Don’t believe it

When our divorce process was just beginning, the separation phase, the shock and depression phase, I read as many books on the subject as I could muster. I googled my ass off, poured over Goodreads and Amazon reviews of divorce books and read into the night.

Reading and insomnia go hand in hand.

That’s how I handle most challenges in my life usually, I study the problem to wrap my head around it and hopefully find a solution or plan of attack. Sometimes reading about it gives me solutions, or at least ideas of how to cope, other times it just helps ease my mind to know that I’m not the only one.

And isn’t that what we are all hoping for, not to be the only loser in the room?

It didn’t take me long to notice the trend in divorce books and articles were skewed towards women – are there any divorce books or articles for/about men? I wonder. It sure didn’t seem like it during my research.

What I also noticed was a running theme, across most books and articles aimed at women, that most women getting divorced, over the age of 40 like myself, were well past their prime. They are on the other side of the hill, washed up and dried out, and can only expect to live a life slightly above miserable because they are no longer young, sexy and desirable. They need to buckle up for the bumpy ride to the finish line.

And part of the reason that we are now divorced is that we have let ourselves go during our marriage, obviously. We have become fat and frumpy, sour and lame, and now life will suck. We focused too heavily on our kids all of these years and have let our love relationships slip through our fingers.

Now we must deal with the fallout from giving up on ourselves, and our marriages, and hang our heads in shame while we plug along through the muck of the rest of our lives.

We don’t moisturize, we don’t exercise, and our brains have turned to mush from raising children and taking care of our husbands, because we also don’t have any career goals or real outside interests of our own that mean anything.

In other words, that anyone else finds important.

We have to accept that men our age are “only” looking for much younger women – of which we are no match for, obviously. We don’t have the energy to get back into the game, even if we wanted to. We’re much too enmeshed in our craft projects, charity volunteering, HGTV and stuffing our faces with comfort food while we pull on our stretch pants and big t-shirts with butterfly appliques while we wait to die…alone.

We’re too busy cutting off the crusts on organic sandwiches for our tweens, planning the next prom theme with the PTA or caring for our aging extended family while ironing (his) shirts and rsvping for the next corporate gala function supporting the latest charity interest. We’re busy!

Much too busy to consider finding love again, or even a willing partner to look our way.

And how could we even expect to find love again when all of the men we’re “allowed” to be interested in (within a reasonable age range, of course, usually a bit older because they still like them younger even when they’re riding into the sunset of life) they are either still married (by some stroke of good luck) or are now dating women who could be our daughters??

You know what? Enough.

Why are we continuously expected to accept this narration of what a middle aged divorced woman is supposed to be? Why are we viewed as the hopelessly lonely spinsters of midlife because we’re divorced now?

Have you met a middle-aged divorced woman lately? I have, and believe me we’re not all throwing in the towel and accepting that we’ll never have sex again and die lonely. Get married again? Well, that’s a fifty-fifty shot, most women choose not to get remarried after a long-term marriage. That’s a real statistic, look it up.

Can you blame them??

No, midlife divorce is crushing. It’s depressing and humbling, it’s a waterfall of emotions while at the same time a slow drip on your soul likened to Chinese water torture (usually thanks to your ex, what else is new?). It’s painful in ways you never thought you could hurt, and would never wish on anyone. It takes your breath away. It takes away your identity and pulls the rug out from under you. It takes, and takes, and takes.

But it’s also a gift.

It’s the gift of a do-over when you have the maturity and experience to hopefully know what you want and need this time. A lesson well learned by now with any luck, and maybe with a bit of therapy for good measure. It’s the gift of not having to live the rest of your life in a hollow shell of a relationship, biding your time, thinking that this is just as good as it gets because surely everyone must feel this way.

They don’t.

Some do, of course, but not everyone. No, it’s not normal and it’s not okay.

It’s the realization that you now have the ability to create the life you want, they way you want it, without anyone else having an opinion that you really have to consider. It’s taking steps in a new direction that you may have never considered, or maybe you have considered it in the past but always managed to tell yourself that you couldn’t because…fill in the blank. You couldn’t because you wouldn’t be supported in your decision, you would be shamed for even thinking of pursuing it, you would be tormented for taking time away from what was “important” in someone else’s opinion.

It’s freedom.

Sure, this isn’t the way it was supposed to turn out. Nobody gets married with an expiration date printed on their marriage license, or written into their vows “I take you for the next twenty years, then we’ll renegotiate the terms of our relationship”.

Maybe we should have?

But that doesn’t mean that you won’t have a happy life with a happy ending. Your happiness is based solely upon what you choose it to be. You. Nobody else. And age has nothing to do with it.

I love the saying “I ain’t dead yet”, because it is so true and it’s real. You’re not, if you’re reading this. We’re not dead yet, so stop counting us out.

And truthfully, we’re not really old. Remember when 40 was considered old? That’s when people died before they turned sixty. People live to be 80, 90, sometimes over 100 years old now. Get over yourself, put away that AARP card, and go make the life you want the way you want it to be. Nobody can tell you not to now.

With whomever you want it to be with, older or younger, or on your own. It’s really up to you now. You have choices. Stop letting the world tell you that you’re too old to start over again, stop listening to the commercials that it’s time for you to slow down and give up.

Don’t believe it.

That’s my book, my article, my advice. Short and simple.

And it’s good for women and men, because I’m a rule breaker.

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Please don’t take away my girl card

I have never been a girly girl, as much as my mother tried.

And tried, and tried.

I can dress up like the rest of them, with my makeup and high heels, when the occasion calls for it. I can sit still long enough to get my nails done, mainly because of that amazing massage chair that the salons offer and a Starbucks coffee nearby. And I do like to be pampered once in awhile, with a full body massage or an acupuncture treatment to calm my body and mind.

But that’s about where it ends.

I am more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, with sneakers, or my most favorite Birkenstock sandals that I’ve owned for over 15 years. I put on makeup each day before I leave the house now, but that only began during my divorce. I suddenly realized that I could run into people who may know both of us, or even his new arm candy of a wife, in the grocery store or around town and the report back would be that I looked like an old, haggard troll doll on a bad day.

Not happening.

I am a boy mom, not a girl mom. So the pressure is off to be the girly girl. If anything I learned to embrace the boy culture almost too easily. It spoke to me. It was hard wired inside of me since the second grade when I realized that dresses were nice, but a lot of work around boys with curious eyes. Plus, they were cold to wear in the winter!

You have to suffer to be beautiful, I get it, but cold? No thanks.

Now in my later years, my midlife years, I have realized that there is yet another girly DNA segment that I am missing. The gardening gene. Most women my age love to garden. They love plants, how to tend to them and how to talk to them. They love it so much that they make entire groups out of the idea, meeting up to talk gardening or sell gardening items and plants to raise funds for charity, which is admirable.

I have even been invited to join a garden club once or twice along the way. I’ve also been encouraged to take cuttings from someone’s home to nurture into a plant for my own yard or home. My own mother is a green thumb type and has tried (once again, really tried) to entice me to show an interest in what types of plants are in my own backyard, and in her backyard. Maybe swapping cuttings or talking about fertilizer over coffee.

I can’t tell you the names of half of the plants that are currently growing in my yard.

I can tell you what colors I have, and which ones I adore most for their colors and shapes. I love lilac bushes, rose of sharon bushes and hydrangeas in blue and purple, but please don’t ask me to make a seasonal ornamental planter for my front porch. Or to plant annuals to add color to my front window.

You mean I’d have to do that every year??

It’s not from lack of effort, I have tried to embrace the idea of caring for a yard full of green life now that I own my own home. I have weeded and cleared areas, cut the grass and used the weed wacker. I actually enjoy cutting the grass, believe it or not. I attribute that to using a large machine to do the job and the look of the lines across the lawn when it’s complete. It’s beautiful and symmetrical.

But somewhere along the way, after a day of full on energy diving in for four or more hours, I lose interest. For weeks.

It’s worse than cleaning a house that you know is just going to get dirty again. The weeds grow back, sometimes faster than they grew to get there in the first place. What the hell?!

When we had moved into our first home together over twenty years ago, I made the most foolish mistake of agreed upon labor division I can now imagine. Knowing that landscaping and gardening were really not my thing, I agreed to take care of the inside of the house if my soon to be husband would take care of the outside. I would clean, do the laundry, do the grocery shopping, cook and tend to any other homeowner type of care within my abilities. I didn’t want any responsibility for decision making or care for the outside – because it wasn’t my thing. And he had worked with landscaping during college summers, so he was basically a pro compared to me.

The reason it was foolish? Lawn care has a season, or two if it’s a warm fall. Inside home care is all year round.

Just because it snowed didn’t mean that we didn’t need laundry done, or that the house didn’t need to be cleaned. There is no “season” for housekeeping. Adding to that, I usually ended up shoveling the driveway, during the worst months in our midwest winters, because that was “busy season” for his line of work. My career was year round busy, for theĀ  most part, with crazy hours sometimes but I made the deal didn’t I?

Women’s work is never done. Preach it, sister!

So is it any wonder why I have no real desire or zest for yard work and gardening now? I am full on with the housekeeping care, keeping kids and pets alive, why did I think I would suddenly embrace this female link for gardening now?

Maybe because I am now over 50. Isn’t that what women my age are supposed to do?

Just add it to the growing list of how I don’t fit into this girl club, never really have and most likely never really will. But that’s okay. I still love a good project, like cleaning out the garage, and getting dirty. I still enjoy the reward of a well organized basement or spare room, and the multiple garbage bags dragged to the curb or dropped off and donated.

I still get dressed up with makeup and perfume when the occasion calls for it, I love to cook and bake, and I can sew a patch onto a scout uniform – with my sewing machine (finally) – without too much of a challenge. I love long baths, red wine and outdoor concerts on the lawn. I can make a mean cheese and sausage platter, too.

Hopefully that’s enough to let me keep my girl card.