age·ism also ag·ism
n. Discrimination based on age, especially prejudice against the elderly.
I am not elderly. But I am over forty. I am still raising young children, I regularly step on pieces of Lego as I make my way across the living room floor and I still negotiate disputes over who gets the plate painted with an ugly blue dragon at dinner time. These activities keep me immersed in the part of my life that has everything to do with staying appearing young and yet I have this uncanny feeling that the bottom is about to drop out. Like I am poised on the edge. I am stepping over the brink. I am standing with one foot in the halcyon crayon days of my youth and am about to step into the disordered devolution of old age.
I don’t think I have necessarily experienced prejudice directed towards my age, but I do have a job coach. Which is something I wouldn’t have needed in my twenties. I don’t know her very well and I really don’t think she knows me at all. She knows my name, a bit of my work history (as per my resume) and she tells me I don’t have any barriers to employment. Hhmmm. Doesn’t feel like that to me. Isn’t age a barrier? Isn’t being a woman a barrier? Isn’t taking time off work to raise my kids and then trying to enter the work force again, having lost those essential years of “experience”, a barrier?
Perhaps the most intimidating barrier is my inability to manage the hours, days and years allotted to me. If I’d known they were all going to slip through my fingers so quickly, I would have grabbed on to some of them. I would have held them in a choke-hold and strangled every last bit of living out of them. I would have made them tell me their secrets and perhaps my life would have been richer, more fulfilled. Or, at least, I would have corralled a few years together and forced them to provide me a career. But, alas, even now, as the clock keeps ticking, I am involved in picking up Lego and am washing the dragon plate so it will be ready for supper. And, after all, maybe that is the essence of the secrets those nymph-ish, willful hours are trying to impart.
…and a greyhound for running.” So begins the romantic epic, Don Quixote.
Much of my domestic life at home feels like it runs parallel to that old man’s tragic story. I often wonder if raising children, staying married, balancing the chequebook and keeping ahead of the dirty laundry doesn’t really require mental fortitude but only a certain amount of insanity. If only I were insane enough to not recognize the innate futility in some of the things I do. If only I were mentally imbalanced enough to not recognize that being a mother often makes you the butt of some really big cosmic jokes. Often, I feel like I roll out of bed every morning, take my lance from the rack (coffee), pick up my aged shield (daily devotions), and kick the worn out horse (beat-up Honda) awake so I can begin the daily battles. Or, should I say, my quests. My heroic, often misled, quests.
For example, I have been trying magnificently to stop my youngest child from emitting horrendously long and loud burps in public. He tells me he tries to hold them in his mouth until he gets to the bathroom to let them out but by that time, they’ve already gone to his stomach. How can I rage against this perfect logic? I lack the insight which would lead me to see this stalemate as a romantic challenge waiting for me to bring it to a chivalrous outcome. Instead, I suck on my coffee and go lay down. I’m at a loss. My windmills are mundane and sometimes, well, just kinda’ gross. But no less threatening, seen from the same point of view. I think I just lack the man from la Mancha’s insulating layer of warm, cozy insanity.
Here I am, however, still tilting at spinning-wheels.