While I do think there’s no better way to age-out in this life than to become an “old witch,” I do wish someone had warned me that this time of life is as confusing (if not more so) than adolescence! I feel like a teenager again: confused about sex and my changing body, experiencing weird hormonal shifts, pissed at the way society dismisses me, concerned about my economic prospects, the way people act around me, my place in the world…
I talk with my friends about how weird this is. We’ve not yet reached the point where we’re dying off (yet), but we’ve entered the realm of “near-death” experiences even as we consider a life on social security. What I mean by “near-death” in this case is the momento mori nature of becoming gradually more invisible to those who still exist, apparently, in The Land of the Obtuse Living. We who are visibly aging beyond what is fashionable no longer matter as we once thought we did, no matter what our accomplishments. We are pushed ever more to the margins of all human consideration–familial, economic, artistic, social…
A long-time friend called me a couple of weeks ago. It’s been about five years since we talked. She and her husband recently moved. They had an economic need to downsize and that meant leaving the city where she lived for so long, moving to a town on the outskirts. She’s socially isolated as a result. I was commiserating with her (yes, I feel that too) until she mentioned an 80-year old neighbor across the street who was friendly, but then she said something to the effect that this neighbor “won’t be around for very long so why bother?”
OMFG. When even the younger old can be this callous toward the older old, who are we as human beings?
I’m also preparing to move. I’ll be saying good-bye to this lake and those mountains sometime this spring. I’ll be moving closer to a real city, closer to people in general, nearer to some friends and medical care. I need to be in a place where I can access things like food and care if illness and infirmity strike. Here the nearest bookstore is twenty-two miles away. I’d like a situation that’s more walkable.
I moved to Lake County to be as near to my adult children as I could afford (150 miles away from the SF Bay Area). But after two years here, and not much in the way of visits, I have no hope of much attention from my children, so it no longer matters how far away I live from them. It’s difficult enough just to get an appointment to FaceTime with them once or twice a month. I can’t blame them, really. They are attempting to navigate the hell that is young adult life in a world of accelerating climate change, citizens of a fascist country that is greedily genocidal. (We elders are costly–I presume we’re among the “disposable.”)
I am bewildered. This is not what I thought would happen to me at this age. I thought I would be cherished a little. And though I remain interested in so much (and interesting too, I hope), and long to participate in many of the exciting movements and resurgences that are going on right now, I realize my role can only be as a quaint onlooker unless I galvanize a bunch of other pissed off older witches, artists, writers, and musicians to Do Some Stuff and Kick Some Ass. I’ve always been quietly audacious. I now find myself wanting to throw my aging back in everyone’s face much as I used to want to throw my youth. Here’s the story of (some of) my life:
“You want a pregnancy test? I’ll do it. You want punk rock vinyl fashion? I’m making it happen. You want a feminist space group? Already done. You want a sexologist for a wife or a girlfriend? Watch me! (Oh, you didn’t want that after all? Too bad!) You want a three-part fantasy novel? I’ve got one in the works! You’re expecting fierce commentary about what it means to age in the 21st century? I’m so fucking on it!“
And so I find myself saying it still, the same thing I’ve said for at least fifty years: “World, don’t you dare underestimate me, not even now. Just watch what I’ll do next!” The funny part about all this, of course, is that no one much cares and I know it. But I really have no choice. It’s an all-out, bat-shit old lady thing.
What has kicked off this melancholy musing? A combination of things, really. Looking around at all the things I’ll either pack or give away. The boxes of family photos no one seems to want. Stuff I’ve collected, written, drawn. Business records and “archives.” More fine china than I actually need… It’s not that I feel I live in a museum (yet) but I’m still ravenous for dynamic interactions and transformations. And so I blog, leaving wordy breadcrumbs for the “children” (who may not be mine) who may teleport into my fragrance-free witch’s lair, filled with cats, books, art, and talk of sex and magic over tea.
I’m not done with this world yet. But it seems to be done with me. If the margins are all that’s left, that’s where I’ll be. Actually, it’s pretty much where I’ve always been. I’ve always drawn sustenance from the outer limits. I just didn’t know that life here could feel so diminished. It’s up to me, as a bat-shit old witch, to serve this up with fire and fury.