Do you know how many books today proclaim that success is imminent if you just buy them? Thousands! In addition, the self-proclaimed experts often have nothing more than their own experience of rags to riches “expertise” (sometimes just plain luck) that propelled them to fame.
Moreover, the number of books on the shelves for baby boomers especially women – who find themselves at mid-life having raised children, nurtured husband’s careers, and are now alone and broke is increasing.
According to a recent study, 46% of adult Americans are single in 2011.
Western-raised women are stereotypically taught to take care of everyone (at their own expense) and this practice has been handed down through the generations of well-meaning elders. At mid-life having raised our children to maturity and independence, and having put our spouse through many college degrees and jobs, we find ourselves alone with a tawdry collection of hand-me-down furniture, discarded belongings, and a shambles of friendships abandoned in favor of raising our family.
At least that’s what happened to me.
Here I sit five years post-divorce, with two wonderful grown children who are independent and healthy (a big plus and a source of pride!), few friends (it’s difficult to set up relationships at mid-life and with a career involving travel), fewer male friends (at least not within the vicinity), an albatross of an over-mortgaged house (because I had to buy the ex-spouse out at an exorbitant price to keep my son in his home), and a career challenged like many today. I’ve got baggage, but I’ve survived a lifetime of giving and being taken.
And, I am alive and well and have the chance to be happy! At mid-life, I am starting completely over – in fact, at 50 paces behind the starting line when I consider that my financial situation is one where the ex-spouse made off like a bandit in the divorce due to a some unfortunate circumstances. But, 50 paces behind the starting line with a chance of a second half of life of happiness and freedom is so much better than no life or the Stepford wife existence I lived a mere 6 years ago.
The realities of my life today are much different from the last time I was single more than 25 years ago!
If you are like me, maybe you can identify with some of these realities:
- A garage full of garbage: that was left by my ex and my children when they moved out. Memories of a lifetime of child raising (toys), school sports (a motley crew of athletic equipment), boxes of discarded books (which “friends of the library” charity will happily take), tools, leftover paint cans, and garbage that my ex-husband promised to clean up (and didn’t) before he moved;
- An over mortgaged house with zero equity: and rooms that I never walk into. My 22-year-old son has promised me for months that he will clean out his old bedroom of the clothes and discarded bits that he left when he moved out 6 months ago.
- Maintenance that I cannot do (or afford to hire to have done): my gas dryer stopped working and I know that a service man will happily see a “little lady” who can be taken for hundreds of dollars. In Florida, there seems to be no work ethic or morals and the edict “do your research and know exactly what you need to have done before you hire anyone to come in” is the moral of the day. I don’t have the energy to fight with men who want to rip me off so I do without the dryer (and other household maintenance).
- Friends who are mine! When I was married, we had ‘our’ friends (his friends) who he worked with or we knew as parents of our kids’ friends. Today it is wonderful to have friends who know me for me and who love me for me!
- Toxic friendships that I must discard: One of the lessons I’m learning is that I was too giving as a person in my former life – I allowed people and “friends” to take advantage of my kindness. Some of those “friendships” include people who I thought were friends and who preyed on my giving nature. One such “friend” begged me to give her grown daughter some space to temporarily store an apartment full of items in my garage. Six months and many un-returned phone calls and emails later, she (and the daughter) refuse to talk to me because I have asked them to remove the items. There is no thank you, no courtesy and no respect for the favor I granted them. It is toxic to our being when a “friendship” is one way without respect or give-and-take. In my past life, I tolerated this treatment by thinking that somehow it was what I deserved, but today I know that such tolerance is toxic to me. When people in our life get angry when we set healthy boundaries it is a sign of toxicity. Any friend that abuses you was never really a friend.
- LOTS of time alone: As an extrovert who lives alone, works alone from home (when I am not teaching out-of-town), has no local family, has grown children, and friends who have busy lives, I have a lot of alone time. The challenge after a lifetime of taking care of others is for me to be happily alone without feeling lonely. There are days when I feel quite isolated and it is then that I long to be on the road working so that I will be among others. When I return home, it can be more lonely than when I am traveling alone for work.
- A challenging career today: the economy has wreaked havoc on consultants and trainers – we are the first roles to be cut in downsizing and recessions. I find myself overqualified and too long a freelancer to be considered for most jobs today. As such, my financial status (due to the economy and the divorce) is a fraction of what it once was, as is the income I once enjoyed.
- Acceptance and freedom: I don’t know what your relationships are like, but I am happy today to be able to choose a restaurant without getting blamed that it was not a good choice (or feeling responsible for “his” happiness); to be able to make a sandwich the way I want (without being told I’m doing it wrong); and to buy a pair of black shoes with my money (without being told I don’t need them). It is a joy to come home to my cat who accepts me and loves me for who I am not for who he thinks I need to become. Acceptance and freedom are wonderful rights!
Today, aside from my financial woes (which are temporary), I am happier than I have been in years!
I have self-love beyond any I have ever experienced, a few honorable and true friends who are there for me (unlike the acquaintances we had as a couple), and a recognition that I deserve love and respect (which I never believed in the past). I am challenged to live this new solitary life – and there are up and down days along the journey.
But — Life is good and getting better all the time. It is not the same as I grew up to believe it would be – or that was my experience in my former life – but I am truly alive in ways that I could never be had I stayed in a loveless marriage.
The realities of mid-life survival can be stark – but the future is bright!
Have a great week!