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December 2022

Posts from January 2023

Retired Women Don’t Like Clothes

Lake Worth Parrots
Lake Worth Beach Parrots

It turns out that retired women don’t like clothes. Okay, maybe not clothes altogether. I don’t think that they’re turning clothing-optional, but the process of having to dress to head outside and, you know, interact with people who have things to do and places to be is not something that they look forward to doing. Apparently, years of interactions and dressing for those interactions, has sapped us of our desire to do it one more time. Stay-at-home-retirees! That’s a thing.

It's also a thing to be surprised by the person we used to be. Who is that woman who ran meetings and talked to people all day long? Could she possibly be the woman who lives in her Boomer sweats, tries to sneak out to the stores when no one else will be there, and who cringes at the thought of chit chat?

The idea of the older recluse is not far from our minds—in an envious way.

We did not retire to waste more time on mindless activities and conversations. If that’s what you’re offering, then there’s no getting dressed for you!

Tied with not wanting to get dressed in outside clothes in general is not wanting to get dressed at a specific time for a specific event. If us older people aren’t in the work force, it’s because we have no desire to set an alarm clock for anything other than zooming with friends or family. If we need to set aside even a couple of hours a week consistently to do something, well, that’s another hurdle that we’d rather not overcome.

The ability to roll over in the morning when you see that it’s gray or rainy or snowy or sunny and not feel guilty about it is pure joy. It’s not the same as pressing the snooze button. No, it’s the freedom of knowing that no button can dislodge me.

A lifetime of busy schedules and commitments has led to this, a generation of women who would rather retreat than plan, or attend, another event.

We have become as flighty as our teenage selves, or even our own kids. Sure, we sign up for volunteering and we’re committed to making the world a better place (or is a less horrible place?). Unless, of course, there is that urge to just stay home, with no places to be and people to see, no one expecting anything from us.

It’s lovely to know that you’re in charge of your time—and your wardrobe. You can finally just suit yourself.


The Ways I Define Myself

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Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas

During the holidays, I travelled out West to visit my daughters. (Thankfully, I was neither delayed by storms nor technical meltdowns, and my luggage stayed with me, though it was tight in some bathroom stalls.) It was a break from “daughter living with mother” to “mother visiting daughters.” Now, I’m back in Florida and dog sitting for a few days, so I’m on my own and thinking about how both of those identities define me and, yet, leave me missing me.

The longer I sit here thinking about this, it finally comes to me that I must stop using them as an alternative to establishing a post-retirement identity. I cannot place these relationships in a position where I relinquish my independence, without anyone even wanting that control. These three people are supremely independent and expect the same of me—know me to be the same. Now is not the time to change that.

As has been clear for years, and though I have allowed myself to ignore the evidence and let myself imagine my role differently, my daughters don’t need me in the daily running of their lives. That is a good thing. I am an accessory, maybe a necessary one, but certainly not one needed on a daily basis. I am the pot that you need to cook a specific dish; you may cook it often, but not every day. Perhaps I am like the keychain charms that I keep giving as gifts (first a bedazzled initial from Las Vegas and then a hamsa with the Traveler’s Prayer from Israel), something that you take for granted that is part of something that you need.

I am in limbo. And I feel this even more sitting here in this house that is not mine with the sweet dog who is not mine. Years ago, I had a house and a dog. But I don’t have those things anymore because I married the wrong person and life unraveled to this point. I wish I were over regretting the way things turned out. I need to accept it as history, not as something that could have been different.

Which makes me realize, too, that I should rejoice in this situation where I am in control of the next steps that I take. I am not in constant consultation with a partner or in demand by an uncertain child. The quietness of my days, my ability to spend hours facing my computer without any interruptions, is not a twist of fate, but the way things were meant to be, for me.  

Perhaps thinking of my relationships with my daughters and my mother is to see that we are in a kind of voluntary relationship now, where our past is a benefit, one that feeds the present and the future. If the cost for the things that I don’t have is this peaceful existence and relationships, then there is nothing to regret.

Sometimes, when I read with dread of yet another husband who has killed his wife and maybe also his children, I remember back to a colleague who feared for my life when I left work each day. And I am eternally grateful that I am here to think this thought. It brings me back to this realization that life itself is the gift.

Here I am: I have no job, no permanent home, no partnered relationship; I have a pension and some savings. I am a person with a ticket to try to be fully herself in as simple and effective a way as suits me. Leaving aside the hindering weight of expectations and disappointments is surely an important step in the process. This recurring step is perhaps here to remind me that my past—myself in the past—is neither positive nor negative, but the reality of lived life. Recognition of self at this moment: always an initial step, always different.

Even as I sit here thinking that I am stagnant, I see that I am not. And that is the beauty, isn’t it? As this earth hurls through space without our feeling it, we, too, hurl through our lives without realizing it. Not noticing, noting, the changes, but they have taken place. Life is being lived; even here, within thoughts, desires, regrets, acknowledgments.

I see now that there is always purpose, even if it doesn’t seem so. Something that I feared was not true, hence the reliance on being needed.

It comes to me as I stare out the window waiting for thoughts to come that the weight of each life, as it exists in balance with the other lives in its range, is unknowable but that does not negate its force. The essence that is unique to each of us—impacting, impacted—is the distillation of the experiences we have lived to reach now. There must be satisfaction in this moment, for there to be more in the next.