A year ago (way back here), I lived with my three kids, and now I just have one left at home. The house is quieter and cleaner, and I talk to the older two about as much thanks to texting. With one in the attic and the other in the basement, I admit we used to text each other within our home. I'm not really sure why I'm sheepish about it; it's damn handy. Now our face-to-face time is limited, so I think we pay more attention to one another when we're together. And they're still close enough to get me to hang pictures for them. This is definitely a time of life of changes for anyone with a family. Spending twenty-plus years with people who then move on can be a bit disorienting.
I've written some stuff this year, but not as much as I would have liked. Collaborating on a book was a great experience! I rarely get writerly feedback on articles or blogposts. I spent far too much time distracted by elections this year. I'm not sure how much they matter. There was scant time for a brief sigh of relief before I started questioning Trudeau's leadership. Notley seems owned by corporations, and I don't think JT's off leash either. I think over time I'll care less, but right now I still operate under the illusion that my letters and marches can possibly make a difference. It gives me something to do.
After years and years of begging friends to take up long-distance cycling with me, I finally got brave enough to go out on my own. I still haven't been hit by a car or attacked or stranded too far from home to walk. It's such a commonplace thing to say, but I really regret all the time I spent unsure and fearful. I regret all the bike trips I could have taken but didn't because I couldn't find someone willing to come with. One benefit of growing older is that people don't look down on me when I cycler slower than they expected. The expectations diminish to the point that getting out there at all gets you kudos.
I'm falling apart a bit. A year ago it was only my knees giving me grief. Now I've got arthritis in my toes and have been saved by orthotics. I miss walking in bare feet though. A few years back, I dislocated my pinky finger. Months later it still hurt, and my doctor said, "Yup, everything takes longer to heal now." The little aches and pains make me think of this...
My feminine bits are turning on me, and a few procedures will be in order. Nothing too frightening, but life-altering none-the-less. It kinda makes me wish I were married but only for utilitarian reasons, which isn't enough for me to regret never marrying. Drinking buddies aren't really up for hanging out during one boring, sober appointment after another. They have spouses and families to take care of and lives to live on a path that doesn't include me. Appointment buddies require someone who's gotten in a share of good times already, and who's had some prior care-taking give and take with you to establish the requisite temperament. It helps if they've seen you at your worst already, maybe even helped you out of your clothes on more auspicious occasions. I'm not ready to lean on my kids for that kind of care yet.
This too shall pass.
I always found it unsavoury when people suggested I need to find me a good man because I'll want someone to take care of me later. Practically speaking: men tend to die first, so I'd likely end up taking care of him. And morally speaking: yuck. That is to treat someone as a mere means to an end. Kant would shake his sickly old head at me, and I can't have that. It's not right to snag a partner just for financial gain or to have someone hang on your arm or to get laid or to get some hospice care. They have to have a draw that makes you want to do right by them, makes you want to be a better person for them, makes you want to share your life with them. Maybe my parents' idyllic marriage just ruined me for anyone. I feel like it's too late at this point, but life's full of surprises.
This has nothing to do with mid-life, but this year, I was struck cold by the number of colleagues and students we're losing to suicides. Possibly up to five educators in our board took their own lives in an 18-month period (see here after the passage). It took the death of seven indigenous teenagers in Thunder Bay within a ten-year period to spark a national inquest, but we're not talking about these local "sudden deaths" as if there could be any pattern. They're each seen as isolated events. Nobody's mentioned contagion effects or anomie or changing relationships in schools. Maybe it's just as well. But maybe we need a more personal inquest of our own. I'm not sure this one will go away quietly. I'm much more accepting of death than earlier in life, but these are different.
But actually most impactful this year, something that has changed my thinking and outlook profoundly, was being forced to teach Native Studies. I had no idea I was so ignorant. I didn't want to teach it because I knew so little. Now that I know, there's no turning away from it all. I'll be spending time over the next month developing easy-to-teach curriculum that could be incorporated in other specific class, and working on convincing other teachers to teach about all of Canada in any Canadian-linked courses. This shouldn't be a token course for a few interested kids; it should be general knowledge necessary to graduate high-school! I love that there's still so much to learn. It's easy to get settled in with our current level of knowledge, so it's important to shake that up a bit.
It's useful from time to time to be reminded of the gaps in my education, of the tenuous nature of our lives, of my strengths like a burgeoning courage and tenacity, and of my weaknesses.
There will be time...