I’ve been spending the last several days contemplating where my middle age is going from here. That is the most mental exercise I am indulging in while on vacation in Florida, other than contemplating what color I should paint my pinkies to flatter my deepening tan.

Could I live like this every day for the rest of my life? The short answer for this born and bred Midwesterner is, “You betcha!” There’s only one glitch. What would I do with my husband? He is your typical man retired before he should be — he doesn’t know what to do with his time.

In fairness, there is an added complication. He didn’t retire willingly; his heart gave out after too many years of neglecting his health. Now, the plan to stay alive includes no more physical activity than walking a few blocks after a preventative dose of nitro and only on his good days. Good days have as much to do with his moods as with his physical condition. Can’t blame him there

His life as he knew it is over. His laboring heart also won’t hold for any of the activities he planned in retirement. Golfing, swimming, home repair and improvement. To add to the conundrum, his laundry list of other physical ailments isn’t making travel easy or pleasant.

So where does that leave me? My life as I knew it, is over. With both of us suffering the same loss, why are we having so much difficulty understanding each other?

I want to know what’s going to happen with my life long plan to get the heck out of frozen tundra land during the winter months? What about my visions of a small, two story cottage or the storybook garden? The structures and foundations would be his handy work, the brush strokes of colored petals waving across the canvas of our backyard would be mine. Now he can’t climb stairs and chores are completely off the list.

I planned to write in the mornings while he puttered in the garage, doing whatever it is that men do when they putter. In the afternoons we’d walk to the grocer’s for quart of milk or to pick up the daily news. We’d ride our bikes through the neighborhood streets. Heck, I’d even golf a round or two with him.

Instead, when I try to write in the mornings he impatiently waits for me to finish. Right now, on vacation, he is sitting three feet from me looking as bored as any human being can be. He glances my way about every 5 minutes. I’m not sure what he’s thinking, but I can guess.

He seems jealous of my ability to occupy myself, to engage my brain in something that thrills me. Observation indicates that he is only able to achieve that from external sources; watching sporting events, watching action films, reading the newspaper and grumping at the anchors on CNN. I understand one can only do so much of that and then, apparently, I am all that’s left to entertain him.

The MAD Goddess in me wants to scream, “Exactly when did I become responsible for your contentment?” The answer is, of course, when I said I do. My 50 years in the conditioning of what a wife does is hard enough habit for me to shake. I indulge him to keep the peace – just like my mother did with my father. She had to tape the one and only soap opera she watched, her measly hour of self indulgence, because during that one hour my father seemed to absolutely need her attention for anything and everything. She could watch her show in peace only when he dozed off for his afternoon nap.

It’s difficult for me to break the habits of the good girl, good daughter and good wife indoctrination of my middle class rearing, even with all that’s at stake. It’s impossible for him to consider another model of wife. And why wouldn’t it be? He has nothing to gain and everything to lose.

And that is precisely where men always get it wrong. My husband has one choice, get with the program or get out of my way. For thirty years I have devoted myself to raising and caring for children, caring for a husband and being on demand for aging parents’ needs, both physical and emotional. I have waited, patiently for my time and now that it’s here, I am not giving it up.

He’s afraid that I will leave him. I won’t. It isn’t the answer. I will stand firm, stand up and speak out for what I need. His response is entirely up to him, but our life together will be much more joyous if he can (first) discern my needs in the midst of his neediness, and (second)understand that they are as important to his ultimate happiness as are his own.

I remember my father’s bitter complaints about my mother’s “change of life”. They were the worst years of his life. That sentiment angered my mother because she shielded him from most of the emotional upheaval of those awakening years. Being in her shoes now, I know what she was thinking. “Mister, you don’t know the half of what I wanted to say and do.”

The French have a saying that when a woman loses her blood she finds her voice. I’m sure that is inconvenient, irritating, perplexing and especially frightening for the men who have been in charge. That’s too bad for them, and if they don’t like it I suggest their best course is to learn to speak little and listen much. They might also be ready to duck because now we are carrying the metaphorical big stick.

. . . . . . mid
GET A ^ LIFE at MAD Goddess.com


5 responses to “WIELDING A BIG STICK

  • Anonymous

    My mother has passed now, I have her journals she wanted to burn…Alz has a way of forgetting what was so deep in her heart. She married after 50, he had a great job and was gone all the time. Then, he became disabled. It took a huge financial and emotional toll and she was in a prison much like you. She writes what a terrible mistake she made. A wise doctor of hers told her…you know Gina, if you don’t take care of yourself…who will? We all have choices, your husband made his by not taking care of himself. Do what you need to do to put yourself first, to make you happy. You can’t fix him, nor change him…but you can control how you react to this life. You deserve happiness, you are entitled to your life…don’t let your dreams die, they are just on hold…cj

  • Ann's Rants

    Hi Judith Ann,You’re a great writer. I find this post daunting because I thought this phase of marriage–with preschoolers–was as hard as it comes (illness aside). Joy, what awaits us!Glad you are finding your voice, though!

  • Judith-Ann

    Anaonymous,Thanks for your supportive comments. You have been a true sister/friend and I’m lucky to have you in my life.Ann,Thank you for the compliment. I am finding my voice and it seems to be coming in louder and clearer each day. As for the daunting future, take heart; each phase of life has it’s ups and downs.Walking on the beach yesterday (my last, farewell walk before the journey back to frozen trundra land), I had an epiphany. Life is as easy – or as difficult as we choose to make it It’s that simple. Adapting to the changes, trusting our inner compass and setting an intention for the highest purpose and greatest good of everybody involved keeps us moving toward fulfillment.

  • Anonymous

    Stand firm. Why do women mix up love with happiness? Just because you marry someone does not mean you are responsible for their happiness (or vice versa). You’ll figure out a way to live the dream… sunny respites, cottage, and garden too. Just take it a day at a time. 🙂

  • Laura

    I’m so glad to see that the MadGoddess is back.Whew. That’s a lot to think about, and be in the midst of experiencing and sorting out. As my new lawyer said the other day, “you enabled him for years to think he can control you.” It’s that darn desire to please everyone so that by the time our blood stops they can’t hear our voices, only their own. I say put on the sandals to show off the pedicure and find a place of your own to write in–to breathe (I can never remember if it’s with an e or not) in. If he can’t give you space at home, then give yourself the space. Taping a soap opera. Men should be so ashamed of themselves for never growing up. Soak up the sun!

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