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Forced to Become a Different Person? Take Advantage of the Opportunity

By Terri Edmund January 11, 2023 Lifestyle

Three ladies were lunching solo at a bar. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? My quick stop for a bite turned into a leisure lunch as the three of us chatted at Applebee’s counter. I feel very lucky to have the time and means to be a lady who lunches. It’s my favorite retirement perk.

One of the gals and I had crossed paths before – in a previous life when we were both married and lived in a nearby town. We recognized each other, but Donna and I had never been introduced.

The other lady was divorced, too, and having a hard time with it. But it turns out she was having a hard time with everything, even the fact that her parents named her Ruth instead of her sister’s name Candice, a.k.a. Candi.

It didn’t take long to learn we were all 66. But divorced and the same age are where the similarities ended. I assumed, because of her attitude, Ruth was most recently divorced. But it had been eight years. She told us she stopped seeing her shrink for telling her to wake up and get over it. Her old life didn’t exist anymore. After all, her ex had remarried. It was time for Ruth to become a different person.

Independence and Dependence Are Choices

Donna had recently closed on a condo, a forever home for her. She enjoyed her work at one of the busiest seafood restaurants in town. Ruth lived with a boyfriend she didn’t really like, but she didn’t feel she could afford her own place.

When she told us all about her divorce settlement, our jaws dropped. It was a lot, with regular monthly payments and a big annual bonus. Currently, she and her attorney were taking the ex back to court for more money.

As we paid our tabs, Ruth asked if we could exchange numbers, maybe do lunch again. I gave them both a business card. Retired realtors never run out. Donna wrote her number on a napkin and handed it to me.

“May I have your number?” Ruth asked Donna.

“No,” Donna said and walked out. I said goodbye to Ruth and walked out, too.

Pity Patty and Whiny Wendy Are Not Invited

I have always been a cheerful, optimistic person – to a fault, according to my ex. I haven’t changed the core of me just because I’m divorced. Poor Ruth was probably a difficult person to be around when she was married.

I can’t imagine many friends calling to invite her out, just to hear the whole well-rehearsed woe-is-me spiel again. If Ruth doesn’t make cheerfulness more her style, she runs the risk of being a very lonely old woman.

Donna waited for me just outside the restaurant door.

“I’m sorry if I was rude,” she said, “but I’ve never met a more negative person in my life. No way was I giving her my number.”

“Maybe she just needed a good ear,” I shrugged. Donna laughed, making it clear she had no intention of ever lunching with Ruth again but would be in touch with me. And she has been. Hurray – another lady who lunches!

I was feeling bad about Ruth, though. Maybe she was just having a terrible day and needed a friendly face. But I heard her argue with the waiter about her bill, and it rubbed me just enough the wrong way that I doubt I’ll ever lunch with Ruth again either.

Some Mean Girls Mean Well

A couple of my Facebook groups are for women over 60. It amazes me what people will share about their lives, then wonder why the comments turn negative. Ruth would get torn to shreds if she shared her story, and it would hurt her to the core. But even professional help isn’t helping her get past her grief. She fired her shrink for being mean – for telling the truth.

We suffer from disenfranchised grief as we wade through marital division. Besides divorce, losing an unborn baby or a partner to suicide are examples of disenfranchised grief, as are infertility and sexual abuse.

I’m guessing most of us gals who got divorced past 60 honestly planned on grieving our husbands at death and not through divorce. I remember how disenfranchised I felt – how rejected. But we get through the grief process, not stay there as it seems Ruth has. We make the choice to get better, not stay bitter.

A couple months ago, on my way to church, I called my ex to wish him happy birthday and had an immediate meltdown. I sobbed through our brief conversation. I wiped tears away all through church. I felt silly going home to my sweetheart and explaining my wrecked face, so I took a long drive. I was still weepy hours later.

I confided in my big sis girlfriend Myrna, and she texted back the truth: Get over the past. You have a terrific guy and a great life. Duh. I know that. Thanks for being my mirror, Myrna. I think I just needed to wallow in a little disenfranchised grief to remind myself of just how far I’ve come in four years.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How do you handle negative people? Do you think you are one? Have you been able to move past divorce or another traumatizing life experience?

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Shelly

I’d so like to connect to you and your post 60’s gal pals. I’m right there with you, I help women redesign their new lives after loss or divorce. I’m an author, artisan, and teacher.

Terri

Good for you! I am trying so hard to do it all different this time. I know I have nurturing issues. No man I want needs a mother, yet I was trained to take care of men. Even as a child, Mom would say “Get your brother another glass of milk.” Sis or I were expected to jump up and pour even though both mother and brother were closer to the frig. Reading a lot of Terry Real and Susan Scott. Do you have a facebook page? I’m working on it … down now and embarrassing. Thanks for reading!

Gwen

I probably am negative. I grew up in a negative family and it seems normal to me. I’ve had times when things were going well that I was ok. She the divorce thing is not going completely away. First marriage I am fine with. High school sweethearts that had not enough spark. But we were afraid to give it up. Back then you usually married out of highschool. The second husband had a great spark but eight years in he was overwhelmed by the responsibility of the family and depression he treated with alcohol. He was the one who I miss. We shared parts of life because we had children. But I am not considered his widow by the government. The third was right after I divorced the second one. He was a restaurant manager and left after ten years with a waitress. We married because I was trying to prove I could at 40 with three children. But he was too young and just wanted to be entertained. When the money ran out so did he. So I am still mad at him and me for running through my money and losing my house. So sorry for running on. I’m not a good lunch lady either

veronica

The journey of life. I have come to accept that all my bumps of divorce, death and heartbreaks was there for a reason, to make me stronger. I love to tell my bumpy stories to younger women especially when they see me smile. I tell them to ” Get up, get dress because the other train is coming:. Gwen things will get better because you are a winner, you have list things that next time around you will not tolerate. Blessings girl

Lori

Not everyone has a perfect life and that’s okay. People who are only interested in being around happy, bubbly people bore me. I prefer those who have a sincere interest in people, whether that might be in positive or negative experiences. Not that we should only focus on the negative, but sometimes that’s where we are in life. It’s important to acknowledge our emotions, whatever they might be, and try to learn from our experiences. Life isn’t always pleasant for everyone but we can, and should, try to keep going, in whatever way we can. If someone doesn’t understand where you are at the moment, then they’re simply not the right fit for you at that time. No judgment either way.

Anonymous

I am in total agreement. I have been on the receiving end of the ‘negative’ label. Thankfully I have a quick wit and let them know I am a realist. Toxic positivity in our western society is rampant. Instead of supportive, genuine and authentic relationships, women fake friendships pollyanna style which only further isolate. I have friends in other countries that have observed the phoniness when they have visited and observed women that appeared to be locked in a junior high popularity mentality. The Real Housewives reality shows are also feeding younger women a false depiction for female friendships. I reflect on my mother and her friends from the 1960’s and she maintained lifelong trustworthy relationships that supported each other, kept confidences and did not gossip. I have found social gatherings seem to be arranged only to brag about their lives but have observed that for those that had a blessed smooth life, married well, no fertility issues, healthy childre can be the least prepared if life had a downturn. That fairweather friend poem comes to mind. The topling of the prom queen ain’t pretty and for those of us that had struggles throughout life are often better prepared in later years.

Terri

I will never forget the image you’ve painted of the prom queen. SO true. I have better friends now than my marriage allowed and am proud to say I didn’t lose my couple friends. But my negative ex did. Social grace and friendships take a lot of well-placed effort. Lazy people suffer just like prom queens. Thanks for reading.

Terri

I hated learning to deal with my emotions at first. That big lump in my throat and the insomnia and tears and fears. My mom’s best advice was always this: if you want to feel better, put a smile on your face and go make someone happy, even if it is the clerk at the store. Thanks for reading.

Terri

I’d love to have lunch with you! We have similar stories. How did I let myself go to work for the family business for all those years and not take a paycheck or pay into Social Security. I could kick myself. But if you or I can keep one young or old gal from making a similiar mistake, we win the day! Thanks for reading!

Peg

Very interesting article. I think no matter we are happy about no longer living with a former husband, an element of grief can rise up from time to time. Not because we want to be with them again but because a marriage we hoped would be forever was not. There’s sadness and disappointment in that and somehow if we are the ones who choose to divorce either we or other people don’t give us space for grieving. We can be sad without wanting to go back.

Terri

Amen. I just wish that sadness didn’t sneak up so unexpectedly. Thanks for reading.

terripyne

I have a close friend who certainly could be called Negative…but we have remained close because, as you said, sometimes people just need an ear and a big dose of reality. I never hold back with her. If she “misbehaves” I reprimand her. If her attitude is lousy, I ask pointed questions to reveal the real reason behind it. I also know her history….sexual abuse, emotional abuse, etc., so I go on being her friend- feeling compassion at her past, but not letting her “get by” with ruining our time by her behavior and actions. Is it difficult – Absolutely, but the laughs, concern and time we have shared over the past 30 years are worth it.

Terri

You are a very good friend! Thanks for reading!

Maeve Wilson

Great reading…. It is soooo difficult to ““change our script” However, we do ourselves a huge injustice to just keep letting the bitterness rise. Good luck to the poor soul.

Terri

My sister who always reads my writing first felt so bad about Ruth, she didn’t want me to submit it. I did go back to see if I’d run into her. Thanks for reading!

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The Author

Terri Edmund is a retired realtor on Florida’s Suncoast. A Sunshine State girl since 1990, Terri keeps her Midwestern connections with Illinois family and friends and stays in touch with people from all over the world she met as an innkeeper for 26 years on Anna Maria Island. She headquarters now in Bradenton, a historic river town where she and her mini Aussie Lassie can walk downtown from their 1930s farmhouse. Learn more at www.100thYearProject.com.

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