The other day on Facebook, I wrote about how I feel like I’m becoming invisible. That day the feeling was so intense, I felt as if I might just fade into the desert landscape and blow away.
I wondered what I might do. I can’t retrace my steps and have a re-do of the life I didn’t choose 20 or 30 years ago. I can’t say I’d even want to.
I don’t particularly like being invisible in this area of my life. What area? It’s not my relationships, my friendships. It’s not my family. It’s my work life. It’s not my students. It’s my colleagues and contemporaries. Of course, not all of them. But there are enough of them that I’m spending a big chunk of time writing about this (twice, in fact!) instead of doing something else.
And I don’t have any clever ideas for changing it.
All I know to do is to put one foot in front of the other, like always, and keep moving along.
Changing directions is always an option.
Back on Facebook, this was one of those posts that people responded to like crazy. Some of the responses were helpful.
They ranged from kind well-wishing to being told I need to stop ruminating and get on with it. Mostly, though, many women responded that this hit a nerve with them. What surprised me was that some of the responses were from young women.
The younger women said they felt the whole topic resonating with them. That’s not entirely encouraging. When I was their age (20s), I thought we’d be so far past this invisibility thing by 2015, by the time I hit the big 6-0. Good grief.
The young women talked about autonomy and getting a hearing. They are still young enough that when they are my daughter or granddaughter or student I can tell them, “Hang on, your day will come.” I can make reassuring sounds and hug them.
Will it? Will things be better for them?
I don’t know. I’ll continue to encourage and agitate, but I just don’t know.
The women at midlife and beyond are familiar with the way that we become physically invisible past a certain age. We talked about that.
That middle-aged invisibility of the average women, I understand that and began dealing with it at least 10 years ago. Longer ago.
What I’m feeling isn’t that. It’s feeling out of place, unseen and unheard (hold on, you’re never going to guess), in academia. I didn’t make the “right” choices to begin to get a hearing when I was younger. In fact, in recent days, I’ve been told not to call myself a professor, that my PhD is meaningless, that I’m a part-time instructor, not a professional. And…I lost one professional job when my heart was damaged. I have no idea how to gain that back, or even if I ought to try. Or even think about it. I miss it, but maybe it’s becoming ridiculous to even think about it. What do I expect now?
I’m tired of busting my butt even though I like the work I do. I’m tired of worrying about the future. Tired of feeling a very quiet and subtle kind of failure for so many reasons.
A successful, retired man told me to knock off the self-flagellation. He’s been successful and has retired with plenty of money, reasonably good health, and an adoring wife. Okay, in “real life” I like this guy, I do, but he doesn’t have a clue.
It is what it is. I know I’m not alone. Whoever coined the term gray divorce knew what was up. I have to get over the hurdle that so many women, divorced at an older age, face. So many of us struggle to not only define ourselves – that’s the easier part for many of us.
But, knowing we can’t retire any time soon and being underemployed and often underestimated, finding how to tear through the veil of invisibility to get to some kind of work worth doing (that we’re entrusted to take on at an older age!) that will support us, that’s a big part of our dilemma.
For me, supporting myself by myself at my age is the big question mark.
Sometimes very successful women and sometimes most men don’t get this.
I feel like a woman out of place because so many of my former connections have imploded. I’ve been making new ones but some take and some don’t.
These days, I am fine with being husband-less because the alternative became so difficult that the change to single status brought me great peace. Not to mention, he walked out the door one day and never planned to come back.
What has happened with me is that I put my own work on the back burner for so long that when time came to dive in, I had a good decade but, alas, now things are different. Income streams are sparse. In the place I live, I became a pariah with a “bad heart” in my field. Apparently you can’t do this kind of work if you’ve got any kind of physical impairment. Yes, I’m being sarcastic because I know this isn’t necessarily true, but it seems to have become true in my little world.
Now I have to decide where and when I’m chasing my tail and where and when I might need to toss certain goals overboard.
Being invisible would be simpler and would less of a burden if I could eliminate my financial concerns.
I keep talking to myself about downsizing and seeing what kind of peace that brings me. I’m reasonably downsized as it is, but this is the USA and I know I can push it further. I mean, seriously, this is the land of “tiny houses” that cost more than my over-mortgaged home. And you have to borrow someone’s bathroom to take a shower in the tiny house world. Uh-uh.
Unlucky/unwise in love; unwise in work, but lucky to have even a part time job and lucky to like it. And fortunate in children. So fortunate.
Maybe I have to turn my life upside down again. I want to end this thing in contentment not dejection.