I can’t mix the idea of the typical American with the idea of a pilgrimage. I imagine disdain or at least discomfort with meaningful travel. Modern travel is a status symbol. The suburbanite has already arrived; there is no need to travel anywhere for greater purpose. Travel means something to post on Facebook, making […]
Come on a ride (Talking Heads).
Midlife can be a road to nowhere, the clock running out, a thousand ideas and no idea. A race to reach what?
I heard a story on NPR-a 53 year old journalist took up bicycle racing while studying midlife experiences. She commented in the story that midlife has few markers compared to the early adult years, which are often full of courtships, graduations, purchases, births. Then the endless middle chapters, with the center of the story shifting to first words, steps, schools, teams..the story of the adored little ones. The journalist suggested a goal to structure the passage of time, for her, both the book and the bicycle race.
Subtract the narrative of the little ones, soon the young adult ones..and where do we find ourselves? In a morass, fertilizing the grounds of midlife confusion and crisis. Somehow the solution of making a goal or two seems perfunctory, a coda or two after the symphony is over. You can try a return to early striving, invent something new, but the energy is not quite what it was, and the rewards at the end of the race don’t glow as brightly. The naiveté that kept you moving is gone.
And the pressure of time running out..what is the race best run? Have a better relationship? Paint? Write? The senior games? See the world? And what is to be let go of? The house? the marriage? the job? the view of yourself ?
I know one person who has given up trying to make a difference. Just doing a good job is enough for her. She does that and faithfully, but has given up on the idea that anything will change through her efforts. You may imagine that she is disheartened, but I think she is past that turmoil. Her inward consistency leads to her stability, she is in alliance with her values. It doesn’t matter that the world changes, what matters is that she is who she wants to be.
I do not have her stability, her pyramidal shape and personality, her faith in herself. I believe I was better suited to earlier life, while she told me once she had trouble as a younger person, sensing herself an old soul and in a holding pattern until that moment arrived. She has arrived. I’ve run a race and I’m shocked it’s over. But I’m also not ready to stand still. So I spin round and round and wonder if I’m on a road to nowhere.
I’m learning what solitary is.
Aloneness pounces on you. There is a profound feeling of solitary, of not exactly loneliness, but separateness. I gave a gift to my sweetheart, one that was received with excitement, and a week later, it is decided to be not the thing. He saw someone wearing something similar (he says the same thing) and he mentions his impression that the individual who wore it is effeminate. He decided he cannot wear it. It’s not his style now.
I see. What I see is too much, and perhaps I fall into over interpretation. There is so much separateness. I can see that I am the person who stretches, who looks for something new and challenging, almost to a fault, to the point of distraction, if the moon was always in reach. I can see the years that separate us, separate me. He prefers comfort and reminds me how much things have changed for him in order for him to join me in a different state, a different neighborhood, far away from the familiar. I try not to take it to heart. It was his choice and he could have refused. He claims that love is enough.
He tries not to judge but he grew up in an era where men knew that is was a horror to be considered gay or queer. While he would welcome anyone, it is too far for him to go to consider that someone might make the wrong assumption about him. So the shirt can’t be worn. It’s not him.
It’s not a big deal. He should have the Christmas present he wants. That is how I would want it for anyone. We are all separate in our style of receiving and giving. I adore my sister in law, who will tell you up front and quickly if something doesn’t suit her. I struggled with my ex husband’s family, who you could never trust in their gratitude. Everything was perfect, and all the children were trained to say nothing different, for fear of hurt feelings. It made for a sense of unquestioned family unity, and separateness was never faced, until I blew up the family and found myself in my true state, alone and relating as best I can from my own heart.
I’m still deciding whether I got what I wanted for my lifetime. My boyfriend? partner? sweetheart? He will return the gift.
I just read perhaps the best Christmas letter ever.
I know, I’m behind again, it’s New Year’s, and here I am still catching up with Christmas. This letter was sitting on the table which is full of gloves, bags, Christmas bulbs, an anatomy book, a wind chime, a super anti-darkness full spectrum light that looks like a warp between a 1970s portable TV and a Star Wars droid. So I didn’t see the letter until today, and might not have looked at it because my new s.o is sensitive about having his things moved around.
(Actually he complained vehemently about missing articles once, I got blamed, he apologized, but I am sensitive, and don’t like repeated conversations like this. He’s here, and it’s a long story, and I hope it works, but that’s for later).
The letter is from my s.o.’s father and his third wife. They are tremendously old by my standards. My new beau’s parents and their subsequent spouses are all alive well into their 80s. How do people live that long? How is it possible that he can call his parents on holidays? I haven’t done that since 1992. They even send money, as if I am a little child newly born into the family and they need to start my college savings. It’s sweet.
This letter, the one I read this morning, is the rarest of items, an honest Christmas letter. They have moved finally into a supervised cottage, with elder care. They are away physically from the main facility, the “action”, and so feel lonely and say the adjustment is difficult. The activities they enjoyed once are memories: hiking, biking, fishing. They submit the humility of age; working for gratefulness, assisting one another.
After years of “my perfect family, my Harvard bound daughter, my piano prodigy son, my football hero, my handsome and loving husband, my flawless skin and my recent jaunt up Mt. Everest” here is the truth. Life brought down to the essential elements. And bravely sent out into the world to a limited audience who is presumed able to manage the truth.
I wonder how I will do. I don’t know that I’m made of the same stuff.
I’m going to try to learn more about writing and blogging this year.
So I joined Blogging 101.
I’m a pretty good writer to begin with, but there’s a lot about blogging I don’t know.
1. How to develop a theme and when to make a new blog or do something else when my mind and ideas go off in a different direction.
2. How to manipulate the “computer” portion of the show. I’d honestly rather write on paper. I’m scared of losing what I’ve done, or pushing the wrong button. Things do appear to be more failsafe all the time, but I just had my hard drive crash, so I don’t know. That took an hour of panic and tears and then some very expert help. I like to avoid those situations.
The assignment for today was to introduce myself, or reintroduce if you are already blogging.
1. I am a woman living in the northwest, a psychotherapist by trade, a writer/artist by avocation. I have two just grown children who I love very much. I don’t want to comment much about them because I want to preserve their privacy. I am remaining private about some of my life details because of my profession.
2. I was divorced a year ago late December, so my blog was about what was happening with me in the world and in my interior emotional life. I’m not sure that is very interesting; many other people seem to “process” in this manner, some more artfully than me. I did manage a few more humorous posts, but I wasn’t feeling very humorous last year overall. I don’t even think that I want to aim for humor every time in my blog.
3. I am learning to live without a long term plan, and letting whatever comes up be experienced as it is. I wonder if this will help my writing. I think it is frightening to some extent.
4. I titled my blog “The Lonely Doctor” because I am a doctor and I am lonely. I also love Dr. Who, and he (so far it’s always a “he’) is both as well. He seems to have very interesting adventures though. I also enjoy that young people are fascinated by this show. I told a ten year old yesterday that I own two sonic screwdrivers, Dr. Who’s emergency tool of choice. He looked impressed.
5. I’m not sure where this will lead. I know I have always been a good writer of essays, especially. I hope I can notice something that will resonate with others, I guess. Something that is about our common experience.
6. I really need some common experiences.
So ends assignment number one. I hope a fulfilling day awaits all that have read this little piece. Any feedback is always appreciated, style or content.
I had a dream last night where all my expectations were demolished.
I went on a journey through a busy outdoor market with one of my supervisees at work, a woman my age. We kept getting lost, there were aisles and vendors of art and objects and crowds. I’m not sure what the goal was, but we weren’t getting there. I thought I knew where I was going. I was lost.
Then I had a visitation from my best friend, chapter grad school.
The essence of the dream was that she was dying, which she did in reality about 7 years ago.
In the dream I knew she was dying, but she seemed well. We just knew it to be true. I expected her to die. We talked about it; I begged her to watch over me. She held me in her arms and promised. In that breakaway wind around dream way, the next time I saw her she was slumped up against a pillar. I was overcome with grief. Her death was not what I expected.
I was supposed to get something of hers to keep. I had nothing. Then I lost something in a small arty boutique, I think my keys. I turned back and saw some kind of montage/sculpture, brightly colored, with complex pieces attached together.
It had been hers, I recognized it. I went to purchase it, I don’t think I had enough money, but the shopkeeper took pity on me and I paid what I had. I didn’t expect this.
Some strange, faceless man told me part of the sculpture had been made in 1938. I had the weird feeling that it couldn’t be that old, that I was born in 1964, and I was already very old. The implication was that portion of the sculpture had been made by my high school boyfriend. How could that be?
I sat down at a table with others, expecting someone to come in. My dinner companions said “Namaste” loudly, I did softly. A young African man came in, I didn’t know him. Not who I expected.
I tried to help a man supervise some delinquent female teenagers in a small portable trailer. It appeared he was supposed to watch over them in a shower, or bath type situation. I had no moral judgment on this, but I said I would take over and watch. Somehow one or more of the four of them escaped. I was surprised, I’d been there all along.
Someone tried to drive me back to my home or workplace. My sense of direction was off, we passed a turnoff and I saw mountains so beautiful I started to cry with joy, a gorgeous lake, the sun shining off the water, snow on the peaks. Yet I was lost. My ride turned the van to get me home
when we passed a landmark that should have been behind us, a campground or an outpost. I was surprised at the traveling companions’ patience.
I also sat by a river where people were doing their washing, like a close up scene of people by the Ganges. There was a middle age woman there washing clothes, children, many people. Everyone grouped together.
Now anyone who wants to can take a stab at this dream, but I woke nearly in tears before I realized I was home alone. This feels like a solo journey, where I never can know the outcome. And I don’t know who’s coming anymore, or how long they’ll be with me. Or what surprises will await me on the journey.
Last night I went dancing. I had a date, and he took me dancing.
Huge screens of MTV music video promos. Bumpy bounce as you bounce dance floor. People my age, older, and younger. Billy Idol, Michael Jackson, the B-52s. Jugs of water, a bar if you needed it. Jumping around and not caring what anyone thought. The first run of those days were so long ago, but they didn’t feel that way while we were doing the moves.
I must say it was a bit jarring that my date has lost most of his hair.
My date was a good sport. On an earlier get together he asked me what I liked to do. I really had a hard time answering. I’ve been doing what other people want to do for a long time. Following the children around, promoting their interests, Wow! and if it was appealing to me, then I’d do it (whatever) too. Selective editing of activities so as not to cause embarrassment. Worry over everyone enjoying themselves.
Doing what was supposed to be interesting.
He said “how do you feel about dancing?”.
“I would love that..” I said. In fact, I felt like crying with relief.
Here’s a truth..I don’t much like classical music concerts. I respect the musicianship and the history, I just don’t have the joy I have when bopping around to ridiculous hits of the 80s. I don’t feel like crying the way I do when I hear “Landside” by Fleetwood Mac. Perhaps because I don’t have memories of 19th century Germany to transport me back in time.
I never really said to my ex “I don’t really love the classical music concerts”. He told me he liked them, but I never had the sense that they brought him joy. To me they seemed like “proper” activities, and he properly liked them. I could be wrong.
He liked Bruck Springsteen too, a lot. I don’t want to make him into a stodgy old man. I just didn’t see the joy.
Never, never was there dancing. Never. He couldn’t even remember the time I took him Tea Dancing in San Francisco when we were engaged. He didn’t like it; but played along politely. Years later, he couldn’t remember it.
And dancing was off the menu. For 25 years.
I’m not sure about my date, how much I like him. He reminds me a bit of a young man I knew in high school, not a looker, who loved me (and in fact, still does, as a friend). I could never muster up the romance for him. I have at times regretted my lack of feelings for him.
Too much analysis. I don’t know. I’ll have to dance along for now. Maybe that’s enough for today.