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Lorie Sheffer – Gray Divorce

What Does A White Picket Fence Remind You Of?
What Does A White Picket Fence Remind You Of?

Happy Sunday, and as you’ve come to expect on Sunday’s, Lorie Sheffer is here to share her midlife wit and wisdom. Take it away Lorie:

Gray Divorce. That’s what it’s called. The new trend for middle aged couples. Statistics show that more and more couples are deciding that after the kids are raised and out of the house, it’s time to pull the plug on the marriage. I’ve witnessed this trend in my own circle of friends. I’ve heard the same story about a half a dozen times over the past few years. I’ve chatted with my female friends about their ventures back into the dating world. Sometimes it’s sad; sometimes it’s hilarious, and sometimes it kind of exciting.  It motivated me to do some sleuthing to find the facts behind this recent rash of midlife divorce.

It seems that women initiate 66% of midlife divorces. The reasons the ladies give are emotional and/or physical abuse, infidelity and drug or alcohol abuse. The reasons the 34% of men who initiate divorce proceedings give are “fell out of love” and “different values and lifestyle”. Come on, guys! That’s a little vague, don’t you think?

Into this mix, let’s not forget that Gloria Alred is now referred to as The Mistress Lawyer, because of her representation of the mistresses of famous men who cheat. Wow. I really don’t know what to say.  These women have sex with a married man and then sue him? For what?  When one of my friends told me that she was divorcing her husband because he “pulled a Tiger” I wasn’t about to even try to change her mind. In fact, I was totally supportive of her decision. As for the boredom excuse, I find that rather funny. I wonder if these guys should have hired a cruise director instead of getting married. It’s terribly hard for me to imagine cashing in your chips after spending most of your life with someone because you ran out of stuff to do. I absolutely feel that nobody should stay in an abusive relationship or be expected to share his or her spouse with anyone else. But to leave because you’re bored? Excitement rarely just happens on it’s own.

What interests me is that the kids seem to handle their parents’ divorcing better when they are younger than when they are older. As one of my twenty something friends said to me a few years ago, “You get to a point where you just count on your parents being together, and the thought of them ever divorcing is something you no longer worry about. The when it happens, it feels like your whole childhood was a lie.”  It seems so tragic that a couple can get through the diaper changes and the arguments over the in laws, the years of tight budgets and exhaustion from parenting, and then one day have the house to themselves and decide they just don’t want to be there. What broke my heart was when, after learning his other grandparents were divorcing, my grandson informed me “nobody stays together.” What can you say to a child when the majority of adults in his life are ending their relationships? I suppose as midlifers, we are going to have to figure this out for ourselves, as we go. It’s not something our grandparents ever taught us how to deal with. Maybe, like bellbottoms and leisure suits, Gray Divorce is just a fad.

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Guest Bloggers

Lorie’s Top Ten List

Lorie Sheffer, Mid Life Celebration’s regular Sunday Guest Blogger, returns with her very special top ten list. Take it away Lorie:

In honor of both Mother’s Day- I am the mother of two and grandmother of one- and my upcoming birthday, I am offering a partial list of things I’ve learned over the years. I figure if Esquire magazine can have their Ten Things I’ve Learned segment featuring famous people, then I can do a Ten Things list as well. Why not share some of the things I’ve figured out?  So, in no particular order….

#1. Nobody is as bad as you think they are; nobody is as good as you think they are.

#2. Believe the sunscreen hype. Wear it!

#3. It is totally possible to raise children who will become respectful, wonderful adults without ever spanking them.

#4. The chances of a hand reaching up from under your bed and grabbing you by the leg are slim to none.

#5. Sometimes good things happen to nasty people, and the right person doesn’t always win.

#6. The older you get, the sexier intelligence becomes.

#7. A mullet isn’t just a hairstyle, it’s a lifestyle.

#8. Just because you can get your butt into it doesn’t mean it fits.

#9. Squirrels are evil geniuses.

#10. Graciousness is a life skill well worth learning.

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Guest Bloggers

Lorie Sheffer’s Most Excellent Post

Watching The World Go By
Watching The World Go By

Lorie Sheffer, of course, is our Guest Blogger today.  Take it away Lorie.

A friend of mine, who happens to be a psychiatrist, once made an analogy that hit home for me. He said that if we overload our computer with too much data, it shuts down. The computer will just freeze.  If we overload our brains, we can become incapacitated from stress and anxiety. That is one of the reasons, if you call for an appointment with my friend the shrink, you can expect to wait about three months before he has an available appointment. Lots of people are overloading their brains with too much stuff.

I was watching Leave it to Beaver the other day. Beaver and his sidekick Larry Mondello spent the day watching some men dig a hole. Later that day I watched Andy and Opie spend a day at Myers’ Lake doing nothing but fishing and eating from a picnic basket that Aunt Bee had packed for them. It seems like back then, people didn’t think that it was a total waste of time to take a day and do nothing. I would bet if we updated those shows, Larry and The Beav would be playing with their DS or be carpooled to one of several athletic practices and not even notice the men digging that hole. Opie would have to struggle to get a word in between Andy’s Twitter updates or text messages from Barney.

In times of stress, it is good to just divert your attention from your worries with an activity or project. But what happens if you can’t be content unless you have something to distract you from your own thoughts?  In my yoga class a few years ago, it amazed me that the short mindful meditation part at the end seemed to be the most difficult thing for people to do. They were not able to just relax, clear their mind, and focus on nothing. One lady said she kept going over her to do list. Another said she felt like she was wasting her time not doing something; anything!  Perhaps there could be a problem if you find that you cannot take one day to devote to doing nothing. Maybe you need to fill your head with lots of stuff so that you can avoid thinking of something specific? It is entirely possible that people can self medicate by over scheduling and multitasking.

A few years ago I sat on the beach, watching the seagulls make pests of themselves, when a family of four put down their blankets and chairs nearby. The dad got out his Blackberry and started to do whatever it is you do with one of those things. The kids wanted him to join them in the water, but he was clearly too busy, as he had brought the office with him. Mom got out her cell phone and started a long, loud, rather personal conversation with a friend who was going through some relationship problems. The kids knew better than do disturb the adults, so they played alone. Just this week, as I was waiting for my number to be called at the seafood counter, a man brightly said, “Hello! How are you today?” I turned slightly and answered, “Fine, thank you. How are you?” He looked at me like I had three heads. Then I noticed the portable phone thing sticking out of his ear. OH! He wasn’t talking to me! He was holding a conversation with someone so that the few minutes he waited for his shrimp wouldn’t be a waste.

I challenge everyone to take a day off. Leave your house without your cell phone or Blackberry. Plan a day to do nothing. Remember when you were a kid and would look up at the clouds and try to see shapes? Try some actual face-to-face human interaction. Find out if that makes you feel relaxed or anxious. If you feel anxious, maybe it’s time to figure out what you are trying to avoid dealing with or feeling.

We can’t solve problems in a half hour like the folks in Mayfield or Mayberry. Maybe, though, we can learn from the past. Maybe we can learn the pleasure of spending an entire day watching a man dig a hole, or sitting in a tiny rowboat, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a six year old.

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Guest Bloggers Joy In Your Spirit

Midlife Outlook

Wonder What He Thinks?
Wonder What He Thinks?

You know what is great about our Mid Life Celebration Guest Blogger Lorie Sheffer? Everything.

You are in for a treat, as always. As I read this last night for the first time, couldn’t help but reflect on my own perceptions. Lorie has a gift for telling a great story and making us think. Hard. Take it away Lorie:

One of the best midlife celebrations I have experienced is that I no longer care what people think of me. I would prefer that they like me, but it’s no longer necessary for my own sense of well-being. I’m not sure exactly when this change occurred. I think it was a gradual evolution more than an epiphany. I do remember a line in the movie The Hours, in which Meryl Streep’s character is concerned about how she is being perceived, and her daughter gives her this sage advice: “It only matters if you think it’s true.”

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my mother on the phone and she mentioned that her knees hurt and she was tired. She usually has the energy of someone half her age, so I asked her what had happened. “I was down on my hands and knees scrubbing the floors all day.” I started to laugh. “Do people still DO that, Mom?” We then went on to have a thrilling, in depth discussion about hand scrubbing VS mopping. I told her that there is just no way I am going to crawl around on my floors like Cinderella. My house is clean, but it’s not sanitized. If the mop doesn’t get it, then it can just stay there. Why, pray tell, would someone think they had to hand scrub a floor? “Well, what if someone comes in here and thinks that I’m a bad housekeeper?” First of all, since my mother’s friends are all close to her age, I don’t think they can see how clean the floor is! That aside, if they don’t like it then they can either clean it the way they want or they can leave. A few weeks later, she called specifically to tell me that the man she and Dad hired to do the heavy yard work (what would the neighbors think if the weeds weren’t pulled and everything covered in fresh mulch?!) had come into the house while she wrote his check for the week. As he stood in her kitchen he made the comment, “This is how a house should look.” That will keep her going for years! Chances are, if he came in to my kitchen on any given day, he would ask, “What happened, and is everyone OK?” I am usually in the process of making something from scratch, which involves many bowls and kitchen tools and ingredients. On the rare occasion that the recipes flops, I have been known to react with profanity. I’m more Roseanne Conner than June Cleaver.

Housekeeping standards aside, Mom puts on makeup and dresses nicely to go to the grocery store, in case she sees anyone she knows. One time we were out to a family dinner and my aunt complimented my outfit and wanted to know where I got it. When I told her Lane Bryant, my mother almost choked on her dessert. She wanted to know why I would let someone know it came from that store. Like anyone with eyes can’t see that my curves need a size 14. “Sorry, Mom. Next time I will tell them I wear a size 2 petite. That’ll fool ‘em!”  Mom’s not mean, she just notices and cares about these things.

I have come to the conclusion that no matter what you do, you will never please everyone. The best any of us can do is to be happy with ourselves and let the critical chips fall where they may. It takes so much energy to worry about what others are saying. It distracts from the joy of the moment. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think we are the topic of conversation as much as we may think. I have also found that for the most part, the more relaxed we are the more relaxed the people around us become. Usually when people are concerned with appearances, that means they not only care about how they look, they tend to assess how everyone else looks, too.  I’m not concerned with what my friends are wearing but I do notice, by the tone of their voice, if they are upset about something. I think the best any of us can do is to be kind, and instead of focusing on how others view us, we can direct that energy to listening to what they are saying to us, and to make them feel comfortable. Ironically, that is why people like to spend time with us, even if there are dust bunnies hiding in the corners and we are having a bad hair day.

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Guest Bloggers

Lorie To jeff To Lorie & Back

jeff noel’s original email reply to Lorie…

Perfect timing with your note.

Been writing most of the day.

Am trying something radical, instead of waking up with no clue what the five blogs will be about…just wake up, think, go, write.

In two weekends, the goal is to crank out 155 posts.

Is that not crazy? Wonder what I’d think of me if I was on the outside looking in. Some sort of compulsive, freakish person who ought to get a life… 🙂

Or maybe a man driven by the ticking clock, racing to catch up, or make up, for squandered years….the 1st 40 were all about me.

Lorie Sheffer’s reply to jeff noel:

“Squandered years”.  Oh how I envy you!  I think we should all have some squandered years, when it’s all about us. What a luxury. Imagine if you had Chapin a month after you turned 20.  Imagine being 25 and having 2 kids and two marriages.
But you know what? If we changed even one single detail about our past it could alter what our lives are right now, and in ways that we may find unbearable.  Leave out even one minor detail, and it could change life as we know it.
When I was 17, all I wanted was to get the Hell out of York. I had this dream of living in a large city and going to discos (Hey! It was the 70s!) and having quite the life.  I had no clue what I was going to be doing to support that life, but I knew I would be single for years and years. I was not going to get married till I was at LEAST 40, and I didn’t like kids, so they were totally not even a consideration. Three years later I was living in a tiny town on the Pennsylvania Maryland line, with a cheating, drug using husband and a baby. So much for big dreams! Every one of my friends except for one went about their lives as if they had never known me. They were busy with college parties and newfound freedom.
I thought that since I had my kids when I was so young that I would hit 40 and finally it would be ME time. But then Gary had his stroke and then my grandson came along and then my brother got cancer and then our cousin/friend died and then Dad got sick……. I’m still waiting.  You think about the years that were all about you and I think of the years that were never about me. The road not travelled.
But like I said, if we think about what would have been or could have been, it’s just a waste. It is what it is. Not to say that I don’t appreciate my life, because I do. My family means the world to me. My family means the world to me. By family, I mean not only those who are related by blood but also those who always have a room at my house.

Anyway, Jeff, I will bet that clock began to tick really loud for you when your dad got sick. I know how Gary began to kind of worry about his own health when his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He has brain damage from his stroke, which is a known risk factor, and genetics going against him. Those factors can’t be controlled, but he takes such good care of himself he is probably not at any more risk than the average person. Still, if he can’t remember a name I can tell it hits an internal panic button that wasn’t there a few years ago. You and he will both probably live to be 100.
You are who you are because of what you have been, and you are a wonderful person. If you were on the outside looking in, you would like what you saw.  I had no contact with you since 1977. I missed the “squandered years”. What I am seeing through your writing is that you are not that different from the kid I knew in 4th grade, the one who spoke with wonder and awe about the little newts he had found in the woods behind his house. That little boy didn’t have to say that he treated them gently; it went without saying.