situations I have little control over. Many of us middle-aged women in yoga pants might once have been wearing nun habits.