Category Archives: working

Demanding to be Seen & Heard While Wrapped in the Cloak of Invisibility

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Demanding to be Seen & Heard While Wrapped in the Cloak of Invisibility

A recent Facebook post in a group for midlife women asked members to comment with their term for the phase in life between ages 45 and 55. For the record, the author of the post prefers midlife meltdown. Up to this point I hadn’t thought of anything original until I read the post and subsequent comments. I let it marinate.

First I reflected on this phase as a work in progress with more self acceptance than prior decades. Some members were elegant – metamorphosis, renewal and awakening were tossed out like flower petals on a soft meadow. One of my favorite responses was the “F*ck it phase”. I gave it some more thought and landed on the title of this post – “Demanding to be Seen & Heard While Wrapped in the Cloak of Invisibility”.

I recently turned 50 so I am in the sweet spot of the poster’s demographic. I find myself balancing opposite ends of the spectrum – acceptance/discontent, reclamation/ surrender, clumsiness/grace. In short, it’s a mixed bag. I am aware of my short comings, of the finite amount of time we all have and yet there is this spark, indeed a renewal of sorts.

In collective society I have become less visible. This happens to women as the radiance of youth is replaced by the fine lines of wisdom. Once the skin suit we inhabit becomes less appealing to the masses, we blend in until we are barely visible.

Here’s an example, our family used to frequent a local restaurant where they immediately recognized us and would (without asking) bring our favorite appetizers. It was our Italian version of Cheers (everyone knew our name). The same people that owned the restaurant also owned a pizzeria. I would stop in from time to time for take out. The owner rarely recognized me when I was by myself. In fact, it happened so often that he actually acknowledged the oversight. I suspect it happened because I wasn’t attractive to the point where I would stand out or unattractive enough to register in this man’s memory without my family to provide cues. I simply blended into the woodwork.

That never happened in my 20’s or 30’s. It’s a jagged pill to swallow especially if you relied on your looks in your youth. I was aware of the perks of being an attractive young woman but I never fully appreciated the power, I miss it.

Like a lot of women, I fell into a bit of a cliché. I was a upwardly mobile career girl who transitioned into a SAHM in my mid 30’s. When my kids were headed toward middle school the internal panic started.

1) What have I done?

You put your family first, not yourself. That bit about putting your oxygen mask on first in the event of an airplane emergency….you didn’t do that. Tsk, tsk, too late to dwell on it.

2) What will I do now?

Should I go back to school? I already have my BA…what industries are hiring? If I spend X amount on education how long will it take to recoup that and do I have time? Will I go back to school, incur debt and be unable to get a job? What contacts do I have from 2003?

This cycle of self-doubt and reflective reasoning is the stuff of insomnia and panic attacks. It’s painful and no one can walk you through it. People can make suggestions and offer guidance but it’s your brain on the hamster wheel at 3am.

3) Will anyone hire me now?

Maybe, maybe not. Another Facebook group of women were recently discussing ageism in job interviews. One women was considering dying her hair because she thought it would help her odds of getting hired. Others try cosmetic surgery, injectables and most shave decades of experience off their resumes to make the math more difficult for a potential employer. Ageism is real, combine that with a large gap of employment and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. I volunteered for a local hospital for 10 years and could not even get an interview for a data entry job. Eventually I started my own business because it was that or retail.

Many of us wake up at some point and wonder all of the “what ifs” and decide some changes need to be made. I’ve noticed this in myself and others, there is a certain burst of energy and creativity that comes at midlife. Whether it’s writing, painting, sculpture or throwing yourself into a charitable cause or activism, ladies tend to get revved up in the middle. I don’t know if it springs from a new well or one that was previously blocked by fear and expectation. I suppose it doesn’t matter because I jumped in without knowing the answer. That has been the gift of this phase, the willingness to dive into previously uncharted waters.

 

 

Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_yuliialypai’>yuliialypai / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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My Clients, A (Brief) Love Story

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My Clients, A (Brief) Love Story

I don’t mean to brag but my job is better than yours. I started a business a few years ago to fill in the gaps for families. I run errands, let the dog out, greet kids at the bus stop, take people to appointments; a variety of services for people that need help. Sometimes it’s a one time deal, other jobs are long term. As the business has grown, it has taken a definite turn toward the more mature client. Most of my steady clients have been in their 80’s and 90’s, their families hire me to check in on them with a social visit.

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I have always been fond of the elderly, even as a child. My cousins would pair off during holiday gatherings and I would visit with Nana and Pop-pop. I loved their stories and their inability to filter themselves. Even as a kid, I found it refreshing to be around people that simply spoke their mind without fear of reprimand. This fondness has followed me my entire life.

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I currently visit a couple twice a week. Ralph and Helen have been married for over 60 years and they still kiss each other goodbye and say “I love you” when one is going out without the other. These are usually outings to a social activity within the assisted living facility where they reside. Ralph is a frequent participant in Wii Bowling and Helen likes to beat me at tabletop shuffleboard.

The featured image for this post is the face of the card that they gave me the other day. Here’s what Helen wrote inside:

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I adore these people.

Pump Up The Volume

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Pump Up The Volume

Things have been super heavy lately. Time to take a break from all the heartache, put on some party hats, turn up the music and dance on the tables….metaphorically speaking.

Pump Up The Volume by M/A/R/R/S –

 

As I’m listening to this song, I’m transported back to the late 80s when I had a part time job video taping weddings. Pump Up The Volume was played at 99.9% of the weddings I attended and we all did the electric slide to it. That was a fun job except for the 37.5 pounds of equipment that was attached to my body for 8 – 14 hour days depending on the wedding package the bride and groom settled on. Scratch that, depending on the package the parents of the bride were willing to buy. Actually the job was fun most of the time, it just lacked in consistency. The work was steady May – November but you never knew what kind of party it was until you got there.

Sometimes we taped the bride and her bridesmaids getting ready for the wedding. This added 3 to 4 hours to the day and maybe got me an extra 30 bucks so, meh. I was young and broke so I slipped into my pseudo tux (complete with black bow tie), set the alarm for an ungodly hour and schlepped to wherever I needed to be. It was usually a row house in Chambersburg. At the time Chambersburg was about 112% Italian and the weddings became somewhat predictable. We affectionately referred to these brides as “Burger Bits”.

There was always a Tony or a Vinny to greet me at the door along with duplicates of Lisa and Maria. There was always food – Italian bakery cookies, crumb cakes, fresh fruit and coffee. God bless them for having coffee at every hour of the day. The houses were small and the families were large. Cousins, blood and honorary Aunts and Uncles, “business associates” and neighbors galore. There was usually someone on the line from Italy kissing into the phone. The mother of the bride oscillated between being on the verge of nostalgic tears and ready to skin someone alive for transgressions like – not getting all the lint off of a suit jacket or bringing the wrong brand of milk to go with all of that coffee. It was….intense.

The brides were beautiful and sweet, all the time. I was amazed at their composure while I stalked them with a large video camera and a light that could double as a beacon for wayward coastal ships. They were poised, confident and radiated happiness. There were a few exceptions but nothing like the Bridezillas you hear about today. If they got the “getting ready” package their video inevitably included this song –

 

Dear Gawd I hate that song with the heat of a thousand suns. I don’t know how Phil, the owner of the company, didn’t off himself after editing his 7,341st bride getting ready to that song. I still have nightmares about it. After capturing the happy bride and her bridesmaids in all of their glory, I was off to the church to secure a good location.

Parking was always a bitch in Chambersburg. And having to park half a block or more away from the church was fine, if you didn’t have to haul half your body weight in equipment to and from the car. Add rain to the mix and well it just sucked. The churches and priests varied on their rules for video taping weddings. The alter was almost always off limits in Catholic churches and sometimes you could feel the resentment from the clergy. They didn’t consider us a value add to the holy ceremony. I wasn’t there to have a philosophical debate I just needed to shoot the damn wedding. I already had issues with the Catholic Church and this hostility didn’t help matters….but I digress.

After the ceremony and the inevitable humungous receiving line, there were always family photos in the church. I’d stick around for that and then get ready for the official “photo shoot” which would take place in a park or at the reception venue. The Photographer called the shots, I just hoped for some candid laughter and smiles among the wedding party. Something to make the video look different from the Photo Album.

After the Photo Shoot it was time to get to the reception. If I was lucky there was time to pee and eat a granola bar. By this point I was usually 8 hours into the day and in need of caffeine to get through the next 6 or 7 hours. The reception is where things got really interesting or really boring. I would bounce between the guest cocktail hour and the bridal party which was usually in a separate “VIP” room. The VIP room typically had it’s own bathroom, bar service and food. The wait staff was always on full ass-kissing mode around the bridal party so if you’re looking for the jumbo shrimp, that’s where it resides.

You could tell a lot about the future of the marriage based on the cocktail hour. Some couples were already pissed off at each other which wasn’t a good sign. We did have repeat customers for some second and third weddings, true story. Also, the way people treated the “staff” varied wildly. I was either treated like family or a piece of furniture, there was no in-between.

Some families had us eat at the parents table, which seems over the top to me. Um, we just met 10 hours ago shouldn’t I be in the back of the room with the co-workers that they “had” to invite? Other families didn’t reserve us a meal at all. A 14 hour day and no meal for the skinny video chick. The photographer always got fed, we were second class citizens until the boss finally added it to the contract. I’m sure for some people it just slipped their minds, so the addendum to the contract helped them to remember.

My job was to capture candid, happy moments when guests least expected it. It’s difficult to creep up on people when you’re sporting a 3 foot long camera, 12 inches wide with a blinding light attached to it. Good thing I was cute and friendly. Some guests simply weren’t having it and I got the “no, honey” look with hand gestures that sent me on my way sans coverage. I used to joke that some of these people were afraid they’d get ousted on “America’s Most Wanted” until I realized that some were likely mobbed up and that I should keep my mouth shut.

I always got hit on by some drunk guy in the bridal party. I managed to avoid bad situations by making sure I parked near other guests and always made trips to my car when other people were around. It was a definite downside to the job, I had to be extremely careful.

The best weddings were the ones where my boss worked with me. Phil became a close friend and it was always more fun when he was around. He loved the MC Hammer song – “U Can’t Touch This” and we always stole a dance when the DJ played it.

This song always puts a smile on my face (unlike that hell cat “Going to the Chapel”) and makes me think of my friend.