One of our newsletters struck a real chord with one of our readers Amanda. In it we asked what stage of life are you in? Read this deeply moving response from Amanda:
Your newsletter arrived in my in-box on the very topic that I had been seriously contemplating for some time. It’s so easy to look at the developmental stages of a woman in any psychology or sociology textbook and find the slot where you are supposed to fit in. But what if you don’t? Is there a stage for not knowing what stage you are in? What about the stage you should be at but life made you skip that one? Is there such a thing as life-stage-identity-crisis?
I got married young and had my children at a young age. This was easy.
The stage of experiencing the marriage unfold, getting to know one another even better, dreaming dreams of the future together, our whole lives still ahead of us, watching and experiencing with awe as our children developed and grew and lost track of the fact that we were growing older. Marriage, social, children, careers, school, family commitments, etc – hectic, busy, on the go – but gone too soon.
Without realising it I comfortably slipped into middle age – teenage, almost grown up children, excitement about their prospects and their futures, spending the free time I now had on furthering my studies and career, starting to think about the future of our ageing parents but it was all still normal, on track and the way it was expected to be.
My husband died when I was 44 and my children 24 and 16. This left me mourning, lost and alone.
It left my youngest without the prospects of a father walking her down the aisle and the oldest without his biggest role-model.
We spluttered on for two years and then the oldest moved to Cape Town with a wonderful career and future ahead of him. The youngest had finished school and started testing the waters of leaving home for short periods but always returning to base.
Stage of my life? Young enough to be terribly lonely, old enough to battle with depression and menopause and empty-nest syndrome.
This was the stage where I burst out crying upon seeing a little boy in his school uniform and his mother in the mall. Because that part of my life is over and I’ll never have it back again. My children will never be small and dependant on me again, we will never be the family of four again.
This was the stage where my husband and I should have reconnected, the second honeymoon stage – standing with our arms around one another, drinking a toast to a job well done, watching our children walk off into the sunset of their own independence and eagerly await our grandchildren.
Unfortunately real life doesn’t stick to the script. I was young enough to still want to share my life with somebody to help me make sense of it all and enjoy what is left and old enough to realise that I hadn’t dated in over 30 years. Remaining alone and lonely seems to be the only option.
I settled into late middle-age, focusing on work and trying to adjust to life without my children and husband as main purpose of it. I convinced myself that growing old alone is not that bad, many people do it gracefully and I’ll be one of them.
My heart told me to pack up, move to Cape Town, following the children and start a new life, but my head keeps on saying no, it’s stupid, impulsive and you’ll lose financially and then just be alone in another house in another town. The loneliness and depression increased, the increasing number of dogs and cats evident of this fact. I started looking for full-time employment again, only to realise that I am too old, too white, too inexperienced, over-qualified and with no idea of the working world.
What is this stage called? The stage where you have become obsolete in your own life, your purpose has been fulfilled and you don’t know who you are and what the meaning of your life is.
Now you need to spend the next 30-odd years filling your time with mindless pursuits or try and convince yourself that you have a ‘job’, your charity work is fulfilling and gives meaning to your life while the image in the mirror shouts ‘hypocrite’. I have been stuck in this existential dilemma since my husband died and cannot seem to find the way forward, to be able to move beyond this stage.
Quite unexpectedly, the next stage arrived. The loss of a parent and the ramifications thereof. All of a sudden, I moved up a category – one closer to my own death. And here I am. I’ll be 49 in April.
Stage of life? I don’t have a clue.
Can you relate to Amanda's story? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Health24.com, January 2013)