I have been thinking about a few older women in my life and how they are living this stage of living.
I have been thinking of one older lady who lives alone and is totally dependent on her children for her what to do next, "I go where they take me."
I have been thinking of a woman, nearly eighty, who has had a great career and is now holding on to it with a death grip, to the point that this, not her achievements, will be what she is remembered for.
And I think of my 91 year old mother who as usual is doing what no one expected and lifting her broken leg/hip, walking to the dining room and exhausting herself with physio. She can tell you the life story of everyone in the rehab hospital already.
I am thinking of older women and, realizing in certain dopey circles this might include me, and their choices. Or lack of.
It's worth thinking how women if this generation, and probably all generations, I don't see my female students much different, are reactors in their own lives.
It's pretty easy to do this.
Parents, siblings, friends, men, employers, children all need us to do so much for them. When we spend all that time not letting down everyone else, considering always how they feel, there just isn't a lot of space to even think about what we want.
I had a conversation with my mother a while ago. She told me how totally overwhelmed she was by being a housewife. If I have heard once I have heard about 8 million times how my grandfather and father thought it would make them "look bad" if she worked after marriage as a nurse. That woman hasn't nursed since 1952. If you ask her who she is now, she says nurse.
My mom had four kids and stayed at home with us. She completely hated housework and cooking. That is where the overwhelmed part came from. She says for the life of her she just couldn't figure out how other women did it, kept a well run house. She says she always felt like a failure.
Our neighbour across the street at the time has verified this for me. She herself was always an impeccable housekeeper and tells funny stories of the absolute chaos of my mother's laundry room floor - piled high with dirty clothes and an inactive washing machine.
This woman also told me that her own three kids used to say if anything ever happens to you and dad make sure we are sent across the street because it's really fun over there.
I am thinking this morning of women like my mom and others of her generation and mine and even my daughter's and wonder how often we say,
"This is what I really want to do."
If we do, we first run it in our minds past all the people our goal might affect, children, parents, friends, and spouses. We then also consider the what ifs, like what if I make a fool of myself, what if it doesn't work, what if I am a failure, or the classic "what if they are mad?"
How many women:
- went into a career because the family suggested it?
- ended up in a job because they hired you and one thing led to another?
- married someone because they asked and who knows if there would be another offer?
- stayed in a job, marriage, or relationship because other people would be too disrupted if we didn't?
- said "no it's OK" when it wasn't?
- were smarter but smiled at the dumb idea?
Add to the list, you get my drift.
How many women do you know have a bucket list? A real bucket list.
How many women when they suddenly have time to themselves because of life changes or even just the realities of age, get sort of angry because so many people tell them to do what they want or do what they are interested in. They just don't know what that is. They have spent their lives not being that selfish. What are people talking about- do what you want?
The most frightening experience of my teaching career was in a writing class where students were asked to write about an issue they cared about. One 21 year old emailed me in a panic, "I am having real trouble with this assignment because there is nothing I really am interested in, does shopping count?"
As to my mother, who appears to be defying all expectations in rehab, I know why she is doing so well.
She told me.
She just loves hospitals.