My story

Gail,

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. 

Thank you. 

This entry was posted in 70 from other perspectives: looking forward and looking back, 70candles, About turning 70, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Attitudes about aging, Family matters, Our bodies, our health, Share your story, Stories, Work life and retirement and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to My story

  1. Linda says:

    Your story has made my day! You have given voice to all my sentiments about myself and where I am in my life currently (age 68). You have tremendous insight into yourself and it’s refreshing to hear someone tell it like it is — for me, and for many others, I’m sure. In fact, I look forward to the book based on all the candid contributions to this blog. This could have a happy ending for you — if you found as much joy in writing your story as I did in reading it. I hope you’ll continue to express yourself in this way. As for me, I’m going to keep trying to focus on cramming a lot of living into the time I have left — my grandmothers lived to mid-90s, after all, and my mother is 87. That’s much too long to be miserable from the vicissitudes of old age. Wouldn’t it be awesome if somehow the best is indeed yet to come.

    • Blog mavens says:

      Linda,
      There is a book based on ‘candid contributions to this blog’ and from our many 70Candles gatherings.
      It’s 70Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade, available from Taos Institute Publications and from Amazon.com in print and Kindle formats.
      We hope you will enjoy reading it.
      Jane and Ellen

  2. gail says:

    Thank you Linda! Wow, *your* comment certainly made *my* day! It’s refreshing to hear that even though one can feel some uncomfortable feelings about aging, they can still live life to the fullest. I can hear the bubbling joy in your words, even though you understand and share some of my rather negative feelings about aging, esp approaching the big 7-0.
    It’s awesome to me that you are able to feel positive after reading my thoughts.
    Happy new year to you, your mom and the rest of your family! Hope we cross paths again.

  3. Diana says:

    Gail, it’s not a negative bio. It’s an honest one.

    There are never easy answers.

    One way that I cope (and you seem to be doing too) is to give myself small moments of joy each day. Seriously, a great chocolate cookie with a cup of tea, a really good sunset, a favorite CD – it doesn’t have to be anything big.
    But it helps dispell the gloom.

    We can’t change our pasts, but we can (within limits) live our days in ways that please us.

    Have a good 2019….

    • gail says:

      Thank you Diana. I agree with you of course. “It is what it is,” though worn and overused, does pretty much describe much of what we go through in later life. How we choose to live it depends on many, many variables.
      I have always embraced, and actually appreciated, the small joys in life more than the I have the larger ones. The lasting memories, for me, are not places I’ve been but the little things that happened there: a great convo with my kid, finding a tiny blue crayfish w/her in the woods, I remember the thrill of wonder (What IS this thing?) and the brilliance of the color, as a kid, spying a shiny sequin or rhinestone on the floor of a dept store…..
      I’ve sat for hours working crossword puzzles over endless cups of decaf when I was single and had time. Something about the focus and the peace of it.
      I don’t consciously incorporate tiny joys into my day, they just kind of happen. The last year or so, since I’ve felt so down about the certainty of what lies ahead, I haven’t been able to really enjoy much. And this has been a rough year in terms of friends and family and changes that I can’t explain. The only thing that brings me peace these days is the internet. I can get lost in reading, sharing opinions, etc. At night, before I go to bed, I watch peaceful videos to help me sleep. They are my anchor right now, and if I feel especially badly, I think about them and it helps.
      As well, once this limbo week is over, I go back to my exercise class and a few other weekly activities I do which help a lot. Just being around people in a purposeful setting and feeling productive seem to chase the fears and obsessive thinking away.
      Happy New Year to you too, Diana. Again, I appreciate your response.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I truly appreciate your vulnerability and authenticity. It makes me wish there were a way for us all to actually get together to support each other! Happy 2019!!!

    • Blog mavens says:

      Janine,
      There is a way to get together with other women for mutual sharing and support!
      See our 70Candles Gatherings page. The link to it is on the upper right hand side of the top bar of our opening page. Enter your contact information there. Perhaps there are other women in your area with similar wishes.
      Jane and Ellen

    • gail says:

      Thanks Janine!
      I see a note below from “The Mavens” that may be helpful. I’m going to take a look too. Perhaps it’s been updated from the last time I looked.
      And I agree, getting together to share thoughts and experiences could be such an enriching and supportive experience.
      Best in 2019.

  5. Ann says:

    I’m also 69 going on 70 and find it a bit disheartening to focus on old. I’ve read enough to be excited and concerned about the possibility of living another 30 years. Since I’ve had a few careers like you, I know I can adapt and have taken to going back to thinking about what I wish I’d known then about picking a direction and following a path of my choosing. There’s a guy, Brendon Burchard, who’s basically a modern day Tony Robbins (I’ve never done any Tony Robbins) and he has a free 7-day Transformation video series online right now about getting in touch with ones priorities and making them happen in 2019.

    Check out: https://www.hpxlife.com/p/transformationweek-live

    And I guess since my health is good, I don’t see any reason not to approach the next 30 years with more intention than I did the last 30 — marriage, school, kids, career, job change, were all competing with prioritizing looking inside myself to try to recognize what contribution I wanted to be recognized (in my small pond) for.

    FWIW,

    p.s. I don’t have any affiliation with Brendon or make any money from sharing information about is free online video . . . if it’s inappropriate to share the link here, I apologize.

    • gail says:

      Thanks Ann,
      I applaud your outlook and certainly agree that moving forward in a positive way beats the alternative! I will definitely take a look at the link you shared. I have had moments in this past year that I’ve interpreted as losing parts of myself, but I also feel inspired to be who I am, if I can figure out who and what that is!

      Thank you and here’s 2019 and ’49 as well!!

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