A letter to an old friend

I know you haven’t heard from me in awhile.  I see that your kid is growing up, yeah I heard about x’s engagement I know I haven’t responded to your FB message, or your texts..But see, I was kind of dreading this question :

“So how are you doing Maryam… what is up with you?”

(  Well… lets see… What is going on with me

You mean other than gaining weight to the point that my big butt is stuck to the chair at the moment…

How about going on horrible mortifying dates where I get stood up or some guy talks about how they want a ” massage under their pants”, or the countless times I’ve been stood up, or the fact that all I get is comments on guys saying how ” horny ” they  are.

you mean do you want to really hear about the sheer amount of trolls that I get on a daily basis because of my 55k following on livestream?

Or wait… do you want to hear about the dead end call center job I took recently , or how it is dealing with people around you who have addiction or dementia…

Or maybe I can talk to you about how little I feel I am doing about social justice and all the issues in this country.

You don’t want to hear all of that. You wan’t to hear me say I have good news. Because we measure people’s lives by events. And those milestones are what makes us worthy in their eyes . If your life isn’t going according to plan it’s not worthy of a conversation, it makes you uncomfortable. You want pretty pictures and clean answers. But sometimes the journey is messy,  and while you can only try to lead the best life you can give.

Here’s what I’ve realized. life isn’t a series of milestones. We have to be grateful of what our life is, and try to make it better. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s frustrating talking to you. You had one relationship, you met him when you were in college and he was the sweetest most attentive guy ever. You moved to the state he lived in and he provided everything you could possibly need. You had beautiful children. When you wanted to go back to work, you made a living in a career that never would be a problem finding work.  You go to exotic locations and never have to worry about money.  You have perfect skin,  amazing metabolism and a drive to do anything you want. You are, to be honest a little intimidating. You tell me stuff like ” Oh if you only stop looking you will find The One,” as if he’s just in an aisle in the supermarket. You talk about money because you have no idea what it is like to not have funds. You live in a giant house. You never thought of what it’s like to have a different skin tone because you were surrounded by people like yourself so the concept of someone being discriminated by their skin is completely foreign.  You’ve always had a good home so you don’t know what it’s like to have a horrible father and a. broken home. You’ve never faced addiction, or having someone try to assault you. You  don’t know what it’s like to have no water, no electricity or what it’s like in anywhere but the small town you live in. I never felt that you could be a support to me.

So why were we friends? I guess I forgot. I forgot those nights when you let me cry in your shoulder. I forgot that you aren’t as perfect as you make others believe. I discovered that your perfect husband was beating you and one of your kids was battling severe mental health problems.  It turns out you were facing bankruptcy because of how much you guys used credit cards to withdraw money.  I didn’t realize that you didn’t really have any friends. Many nights you were crying yourself to sleep because you felt alone and isolated . I didn’t know that you spent most of your time volunteering for an inner city school.

I didn’t know how much it took for you to write me a letter to say hello, or how much it hurt you that I didn’t respond to your calls.  I didn’t know that I was your only friend.  I didn’t know that it wasn’t about what you could give me but how much my friendship meant to you.

I didn’t know till I received this letter and you were gone.

Edit : This is a fictional accountWalking the road of Scotland

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On Getting Old

There are two older women who sit by Starbucks everyday in Winchester. They are both quite fashionable, one of them wears pretty tops and white pants and fashionable sunglasses. Her friend has a crouched back and a nice smile. Ellen and May sit every day and say hello to most people who come in to the coffee shop. Some don’t notice they are too glued to their phones , too entrenched in a digital world. They know none of this, they sit by and people watch with a couple of other people the ” Elder gang”. They all are in good spirits, sharing their lives and enjoying their time together.  Ellen had just gotten back from a three month trip she took alone around South America. She is 84 years old.

 

We are taught that the worst thing that can happen to us is to get old. As women, we are placed in a corner of forgotten things, or sex appeal no longer useful.   I never noticed how invisible the elderly are in the US until I started living with my great aunts. Often when we go out to eat the waiters won’t even talk to them, or talk to them as if they are a child and explain it VERY SLOWLY.  The doctors as well very rarely give them the care they need, my great aunt was denied a heart operation because she was ” too old” only to be rushed to emergency when she had to do it.

I have elderly family members that live in fear. Fear of the darkness, fear of being looked at, fear of illness. My grandmother spends most of her days watching television in a dark room. Her life, is just a series of moments.

Society in America chews you out when you get old. In Latin America , no one would think of putting your elder relatives in a home, but here it is sadly commonplace. Everything they worked for their whole lives boxed up and sold away to absurd fees in assisted living. They get constant calls for donations, for changing their plans,  of something or another. They are rarely viewed as people.

The very idea of Retirement is a bit strange. People work themselves to the bone and rarely enjoy their lives except to pay bills, and then for thirty years you do nothing  and at the end of it it’s almost as you are just waiting to die. You are no longer ” useful” or interesting.

The elderly have been left behind. If they never learned about the internet they are even more lost, the world essentially has moved on. Basic things like owning a telephone, paying bills, how people communicate has completely changed since people have retired.  So they can become even more isolated.

We have an inherent fear of being old. There’s a disprespect, a feeling that they have nothing left to offer. We often roll our eyes, shut them out ignore them and let it be in the darkness.

My mother often tells me that there are several choices you can approach old age.  You can live it constantly focusing on your ailments, on who is dying off, on being weak or you can choose to be young at heart. The idea that everything goes downhill after a certain age is sad. It makes no sense.  If we consider ” old” fifty and onwards and the average person lives till 80 that’s thirty years where you are no longer useful in society.

While youth has a certain exuberance and energy we should also sit down and learn from those who have been here for a long time. Maybe then we can start to not make the same mistakes and grow as a society.