I have been told how nice I am my entire life. This is usually a great compliment to me. I love it when people tell me I'm nice, because I am nice. In fact, throughout my life I've tried my best to be kind, caring, empathetic and helpful to just about everyone I meet. These qualities are the bedrock on which much of my identity is based.
I have learned over the years though that "nice" is good, but "too nice" is not. "Too nice" is the person who doesn't like to ruffle feathers. "Too nice" is the person who is afraid to set boundaries. "Too nice" is the person who is afraid to say no. "Too nice" is the person who I used to be (and still am, sometimes).
When I reflect back on my life and my various relationships -- with men, with friends, with family, and even with some co-workers, I can now see how being "too nice" was my way of ...
Aging can be difficult, even for the most hardy. Our hair follicles die, our bodies ache, and our skin sags. A few weeks ago I went to a concert and had to stand for five hours and my feet still hurt (and so does my left hip). And recently I've noticed I have to be very careful with my chin placement, especially in photos (it's either that or demand Photoshop rights from all of my friends and family), because if I don't, my once proud chin collapses into a series of smaller, less proud "chins," sliding right into my neck.
Aging can be difficult for everyone, but I think it's particularly difficult for women. Of course, many middle-aged men struggle with aging as well, but I do think middle-aged women have it worse. Maybe I believe this because I'm a woman, but I really do believe this.
Women experience more pressure to remain youthful, both in physical appearance and spirit. We may be well into the newest millennium, but men still have the advantage of more vocational opportunities, greater personal freedoms, fewer social stigmas, more mentoring opportunities, and more social outlets than women.
Society dictates that women are pretty much washed up by the time they're 50, and if we have the "misfortune" of being single, well then, forget it. In fact, a 1986 Newsweek article entitled "The Marriage Crunch" coined a phrase that may forever be cemented in the minds of anxious middle-aged single women everywhere, when it satirically sounded the dire warning that a never-married, college-educated woman over 40 was more likely to be "killed by a terrorist" than get married.
I’m at the tail-end of a monumental life transition. It’s very exciting, but it’s also been scary as hell. A part of this transition involved accepting a new job in a new state, on the other side of the country. It also involved the picking up of my very settled life and hauling it 2000 miles away to create a new one, as a single, empty-nested, middle-aged woman.
Each step of this journey involved about 5 million smaller steps, and now that it’s all over, I honestly cannot believe I actually pulled it off.
I’m a woman who likes stability. I like solid ground. I like to know what I can count on. Even though I’ve taken some pretty big risks in my life, I am in general a woman with a certain amount of anxiety (the wake-you-up-at-3-am-like-the-house-is-on-fire kind), which tends to anchor me, sometimes a little too much. I tend to overthink, overanalyze, overquestion. I look backward rather than forward, sometimes a little too often.
If I had a dollar for every time I was told I was being too emotional, that I needed to lead with my head and not my heart, well, let’s just say that my Starbucks habit would be fully funded. It’s taken me years to recognize that what I was often criticized for — in relationships, at work, in my academic studies — was actually one of my greatest strengths: my inner voice, my gut instinct, my intuition.
Intuition is defined by researchers as our brain’s ability to draw on internal and external cues in making rapid, in-the-moment decisions — an important skill, particularly in high stress situations. Often occurring outside of our conscious awareness, intuition relies on our brain’s ability to instantaneously evaluate both internal and external cues, and make a decision based on what appears to be pure instinct. When people make decisions based on their intuition, they often have difficulty explaining why they did what they did. They just knew what to do, as if a voice was telling them to do something, and they heeded its call.
I've been thinking a lot about New Year's resolutions, and why they are so hard to achieve. And this led me to thinking about why change is so hard, and how most of us have a vision of how we'd like our lives to be, how we'd like to change, what we want to become, but for whatever reason, we can't seem to get there, at least not completely.And then that got me to thinking about why the actual process of change is so unsettling, particularly for those of us in midlife and beyond. What keeps us rooted in place, rather than forging ahead, despite our deep desire for change?
A 2014 study on women and middle age found that most women began to feel invisible and dismissed in society by the time they were 50. Among the thousands of women surveyed:
When asked what contributed to their lack of self-confidence, most of the women cited things like graying hair, having to wear reading glasses, and a lack of appropriate fashion opportunities.
What a stark reality for middle-aged women! Are you wondering why these women didn't just simply dye their hair, get contacts, and go on a little shopping spree? I did, but then I began to wonder if there wasn't a little more to the story. So I posted a status on my Facebook page and asked my middle-aged female friends if they ever felt invisible and dismissed, and to my surprise most of them said they did. And it wasn't just my gray-haired, glasses-toting, fashion-challenged, under-employed, single friends who felt marginalized -- my youthful, vibrant, active, career-focused, married friends also often felt dismissed in conversations, ignored at parties, and generally invisible in life, particularly to their male counterparts.
Dear Health Club,
I'm sorry it's come to this, but after much heartfelt pondering I need to inform you that I'm breaking up with you. I know what you're thinking; we've been down this road before and I have always come back, head down and thighs chaffing. But this time it's different, it really is, because I have met another. So I am writing to tell you that I am leaving you once and for all, for one that treats me better -- one that makes me happier, and I am convinced healthier. Yes, I am leaving you for yoga.
For years I believed your lies, that if I just hung in, you would make me feel better, stronger, and yes, even thinner. But after 10 years I've finally come to the conclusion that your promises are empty. Yes, I have finally come to my senses and realized that this is a one-way relationship where you take my money, and dangle a toned carrot in front of my face, making promises that you simply cannot keep.
Please don't try to talk me out of this, because my mind is made up. During our on-again-off-again relationship I always held out hope that you would step up to the plate and start giving back. I believed your lies that I would start looking forward to visiting you. I believed your tall tale of the endorphin high. I believed your promises to eradicate my cellulite and tone my arms. I believed your assertions that if I just stuck with the elliptical a little bit longer, that calves would slim down and I could finally start wearing regular-sized boots on dates. But alas, winter after winter I was forced to continue shopping in the wide-calf boot aisle, alone.
One of the most painful and life-impacting human emotions is shame. Shame is a powerful universal emotion that often emerges when we feel deeply vulnerable about something and believe that others have the power to judge us, and ultimately reject us. Shame tells us that we're not good enough, that we're unworthy, that we're damaged goods.
Shame elicits feelings of embarrassment, and often, a profound sense of humiliation that makes us want to either fight, flee or freeze. The fact that we most often experience shame in response to feeling vulnerable is one reason why shame is such a powerful emotion. Another reason is that shame usually emerges at the very moment we need unconditional love and acceptance the most.
Envision what you feel most vulnerable about – anything that fills you with a sense of fear that those who you love and care about the most will abandon you if they found out. But before they abandon you, they will laugh at you, gossip about you, hurl insults at you, and then abandon you. The feeling you’re experiencing in response to this scenario is most likely shame.
Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt is something we experience when we’ve made a mistake and we need to fix it. Once we take responsibility for our behavior, and do what we can to remedy our mistake, the feelings of guilt should eventually subside. Unlike guilt, shame doesn’t subside after we’ve taken responsibility for our mistakes, and in fact, regardless of what we do, shame often gets worse in time, hitting us in triggered waves, sometimes for years, sometimes for our entire lives.
Guilt tells us our behavior is bad; Shame tell us that we are bad.
Dating in our teens and 20s was challenging. Dating in our middle adult years, with significant exes, children, pets, mortgages, careers and a boatload of emotional, physical and perhaps even financial baggage, may seem impossible. I've single parented my son since he was very young, and didn't have much time to date amidst parenting, working, continuing my education, doing dishes, mowing the lawn and attending various kid-related activities. So when my son left for college, I decided that there was no better time to start dating again.
But as often happens when we poke our heads into an activity after a few decades-long hiatus, I realized that everything had changed - and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Rather than meeting someone at a dance, a bar, or if we go back far enough, a frat party, I soon learned that the majority of dating was occurring online. And rather than having to worry about my first impression when meeting someone, I had to worry about my first online impression.
We now have to worry about leading not with ourselves, but with an image of ourselves. We have to contend with parallel dating, encouraged by the online dating algorithms that push multiple potential partners at us at one time. We have to worry about competition that always seems to be younger, thinner, wealthier and happier. Most of us are battle-weary, still struggling with past hurts and anger, and scared to get hurt again, and now we find ourselves in completely unchartered territory, with very few ‘rules of the road’ to guide us.
So I have a question for everyone who is middle-aged, single and dating. Just when was it that sexting after the first date became the new normal? At what point in our cultural evolution did it become normative practice to send a text the night after a first date, with the words "nipple" and "naked" in it? I'd really like to know the answer to this question. I am just burning with curiosity as to how this new dating ritual became mainstream so quickly.
I'd really like to know what middle-aged person was actually the first one to say "Hey, I think this is a really good idea. I mean, we've already shared a few glasses of wine and an appetizer, so why not indulge in some dirty sex talk with a naked photo chaser exchanged on our smart phones via an insecure wireless transport?" And then once all these middle-aged men and women who are engaging in the practice of early-courtship-sexting answer me, I'd like to say this in response: "Stop it! Stop it right now! All of you! I mean it! Stop it!"
When I first re-entered the dating world a little over a year ago after taking a few decade hiatus to raise my son, I expected to update my "rules for the dating road" handbook. But what I didn't expect was for so many of my dates to turn a seemingly harmless morning-after-the-first-date texting banter session into a graphic sexual encounter. Yet at least twice this month alone I had really nice dates with seemingly nice mainstream, professional men that quickly went south when initially cutesie, fun, and banter-y texting rapidly evolved into full-blown erotica before the second date!
Welcome to my Blog!
This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being.