Maybe “Safe” Is A Better Word Than “Stuck”

English: The Mother Orange Tree, the oldest li...

English: The Mother Orange Tree, the oldest living orange tree in Northern California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often refer to my husband and myself as Empty Nesters, stuck between two worlds. We still live in the home where we raised our children,  paying outrageous school taxes even though both kids are in college. My mother and sister both live nearby and my husband’s parents live close by as well. But, I know, deep inside, this is not where I want to end up for the rest of our lives.  I’m sure you have heard the term  “The Sandwich Generation” before, it defines us as it does most of the aging “Baby Boomers.” I shudder when I even think of the term “Aging Boomers.” Us? Really?

I have wanted to move to the West Cost for a long time since I was a kid and my dad mentioned he had a possible job interview in California. For someone who is not good with change, I was so excited about the prospect.  I imagined a little white house and garden with bright red flowers on the boarders, an orange tree in the back yard and a red dog named Rusty.

Here, in the Northeast the weather is too cold and I’ve always hated cold weather. For those of you who enjoy the cold and love its sparkling freshness, enjoy it. For all you skiers out there, have a great time racing down those sleek, icy hills, I would be in the chalet drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream anyway. The cold weather makes me hurt all over in general and  living with the chronic pain illness, Fibromyalgia, the cold, bone-chilling weather makes my bones and muscles hurt even more. There is nothing I can do about that except accept it.

I admit, I used to feel closed in not knowing when and where we would move in the future but now it feels alright, in fact it feels safe. Chaos will surely occur if there is any major change and for someone like me, change is always hard. For me, ” A Good Change” is an oxymoron. For little things, I need 24-48 hours to get used to change that is even mildly disturbing, imagine a huge change? The mere thought of moving away from my sister and mother brings tears to my eyes. My children will come visit when they can, it is their turn to live now. So maybe being “stuck” is not so bad, maybe being stuck is just being “safe.” If I look at it that way,  I’m doing alright. Actually, pretty good. I’m enjoying nature in the suburbs, the sweet red cardinals chirping in the trees, the changing of the leaves, the different seasons. Change will happen by itself, there are things we can’t control, health, employment, our children moving away, us moving away, sickness, death. Life brings us one change after another, so right now where we are “stuck” is really a time to rest and appreciate. Whatever comes next, will be very, very different; we will get used to it in time but it won’t be easy to call that place home with all the pieces in the puzzle fitting right into place for a long time. I’m just going to appreciate what I have now, not look backwards and not look forwards, be in the present. Sounds good, right? I’m trying the best that I can.

a drawing of a 4 piece jigsaw puzzle

a drawing of a 4 piece jigsaw puzzle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The New Rude

noon8march8962

noon8march8962 (Photo credit: marymactavish)

It’s 2013, and you are an aging Baby Boomer just like me. Mazel Tov. I bet you are so proud. Our music was sublime, our culture was magnificent and yes, it still lives on playing on our iPods and even nostalgic rock ( or nausea rock as my husband calls it) on radio stations and in elevators. We loved peace and each other and now? We are probably unemployed and sulking or depressed. Sorry, I can’t lie and I don’t want to exaggerate either but basically if you were laid off in the last year or two and are an aging baby boomer, luck and time is NOT on your side. My husband and I and our friends are living through it now.

It stings. Because as much as we were popular “way back when” we are the antithesis of that now. We are old, used up. most probably depressed and the last people to be called in for an interview. Don’t believe me? Just ask. Not only are we not called in for interviews, if we are lucky enough to get an interview, there are new rules: rudeness. I worked in Human Resources for over twenty years and I have never seen what I am seeing now which is NOTHING.  There is no follow-up, no “Thanks for interviewing but we have hired someone better qualified” there’s not even a rejection letter. No one even tries to help you or does courtesy interviews, no one lends a helping hand, they just ignore you. People are smug and ill-mannered. Welcome to the unemployment line: it’s where it’s at.

Why are people being so rude? I guess they feel they don’t have to be polite because the alarming mass of people who want jobs, any job. In their mind, why bother with respect and manners, never mind a phone call to follow-up, that sure as hell ain’t happening. Don’t even THINK about it, because you won’t get it. When I think way back to all the acknowledgement letters we sent out for people just to tell them we did receive their résumé it’s amazing. After that we called and sent letters to tell candidates of their status or rejection. We did the best we could. Now? They don’t even try because they know that people are desperate for a job and that is just plain sad. And cruel.

Manners seem to have gone the way with the older generation, yes, us and our parents who we probably take care of along with our children. You wonder why so many of us are anxious? The Sandwich Generation has a lot on our minds, our parent or parents, our children (college age, younger or older) ourselves, health wise and job wise and that we are now old. Old. How did we get here, we ask ourselves? When did we become them?

Sure, we still listen to the same music: James Taylor, Carole King, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young (God forbid Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young would do the honor of a real reunion concert but SOMEONE won’t do it)  Thank God for those who will: Paul McCartney and Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel. Apparently, they understand us and indulge us. Thank you, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel for the Reunion Tour, it was one of the best nights of my life. Growing old is hard, we miss the past and we’re scared of the future, thanks for sticking with us. I know the chances of another reunion tour are slight but we will keep hoping….here’s to you!

The photographs are the owners of the photographers.
Thanks to my friend Bruce, for the title.

The Slow Unraveling Of The Boomer Generation

Red Yarn | 331/365 (EXPLORED)

Red Yarn | 331/365 (EXPLORED) (Photo credit: mfhiatt)

Yes, it’s true. I know, I know, a lot of you are licking your chops. The baby boomers are getting old, who dared shout “you are already old?” Shut up.  What’s worse is that many people I know feel depressed  about it, and are whining, kvetching and complaining about it to everyone. Why me? Why us? Where did those last forty years go? Were we not just putting our kids on the kindergarten bus? Now our little ones are sophomores or juniors in undergraduate school or working at jobs they love or hate. How did it happen, more importantly, how did it happen to us?

Are we all having a later mid- life crisis together again? Didn’t Melanie sing that?  Hey, don’t ask me I have no memory left. I blame it on Fibromyalgia Fog but my memory is fading fast. Fibromyalgia just makes it a hundred times worse.  When talking to my female friends it seems we are all going through something. What the Boomer generation didn’t expect is that we would become the Sandwich Generation.  Caught right in the middle of taking care of parent(s) and still taking care of or paying for our not yet independent children.

We also have the worst economic disaster and many of us have lost jobs, have been laid off and if we are lucky to have a job it probably pays two-thirds less than the last job but hey, it’s a job. You don’t love your job anymore, you just suffer through it. Why? because it’s a paycheck which is better than unemployment. I tried to get a part-time job, right, good luck to me, if it wasn’t so sad it would be laughable. A lot of us, unless we are independently wealthy, are scared.

As my husband and I approach our 25th wedding anniversary we look at each other, depressed, feeling alone, not particularly in love like when we got married but we DO love one another. We love each other and are grateful to have each other in our lives. We are also friends,companions, the parents of our children. Sometimes when he snores we sleep in different beds. Romance? Apparently I have watched too many movies. My husband never knew the meaning of the word and I sure as hell don’t expect him to learn it now. Let’s face it, it’s a fantasy.

My husband and his friends are stuck at jobs that they don’t like but have to stay in to earn money, retirement is not around the corner. They have settled like we all have settled and it’s not a good feeling at all. Women, trying to get back in the workplace are finding the same thing the men are finding: there are no jobs, especially at our age. Did you say age discrimination? You bet and nobody cares. You can easily hire a 24-year-old kid than us “alte kackes” (Woody Allen can you help me describe it to them?) who don’t know social media from the NBC Peacock.

We can’t retire yet, well at least not us, we didn’t sell out ( sorry for holding that grudge, I would have probably done the same thing) like our beloved Ben and Jerry.  It’s scary but we really are all alone in this world. Truthfully, we have no idea what we are doing. Some people look at that as exciting and starting another chapter in their lives, whoever you are, I salute you.

It’s a new step, another change, another phase, one we honestly don’t like but we have no choice. We’re getting old, older and while we try to be gracious sometimes it can just take our breath away. It gives us a quick pain in the ass and stomach or whatever ailments we have by now. In addition to that, and I’m just telling  you this, there is a slight case of fear, ice-cold fear running up and down our veins every once in a while. We seek our friends to talk to, to share our feelings, they are the only ones who understand. We unravel, slowly, together.

I’m Participating in NaBloPoMo. May 1, 2011, “Maybe”

The Sandwich Generation

Image by MediaStorm via Flickr

It’s my mother’s birthday we are all celebrating with her. I also have to go with my son  a senior in high school to get fitted for a tuxedo for the prom. I’m being pulled in two directions at the same time. Maybe, I should stop worrying so much about what other people think and just do the best job I can. I’m not perfect but I am trying to be kind to everyone. I don’t think it’s working. I feel stressed.  I want today to be fun for everybody but I just can’t shake the feeling that my mom will be upset that I am leaving her brunch (after two hours) to do something for my son. The “Sandwich Generation” I truly cannot win but I know I am not alone in this situation. I thought I was over being a “people-pleaser” I guess not.

Passing Over Passover

Day 337 - Tuna and Salad Sandwich

Image by JoeGray via Flickr

It’s a big year for change and not something fabulous like: “OMG, we won 230 million dollars in the lottery.” I wish. My husband, after two years of unemployment, finally found a job three months ago. “Be careful what you wish for” because at the moment (and for a few more months) he is working in Buffalo, NY coming home only on weekends. “Not that there is anything wrong with that” as Jerry Seinfeld used to say but it’s about an 8 or 9 hour drive away from home or a one hour plane ride away and another hour and a half for traffic. Good news: he has a job, Bad news: location, undesirable. Having a job is the most important thing, of all people we know that. Trust me. However, I have a chronic pain disease, Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and being home with two teenagers and a dog, all the time is hard on me physically.

My son is graduating high school in less than two months. This is a big change, HUGE. Our first child going away to college is an enormous change for the entire family and yes, especially for me, his mom. I burst into tears at random times and yet when he is taunting me and acting arrogant I think, ‘it’s really time for him to go.’  I KNOW he is ready to go and he can’t wait. It’s just a little more difficult for the parents and sister he is leaving behind. All I want for him is to be happy but I can’t help feeling a little sad, selfishly for me. My daughter will be a senior in high school next year, only one grade year apart from her brother but in actuality almost two years apart in age. I can’t wait for her to have the limelight in her own family. I was also the youngest sibling in my family; I know how she feels.

Another change: my nephew is  graduating college this year and when I heard him say on the weekly radio show he hosts that there were only 3″ Grand Avenue Freezeout”  shows  left, forever, I burst into tears. Thank you Jon, for playing and dedicating the song Birds to me by Neil Young.  At least when one cousin goes to college, another one will come home. There is a little comfort in that.

My mother has had a horrible year so far because she first broke her wrist and several weeks later she fell down two stairs and broke two of her vertebrae in her back. Right after that, she got a nasty flu with a high temperature. Then she had to take some medicine that she really didn’t want to take. She has never had anything like this before and it took a great toll on her. This was a horrible and long time period and we were all very worried. Finally, she’s a little better but it was frightening.

It’s Passover and while we are not a religious family  my mom was right when she said “Families should be together on all holidays” this was generally our tradition until the cousins got older and one by one are in college. With my husband away, my kids spending all their free time with their friends on their Spring Break, sharing a tuna sandwich with my dog, Callie, did not cut it. I missed everyone and felt sorry for myself. It wasn’t the religious aspect as much but it was more that I was alone and the lack of loved ones sitting close to me that I dearly missed. It’s hard to be home alone on any holiday. Mom, I understand that more now. You were right and I was wrong, this one is for you, with great love.

The Map To Nowhere Fast

Chronic pain

Image via Wikipedia

I have a weird feeling of unrest and stress, slimy blue- green and flourescent orange winding its way around my brain is how I picture it, how I feel it. No soothing colors of white and yellow and beige. Fake colors, unnatural.  I frown more than I smile and as hard as I am trying to focus on the positive it’s not easy. There is so much going on in my life that it’s hard to focus. I don’t think it’s just me though, I think it’s a lot of people.  It’s a feeling, not a good one, somewhere between the roads of anxious and depressed, stopping at weary.

There are natural disasters all over the world and I am sure we all feel, not only heartbroken for other people, but scared. There is too much sinewy stuff whirling around and no happy place to settle. What happened to my “happy place” images? Why am I only seeing the rain battering the purple flowers instead of the blooming of the flowers alone.

There is tension inside my house, we are in “the sandwich generation” that I used to read about. It isn’t fun, it’s scary. The “baby boomers” who have restless teenagers and aging parents who are alone or ill or depressed. I am that “baby boomer” now except I have the added affliction of my own “chronic pain.” Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis do not do me any favors, I walk along slowly, painfully, I stumble through different medications and expectations. Very low expectations.

I also have narrow-angled glaucoma which is a dangerous disease or as one unfriendly opthalmologist put it “you could go blind in an instant.” Quite a bedside manner, don’t you think? Needless to say, I stopped going to him. It’s funny that I barely write about this condition, maybe it’s pure, frigid fear. Maybe there is only so much pain I can handle. My brain and eyes get hammered, with laser shocks, every few months by a doctor that I once believed was very good. I don’t think so anymore. “In twenty years of practicing, I’ve never had a patient whose eyes kept closing up like yours do.”  Every time I go to the city he lasers my eyes again, because the hole he drilled into me has closed. He does this procedure either in his office or in the hospital with no pain relief; imagine barbed wire going through your eyes and brain, quickly, twenty or thirty times in a row. The eye drop he casually puts in gives me incredibly painful headaches (migraines?) I do know that the pain I feel is barbaric, no pain medications, no anesthesia, no break. Over and over again; fast and furious.

The gray, dreary day does not help me since I feel overwrought and unfocused. I am dealing with both chronic pain, (Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) and new back pain that feels like my back bent and broke itself during sleep like a twisted pretzel you find in any mall. I am trying to accept my life for what it is, both bad and good, often simultaneously. Change is in the air like a dog-sniffing a new scent, it’s just hard to predict when and where things will happen.

I read an article in the NY Times today about a young couple with a young daughter. Each parent has cancer. That, is a problem I say to myself, not the dreary workings of an often too-emotional, anxious and pain- filled mind. I am so sorry Nathan and Elisa. You and your baby have my prayers because perspective is the greatest gift of all. I will speak no more.