I’m very glad to have found 70 Candles, but I must admit, at 69+, I am not at at all thrilled about my next birthday.
Young to Old:
Brought up to believe that looks were everything, I knew that one day when mine faded, I was going to be very unhappy! Mothers today, unless their heads are firmly buried in the sand, have become wiser regarding this foolish and unhealthy dynamic, especially when raising daughters. However, since money is to be made and our world is more greedy than ever, the push to be physically appealing continues. Parents need to find ways to encourage their kids to find interests, passions, hopefully, that happen outside themselves so that they can grow and flourish from within. This is where true beauty lies. Fortunate people are born with a calling, pursue it and live purposeful, productive lives. I know that this is where true fulfillment and happiness live.
I have never been a happy, happy person. My upbringing was rocky with a perfectionist, critical mother and an alcoholic, melancholic dad. Despite, I knew they loved me and boy, did I love them. All I wanted was for them to be happy and for mom to speak to dad. It was tough. When I became a teenager, all thoughts turned to “boys.” My parents did not care about how lousy a student I was. I was definitely ADD but that was not yet a thing. College was not discussed. I was very immature. My older brother, who did have a calling and pursued it, told my parents that girls now *had* to go to college. Since he was their idol, I went to college. Again, the immaturity – I was not ready for college, never studied and basically just enjoyed living in the dorm and socializing. I am glad that I went though because, for the first time, I was noticed, even among 30k others,by guys who were smart, cute, motivated, some even with “callings.” That did help boost my very low self-esteem.
After graduation, I became an elem school teacher, like so many others. I was basically forced into teaching, but I liked it at first. And, it was yet another source of self-confidence, I actually felt like I was respected for the first time in my life. I went on to work for IBM and HP. Though the greed and Old Boys Network sickened me, I loved working for these companies. I still had a lot to learn about how to conduct myself in the “adult world.” I met a guy at IBM, we married and had a daughter. I didn’t want kids and neither did he, but boy, did we adore her. I tried my best to raise her with confidence, praise, encouragement, as a feminist, etc., and she has done well, but though we were very close, she did do the teenage rebellion thing and quite fiercely. Once she was in her early 20’s, our good relationship returned. However, when she turned 25, she began to act strangely around me and I found out that she thought I was pretty much a loser with no self-esteem, no confidence in my decisions, I allowed my anxiety issues to affect my life (yes, that has been a real “joy”to live with since age 21), etc. Today, I am still not comfortable with her and feel like a loser in her presence. It’s exhausting. I have to hope that this is a 2nd adolescence and that she will change back one day. I just don’t know. It makes me feel like I really was not a good mother at all. “She saw thru me” kind of thing.
Through the years, my work became my oasis. There, I had purpose, I was productive, I had some friends, definitely found comfort in the presence of others going through the same things in life. When both my parents died, I went to the office to work after the funerals, both on weekends when it was quiet and I was all alone. It was my safe place where I felt best about who I was and what I could do. I could focus on other than bad feelings and my constant feelings of failure as a person.
Once I was booted in an ugly way from my HP job in 2010, set up mercilessly for failure in 2008, age-related, I did find other jobs, but they were pretty horrendous. After almost 20 years, I had become a mentor of sorts at HP, felt pretty good about myself finally. I still had so much to give, more energy than most of my co-workers and had finally learned how to behave in the corporate world! I fought so hard to stay, so hard. In these new jobs, I was a newbie at 60+! And everyone was younger, much younger. I began to notice the lack of connection with others. Let me say here, I like being around people and am outgoing, but have never needed a robust social life. Always liked one on one relationships with a few good friends. Needed alone time very desperately.
Until age 67, I looked much younger and did not yet feel invisible! One day I woke up with crow’s feet, age puckers between my eyes, crinkly chin and wrinkled neck! My very fine hair began to shed. I also found out I had Lynch disease, a cancer syndrome. And here I was, a cancer-phobe who freaked over health issues in general, (a definite trigger for that lifelong paralyzing anxiety). I was old.
An avid exerciser since my 20’s has held me together emotionally and physically. I can’t do what I once did and now have found out I have osteoporosis of the lumbar spine, so that of course, impacts what I can do working out as well as everyday activities.
I stopped working in 2014. I was with a small firm and the owner was quite mad. That was fine with me, as believe it or not, I have a very upbeat and quirky sense of humor. However, when his political beliefs became an every day rant, I had to leave.
Since then I have done all I can think of to do to be *purposeful.* It has taken years for me to find a few things I enjoy that I do each week. I believe that I could still work full time, but if you don’t use it, you lose it. And I have lost the desire really to work at all. I don’t want someone to tell me what to do anymore. I did so for many decades at much lower pay than men or obnoxiously aggressive women.
When I was young, I had issues but I had HOPE. I saw life as a lovely upward path, paved with stones and flowers. Today I see nothing but sickness and pain and the end of life for myself and people I love. Some days I feel almost human, and I do feel better when around people, but I can’t do late evenings anymore *with* people, only by myself. I do enjoy those couple of hours before bedtime when I almost feel like my old self. I am unable to stop thinking about the reality of being a short timer and I find it terrifying.
Sorry this is not a happy story. I wish I could live each day in a mindful way. I’ve tried classes in mindfulness, meditation, been in therapy all my life. Nothing works. I used to have moments of such great joy and happiness, it’s not possible to describe, even in my earlier 60’s. Now, sometimes when I work out, drink wine, hear certain songs (I love music) or am inspired by the many people I know in their 70’s living vital lives, dealing with whatever comes their way, I do still feel a slight blip of joy, but it doesn’t last. When my looks and my job went away, my hope went with them. I would like to fulfill the one constant dream I’ve had since my first bouts of panic and anxiety in my early 20’s: Peace.
I know this is a negative bio, but I can be quite helpful to others and do have an upbeat nature at times. I hope I can learn to look at life in a healthier way through 70 Candles and also bring some of my better self to others. At least those feeling as I do will know they have a sister.