I am, as of this writing, in my “mid-forties.” I’ve got about one more year where I can say that before I’ll have to start saying “late forties,” so I’m milking “mid-forties” as long as I can. Most women my age, with my socioeconomic background, have mostly held it together and gotten somewhere by this time, at least by some metric; f’rinstance:
- Gotten (and stayed) married
- Held the same job for several years at a time
- Had a kid or kids
- Gotten at least an Associate’s degree of some flavor
- Maintained a close friendship or two for more than a couple of years
- Bought and paid off a house, car, or other large investment
- Lived in the same building for more than a year or so
Those are just a few examples off the top of my head; things that a Normal Person has accomplished before they start pushing fifty, assuming they haven’t spent any time in prison and/or been consumed by an addiction to some kind of substance.
And Then There’s C.
In spite of the fact that I’ve never been arrested, never used illegal drugs, and haven’t even sipped an alcoholic beverage in well over a decade, I’ve basically been living the life of a junkie jailbird failure (without the collateral fun of using the junk or going to jail). My complete inability to maintain forward motion is baffling to all who know me.
A harsh truth about yours truly: I haven’t succeeded in holding down a job longer than a couple of years, tops. My resume is also filled with gaps between these short-lived gigs, because my Major Depressive Disorder and associated side dishes of mental illness have kept me hobbled for lengthy periods of time.
Down for the Count
This time around, I’ve been without a source of income for close to a year. I’d been living off my savings and feeling sorry for myself, wallowing in food, video games, and bitterness. Sometimes I remembered to pray, though I frequently couldn’t find the words.
Then the house I was renting got foreclosed, and that’s a whole nother story (NOT MY FAULT, I WAS PAYING RENT). The owners, my dear friends, with far more grace and patience than I deserved, allowed me to stay with them while I got back on my feet. They moved all my furniture into a storage unit (I paid) and cleared a corner in their dining room for my computer. While all this was going on, I discovered something truly horrifying:
I have grown old.
Two years ago I was living (and off-and-on sleeping) with a young man nineteen years my junior (another whole nother story there). Said whippersnapper had once joyfully crowed to me, “You don’t act your age AT ALL!” back when I was still in my “early forties,” and I loved it. While not in anything close to good shape, I’d stayed relatively active and could get around without physical difficulty.
Fast forward to last month, when my landlords were trying to extricate me from the house they’d stopped paying the mortgage on, and I was CRIPPLED. I could barely carry a chair from the garage to the U-Haul without keeling over. I’ve gained a huge amount of weight, which causes my thighs to rub together, which causes huge red welts to erupt DOWN THERE whenever I exert myself even a little bit. I’d stopped brushing my hair; I finally had to use scissors to remove a huge matted rat’s nest from what was once my most attractive feature. My knees are killing me all the time. I look considerably older than I am, and I feel even older. Worst of all, my motivation is gone.
No More Can-Do Attitude
I’m always discouraged when I have to start my life over AGAIN. Like I said above, most people have their act together by now, or have at least figured out how to hold down a job in order to APPEAR that they have their act together. The fact that I cannot is highly embarrassing. But even a few years ago, I still had the ability to suck it up and try. I was willing to apply for every job, even the minimum-wage grinds that I knew I’d hate, just to get back on the horse and prove to everyone that yes, I really am making an effort.
I’m not denigrating those jobs or the people who have them. They’re just not the kinds of positions that fulfill me and my skills lie elsewhere. The point is, I was willing to do them, and have in fact done them plenty of times. I delivered pizza for several years. I put on a friendly face at a local hotel (briefly). I tried delivering newspapers. I worked overnight as the wrangler of the paper’s electronic edition. I cubicled for eight bucks an hour at a certain famous company that tracks TV ratings (…briefly).
How THEY See It
The thing is, you have to be willing to take those jobs, or people decide you’re not trying hard enough. There’s this perverse notion, especially among Christians, that if you have a need of any kind, you should be grateful for whatever measly crumbs anyone is willing to drop at your feet. We are frequently berated about how we must “die to self,” that “God hates the proud,” and the importance of being submissive, particularly us ladies. And while all of that is certainly true, I still chafe against the idea that humbling myself necessitates humiliating myself as well.
Somehow, this time around, I don’t have it in me. And hoo boy, is it ever pissing people off. Certain folk who know my situation are increasingly irritated by the fact that I’m not applying for a job at Publix, even though they keep reminding me not-very-nicely that they’re still hiring. Or Ace Hardware down the street. Or the restaurant over by the pier. Or the gas station off the Interstate. And I’m not GOING to apply for any of them because here’s the thing:
I’m too old for this shit.
I have other reasons for not painstakingly filling in the boxes on the hopelessly-recopied-to-infinity job applications people are always shoving at me. I want to be very clear that I don’t feel these positions are beneath me, nor are the people who work them. But I do have a list of jobs I cannot or will not do, including but not limited to:
- Anything overnight. (I’ve tried before, more than once, and was physically incapable of keeping it up. It’s not for everyone, and everyone knows it.)
- Anyplace where I would have to sell cigarettes and alcohol. (That eliminates all convenience stores and most groceries, but too bad — I won’t put those substances into people’s hands.)
- Anything involving children. (Kids are not my strong suit, to put it mildly.)
- Anything involving nursing or healthcare. (Feces and other bodily substances: NO.)
- Delivery jobs using my own car. (Not only is my eyesight completely shot due to a combination of age and documented neurological issues, I paid for two MRIs out of pocket so zip it, I also refuse to ever put that kind of wear and tear on my own vehicle again.)
- Anything involving permitting. (I’ve worked for construction companies. Permitting is worse than changing diapers.)
- Telemarketing. (Remember when I said I’m not denigrating these jobs or the people who do them? I lied. If you’re a telemarketer, you suck and should feel bad.)
- Pawnshops. (See above re: lying about denigrating. Pawnshops ruin lives.)
- Payday loan places. (I guess I really am denigrating a lot of jobs and people who work them because here’s another one. REPENT.)
- Lifeguard. (I can barely keep my own self afloat in calm waters.)
- Physical labor including housecleaning, back-of-house restaurant work, contractor help, etc. (It was amply demonstrated when my landlords were helping me move my furniture that my body is pretty much destroyed at this point.)
- Banking. (No financial institution would hire me even if I wanted it. Thanks, Idiot Ex-Husband, for ruining my credit!)
- Cashiering pretty much anywhere. (I have an admittedly neurotic paranoia of old enemies coming upon me working a menial job and mocking me, aggravated by the fact that it has actually happened to me more than once when I was doing the pizza thing. I simply refuse to take the chance of that happening again. Yes, it’s neurotic. No, I don’t care.)
“Beggars Can’t Be Choosers!”
Thank you for pointing that out. If I see any beggars, I’ll be sure to share that little pearl of wisdom, only I won’t because it’s a crappy thing to say even to an actual beggar. If you offer me something cheap and lousy and broken, I can and do choose to reject it. (Seriously, I hate the way people talk about being “triggered” these days, but if I have triggers of my own, that phrase is one of the biggest. If you routinely say it to people, you are horrible. Yeah, you.)
I used to believe that I could do anything. “It’s funny what you can do when you have to” was one of my little catchphrases. I used to believe that if I had to flip burgers or sling pizza in order to get my life back on track, that I could do it with a song in my heart, succeed, get ahead, and get better. Now I’m doing yet another reboot of my life, in my “mid-forties,” and I no longer believe that I can do anything I put my mind to, because my body has given up and my heart pretty much has as well.
Self-Respect’s a Bitch
If you’re a Christian reading this, you might’ve been making the cluck-cluck noise. Wagging that finger, sniffing about my pridefulness, my refusal to submit. Even if you’re not a Christian, there’s a good chance you’re blowing me off and thinking I deserve everything that’s happening. My perceived refusal to do what other people think is necessary for me to help myself, it’s definitely getting me in trouble and losing me supporters. My dear friends, the former landlords with whom I’ve been crashing for a month — they’re noticeably reaching the point where they’re going to ask me to leave soon. And it’s okay when they do, as I’ve lived out of my car in the past and I know how to do it and it probably won’t kill me. And to answer the unspoken question, yes, I’d rather be homeless again than flip burgers at this stage of my life. Pride? If you say so, and you probably do.
It’s just…I wish people, especially my fellow believers, could see this whole mess from my perspective. I’m depressed, discouraged, old, and broken (and broke), and I can’t do the things I used to be able to do.
I wish there were still people who’d remind me of God’s goodness instead of castigating me for my crappiness.