Years ago, I attended a performance of the play On the Verge, in which three very proper Englishwomen strike out on an adventure in Africa, in the late 19th century. Armed with spyglasses, mosquito nets, machetes – and, of course, umbrellas – these intrepid explorers yearned to immerse themselves in cultures indigenous to a land virtually unknown, at the time, to most Westerners.
As I remember it, this delightful two-hour fantasy was – like much of real life – tragic and comic, thrilling and tedious, profound and ridiculous. I can’t say that I loved the play, but I never forgot it.
This blog is intended for women “on the verge” who, if they’re like me, thought they knew where they were headed, but suddenly find themselves facing a vast unknown.
In many ways, life was so much easier when there was still so much to accomplish. At least you knew where you were headed. You had goals. You pointed yourself in a direction, got yourself together and took the appropriate steps. Maybe you didn't succeed at reaching every goal, but at least you knew where you were going.
I never really noticed it until recently, but I've spent much of my life working toward someone else's goals -- my parents', my husbands' (all of them), my kid's, or some combination of the three. At every step, those goals were North Stars that reminded me where I was going. That, in turn, told me who I was -- a student, a wife, a parent, an employee, a caretaker of parents, following the winding paths that accompanied those roles.
Now, I've passed most of those mile markers, and wonder what's ahead on this road I'm on. It occurs to me that I have some choices to make, short of stopping or turning around. If only I could remember what it was I wanted to do!
I still have most of my faculties, and am healthier than I have been in years. Yes, I’ve put some miles on these treads, but they’re not exactly ready for the junk heap. I’ve got stuff to do -- books to write, places to go, people to meet! If anything, too many items clutter my current To Do list.
Even if there were no impending economic crisis, those of us who plan on getting older (count me in!) are working without a map. Children of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, we practically invented youth and middle age, right? Shouldn’t we be able to get a handle on whatever it is we call the last half of our lives?
Let’s face it: What lies ahead will not be anything like our mothers’ “golden years,” and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Many of us in our 50s, 60s, and 70s are still inventing ourselves, generally in our spare time between book club meetings, visits to the gym and whatever it is we call work.
Personally, I can’t see myself in a retirement community. But, who knows? Never say never.
Maybe if enough of us do this together -- machetes and umbrellas in hand -- we can write our own stories, create our own cultures, and find our own paths into the jungle of our “super maturity.” I figure this is as good a place as any to record those stories, and chart those paths.
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Paula: reporter, writer, wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, photographer, singer, knitter