Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fantasy? Frustration? Or Possibility?

It happens more and more often at the oddest times. I can be sorting laundry or running to the supermarket or getting up in the middle of the night to pee and it hits me. I'm not living my life.

This is not me.

Sometimes I will look in the mirror and wonder whose face that is -- it can't be me. Inside I'm still 18, but that certainly is NOT the face of a teenager.

I'm not sure I will ever grow up; I'll just grow old. But while I'm on this journey I can't stop asking myself "why aren't I going anywhere?"

Evidently I'm not alone in my frustration and confusion (no I'm not diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease). Yet. It seems that more and more women who accepted roles based upon our culture's expectations, are rethinking their lives. Taking a closer look at their lives and trying to figure out what life they really should be living.

Some days it is all too hard. Too difficult to bust through the roadblocks. Education -- all of the forms and hoops and financing required just to take some classes and learn something. Or going to events -- traffic and parking and navigating and experiencing 'first time' jitters and concerns. Trying to find someone else who shares your same interests so that everything isn't faced alone. Reading the directions for a new project or trying to wrap your brain around a new concept. It is all just too hard, but I don't know why. When did my world shrink to such a little sliver of land?

Well all of those things hit Rita Golden Gelman, but she didn't let any of them stop her. She was a woman past fifty before she became a nomad. Her marriage of 30 years or thereabouts was falling apart, her kids were grown, and she looked around her house and realized that she'd never made it her own. She was living with the previous owners' furniture -- not at all her preferences, but for almost a decade she hadn't made an effort to redecorate. She thought maybe she would take classes, get her master's degree in anthropology. So she did. Then her husband wanted a time out and she headed for Mexico and that was her epiphany.

Eventually she wrote of her travels in her book "Tales of a Female Nomad" published in 2001. It wasn't until this weekend that I read her book. I highly recommend it. Her style is easy, no frills, some humor, and not too full of herself.

I had to wonder what kind of person could go to a foreign country where she barely spoke the language and move in with strangers, living off of their generosity for weeks and months and in one situation for years at a time. She continually mentioned her anthropological interests of 'not judging' and 'not interfering.' Yet she saw children suffering from malnutrition; listened to a wife beaten by her husband and she did nothing. In fact, she wrote that it was the wife's destiny there was nothing she could do to change that. I thought perhaps she missed some excellent opportunities to make a difference, but too often she seemed like Blanche Dubois depending on the kindness of strangers.

Yet for an older woman to head into situations blindly trusting that all would be well seemed risky, but also it sounded like she was at least making a choice, not just letting life pass her by. She left a dying marriage and started to live. Interestingly she chose to go to Central American countries and third world countries where she could live comfortably on little income -- she lived better than she could have for that amount of money in the U.S.

I'm glad I read the book for several reasons. My excuses about being out of shape, overweight, unhealthy could have applied to Gelman, but she went ahead anyway. Her book shakes me out of my listless apathy and makes me want to take action whether it be travel or taking a class or doing civic or charity work. And it has gotten me writing again. I've dusted off a couple of children's books and they don't look half bad. Rita Golden Gelman has written several children's books before she penned "Tales of a Female Nomad." It is something I think I could do. And thanks to her memoir -- I'm doing it.

That's getting a lot of results just from reading one rather slender memoir. Definitely worth the investment.

I keep thinking how one takes that first step of self actualization or fulfillment or simply finding oneself true bliss. The first step comes easier at least when you think positively and stop beating yourself up. So, I'm thinking positive. And hoping I'll find the next step before its too late.