thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: meaning

the scorched earth

Mary tried to be fair, but her jealousy was beyond all bounds. Possibly Mrs. Herbert had been shy. Possibly she might be something more than beautiful, rough, rude, brainless, vulgar. This was Mr. Herbert’s serious permanent choice. She had been an amusement, a very small incident. “But I am superior,” she thought.

— F.M. Mayor, The Rector’s Daughter, p. 152

Sometimes the old dog in the corner can still be roused; it will, on occasion, still prick up its ears or wag its tail. This particular old dog will, on occasion, even be roused enough to leave its solitary cushion, if a smart, witty, sensitive, like-minded soul comes around.

This weekend I made a bold move; I reached out to someone I barely know in an attempt to forge a connection with someone I’ve long identified with and admired. I put aside my sense of shame and took a chance, something I do about once a year, when I realize that any semi-satisfying relationship of any duration that I’ve ever had resulted entirely from my efforts. In the midst of my communication, however, I heard from a decades-old friend, someone I normally keep at a bit of a distance due to a long history of empathy fails. Long story short, wires got crossed, paragraphs were sent to the wrong person, and I ended up revealing a lot more to Mr. A (as I’ll call him) than I ever in a million years would have wished to reveal to him or almost anyone else.

Modern communication being what it is, however, I have no certainty that Mr. A received the messages. If he has received them, he has not responded. The power of vulnerability, indeed.

On a bigger level, I don’t know what, if anything, the universe was trying to communicate to me. “Shed old friendships that are standing in the way of more fulfilling ones” or “stick with the ones who actually call, no matter how frustrating and dispiriting they can be.”

In any case, in a week in which there has been a public outpouring of sympathy over a celebrity, I could have used a small show of kindness from Mr. A. On one hand, I could be totally humiliated over this; on the other, Mr. A could find the whole thing funny or touching and reach out. It appears, however, that there will only be silence; perhaps I don’t rate a response.

This old dog, however, with a head so weakly raised, easily returns to slumber in the absence of encouragement. There was nothing to be roused for, after all.

The internet is not much help in moments such as these. At worst, it provides the glib platitudes one encounters enough of IRL; at best, there is a feeling of “me too” solidarity and connection. What is missing is an empathetic ear that can take in all the specifics of the disaster that has happened; even better would be an empathetic ear that has some general familiarity with the players involved. This used to be known, back in the day, as friendship.

In my student period I was acquainted with a group of friends; of this group two were always my favorite. Over the decades, those two have only grown in my estimation, showing kindness, creativity, and wit in our encounters. They have both become writers. There was another member of that group whom I cannot recall saying a single thing of substance, intelligence, or charm, and who was unable to give me the time of day when I first moved to L.A. She moved here with no real career plans and ended up marrying a successful writer and having a brood of kids. It feels like she is living the life I would have liked to have lived. I was reminded of her again in all of this, because she is loosely connected to Mr. A, and were she a nicer person, I could try to glean some insight from her. Were she a nicer person, in fact, perhaps I would not have had to advocate for myself in the first place.

I feel, at this point, that I must just let all the embers die. The embers of unsatisfying friendships from my past as well as the last remaining embers of certain kinds of hopes for my future. That I must sit with the dark void for a spell, here at the bottom of the U-shaped curve of happiness, at age 44.

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the jaded

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/seven-ages-of-love/the-seven-ages-of-love-40s-942411.html

Because no matter how hard you try to hold on to the idea that love is the only thing left in the world worth believing in the one guiding light you need and a spiritual force to be reckoned with reality is hell-bent on teasing, testing and taunting such notions into submission. And when fairy-tale notions of romance are removed, what are we left with? Is love as pragmatic as two people deciding to support each other until one of them dies? Is love a higher plain that we can ascend to via a combination of behavioural insight and tantric knowledge? Or is love, to return to the lyrics of a popular song, nothing more than “a simple prop” to occupy our time?

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?

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?

alone time

I think I’ve put my finger on why I’ve been feeling a bit numb lately, even while doing the things I enjoy, like swimming in the ocean on a beautiful day.

It’s not that I mind doing so many things alone– as I always have done so– it’s that I’m not feeling particularly connected to anyone, anywhere. So there’s a certain pointlessness that has crept in, even though I’m generally feeling even-keeled.

fallout

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/30/a_very_ugly_blame_game_how_great_recession_is_affecting_people_in_totally_unexpected_ways/

We should’ve been able to do that, but, in practice — and I think this goes down to America and Britain being such unequal societies — we weren’t able to do so. We find that there had been very grave consequences in terms of social engagement — particularly in Britain. We find that there’s great consequences in terms of mental well-being, which are at least as marked, perhaps more marked, in the United States than they seem to be in Britain. And we find that there are consequences too —certainly more suggestively, but there’s still a lot to convince me — in terms of family relationships and how people get on with their nearest and dearest. All of these things that we like to think that money shouldn’t be able to buy — friends, family, community — all of these things have been tainted by the social fallout of Great Recession.

the seven-year itch

I love this idea, but if I take another break in seven years, I’m probably signing up for early retirement, because I’m not sure I could find another good full-time job as an unemployed woman in my early fifties:

https://www.ted.com/talks/stefan_sagmeister_the_power_of_time_off#t-58

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.

pods

http://www.oregonlive.com/O/index.ssf/2009/01/multidisciplinary_artist_tiffa.html

She wanted to talk about the grief, but publicly acknowledging the pain of wanting a child, but not being able to have one, the complexity of that — there seemed to be no good framework for it. People talk about their children all the time, but how can you talk about mourning the child you will never have without taking away from their happiness? How do you explain to your closest friends that attending a baby shower is just too painful right now, that you can’t go to the grocery store during the day anymore, because the sight of all those children and mothers overwhelms you?

She felt she had to carry so much in silence, alone.

“There are some days,” Brown said last spring, “where I feel like an alienated, childless freak. And as I get older, there will be fewer and fewer people around me who don’t have children. … ”

[…]

She threw herself into researching childlessness, reading everything she could get her hands on, joining online discussions, listening to other women’s stories of childless by infertility, or reluctant choice, trying, as she put it, “to contextualize myself in a larger humanity — as opposed to my tiny pod of grief.”

devolution

http://www.newstatesman.com/future-proof/2014/06/sexist-pseudoscience-pick-artists-dangers-alpha-male-thinking

In contrast, we can be reasonably sure that prehistoric human societies were non-hierarchical, egalitarian and cooperative, as are the majority of today’s hunter-gatherer societies that have survived, and that human nature still tends towards these instincts. They – and we’re not only talking homo sapiens here, but possibly also antecedents like homo erectus – are believed to have had strong ties beyond their bloodline, with individuals in a group caring for children who were not their own. Members of a society who were reproductively useless – such as women too old to bear more children – would have still been valued, as humanity was apparently not synonymous with reproduction or social status. Early art venerated the female, not male, form, and so matriarchal societies may have been common. As kinship was not the main motivation for cooperation, it meant language, technology and friendships spread within and between groups more easily. From computer modelling of social interaction, it appears that egalitarianism may be an inevitable consequence of human-level intelligence.