The Quiet Crisis Of Women Who Have No Right To Complain
I turned fifty in the middle of my husband’s two-year unemployment. Three of our four kids were in college. Our youngest was in middle school, still in need of braces, algebra tutoring, and sports equipment. Already skint from the economic downturn and a couple of international moves, the unemployment left us financially, mentally, and emotionally drained. But we were able to keep the house. We were lucky.
Around this time, I could no longer rely on my body. I suffered from bouts of searing back pain. My bladder went on strike, demanding a mesh hammock. My female bits decided that they, too, had been overworked and under-appreciated. They wanted attention. From dodgy mammograms, ovarian cysts, random tumors, and a syndrome that, among other unpleasantries, gives me a five o’clock shadow, the stalwart organs that had served me well for decades were now giving me a run for my money (literally). But I didn’t have cancer. I was lucky.
This past year, my husband suffered a heart attack while on business in Mexico. He survived the heart attack but suffered a stroke post-surgery. I stood by his side as he relearned how to swallow and walk and lift a glass. He still can’t smile with both sides of his mouth, talk much above a loud whisper, or button his shirts. He will never know the joy of tossing his grandchildren into the air. But he didn’t die. We are lucky.
With all the stops and starts of tending to others, I struggle to keep my business afloat. In the middle of the night, I stare at the ceiling agonizing over my choices. When do I give up on the dream? Should I call it quits? Isn’t finding a ‘real job’ the most responsible thing to do? But if I quit, what am I modeling for my children? Could I live with the grief of giving up a business I birthed and loved heart and soul for over a decade?
What if mine is to become the success story women-of-a-certain-age can’t get enough of? The story that clutches our throat, wets our eyes, and has us slow clapping as the background music swells, crying out, ‘Way to go, Paula, way to go!’; the success story where the heroine refuses to surrender despite circumstances, obstacles, age spots, and those weird grey hairs that grow overnight on her forehead. Can I give up on my dream?