Sensational Sixty

Join me on a journey of reinvention.

Marriage

I’ve been married for 36 years.  Back in my 20’s, after a disastrous first marriage, I couldn’t even imagine being with the same man for that long.  Of course, it was the height of the “free love” decade and I definitely bought into all of that “do what feels good” chatter.  But, unplanned and unexpectedly, I met my husband, moved in with him and married, all in the space of 3 months.  And here we are, 36 years later.

Am I happy in my marriage?  A few weeks ago, I would have decidedly said “no.”  But, as another part of my quest to make my life be what I want it to be, I remembered something I heard a long time ago.  Would I be better off with or without my husband.  In spite of all the irritations and lack of communication, the answer I came to was definitely that I’m better off with him.  Because I’m taking the future into my own hands, I decided to figure out what was really wrong and how I could make it better – for myself, if nothing else.

I’ve read that as many as 80% of divorces occur because the husband and wife have “grown apart.”  “Lack of communication” is also cited frequently by couples visiting marriage therapists.  In my research, I’ve discovered that it is not so much a lack of communication as it is a “disconnection” that causes once loving men and women to grow apart.

Research and clinical experience have shown that the majority of men want closer and deeper emotional connections just as much as women do.  At first blush, I thought “No way – he never wants to talk about what’s wrong or how to fix it!”. Come on, haven’t you had the same thoughts before?

But I’ve learned that my reaction is caused by a basic misunderstanding of the difference between men and women.

How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Patricia Love, Ed.d and Steven Stosny, Ph.d. seemed like a perfect fit for my quest.   Since involving my husband in discussions, counselling and other forms of therapy has never seemed to end up in the result I wanted, I am determined to figure this out, or at least chart a new path, on my own.  And, as I read the very first chapter, I realized that, in addition to other books listed in the resources section of this blog, there are many, many things I do not know.

So, I’ll be reading and absorbing, then recording the important revelations I come to here.  I hope you’ll follow along and you’re welcome to take from this what might pertain to your life.

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Who me?

Please take a minute to hop on over to The Feisty Side of Fifty to read Eileen Williams’ post about becoming a wise woman.  It kind of sums up a lot of what I’m trying to do along my journey.  I hope you enjoy it!

http://feistysideoffifty.com/2012/11/30/becoming-a-wise-woman-who-me/

Holidays

With the passing of Halloween, the holidays are upon us.  I have struggled over the last few years with feelings of nostalgia and sadness starting with Thanksgiving and continuing, especially, through Christmas.

You see, in our family,  we had strong traditions that defined the holidays for us. Being in the military, our Thanksgiving table was always populated with the four of us and others that didn’t have any family nearby or place to go.  The menu was the same every year – turkey with cornbread stuffing (baked in the pan because you know a turkey doesn’t have room for enough!), mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, corn casserole, that awful green bean casserole (you know the one, with French’s crispy onions on top :)), rolls, relish trays, pumpkin pies, etc, etc, etc.  We had to go around the table, telling everyone what we were most thankful for, ate waaaaay too much and “watched” football while trying not to show some of us were napping at the same time.

Christmas was an even bigger deal.  House decorating began the day after Thanksgiving.  (No stinking’ Black Friday shopping here!)  I decorated every public room in the house, to include the powder room.  And hubby was responsible for the outside lighting.  On cold years, he would try to get the lights up before Thanksgiving (no fear, not to be turned on until the day AFTER Thanksgiving!)

Choosing the tree was always an all day affair.  The four of us would traipse from Christmas tree lot to Christmas tree lot, searching for the perfectly shaped and sized tree to decorate.  Once all four of us finally decided on one, off we’d go home to pull out the tree ornaments.  Every ornament in our box has a story behind it and we had a lot of fun retelling each and every story as each ornament was hung and re-hung.  Remember decorating with little children?  The ornaments would always be bunched up down low in one spot and would have to be redistributed when we were done.

Christmas Eve would be a simple supper, then bundled up into the car to drive around the neighborhood, looking at all the lights.  One year, our youngest (he was about 4 at the time) saw “Santa Claus” in the garage of someone’s house.  It was so funny, he hurried into the floorboard of the front seat (this was before seat belts and car seats were mandatory!) and said  “We have to go home and get to bed or Santa won’t stop at our house!”

We didn’t indulge our boys with many toys or treats during the year but, come Christmas, we did because we could, I guess.  When the children were younger, the day usually began around 5:00 am.  After the coffee was on and we had our eyes mostly open, the kids were allowed to come in and the present unwrapping began.  The rule was that only one person could open a gift at a time, so sometimes our unwrapping lasted until noon!

Then, every year, we had home-baked cinnamon rolls and fresh squeezed orange juice made from the oranges one set of grandparents sent from Florida as a family present.  This sufficed for breakfast and held us over until I loaded the table with  the hors d’oeuvres buffet that became our tradition after I finally realized that I was spending the whole day cooking a meal that no one really ate, thanks to all the candy that Santa stuffed in our stockings!  Then, Christmas night meant open house for pie and coffee with whatever neighbors happened to drop by.

Anyway, the traditions continued in the same manner every year, even when the boys were teenagers and to this day when they can come home with their wives.  But they all live in Oregon and we live in Colorado, so most years it’s just me and the hubby around the holidays.  And, IT’S NOT THE SAME!    And since the possibilty of grandchildren any time  in the near or distant future is slim to none, I don’t expect it will EVER be the same again.  So, a couple of years ago, I decided that since it wasn’t the same, we wouldn’t do any of the holiday stuff (you know it’s a lot of WORK) and treat Thanksgiving and Christmas days as just another day.

BIG MISTAKE! Did you see that coming?

We were usually invited somewhere for Thanksgiving dinner, so the impact on that holiday wasn’t to hard to take, especially since there were usually leftovers to take home with us.  But Christmas was another story.  For the record, my husband loves to give gifts!  And he’s really pretty good at listening for clues and picking out personal gifts that hit the mark just right.  Since I had also  decided that we wouldn’t “waste money” on gifts we didn’t really need, he was like a poor fish out of water!

Fast forward to this year and my pledge to examine every aspect of my life for the “third act.”  I did a bit of research and learned about nostalgia. Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.  Originally, this was determined to be an actual physical ailment observed in soldiers away from home for the first time.  By the mid 1800s, however, this “homesickness” came to be classified as an emotional condition and interest in it as a physical ailment declined although soldiers in wars as late at WWII were still being diagnosed with nostalgia.  Now days, nostalgia is identified as something that can be triggered by a feeling or experience from one’s past and can invoke a positive or negative feeling.

Generally, nostalgia can hit a person any time there is a major change in their lives.  It can be a positive experience by giving you a sense of self-worth.   But holidays are notorious for causing people to feel nostalgic in a negative way, probably because of the sheer amount of emotion that is connected with holidays.  Traditions give us a sense of who we are and remind us that someone loves us.  We make our lives increasingly apart from extended families, the children grow up, we grow older, divorce happens – events that leave us yearning for what used to be.  Many people begin to have grandchildren at this point in their lives and are able to begin new traditions.  But what about the rest of us?

So the big question becomes “How can I be part of the holidays in a new way?”  There’s lots of advice on the internet on how to do this.  Some say shift your perspective.  Not “there’s no one to cook for” but “We can do a simple meal, with simple cleanup.”  There’s the “Consider new possiblities” viewpoint.  Not “the children are gone” but “the children aren’t here, we can do anything we want!”  And the “Give Back” movement that turns your focus outward to helping those with less.
But I’ve decided that, for me, it means bringing back some of the traditions of the past and doing new things with the hubby that will become our new traditions for this next act of our lives.  This years’ Thanksgiving was again full of food and friends.  Mom’s sweet potato casserole and Aunt Jo’s corn casserole were on the table.  (the green bean casserole, though, was conspicuously absent!)  Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was worth it to make the holiday more than just another day.  And the Christmas decorations have made their appearance again, inside and out.  I will be shopping for him, just to have a few small things wrapped and under the tree.  Come Christmas day, we’ll sleep in but we will have our rolls and juice and then I think we’ll go to a movie.

I’m going to bring back the joy of the holiday this year and all the ones to come because I’m not dead yet and joyous events are part of a life well lived.

What about you?  How have your traditions changed as you’ve gotten older?

‘Til Death Do Us Part?

Remember the book “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus” by John Gray?  I’m sure most of us read it when it originally came out in the early nineties.  It focused on the differences between men and women and how to relate to each other and better communicate.  Well, I have a confession to make.  I was too focused on how to be right when I read it than on how to understand my man.  Either that or I was too busy working, raising children and taking care of a household to take in any of the advice.

I’ve been married to the same man for 36 years.  Way back in 1976, when we were first married, we, being, of course, a very modern couple, didn’t really have a sense of ’till death do us part.  In fact, the words of our committment were “as long as love shall last.”  I look at that today and think “That was a pretty weak commitment!”

Anyway, since marriage is such a big part of my life, I had to take a look at it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t like what I saw.  Since the children grew up and left home, we’ve more often gone our individual ways than worked on cementing what we had.  We don’t share many of the same hobbies and had less and less to talk about over the years.  The arguments were more frequent, the resentment stronger and the love didn’t really appear to be there any more.  I didn’t have any real desire to leave, but I didn’t want to continue in the same unhappy way.  And I’m sure you know how effective “We need to talk” is!

On the surface, most of my friends seem to have similar issues with their husbands, but, at this age, we don’t spend a lot of time discussing those kinds of issues.  I also knew I didn’t want my “golden years of marriage” to look like my parents’ did.  So I’ve started to delve into some research about marriages in our sixties to see if what I was feeling was normal, not normal or something else.  And, could I change anything to make things better?  Revive the zing that was there before jobs, children, aging, life?

I’ve stocked up on books, scoured the internet, subscribed to numerous blogs and websites and, boy, have my eyes been opened!  Even though it’s still early in the process, I’ve learned so much already.  My plan is to share these revelations in short posts over the next few months as I try to implement some of the things I’m reading about.  I’ll also add a tab to the blog with a list of the resources I will be using, in case I inspire any of you to do further reading for yourself.  I hope you’ll join me in discovering what marriage in the “third act” can look like!

Is your marriage all that it can be?

Exercise? Me?!

I HATE to exercise!

This is what the idea of exercise does to me!

I have always hated to exercise and, being a young person who was 22 years old before she hit 100 pounds, I though I would never have to exercise.  Ahhh, the delusions of our youth!

In fact, a couple of years ago, I decided that exercise was off my to-do list and I would NOT feel guilty about it any more.  After all, according to the CDC, one quarter of all people NEVER exercise.  Sure, we know it’s good for us and all, but how many people can really say they LIKE to exercise.  Did I really want to run a marathon or do a pull up?  After all, I still had the physical ability to do the things I wanted to do, right?

Guess what?  I was wrong.  Big surprise, huh?

I found myself unable to walk shorter and shorter distances without getting tired and carrying in the groceries became a big deal.  Hell, I couldn’t even carry my PURSE comfortable.  (Although for those of you who know me personally, I do tend to carry a LOT in my purse :)).

Exercise keeps our bodies  young, but we can’t see what’s happening on the inside and the true benefit is there, not on the outside.  For that, exercise is as critical to our health as eating.  We need exercise to keep us from rusting up inside.  It is the one true secret to the fountain of youth.

One problem with exercising, however, is that there are too many choices.  Walk?  Bike ride?  Weight lift?  Swim?  Zumba?  And then, there’s the whole issue of how long to do it.  30 minutes 3 times a week?  10 minutes 3 times a day?  An hour every other day?  Every day?  It’s enough to make your head spin.  That’s lot of decisions to make over something you don’t even want to do anyway.

But, it’s unavoidable, a fact I’m sure many of you have already come to know.  If I want to have an active and healthy “third act”, I’m going to have to do a lot more maintenance under the hood, so to speak.  So, I’ve bitten the bullet (a very small bite, to be sure, but I don’t want to over do anything) and started going to a yoga class twice a week.  Maybe as it becomes easier to get up out of my chair and away from my computer, I’ll take on more later.  But it’s a baby step in  the right direction.

I can do this!

How old were you when you realized that there was no getting out of the fact of exercise?

Welcome!

I’m so glad you decided to stop by!

When tthe idea of turning sixty finally sank in to my some-times forgetful brain, my first reaction was actually panic.

YIKES, I’m running out of time!  I don’t FEEL almost 60.  When we were younger, 60 seemed like being on death’s door.  I’m not ready to go!  I have too many things to do!

Yes, I know I could potentially live 20, 30 or 40 more years.  But what do I want those years to look like?  More of the same or something different?   I have always sort of “gone with the flow” in life and career, changing things as opportunities came up and reacting to influences around me more than actually having a life plan and following it.  With less years left to spend than already spent, I think I don’t want to do that anymore.  I want to make sure that the next phase of my life goes in a direction that I choose.  There ARE things that I want to do and feelings that I want to experience and I know that if I don’t make the efforts now, someday it will be too late.

As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, the questions I am going to investigate and come to terms with over the next several months are not new.  You know, the BIG life questions –

What happened to my marriage when I wasn’t looking?

Where did my body go?

What do I do with myself now?

Did I do a good enough job with my children?

No more sex? Really?

What makes life meaningful?

Will anyone miss me when I’m gone?

But they ARE new to me.  I’ve taken a lot for granted over the years and I’m finally realizing that you miss a lot if you kinda skim over the top of life.  I want to make the rest of my life purposeful, fulfilling and exciting. As I read, research and reinvent, I know more questions will occur to me.  I hope those of you reading this blog will join with me in weighing in on these issues and others.

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