Not just me then!


Susie, Age 70

What a lovely relief to discover your page when I was idly Googling ‘feeling sad at turning 70’, which I was last week on February 18th.

I had decided that this year, after excruciatingly disappointing previous landmark birthdays, 40, 50 & 60, I would make this one count (last chance saloon?) and so I booked a long weekend in Rome with my best friend. What a wonderful weekend it was, blue sky, sunshine, and visiting all my favourite places in that most beautiful city, truly wonderful.

On returning home, aside from somehow becoming host to a stinker of a cold, it all felt a bit different. Having had the company of my dearest friend for four days, the solitude of my home hit hard suddenly. I have lived alone for twenty plus years now, me and my adored dog.

I have worked all my life, reasonably successful in my career, but three years ago I was rather brutally shown the exit door by my company, no happy farewell party for me, with balloons, champagne and gifts galore, but a sudden redundancy. Boom, the end. It hit me really hard having worked all my life, feeling valued and popular and yes, I’ll admit it, I thought I was Queen Bee.

I sat for days on end weeping and staring out of the window that December, and slowly descended into what I can only describe as the black hole, lonely, feeling pretty worthless and altogether pointless. Anxiety attacks had me keeling over, me, of all people, Ms. Confident. Who’d have thought. I had good friends and a beautiful son and two grandchildren, as far as they were concerned all was well. I was a master of disguise you see (which is why the ‘high functioning anxiety’ label was eventually attached). It was only when the front door was firmly closed, the smile dropped and the tears fell.

Anyway, fast forward, I realised I was never going to find another perfect job, with hours that suited, so after a couple of awful ones, and my God, they were awful, I gave up trying to find one. I’d cut my suit according to my cloth, and budget to stay within the realms of my pension, using my savings for ’emergencies’ only. Slowly slowly I climbed out of the black hole, I rejoined my gym that was once a company perk, as an off peak member and got back to my much loved Yoga and Spin classes. What a tonic they were, a couple of hours every morning out of the house and with other human beings, of course. Staying for a coffee and a catch up after classes was out of the question, couldn’t afford that now, but who cares, I have a Nespresso machine at home!

So, for the last eighteen months plus, life was good again, Hoorah! No more rushing to be anywhere I didn’t want to be, no constraints, come and go as I please. Yes, sometimes over holiday weekends I might feel a little melancholy, after all, wasn’t everyone else in the whole world having a marvellous time with their families and friends? No, I know they most likely weren’t, but…..

So, I’d settled at last into ‘retirement’. I did nothing I didn’t want to do, never rushed and loved walking my dog for miles through the glorious countryside around me, occasionally seeing a friend for coffee or dinner out, (my close friends are all younger than me, with husbands and kids at home and full time jobs) and even less than occasionally seeing my son and grandchildren, who, have the busiest schedules under the sun, with a myriad of out of school activities and my son working long shifts for the NHS, and his wife also with a full time job. Everyone busy busy busy, and all envying me not working, hmm, if only they knew. Nevertheless, I felt content and life was good, again.

And here we are right now, the best ever birthday trip, and the warmest February in the UK on record, with the sun blazing every day to date and Spring right there on the horizon. So, why, I wonder, do I suddenly feel rather sad? That now, time feels like it’s running on low, like a petrol tank that cannot be refilled. Me? The one with Carpe Diem tattooed on her wrist? Oh the irony. Me? The one that’s always preaching mindfulness and to look no further than tomorrow? Yes, that me. I do so hope this melancholic feeling is fleeting, I never realised that a landmark Birthday could on one hand be so fabulous and on the other, actually rather daunting. Perhaps it’s this awful head cold I’ve picked up, which has sapped my energy to zero and made me a sneezing and snotty prisoner almost, in my own home for the past week. Or perhaps, it’s because I’ve turned 70? Answers on a post card please?


This entry was posted in 70candles, About turning 70, Aging, Attitudes about aging, Family matters, Loneliness, Sad about aging, Stories, Work life and retirement and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Not just me then!

  1. Carole Ries says:

    Hi Susie,

    My 70th birthday is today! I hope your cold gets better and that you can get back to the activities you enjoyed before your trip to Rome.

    It is a milestone birthday. I looked online at quotes about aging. “Aging is not lost youtth but a new stage for opportunity and strength.“ said Betty Friedan.

    Happy February Birthday! Carpe Diem!

  2. Karen gardner says:

    Most everyone I know over the age of 70 has lonely periods, sometimes profound. And at least with the women I’ve talked with, family is oftimes a source of the loneliness because of not being able to see family members. In my experience, one of the best things one can do to combat the loneliness is to volunteer . I ran for office and am now a park commissioner at age 79! The loneliness doesn’t disappear but being engaged helps substantially. Bless you

  3. Pat says:

    Susie! What a marvelous writer you are! And resourceful as well. Rome sounds like the perfect way to celebrate a milestone birthday. It’s not easy to find new purpose and meaning in life but I’m sure you will. It just takes some time. I believe happiness is it’s by product. May I recommend a new book? It’s called “Women Rowing North” by Mary Pipher. I am 78 and rapidly approaching another milestone birthday and though I can’t say exactly why, I can tell you that some of the happiest days of my life have been in this decade!!

    • Susie says:

      Hello Pat, Women Rowing North just ordered ! Thank you x

    • Susie says:

      Hello again Pat, I’m a quarter in to Women Rowing North, please tell me that it’s not all as depressing as the first quarter ! So far it seems to be a lot about ailments and people dying. I’m struggling with wanting to continue, I have it on my Kindle so not easy to flip through pages in an effort to find ‘the good bits’ ! It’s probably the most expensive book I’ve ever downloaded too at £11.00 !

  4. Hazel says:

    Happy Birthday! I really enjoyed reading your story. There are ups and downs and I am inspired on how you are weathering them and persevering to fulfill your life with joy and meaning.

    Hazel

  5. Susie Blythe says:

    Wow ! Brand new to this site, and already replies full of love and kindness, which actually brought a tear to my eye, thank you thank you thank you ! And by the way, today is the first day I haven’t got through a whole box of Kleenex blowing my poor nose red raw ! Everything is looking up xxx

  6. Laurie says:

    Hi Susie,

    I have lots of thoughts.

    1. You could easily be looking at 20+ more years of life. Time for lots of trips as you save your money. So many wonderful places to visit in the UK that would be just a car trip away to save on plane fares. When can your best friend go again? Plan another trip, even if it is just 4 days. If you like to take long walks, there are walking vacations and you could go as a single and meet new people.
    2. Your son and grandchildren. Are they close by but just too busy? Could you take them a homemade dinner once a week to help out and reconnect? How about actually sharing with your son how you are feeling? Are your grandchildren old enough to visit you or take on a trip, maybe just one at a time? Would your son plan a vacation to include you if you offered babysitting?
    3. What are you passionate about? Could you volunteer locally and meet new friends? The library, the hospital, a food bank, a non-profit? Sounds like you desperately need new friends. Start a book club, a walking club with brown bag lunch at your house after.
    4. Looking ahead, would you like to eventually live next to or near a friend? If you shared an apartment (flat?) with someone, you could have companionship, a bigger space, someone there in case of those inevitable emergencies as we age.
    5. How lovely if you had the goal to have several friends to get together for lunch every week, alternating houses and saving money by all brown bagging.
    6. You need some joy in your life. Have you read the Swedish book, The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared? It is by Jonas Jonasson? Laugh out loud funny!

    Good luck. I picture you tramping in the Lake Country of England with gusto.

    Laurie, age 74 and still going strong

    • Susie says:

      Hello Laurie,

      Thank you for your thoughts. Money is a little tight now, so holidays here and there throughout the year would be a stretch. Rome was a wonderful extravagance from my savings pot, and well deserved if I say so myself! My bestie has a husband and two kids at home and works full time, thus not readily available as you can imagine for breaks away with me and I’m eternally grateful for her company to Rome with me.

      My son and his family have hectic schedules, the kids, aged 12 and 9 have activities after school most evenings and weekends. While a homemade dinner from me all sounds rather cosy and lovely, to find them all in the same place at any one time, and all eating the same meal is unimaginable. Family meals all at the table seem to be a thing of the past, sadly. I wouldn’t dream of telling my son that I wished we had more time together, he doesn’t have time for himself, we have snatched catch ups which we both value greatly. I’m certainly not going to add any weight to his already burdened shoulders. As to holidays as a family, with holiday venues that my daughter in law favours, like Cuba, no, that doesn’t fit into my budget ! Plus, it’s about the only time they are all in one place as a family together, who’d want their Mum/Mother in Law in tow! I wouldn’t!

      I really don’t ‘desperately need new friends’! I wonder why you would think that! I have close friends of many years standing, whose company I really enjoy, and also what I’d call acquaintances from walking my dog, and from my gym, a friendly chat is lovely, but whose company for any more than that I wouldn’t choose. My week is nicely balanced between gym classes, and a once a week nursing home visit to a relative, and as you ask, my passion is my garden, which with Winter soon gone, will have my full attention and tender loving care administered in bucket loads!

      I would never even want to contemplate leaving my beautiful cottage, or my garden, lovingly restored over the 21 years I have been here, to my perfection, I love it, it’s my safe place, with the countryside on my doorstep, and London just 40 minutes away on the train, and friends and family all within an easy thirty minute drive away, the added bonus of quiet neighbour’s, and local shops providing everything, including an Indian take away! Nirvana surely?

      Please be assured, I have so much joy in my life, the countryside around me thrills me in whatever season we are in, my dog who makes me laugh every day and fills me with unadultered love for her just being her, the sun shining in a blue cloudless sky, my close pals who are kind and thoughtful and always on the same page as me, well mostly any way! My health and vitality bring me joy every day (aside from this week when I’m full of snot!) My Yoga classes ensure mobility and flexibility and a peaceful mind. Having a pedicure every month brings me joy when I see perfect toes with their cherry red polished nails (my only extravagance pretty much, though as far as I’m concerned a necessity!)

      I love my life, for me it’s well balanced between the quietness and solitude that I love, to read a book, to gather my thoughts, to tend my garden, to just potter around listening to the radio, and also attending my gym classes each morning, the odd catch up with coffee and cake with a friend when they have a day’s leave from work, walking for miles with my dog every day, how lucky am I. You see, it’s because I love my life, that turning 70 suddenly made me realise just how much I love my life!

      All that said, I can only thank you sincerely for your reply, and your suggestions, I feel I have misled you in some way from my original post that I was floundering, no, I’m just adjusting to being an age that sounds at odds as to how old I feel, which is probably about 45!

      Susie

      • Bonnie S. says:

        Susie – Your second post sounds so much better and “happier” than your first one. I hope this means you are not feeling so “down” and will try some of the suggestions given by other posters. Your trip to Rome sounded great.

    • Jen Chambers says:

      Wow! You lovely lot. I’ve just stumbled on this brilliant website/blog and I love what I’m reading…I don’t love getting older but reading the stories here and the supportive responses makes me realise that I’m not alone in much of my thinking.
      This is probably the wrong section to drop this post but I just had to respond…oh and Susie I do hope you’ll find the sunshine behind the grey, because it is there I know because I occasionally get a glimpse of it!

  7. Becky says:

    “Time feels like it’s running on low, like a petrol tank that cannot be refilled.” I get that feeling often. I really appreciate your letter. This group is a good thing!

    Almost 71
    Becky

    • Susie says:

      Hi Becky, I’m hoping it’s a fleeting thought that came with my (70) territory! I have on the odd occasion in the past couple of years, wondered how many more Christmases might there be, but never dwelt on it particularly. I mean, who knows, and who would want to know ! I guess what we have to concentrate on is valuing and loving the now, and just let the clock tick on regardless as it always will. I reckon it’s pretty normal to have that kind of a thought when you hit a BIG birthday, don’t you? Thank you for replying !

  8. Bob Coulson says:

    Susie come hang out with Sage-ing International…we are filled with opportunities and possibilities and purpose for the second half of life.

    • Susie says:

      Hello Bob,
      Thank you, but it was just a contemplative thought that I posted having stumbled across this site, I am not sure I really think of it as the ‘second half of my life’, which actually sounds rather gloomy to me, for who knows what part of the whole we are at ! My purpose is as it has been for years now, seize every day, even if it’s a bad one !

  9. Kathy says:

    Susie,
    To me it sounds as if you have many blessings that a lot of women your age don’t have, in particular close, dear friends. And having younger friends is something you should be especially thankful for – they will keep you young. As someone who has lost her 3 closest friends over the past decade, I can tell you that although it’s easy to make many acquaintances, it’s impossible to replace the women who shared decades of my life. It’s a lonely place and I’d trade pretty much anything – money included – to have that connection back in my life. Yes, I can and have made new friends, but it just isn’t the same as the sisterly, lifetime connections I had.
    My advice is count your blessings – every day! You have so much going for you!

    • Susie says:

      Hello Kathy,

      Yes, I do have so much to be thankful for, and I do count my blessings, every day. I’m so happy to see you understand that long time friends are so precious, I agree with you entirely, my bestie and I met when we were student nurses nearly 40 years ago now ! She’s fifteen years younger than me but we have never ever had a fall out and though we are hugely different personalities we just seem to work perfectly. I lost a dear friend some years ago, she was just 44, so I understand your sentiments, I think about her often, and almost feel that I owe it to her to relish every day that she hasn’t had. It’s always nice to make new acquaintances but as you say, those that have shared our ups and downs along the way are such precious jewels in our life, and they’re treasured. Thank you for your reply, I’m so sorry you have lost your ‘treasures’, and be assured I count my blessings every day.

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