In case it hasn’t been blindingly obvious — stop shouting, guys — I’ve been a little out of sorts. Part of it is that we’re in a time of great change. No, I don’t mean politically, but that too.
I’m finally getting my thyroid issues treated, (though I need to schedule a check-up blood test) and I have a desk treadmill, both of which by and large make me feel 20 years younger. Unfortunately there are things making me feel twenty years older. Such as… younger son moved out this weekend.
Now, we still have older son on the property, but he has his own area, where he can live without coming upstairs but once or twice a week. So suddenly I find myself an empty nester.
I was never one of those mommies. You know exactly what I mean. When they were toddlers, and I was looking forward to their entering school (yes, yes, I should have homeschooled. Hindsight is 20-20) I was talking to a bunch of other moms and the consensus was “oh, when they go to school you’ll miss these days. You won’t know what to do with yourself.”
I was doubtful on the accuracy of this, and in fact it wasn’t accurate at all. When the kids were at school I wrote. That’s what I did. I never had any problems figuring out “what to do with myself.”
So why does the move out, and being alone with my husband (whom I happen to like, as well as love) freak me out? Why does it feel so weird?
I think I figured it. It’s not even the reorientation of our priorities. We’re still partly financially responsible for each boy and will be for two more years, and they are, of course, our priority till they’re wholly self sufficient.
No, it’s the images in the head of what each life stage should be like. When and where I grew up, when the kids left, you were done. You had done your job. Retirement was around the corner, and then you slowly dwindled into irrelevance while life went on without you, with nothing more to look forward to than visits from the grandkids.
Obviously this has changed in the last fifty years. It was always different for some people anyway. There were always exceptional people who started their career/interest in their fifties or sixties or even, occasionally, seventies.
But when and where I grew up sixties was “old” and seventies was very old and eighties was unheard of.
My parents are in their eighties and have broken the mold to an extent. I know what they did when the last kid (me) left the house. They went traveling.
I don’t particularly want to go traveling and besides, I think that was part of the assumption they were old and counted for nothing. They were going to travel before they died. They’re still around, and dad is keeping up on his reading and walking, but I don’t think my old age will be like their old age.
Part of what is changing everything — some for the better, some not — is that the entire concept of life milestones is changing. First is the longevity thing. We now can live to our nineties, or can count on it, barring the obviously unforeseeable stuff (I’ve lost friends in their fifties.) Expectation CAN extend to the nineties without straining credulity, and if you’re lucky, you can get to a hundred. It’s not only not unheard of, older son while working at the hospital saw a lot of centenarians.
That’s an almost doubling of the “reasonable expectation” of life for people when I was a kid. And before you say “but most of that is useless old age” … well, my dad complains (who doesn’t) and he’s not walking as fast as he was, but if I didn’t know his age I’d rate him as early seventies or, in village terms when I was little, sixties.
And yes, I too saw the article saying we can’t get past 114 because of errors in copying. (Rolls eyes.) This sort of assumes our gene-science never gets better.
The point I’m trying to make is that I have shoved the last kid out the door (not true, he skipped out) and I have an expectation of maybe forty years more, maybe more, because, well, look at how things changed in the last 50.
That is a lifetime. Careers lasting 20 years are full careers. Thirty, definitely.
It’s no time to dwindle, no matter what my subconscious says. But I have no models for what it is a time for. And humans are social animals. We live and die by models of what to do.
Hence I’ve been a little out of sorts. I’m trying to get over it, honest, because I have books to write, and there is no reason to be moping around waiting for grandchildren that might or might not happen (except for the adopted ones, who live too far away.) And certainly no one in my generation is seeing one red cent from social security, so we’ll have to work those next forty years, anyway.
But it’s all new. There is no guiding experience of previous generations, no model for this stage of life (we’ll call it “second maturity” shall we?)
Maybe I’ll start wearing a bun and dress all in black, to assuage the instinct, while I go about finally getting my career off the ground (almost impossible with offspring in the house.)
But I — and a lot of people who find there is no “model” for their stage of life — am going to be a little out of step, a little out of sorts. It’s almost like a second adolescence.
Bear with me. And advantage of being older is that I do know this too shall pass.