This concept was made very clear to me last night when my husband managed to get me out of the house to venture downtown to a gallery show. We took the scenic route, through neighborhoods that, when we were actually living downtown, had been pretty much wastelands of empty warehouses and scary dark corners. Now the streets are full of hipsters and traffic. We had to move so slowly that we were able to look at all the shop windows, full of high fashion and quirky objects, crying out to be touched and won, nestled in slick packaging, cradled in our arms, guaranteed to Change My Life. Sidewalk cafes begged us to stop and luxuriate in the Hot.
But I also felt an uneasiness, a sense that I was The Other. I looked at all the people milling around the fun places, standing in line to get into bars with cool names, going in to the shops which were, of course, open fashionably late. And I realized that all these people were Beautiful and Young. And the phrase that keeps flashing through my head: I Am Almost 60 Years Old.
We made it to the gallery. It was on a dark street in an industrial area, or what used to be. Now it was gloomy brick warehouses that seemed to be abandoned. My husband bounded fearlessly down the street with me close behind, and into one of these places with a couple of young people standing outside, talking and drinking a beer. We trudged up a couple of flights of stairs and into the space with signs proclaiming that This Was It: "Exquisite Corpse". Inside the brightly lit white box of a room were some art pieces that were clearly designed around the theme of the evening. There was a respectable-sized crowd huddled at one end, surrounding a Performance Artist who had been painted red by a cohort and was rolling on a sheet of paper on the floor to Create Art. I was not impressed, having just seen the same party trick on an episode of Real Housewives of New York. But again, the feeling of The Other, as I looked around and saw that, of all the people in the place, maybe two were in our 50+ demo.
It seems like such a short while ago that my husband and I were in this set, gallery-hopping on the first Friday of the month, popping in to whatever restaurant was In that week. When I worked downtown, we were oriented to play there, too, coming home only to restore our batteries and get ready to come back and attack the Big City again the next day.
Now I find that I leave the house so seldom that my doctor put me on a super dose of Vitamin D because I'm never in the sun. Days melt into each other, with my biggest achievement being making the bed and filling and emptying the dishwasher in the same day. I used to take a bus and a train to get to work, put in a full days work and then some, go to after work functions, commute home to a growing family, and end the day surrounded by the people I loved and energized to go back and do it again. Five days a week. And the weekends were filled with activities that were planned to make up for being away from home for that five days. Or with contented nothingness, rewarding myself for doing so much the rest of the week.
While I've been hibernating, mentally and physically, time has inevitably passed. Time Waits For No Man, and for women maybe Time cheats and runs way ahead, making it impossible to keep up. In the years since my "retirement" (i.e., being kicked to the curb once I hit 50), I've been trying to re-create who I am, a person who is no longer defined by her job. I'm so envious of those who've managed to fashion a second life, just as full and meaningful as the first. For whatever reason, I've failed at that.
I have not been present in my life for a long time. Periodically, like last night, I wake up and realize that while I've been stuck trying to figure out what do with the rest of my life, my life has been marching on, without me in it. That voice comes out sometimes to tell me that I Am Almost 60 Years Old.
I haven't been able to contribute to this space for a very long time, although I think of things that I should be sharing every day. I am so pleased and humbled whenever someone writes in about their experiences in The Journey, and I always make sure to publish their thoughts. I think people do benefit from hearing about the path others are taking.
I'm going to try again to participate in my life, maybe working toward taking charge of it. If anyone cares to join me, welcome aboard.