When I was sitting in a café yesterday writing my last post, I thought, “This is so ordinary. I am just an older woman living my life. Why would anyone want to read this?” I almost deleted the post in order to wait until something “exciting” happened. But as I looked around, I saw several other older women sitting alone like me or talking with a friend. The two women next to me were talking about Clinton and Sanders. In addition to the older women, there was a young girl getting water for her father and a very old man who shuffled in with a cane.
Ordinary people living ordinary lives.
The night before, a friend had invited me to a “meetup” for people over 50. As an introvert I abhor these things but I went because I like her and wanted to spend time with her. It was worth enduring an hour of the meetup to be able to have dinner later. But during our dinner she talked about two other women she had met recently and suggested that all four of us “get together sometime.”
I wanted to say, ‘no, I prefer one-on-one visits with you’ but instead I offered an obligatory and listless ‘sure.’ When I got home I realized that she and I are at different stages of our life, and because of this our interests and goals do not align. She still works at a job and is actively seeking a male lover.
It’s hard for me to accept that I am probably just a person she is going out with in order to meet a man. I have had this happen before, and when I was young, I did it myself. After 30 years I still feel ashamed about dropping a wonderful friend the minute I met a man. When I said to my friend last night, ‘people can be friends and have a good time without sex’ she replied, “I’m not ready for that yet.”
Yes, well, there were a lot of things I didn’t think I was “ready for” but these things happened anyway – getting laid off from four jobs in a row, losing my youthful attractiveness, losing friends that were still working (and felt uncomfortable about my unemployment), having to sell my home and buy another one in a less desirable area.
During a recent conversation with my mother who is 83, she said, “I never thought I would end up like this.” Where did she think she would “end up” – in a shimmering castle on an idyllic Greek island? When young, I could always believe that I would end up somewhere better than wherever I was. I had endless time ahead of me for ‘great things’ to happen. But at some elusive point the trajectory going up levelled off and then started going down. For most people, this is perfectly normal and should be expected, but few expect it.
There is a perfect word for this, “ennui,” (a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement). It is similar to the word “angst” (a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general). I seem to be swinging on a trapeze between both of these states, and in-between or tucked somewhere in the middle is an elusive state of contentment that waxes and wanes like the moon.
It is sometimes said about introverts that they are “in the world but not of it.” I think an aging introvert feels this even more. Whatever one thinks of as “the world” gets further and further away from everyday reality. If one is psychologically prepared, this fading of the world can be liberating but nothing in one’s culture is going to celebrate it or even acknowledge it. What replaces that which gets lost is ephemeral, incoherent, unformed. It is the mysterious unknown, the state we end up in when “loss” is no longer temporary.
My losses now turn into leaves that fall from a tree and are welcomed back into the earth, they are chapters of a book I wrote that can now be set aside as having been read. An older friend recently reminded that I don’t have to do anything anymore, I can just BE.
A few days ago I wrote, “I believe that everything I need comes to me and that the reason I am alive and in this physical environment is obvious. I don’t need to question my existence. I am because I am, because there is a power beyond what I can see. There is an invisible brush that is painting my life, that is writing the play I am acting in. To the extent that I can stay in alignment with what happens, I am fulfilling my role here. My independence is inviolate.
This is my ordinary.