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Lesbian Midlife Chronicles

25 Jul Posted by in • Guest Writers | Comments Off on Lesbian Midlife Chronicles
Lesbian Midlife Chronicles

One year ago, I had an epiphany.  I was enjoying a long lunch at Cafe Zoetrope with my dear friend (and honorary auntie who I’ve known most of my life), Rita.  Rita has lived for 25 years in a rent controlled, 3rd story walk up in North Beach, with expansive views of the east bay hills, the Bay Bridge and the Transamerica building.  She is a 76 year old financial planner, accomplished working artist, world traveler, who has a crush on her handsome personal trainer.  Two hours into our conversation, she asked me if I was afraid of getting cancer and dying young, like my mother had.  I replied, no, I had no qualms about leaving life, and added that most of my peers seemed to feel the same.  Startled and disturbed, Rita exclaimed, “That’s just not right, Alisa!  You’re only 55.  You have an entire life ahead of you!”  At that moment, Rita became not only a friend, but my mentor.  She helped me see that I needed to make some serious changes and that merely going through the motions wasn’t an acceptable way to spend the rest of my life.

Flash forward one year.  As I develop curriculum for teachers and childcare providers on compassion fatigue and self-care, I think about our reluctance, to ask for help and our reluctance to say no. I wonder why it is so difficult for us to allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable and authentic when we are hurting inside. I wonder why we stay at jobs that kill our souls and set us up for poor health and maladaptive coping behaviors like drinking and overeating.  I wonder if either Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade shared the depths of their despair with others. I wonder if they sought help or just toughed it out until they couldn’t take it anymore. I wonder if all the support in the world would have made any difference.   I wonder if I will lose any of my midlife friends to suicide.  I recall my father’s midlife suicide attempt.

I believe our generation was taught to tough it out, keep a stiff upper lip, and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. All without asking for help or admitting that we’re ever at a Breaking Point with the demands of life such as caring for sick children and aging parents and unrealistic workplace expectations. I worry about the general overwhelm that we all feel with the political and social climate, making me question if we aren’t all somewhat emotionally compromised by the constant onslaught of negativity and hate that has taken over the airwaves. I wonder why so many of my friends feel indifferent about being alive despite having so much to live for, including loving family and community, meaningful careers, pets and other emotional supports. I speculate that maybe it all comes down to burn out.

The year before my lunch with Rita, I had grown increasingly unhappy.  There were repeated personal crisis in my immediate family, which needed my support and took my attention and time away from a very demanding job, which was becoming increasingly difficult to manage.  I’d had a number of falls, and I couldn’t keep going at the same pace. When my young adult old son was having yet another personal crisis and I was racing to his rescue, sobbing in front of my staff as I ran out of my office, a friend called, and said, “Alisa, you matter, too.  Don’t go.”  Having watched my fruitless efforts and dwindling bank account over the previous few years, she discouraged me from flying to his rescue and reminded me that all my efforts and money had not improved his condition – he needed to figure this out on his own.  Hearing the truth of her words, I reluctantly cancelled my flight and took a few days off from work to sleep.  And sure enough, my son came through the crisis, and has been on a positive life trajectory since “hitting bottom” that day.

Despite my fear about how it might look to others, I sold my house, quit my job, and took much-needed time off to travel and recuperate.  I went to Mexico for a life-changing retreat and I’m still integrating all I experienced on that magical trip. I spent a great deal of time with loved ones and in nature – swimming in glacial lakes, the Pacific Ocean, and pristine rivers. I walked alone in the dense jungle of the Sierra Madres, stood naked in the pouring rain on a rooftop in San Miguel de Allende, and have participated in healing ceremonial work both at home and in Mexico.  I’ve had so many wonderful “firsts”  this past year. It’s been a scary but exciting time as I explore numerous options, and it’s not all clear just yet.

At midlife, I am no longer a full-time parent. I am no longer a homeowner nor am I employed with a prestigious job title. Ask me what I do and I will tell you that I relish submitting photographs and writing witty reviews for TripAdvisor and Google (I’ve had over 50,000 hits!), I relish sleeping, I relish taking beautiful photos, I relish the two hours each morning when I drink my coffee and read, and I relish having time to write.  I relish meeting new people and having amazing conversations with folks outside my circle. I relish Airbnb stays. I relish heartfelt conversations with my precious son and my extended family.  I relish being a better friend, daughter, sister, aunt, lover, and mother.  I relish studying my family genealogy. I relish using my social services expertise to consult and train, and I am making art again.  I relish the precious time I’m spending with my brother back east, as we support our step-mother with her aging related health challenges.  I relish not crying all the time.  I relish falling in love with a beautiful human who loves me back, unconditionally.  And mostly, I relish time to just fucking think and create!

Alisa K. Moore

Who am I at midlife without all my usual props and titles? I don’t know just yet, but I’m enjoying the adventure and I wouldn’t go back to my life a year ago, despite the fear I sometimes feel, or how uncertain my life appears to others.  I will say that I have become a person who will now ask for help (and have), I will admit when I feel like shit rather than putting on a brave smile, and I will say no when needed.  I will laugh at the messiness of life, and admit I don’t quite know where I’m going – and it’s ok.  I will also say yes, and lovingly give much more easily, now that I’m no longer burned out. I feel a little more authentic and a lot more myself.  What a relief.  (And I haven’t had any more falls which were due to being distracted and rushing so fast I wasn’t paying attention the ground beneath my own feet.)

So I ask those of you in midlife, are you truly engaged in life, or just going through the motions and toughing it out?  What are you doing to maintain your well-being in the midst of developmental, physiological and environmental challenges?  How much time do you spend playing versus gritting your teeth and “pushing through it”?  How are you staying engaged, really engaged in life? How are you maintaining your interest so that you really want to be here? Who do you ask for help? With whom do you share your vulnerable underbelly? How is it to say no even if it means disappointing others – even your own child? What excites you and are you doing enough of it?  Who are you surrounding yourself with?  If you don’t like the answers, it’s not too late to make changes, ask for help, say no (and yes), and to love and give to yourself more fully so that you may enjoy what remains of your most precious life.

-My sincere gratitude to writers Amy Ferris and Elizabeth Gilbert for telling the absolute messy truth about life, and giving me the courage to do the same, and to actually do something about it.

Alisa K. Moore is a 50+ years’ young lesbian mom, who lives, works and loves in the sunny SF East Bay.  Since being initiated into the practice of T.M. at the age of 11, Alisa has been fascinated with metaphysics, alternative healing and psychic arts, and eastern spiritual practices. 

Alisa is a painter and writer, and draws spiritual and artistic inspiration from the lives and work of Amma, Pema Chodrin, Maya Angelou, Sonia Choquette, Rumi, Gertrude and Alice, Joni Mitchell, Mary Gaitskill, and Wes Anderson…

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