I came home from work one day to find my husband gone. All he left me was an empty bank account, a large mortgage and a sticky note to order me not to try and contact him. Five years later and sixty something years old, I live with my little dog in a rented unit in a suburb of Hobart, Tasmania. Now I am here to tell you what it’s like. There are I imagine, thousands of us who have been “left holding the bag” so to speak, both men and women. This is my experience.
After the initial shock of my husband of over twenty years – my first ever childhood boyfriend, the father of my sons – leaving, I faced a dilemma. But not to go into all the dramas, I found myself bankrupt and in a low-paid job. All I had worked for to have a better life in retirement and to give a little something to my children, was gone. So I hope you understand when I tell you for a long time I went to bed every night dreaming of the sort of torture I could inflict on my ex, or at least hoping a truck backed over him.
But to get back to me. Eventually I left my job of over ten years and moved closer to my youngest son. It didn’t occur to me I wouldn’t get another job. Hey, I was only sixty, had some qualifications and not too stupid I thought. Wrong! According to the powers that be, I was over qualified, under qualified and shock horror, too old. I wasn’t and am not too old but maybe over qualified (wink wink) or probably a little stupid? Of course by now I had been diagnosed with Chronic Bronchitis. No biggy, but it does stop you from breathing properly, just a minor setback. Who needs to breathe properly anyway right? I could still work in non exertion type jobs, which were what I was applying for anyway, but just not so many hours. Two years down the track, I still look at the jobs sections and still apply periodically but I’m not holding my breath and with the way I breathe, I figure that is a good thing.
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So I live on my own with a little dog for company. It’s not perfect but it’s my life. There are days when I struggle. There are days when I see or talk to no-one but my puppy. There are days when finances allow that I treat myself to a movie or an outing with my friend Debbie, who by the way, I only met through SAS and has sometimes been my saviour. I get up every morning and go to bed every night in my little unit with my little dog. I wonder how my kids are doing and I wonder if something will be different the next day. What I don’t wonder about is whether someone else will have to be taken into consideration when I cook, or if I don’t feel like making the bed. As a woman (no offence to you men out there), my bathroom and toilet are always nice and clean and smelling sweet, if you know what I mean. I suit myself when I get up or go to bed or eat and if I want a wine or two, I don’t have to worry about anyone frowning at me.
Life on your own can be daunting in this unforgiving world of today, especially if you are over sixty and a little more so for a woman I think. If you don’t have a healthy bank account, it’s hard, if you can’t get work, it’s hard, if your kids forget you are alive, it’s hard. You often wonder what will become of you if you suddenly take very ill or run out of money or can’t afford the rent. You suddenly have to be very careful what food you buy and learn how to stretch the budget to breaking point and beyond. After all, you are alone. Some people will say it’s easy; maybe it is. I have never shied away from “hard” but just once in awhile I’d like it to be a little easier.
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You see, most of the time I am alone, but not lonely. But some of the time, loneliness sets in. Most of the time, I don’t mind so much that I don’t know where I will get the money for the car rego, but some of the time frustration sets in. Most of the time I optimistically think about what it will be like on my overseas holiday or when my young gorgeous cowboy finds his cougar and runs off with me.
For now though, I’ll settle for some food in the fridge and warmth coming out of the heater. I’ll settle for clean bathroom and a nice long call from my kids. I’ll settle for stretching out on both sides of the bed, when my little dog allows me to. It’s hard for some of us living alone, but only some of the time. I think life is full of surprises so keep looking for them. To all of you out there living alone and struggling at times, chin up, head high and remember. It could be worse, you could be the one my ex ran off with.
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