We are some six weeks into this topic of 65 and Single Again. I have gotten a great deal of feedback about the articles via e-mail, over the phone, and more often than not, in person. A great many people seem to identify with this predicament of life. The column mirrors their struggle and they are searching for solutions. As well, it has generated a good bit of thought on my part, re-thinking certain things, postulating new, and contemplating where to go next.
I want to very briefly touch on the dating dot coms issue that initially got me started writing this column. You will recall that I got very aggravated with them, experienced their shortcomings, and realized the potential for abuse. Now nine months into the Dot Com Dating scenario, and 2-4 months after I initially wrote the series, my view has not changed. Even though one Dot Com contract has run out, two are still sending me daily potential contacts. One of those two I did not agree to sign up for or be charged for. But reviewing my credit card statements, there it is! These dating dot coms tout “one key charging”, which in reality means if you accidentally hit one particular key you are automatically charged and re-enlisted. What is that key? I don’t know. We had to go through lots of windows and ambiguous fine print to reach cancel! At least 2-4 others are still sending me daily notifications that automatically end up in my spam file. I am now even less prone than ever to make an overture to any of these potential people because I know that the response rate is so minimal that it exacerbates my depression and reinforces my sense of futility. I admit that I do occasionally look at them and on occasion have sent a response to one that seems particularly appropriate. But it never fails that most that I would potentially like to address live far from me, or in a suburb much above my working class Mantua. Regardless, they never respond, and now I don’t much try anymore. I stick to my original conclusions.
One thing that has surprised me is the consistent feedback that I apparently haven’t lost my sense of humor; that my articles often make people laugh. This has been pointed out to me time and again so I accept that this is true. In actuality this has been a very humorless period of my life, at least from this side of my eyeballs. But I do consciously try to inject a sense of humor into my writing, introduce a different way of looking at a situation that brings out an alternative to a sometimes bleak state of affairs. Who wants to read about bleakness? I just put down an award winning book called We Are Not Ourselves that started out bleak, was bleak throughout, and ended up more bleak and depressing. I think, now why in the world would anybody write something like that? Even more amazing, why would critics rave over this? I don’t know. The older I get, the more I don’t seem to know!! Apparently, despite my inner self, something of a humorous viewpoint is still coming through. Several people have told me that they laughed all the way through various articles. I go back and reread them and say, OK I can see that. I didn’t realize it when I wrote it but I can see it now. I am very glad to know that humor is still there, consciously or not. It is peculiar how depression brings out humor in a [certain] few of us. I’m thinking of people like Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Johnathan Winters—All have commented on experiencing serious depression, through it they seem to be able to verbalize a humorous side to most anything. Not that I am comparing myself to them by any means. I am not that quick on my feet, I am not that talented, and I am no comedian. Mine is a reactive depression to the loss of a loved one. Presumably and hopefully this is not a permanent situation, that there is a cessation down the road. Still it is astounding to me that a sense of humor is still there and coming out.
One woman has commented repeatedly that my articles are frequent fodder for discussion at their church groups and dinners. Admittedly many of their group find themselves in my same situation. My response is to say that it helps somewhat to know that I am not alone. But really, I am alone! I also know that I have no readily formed therapeutic answers as to the way out of this. Yes, me, the former licensed Professional Clinical Therapist—the shoe is on the other foot now and I don’t have answers. Isn’t that a game changer! One of the reasons that I started these articles is/was an attempt to write my way out of this funk and hopefully be able to bring others with me. The woman who e-mailed me also suggested that we get together as a group and meet somewhere. This has definite possibilities and I am open to that.
For me, keeping extremely busy is my main way of avoiding overwhelming, depressing thoughts and endlessly reminiscing about what was, but can never be again. And I have attempted to do this whenever possible. The results though, leave me a profoundly tired lump of clay by 8-9 PM. This doesn’t bode well in the classes I sign up for in the evenings. “Skip. Are you all right? You seem out of it”, they say. “No, I am just tired. I am basically a morning person,” I say. This is also a type of manic flight if taken to extreme. And of course it doesn’t always work. Our psychological defenses are famous for occasionally not working, I think it is called the human condition. The reminiscing thoughts invade despite my best efforts. Is this good/ Is this bad? I don’t know. It just is. What is IS? Thank you Bill Clinton. Let’s not be cryptic. Tell me what is IS? “Close but no cigar!” Obviously from history we see that he didn’t know either.
One woman that I actually did meet through one of the Dating Dot Coms read my articles and e-mailed that she was sure that she was the person that stood me up at the Cracker Barrel. She apologized profusely. I assured her that this was indeed not the case—that she did not stand me up. In fact I inadvertently left her hanging. Actually she was one person that I would like to have seen again. At our coffee date it came out that she was a volunteer at the hospital where my wife spent many of her last days—this spooked me greatly, caused a massive rush of emotions and my automatic flight defenses kicked in. As a result I had to distance myself from that experience and her for a bit. At any rate, I lost contact with her and was very glad to make contact again and have the opportunity to resume trying to build a relationship. Sometimes there is obvious chemistry. I did like her and saw possibilities but the human condition—my automatic defenses– mucked things up a bit.
In retrospect, I must say that this has been the hardest, most difficult time of my life—the past nine months since my wife passed away. Do things get better? Do they ever get better? I keep asking this question. What I can say now from my experiences so far is that I don’t seem to be walking around in a fog quite as much these past couple months, and my emotions are not quite as labile as the first four months. But make no mistake, it still doesn’t take much to make me turn away and attempt to control/ hide a rush of emotions. My main coping mechanism is a sort of manic flight—staying extremely busy and working until I drop.
Loneliness is a big factor for me. Having someone else in the house is so comforting, refreshing and vital. Who proofreads your articles and says, “Don’t say that; That is offensive” Who scratches your back? Who says, “Go brush your teeth, you’ve been eating garlic again; Your breath is gonna knock a buzzard off a ……..manure wagon!” Who is gonna touch you? I can count the number of times I’ve been touched this past nine months…..on one hand. I’m not outwardly a touchy feely person except with a very significant other. Then, it seems crucial, and is now missing.
What now is the meaning of life for me? Life has changed. It has not yet come clear to me. Once I knew, but now I don’t anymore. The quest to alleviate this loneliness is center stage. But the ever present thought, “What would my wife think” interjects quickly and always. When is that alleviated? Is it ever? My daughter intimates that she is now a significant part of the meaning of life for me. She doesn’t realize it but she always has been, just more central these days. I deep down think that my wife would say, “Your work is not done; get back to doing what you do best—work with people and write.”
This ongoing column is dedicated to those of us—post 60’ers– after “the sinking”. If you identify with it, please come into the lifeboat and take a seat. This is the ongoing saga of coping with the post 6o and single again dilemma. I am open to ideas, feedback, and information that maybe helpful to all of us. You can reach me at tel: 330-562-9801 or e-mail me at Skipstaxidermy@yahoo.com
Author’s note: The names of the various dot coms have been changed