Working and aging

It's been hard lately to write about the divorce. I've been so busy, you see. Like anyone who's divorced after fifty, unless you are rich, you need to work for a living. I was one of the lucky ones. After almost three decades of marriage and play acting at having a job - part time jobs, and selling my watercolors on the side - I found a job with benefits. I work as a specialist on a grant project at a local university and receive state benefits.

It turns out that my talents suit my job perfectly and I have managed to get promotions and maintain my position for eight years. After the divorce I got the house, but, except for Bob's social security benefits, I had no pension and nothing saved up for a rainy day. So, I estimate that I will have to work until I am 70 before I can think about retiring.

However, will my health allow it? I suffer from asthma, a bad back, and rising sugar levels in my blood. And there's another thing that we baby boomers are beginning to notice: We're not as fast mentally as we used to be.

When I began my job I could multitask with the best of them. I learned new skills with rapid fire speed. I could recall what each file contained and where I put it. But that is the case no longer. The change in the past two years is dramatic. I would worry that these are the beginning symptoms of Alzheimer's if my fellow baby boomer colleagues weren't experiencing the same symptoms. We're starting to grasp for the right word or phrase, and if someone interrupts our conversation, we'll forget our topic as often as not.

Aside from the physical signs of aging and mental slowdown, I seem to have less spare time. I've taken classes (simply to keep up with current research and technology) almost every year since I began working and this year is no exception. And my parents are aging and can no longer make the three hour drive to see me, which means that (ideally) I should go to see them two weekends a month. This leaves me very little time for socializing or for paying attention to my yard and house. My neglected friends are falling to the wayside and my house is looking a mess. Literally.

At fifty I could work eight hours a day and come home and then would go right out and shop or exercise or do yard work. No longer. Now nearing sixty, I come home and I'm lucky to have the energy to clean up after dinner. I need my rest. So the thought of working well into old age and competing with the young Turks who have boundless energy not only seems daunting, but may become impossible in my high powered position with its frequent need for overtime, week end work, and out of town travel. The way things are going I will be lucky to work at this level of intensity for another five years. But here is the problem: I need my health benefits now more than ever.

I heard Bob is going for early retirement, which means that he will leave his faculty position next year, 20 years after getting tenure. On the days when I drag my tired body into the house and plop myself onto a sofa unable to move I actually despise him.

Self portrait two years ago at the office just before we moved into fancier digs.

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