Write the last chapter, or close the book?
Wow! this is a fantastic site. It’s not that misery loves company (I’m sure some passers-by, onlookers, will think that), but those of us going through a tough depressive time in retirement will probably feel as I do – hearing other stories, I know that I am not nuts, I don’t have a bad attitude, others have similar experiences.
I believe ageism and gender stereotypes play into the single women's retirement reality, just as much as my past decisions led to where I am.
I am 66 this year. I retired early from an executive position. I was burned out, my husband had retired and was “giving” our retirement money away while I wasn’t looking. I married late and was married 23 years; most of it unhappy – silent, angry, isolated.
I stayed because women kept telling me all men were like my husband, and I believed I should stay married and if I kept trying, I could turn it around. I used work to compensate. I do not have children – it takes two. It was my first marriage and his 3rd.
I wanted a real marriage, I think he wanted a steady social partner. I look back now and see how older men want younger women – but I didn’t get it then.
When I chose to retire, I believed I would find a different path. I saw how so many of my decisions were based on fear (fear of getting old and not having a partner to age with, fear that made work and income a higher priority than really finding what gave me joy, etc.)
In hindsight, I see my self confidence whittled down over the years. Failure in my personal life had effected work.
At first, I did little things around the house – delved into cooking, decorating our new home …, things I did not have much time for before. Then it was time to challenge myself and find my real course.
Unfortunately, being home made the marriage situation worse. It took 2 years, but I decided to divorce – amicably. I needed to move on. I needed to get the old me back, my resilience, confidence, and have the love in my life I deserved and wanted. So I thought.
While preparing for the divorce, I lost my mother. I decided to move across country to be closer to my family. I am 2hrs flight time away – not real close.
So within a short period of time, I left a career, income and social community, lost my mother, divorced, lost the house I always wanted, left a climate and culture I enjoyed and moved to a new state with no support system, no contacts, no family.
In my new home, I had projects for renovation, became active in a church group though I am not big on religion (and at my age they didn’t know what to do with me – no husband, no children, no grandchildren). I joined a local theater group where I felt ignored, began making some acquaintances (who moved a short time later), began teaching online (not interactive, not real human communication, volunteered (3 yrs) as an advocate for children).
I was busy, but lonely. There was no intimate relationship (one relationship with someone you trust and in whom you can confide and who can confide in you; someone you feel affirms who you are). No one for an impromptu cup of coffee, or lunch without weeks of planning. Certainly no hug or hand held, kiss – though I had not had that in many years.
Relational connections (friends and family; face-to-face contact, mutually rewarding contacts) were limited. I was busy making Collective connections (becoming part of a group or collective beyond individual existence. Volunteer ….). I kept running from one thing to another, felt exhausted and disconnected, hoping to make contacts in a new state, with no built-in support system, not knowing a soul.
The job market was bad and getting worse. An agent said, I would be looked at as a bored retiree – not taken seriously.
About 3 years after the move, I was ready for romance. I reached out to someone (Mr P) I knew many years ago and to my surprise he responded. After 4 months of phone calls and great conversations, we were more than just friends. Calls were nightly, 2-3 hours. We had a couple of weekends – he initiated discussions of commitment, marriage, merging households.
I had lots of activities going, but with romantic love in my life – things just seemed a little brighter – someone to share with – attention, acceptance, affection, appreciation finally (so I thought). … Then, within a couple of months he dumped me in email. Email! I won’t ruminate on that but it took me for a loop, to say the least.
Confused, hurt, sad, angry, I became terribly depressed. Maybe I am not meant to experience love, but why not! I sought counseling and was told it was natural grief.
5 months later (admittedly, not healed) I decided to get “back on the horse”. That’s when I hit ageism and gender stereotypes. Men want younger women, women told me I was either out of my mind for wanting a romantic relationship, OR, I should look into a lesbian relationship since there are more women available at my age. I tried dating websites (MANY), Meet-up groups… I tried to get back into things I enjoyed, but so many were things I shared with Mr P – they became painful.
After 1.5 years, I gave up on the dating websites – which means I don’t meet men “.”
It’s been 3 years since I broke-up with Mr P. I don’t miss him but I do miss the brief look into the door he opened – feeling cared for, caring for him, feeling a special connection. Sharing experiences with someone – good and tough. Touch. In that time, I lost my 2 cats and 3 dogs (the last one 3 months ago) I’ve had 2 types of cancer and I’ve gained a tremendous amount of weight which is my “wall of unattractiveness”. Instead of being rejected for unknown reasons - I ‘ve created one.
I am now retired for 9 years this year. I thought I would create a new chapter in my life book but instead, I get messages that I should just be reviewing my past life and close the book. I pick myself up and dust off – but I can’t sustain it because the loneliness doesn’t go away.
I am busy, I do force myself to go out – but there is no continuity – I am still alone in a crowd. I am so tired of feeling "odd" and rejected, I am finding my self-protection wants me to stay at home more which eventually feeds the loneliness.
I used to be very independent and do things on my own when there was no one around. But I wasn’t alone ALL the time so I could balance the alone times. I actually like being alone - to think, read, etc. But I have no balance – other than superficial contact or online websites.
This is not the life I expected in my last chapter.
Wendy: Just an idea, join the community and chat. Don't look for "romance" but friendships, nationwide, and even worldwide. Let friendship go where it may, maybe you'll visit someone, maybe you'll find a relationship.
Hit the HAPPINESS tab in the left navigation bar, and read the poem on that page. It's quite obviously written years ago, but I think it's a really great thought. Don't LOOK for happiness or a relationship, instead let life flow while you keep busy and thoroughly enjoy every moment. Stay in the moment too...