Do you feel marginalized as you age? I do.

Perhaps you’ve heard about a new article in The Atlantic by Science journalist Ed Yong entitled:

“The Final Pandemic Betrayal.” Mr. Yong won the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for this “series of lucid, definitive pieces on the COVID-19 pandemic that anticipated the course of the disease, synthesized the complex challenges the country faced, illuminated the U.S. government’s failures and provided clear and accessible context for the scientific and human challenges it posed.

The subtitle of Mr. Yong’s latest article from April 2022 is:

“Millions of people are still mourning loved ones lost to COVID, their grief intensified, prolonged, and even denied by the politics of the pandemic.” I saw an interview with him this week that really hit home for me. At least nine million of us have lost someone we knew and cared for and yet it seems we just go on, ignoring the tremendous losses to so many. In just two years, COVID became the third most common cause of death in the U.S., which means that it is also the third leading cause of grief.

“Each American who has died of COVID has left an average of nine close relatives bereaved, creating a community of grievers larger than the population of all but 11 states. Under normal circumstances, 10% of bereaved people would be expected to develop prolonged grief, which is unusually intense, incapacitating, and persistent. But for COVID grievers, that proportion may be even higher, because the pandemic has ticked off so many risk factors.”

In his recent interview, Mr. Yong discussed what is for me the most important aspect of this horrible loss of life. The groups hardest hit were “marginalized” sections of our society. Who are they? The elderly, those chronically ill, the weakened, the brown, the black and low income groups who have less access to decent health care.

My experience in the past eight years, as I grow older and my own health declines, has been a movement from a “normal” person to one who definitely feels marginalized. First with the aging process we slowly become invisible in our culture, or worse, someone who should just get out of the way of the younger and more vital. Yes, it’s true some help me with doors and seem to feel some compassion for my difficult circumstances, but I have experienced a pulling away from others as I have become more disabled. I have found it almost impossible to make true friends in this rural area. It seems just about nobody believes I am worth their time and energy. I don’t think I would have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

In this way I have learned what “marginalized” means in this country. We have always put an emphasis on being healthy and able-bodied, and when I was also healthy I rarely noticed what happened to those who are not. Yes, I do have financial resources unlike so many Americans, but I do not live by bread alone. Thanks to those of you who have made an effort to welcome us here. And to the rest of you, I hope you don’t ever become elderly and need a friend.

Spring Gardening in the Colorado Foothills

I truly do pity those who don’t have a garden to observe in the spring! Every new day is an adventure out there. I put in new perennials every year and so I must then remember where I put what, and go out and see what made it through the winter. Sometimes very subtle signs at first!

My earliest bloomer this spring were some miniature irises. Regular irises to bloom later in May or early June…

The irises even beat the tiny creeping thyme flowers (Turkish Veronica) this year!

We had a small but wonderful rain last night and so all the plants look refreshed and ready to thrive...

…and the rain also cleared the smoke out of our skies for a lovely view of the Sangre de Cristos this morning!

Mike’s been busy with his new welder too. He made a cute, little wiener dog puppy for me yesterday!

Find A Healing Environment For Retirement

In my last post I wrote about healing relationships, relationships that truly saved my life. But I have not yet shared one of the most important transitions I have gone through in the past eight years. I hear so much these days about Boomers who are trying to find the best place to retire. Of course, that will be different for each of us, but for me, retiring as close to nature as possible has transformed me. And the irony is that I was not certain at all whether I wanted to come here in the first place.

Eight years ago at this time, Mike and I was crazy busy preparing to sell our beautiful home in the Fort Collins suburbs so we could build a passive solar home on three acres west of Walsenburg, Colorado. Mike was always convinced that this was his ideal retirement plan. I was not so sure. Still surprised that I would even be able to retire by age 60, our options still hadn’t struck me. Then, after we moved into a rundown old miner’s home in town while we built our new home 13 miles west of there, I became really worried. I could not figure out where I was for a while. You try moving from a big cosmopolitan city to a tired old town of less than 3,000 souls, then you tell me if you don’t feel a whole lot of culture shock.

Our first year down here was difficult. So many disappointments and worker slow downs in construction, not to mention health concerns. But we did prevail and moved into our brand new home a little over one year later…

Oh, did I mention the view of the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Range from our new home?

When we first moved in, nothing seemed real. I felt like I had moved into a fancy foothills resort and the management would be coming soon to kick us out. After living in cities and suburbia for most of my life, this felt a bit like make-believe. To finally live in a naturally warm, energy-saving home that we had designed specifically for our needs and up to our standards with a view like that? Wow! But the best was yet to come.

The escape from the frenetic energy of cities was the best! I don’t know that I can properly describe exactly how peaceful this place felt after living with all of that crowding and traffic my whole life. The silence was astounding! I loved to go out in the morning, sit down and just soak it all in; the sunrises, the bird songs, the trees, the mountains. How did I end up here?

In the years since, my love of this place has grown and grown along with my sky garden, dedicated to my brother. How was I ever so lucky? With many new health challenges including head injuries and the need for permanent supplemental oxygen, I still feel so content to watch the sunrise each morning and look out over that tremendous view, knowing that I have finally found the place I belong.

In June 2014 we packed up or got rid of most of our worldly goods, sold our home in Fort Collins, and took off for an ancient rental in Walsenburg, Colorado. It was then we named ourselves the “NEW Old Farts” because we were barely 60 years old. I have been sharing our retirement story here on this blog since October 2014; the year long passive solar construction wins and losses, the big move in and our gradual adjustment to life in rural Colorado. We have fallen in love with living in tune with the sun and seasons, waking up each day amazed to find ourselves in such a beautiful, quiet, natural place. Good luck choosing the perfect place to make your own retirement dreams come true!

Please contact me at MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com to purchase copies of any of my books. Thanks!

Return to the big cities up north!

We went up north again this past weekend to spend time with old friends, checkout a boat and the scene around Fort Collins. After leaving over seven years ago, I must say we are so pleased to not live there anymore! One of Mike’s friends bought a new home out east in Severance a couple years ago, so we stayed there. East of I-25 it’s non-stop construction… it appears they are building another city just east of the city!

The drive up was so stress-producing for us, after living twenty minutes outside of a one-stop-light town for so long. Colorado Springs-Denver-Fort Collins seem almost like one gigantic city now. And by the time we got to our friend’s house we were beat. Hours of intense traffic is hell on the human body! Our friend Rad has chosen to install the most ‘wired’ home I have ever seen. The security system actually chirps at you as you walk up to the front door, to tell you that you are being filmed. Rasta had to pee in the middle of the night and I had to get everyone up to turn off the alarm before I could open the back door. Convenient or inconvenient?

It’s like another world up there and everyone we know now works from home much of the time. Mike and I were jealous. There is no way we could have worked from home as a solar design engineer and a reference librarian back in the day. So glad we got out when we did!

The world is changing fast and we are not. That works for us 🙂

The movie for academics and us bookish types!

“So, you went to college. Is your life better because of it?”

First of all, you should know I was raised on college campuses and worked on them my entire adult life as an academic librarian. As kids, we collected pop bottles on campus and I was born at a university hospital. So when I watched the film “Liberal Arts” this morning it spoke to me in so many interesting and unique ways. This screenplay is superb!

This film, which premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2021, deals with so many important aspects of life: love, romance, sex, maturing into adulthood, retirement and what happens to aging academics. The story is told from the perspective of a 35-year-old played by Josh Radnor, who wrote, directs and stars in this little gem. He plays Jesse, an admissions counselor in NYC whose life is on the skids (fully disillusioned and going through a divorce), when he is invited back to his small liberal arts college for a retirement party for one of his favorite professors.

Jesse absolutely loves returning to college. Ah. the feel of total irresponsibility on a small liberal arts college campus! There he meets a few characters who complicate is pathetic life. There’s a beautiful, young woman who he falls in love with over long-distance letter writing, there’s a mysterious elf-like creature who shows up regularly to share his truths. ‘Nat’, played so well by Zac Efron, seems so ethereal that Jesse says at one point, “I’m not even sure you’re real.” There are a few bitter older professors who cause Jesse some serious disillusionment over choosing the academic life, as well as a college kid who is right on the edge of giving up on life all together.

Jesse slowly begins to see that being such an intellectual and expert on books and ideas has stunted his growth in terms of simply living an authentic life. He connects with everyone through books and ideas. When asked at one point why those of us who are lucky enough to go to college should appreciate it, he says, “Because you have time to sit around reading books all day, and you have lots of smart people around to discuss ideas! That’s not true when you leave here…” Yes, college was certainly that for me, and caused one of my greatest disappointment in life. I’ve been seeking intellectual types to talk with my whole adult life. Where are all the intellectuals in rural Huerfano County, Colorado?

When I saw the preview, I thought this would just be a fun romp through the ridiculousness of academia, something I am a bit of a expert on. Oh the stories I could tell… “Liberal Arts” turned out to be one of my most favorite films. It somehow covers most stages of adult life and disillusionment with so many great lines like, “I think being old will be OK. It’s getting there that kicks your ass.”

See this film if you loved getting lost in books, being in college and have felt disillusioned ever since. You know, if you happen to be an academ-idiot like me!

Further thoughts on being an academ-idiot…

Aren’t we all a little lost in ‘Nomadland’?

I know, I get the movies a lot later than most of you. I borrow them from La Veta Public Library, such a lovely, friendly place, where everyone knows my name 🙂 It’s so much more personal than streaming…

In the first few minutes of watching the film ‘Nomadland’ I thought about my brother John, who was homeless until about a year ago when we helped him find a home in Walsenburg. I thought, here we go, this is going to really make me appreciate the fact that I have a lovely solar home on a ridge overlooking the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo range, and yes, it certainly did that. But as I got deeper into the daily life and choices of Fern, the roaming nomad in this film, I understood the metaphor presented for all of us to relate to. Questions like: Do we need to work to feel adequate? Do we look down on the nomads we meet and should we? What about all the homeless in towns like Walsenburg whom we see sleeping in doorways and down by the river? What about them?

Nomadland was unique in some ways because all of the characters were mobile, moving from place to place for jobs, or help from others, or whatever suited them. The freedom of being mobile was important to who they were. They also found great fellowship with other nomads by camping together for long periods of time. Not everybody wants to be alone all the time, or around others much of the time. I got their lifestyle and their choices. I loved the honesty with which these folks spoke of end of life choices like choosing not to die in a hospital, and their own celebrations of life when one of their members died.

Many of them were depressed and why not? How many of us wonder everyday about our world and where it’s headed? Past a certain age, loss is a major factor for all of us. Loss of abilities, health, independence, loved ones, stability and sanity. The characters here deal with all of that day to day in an honest way, like we all must to some extent.

Pretending that life will not change or that this will not end soon is hopeless. We may all be lost in our own version of ‘nomadland’ and this film might help you accept that.