Monday, November 29, 2010

We don't want your job....

Age discrimination exists. I know you've heard that before, but until it personally slaps you in the face, it is only hearsay.

When I turned 50, I had had enough of entertaining (or not) middle schoolers all day. Fifteen years was my limit for people ignoring me and parents telling their kids they didn't have to do anything I told them to do. (The kids, not the parents. And yes, a parent told their child that at a conference I had requested to find a way to control their darling in class so I could actually TEACH.)

So, I decided to find another way to make a living. I reasoned, "I have a decade of experience in the business world, then 15 years in a classroom. Surely, those are marketable skills....somewhere." And off I went, sending out resumes and answering classified ads. Of course, like any sane person, I kept teaching in the meantime, anxiously opening my mailbox each evening as my patience wore thinner and thinner, hoping to find a positive response happily jumping around in there until I came home to find it.

Sometimes I actually got a chance to meet in person about a job posted somewhere. Have you ever had the experience of being interviewed by someone who is at least 3 decades younger than you? (They actually look like they're in the teens, but everyone looks younger as we get older, so we do have to factor THAT into the equation, too.) To say it is challenging is being polite, as they chew their gum and twirl their hair and ask "Like, tell me about yourself, 'k?"

The result of all those resumes and interviews was another year in the classroom, watching the months tick by and my sanity become even more compromised. This was before the economy took a slide into oblivion, so it wasn't that I was joining millions of folks doing the same thing. I just wanted to make a living doing something else, I had good experience and a college degree, and my work ethic is daunting.

The result? No job offers. I was "overqualified" or they decided to "go a different way in their job search." Or, even worse (I think), no response at all to my contact with their company. I came to the conclusion that I scared these youngsters. They probably thought that I wanted their job and had the ability to jerk it away from them fairly quickly. If they let me in the door. Which they were quick to slam in my face, collectively, about 5 or 6 times a week.

Little did they know that their jobs were safe from the likes of me. Every job I've ever had morphed into a supervisory position once those in the upper offices realized who they had. Someone who could do it. Whatever "it" turned out to be. But, with that responsibility came the headaches, the long days and nights of backbreaking work, and the lack of appreciation for all of the above. 

All I wanted at 50 was to show up on time, do my job to the absolute best of my ability (well, OK, maybe 110%, I can't change my personality THAT much), go home on time, pay my bills, and enjoy my quiet life. They would still get more for their money than what they had, I was sure, but I just wasn't into climbing the corporate ladder any more. That ladder was now stowed in my dark garage closet, gathering dust and cobwebs. I wasn't going to pull it out suddenly to tell them how to improve what they were doing.

Believe me.......'K?

The years teach much which the days never knew.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chicken skin and other indignities.....

OK, what's with the chicken skin? I'm serious.

Nobody warned me about this, just like they never warned me about the Independent Fives when my daughter was growing up. She was the sweetest two year old and never terrorized anyone at three, either. But a little prima donna emerged when she was five who simply didn't need ME anymore, thank you very much, a blonde dynamo I didn't recognize. Anyway, someone stores all this information in a virtual vault somewhere, and then snickers gleefully when we topple over into a chasm of some personal ignorance we didn't even know existed.

One night I was reading in bed, holding the book up so my arms were subject to gravity a bit. And there it was: Chicken skin hanging from my forearms, striated and loose and pale, and just plain disgusting. I might as well have been holding a dead fowl over my head; you know how it looks when you take the wrap off before you put it in the oven for your Sunday dinner?

Nobody tells you these things.

I put my book down and the skin returned to its un-disgusting shape, smooth and....well, normal. If I raised my arms up again, there it was: Loose, flappy skin marked with long lines like someone had driven furrows into my arms with a knife or something. And the thing that is so maddening about this is that the rest of my arms are in better shape now than when I was twenty. OK, maybe thirty. I'm buff from hours of working with free weights in the gym, and the underarm flab is gone, so this stuff hanging from my arms isn't due to being out of shape. That's the scary part of the whole discovery. Does that mean that I'm stuck with arm poultry for the rest of my life?

If I allow myself to think about it long enough, I have to admit that I probably am. Stuck with it, I mean. I'm not a Hollywood star with unlimited funds to do whatever it would take to get rid of this drooping flesh. There must be a way.....although, we don't really see those stars when THEY'RE laying in bed at night, so I'm not sure. Maybe I can hire some paparazzi to look into for us.

Just consider yourself warned. And lay on your stomach when you read at night.

"If we spent as much time feeling positive about getting older, as we do
trying to stay young, how much different our lives would be."  
Rob Brown

Thursday, November 25, 2010


 I started this entry as a bulleted list of things for which I am thankful....and there are many. After all, it IS Thanksgiving, the time when most of us do reflect on those kinds of things, perhaps one of the few occasions left when some of us stop long enough to do so.

But, I hit the "delete" key after the first item. It doesn't feel right, all those lists so many of us carry with us, either wrinkled scraps of paper stuffed in our pockets or neatly filed in our electronics. It isn't enough to jot down a few words, sigh and be pleased with ourselves, and then hit the door again as we rush off to wherever is so important. Such a list is just another thing ON that list. 

Perhaps the space I live in today is unattainable without a collection of decades as a foundation, a layer of experiences  that have molded who I am. And, let's be honest, I am no longer on the upside of those decades. But that's the point. My space today is one of peace about who I am as a woman, a mother, a conscious being residing here.

Maybe that's why a list is not necessary for me. I am grateful to be here in this spot, right now. My attention to the present has given me everything I need, right now. My cat is curled up here next to my left hand as I type. The fountain outside is hosting a few bright red cardinals, while the early morning fog is lifting above the wooden fence around my garden. Soft music accompanies it all, meandering out the open window behind my desk.

I have learned that everything that needs to be done today will get done. I am simply thankful I am here to see it happen, with family and friends.

My list is complete.

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.  ~Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What I know....

They say write what you know. With that sage wisdom in mind, I've written about teaching, writing, raising children as a divorced mom, and trying to be complaint free for 21 consecutive days. That one was....well, not fun, but certainly an interesting journey!

Two years ago, life was good for me. I was busy using the training and experience I had acquired in a business career and then as a teacher. I was making a living as a small business owner (meaning a business made up of me) even when the economy abandoned many others. My health was good and my adult daughter was self supporting, living far enough away to have her independence but close enough for us to have lunch once a week or so. Things were good.

Until my birthday.

In my defense, I have since asked myself, "Well, what did you think was going to happen the day after you weren't 59 any more?" Age has just never been an issue with me. Of course, I'm one of those lucky women who had never looked whatever age I was. (Notice the past tense in that sentence. I'll come back to it.) So, the years ticked by without my attending to them, people saying "Oh, you don't LOOK [insert age here]! " 

Until now.

The day I woke up and was suddenly 60 was a dark day in my house. To say the least. Somehow in my mind, with no prior warning (because we don't think about these things until they arrive, tap tapping on our foreheads), those two digits meant OLD. I didn't know I thought that. Until I was that.

So, here I am, writing about something I am coming to know. Being a woman over 60.

We'll start with the fact that it's been quite a while since anyone has said those words to me: "Wow, you sure don't LOOK 60!" Which means that....well, we all know what that means.

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.
~ Lucille Ball ~