No Country For Old Men (Or Women)
Now that I have 24 hours of antibiotics in me and a LOT less pain, I can finally turn my attention back to a more pressing need: a way out of this mess I call my life these days.
No, I am not suicidal or depressed. I was for a short time there, but it’s over and I learned from it. But my life IS a mess, and my big issue nowadays is not knowing where I’m supposed to go from here. I feel irrelevant, lost, confused; I search the job ads daily and find little to inspire me or even bother applying for. It’s already been established that nursing is out, and 99% of what else is out there either requires physical abilities I don’t have, experience I don’t have, or a front-office appearance, which I also don’t have.
It’s tough growing older in a culture which still worships youth and beauty. It’s tougher still when you have disabilities, e.g., being overweight and having a mental illness. The bipolar I can conceal up to a point; but there’s no overlooking my size and shape. And there’s no way you can look at me and not see every year I’ve lived etched across my face.
I wonder sometimes why people who aren’t independently wealthy would want to live into their 80s or 90s and beyond. This country is not kind to its elderly, and even less so to its elderly poor. I’m only 55, but that is right in the middle of No-Man’s Land as far as the social safety net goes: too old to be considered for many jobs, and too young for Social Security. I used to read about this phenomenon and think I was immune to it by virtue of the fact that I was a nurse, and nurses were always in demand. What I never foresaw was becoming unable to continue in my chosen occupation, and now I’m stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Even trying to get a minimum-wage job is fraught with peril. Who do you see at the window of your local Starbucks, handing you your mocha—a frumpy middle-aged grandma, or a perky twenty-something? Who’s checking you in at your dentist’s office—a 300-pound woman in her only “good” outfit, or a slender 35-year-old who could wear a burlap sack and make it look professional? In fact, about the only place that will employ almost anyone is that freak show known as your local Wal-Mart…..and THEY make you work holidays.
It has occurred to me that it might be best to look for a temporary job, something I could do to pay the bills while I keep searching for the Holy Grail. The main disadvantage is I already have a reputation as a job-hopper and it’s becoming tougher to overcome. One employer I interviewed with even mentioned it early in the interview, and I remember how my heart sank as I tried to explain it away. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not hopeless, and I WILL find a job even if it is working at Wally World. It’s the impending loss of my middle-class lifestyle that I’m grieving—the home where my kids did the last of their growing up, the respectability I came to take for granted, the ability to give the family good Christmases and birthdays.
And then I think back to where I was a year ago: working only 8-10 hours a week, AND husband diagnosed with cancer and not expected to live more than a few months. Thank God, he’s still here…..and as long as we’re together, I can get through anything.