Now what?

Being a mid-life “orphan” is disorienting. As I contemplate what I want to do for the rest of my life, who I want to be, I realize how much time I spend looking over my shoulder for objections, judgments, or approval. But now, each time I turn to look, there’s no one there. My mother, my only remaining judge (both real and imagined), died in September. My father and brothers are gone. My sister and I do not have the kind of relationship where she would express an opinion on my life choices; and if she did, it would not carry any weight. And so as I contemplate what to do now that I no longer am responsible to anyone or anything, save my five precious cats, I am finding the freedom a bit jarring.

I could quit my job tomorrow. There is no one to tell me not to: No parent, no spouse, no children. And the cats, well, they’re all for it. If I quit, I might have to work again some day, depending upon how my investments do and if my (formerly “my father’s”) business turns a profit. But common wisdom is to wait a year before making big decisions in the aftermath of a loss. And so I (or perhaps I am hearing the voice of my dead father) tell myself to stick it out at my law job for a year or two more. The job hasn’t been bad this past year. And currently I am in a position of power. I don’t have to be there. I can walk away if they make my life unpleasant or difficult. I have the F$$$ You Money. And besides, it isn’t sensible to walk away from my career at fifty-three. It isn’t rational to walk away from the money. Who walks away from that kind of paycheck?

But what about the idea of using the energy of loss, of grief, to fuel change? If I don’t make the leap now, will I settle into a steady pattern (i.e., a rut) and stay there until the end of my days? If not now, when?

Some days, I want to turn my life upside down and give it a good shake. Other days, I want to stay in bed under the covers surrounded by cats. Either way, there’s no one to tell me not to. The only voice that matters now, the only voice still living, is my own. I can do what I want. If only I knew what that is.

Two images from today:

Bird-Bath Ice Sculpture
Bird-Bath Ice Sculpture
Sophie & Lucy


  • Yes, you have a lot of options but, as you said yourself, perhaps it’s best to wait a year. A friend’s husband died almost three years ago and she decided not to make any big changes for at least two years. She’s making some biggies now and moving to a new city—not to chase a man or a new job (she’s retired), but to shake herself up. Here’s hoping you find an inner listener/adviser.


    • It’s tough to go to the office every day. I have not an ounce of motivation for the job. Maybe that’s grief. Does your friend have a blog? I am learning again to listen, Peggy. I’ve restarted a meditation practice and am finding it helpful in turning down the noise.

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  • Each life is different, no two alike! There are parameters and then there’s ‘stuff happened…now what’. There’s the perfect and then there’s the garbage. There are the guidelines and then there’s ‘winging it’. What may be right at any age may not be right at the age you are NOW. Going with the flow isn’t always appropriate. Sometimes jumping into the river seems more right! If you have assets, protect them, that is wise! Giving yourself time and space is also wise. Life can be very good! Sometimes it takes a long time to understand and learn that we DON’T have to react to everything that’s around us, even if we feel very strong about it.


  • The golden handcuffs…I feel them too, but with 2 kids I’m unwilling to take them off. But I think about it.

    Being in a position where you can quit is nice. Would you consider a leave of absence?

    No rush to decide! You have many years ahead of you to cuddle the catsM


  • I was making better-than-decent dough when I turned 55. I resigned my job and headed off to an entirely different world. Best decision of my life. Be bold.


  • You line of being a “mid-life orphan” really resonates with me. My life is so different with both my parents gone. Plus, I chose to get divorced after 31 years of marriage. Isn’t freedom jarring? It’s so strange for it to feel that way. I also have the luxury to lie in bed and sometimes feel guilty. Perhaps the worst form of judgement is how we judge ourselves. I want to be more “productive” sometimes and expect myself to be more joyful. I am appreciative of my circumstances, but I very much understand that pressure to figure out things.
    It’s been a little over 3 years since I lost my mom. It is a grief journey and I hope it gets easier for you. I really miss my parents and probably always will. Glad to see you posting again.


  • So, you’ve reached the “now what?” moment. Congratulations. It’s a bit baffling, but with time, you’ll figure it out. But maybe knowing you can quit your job any time will make it better. Any chance you can quit your day job and then do something to grow your (your father’s) business into something bigger, better, and run by you? Maybe the opportunity is right under your nose.

    In any case, we’re all rooting for you.


    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where we are dealing with the aftermath of our stepfather’s recent demise.


  • I’m glad your mom has been released. I know it’s hard anyway. Hope you are healing.

    I walked away from my job as a doctor at about the same age you are now and got a job paying $40K/year in animal welfare. I had to raise my own salary as well as the operating expenses. It was a harrowingly challenging experience, but I’m not sorry I did it. I saved a lot of lives, and was fully engaged in life.

    When my mother died, I moved within three months to be closer to the animal welfare job. I don’t much like staying still and doing the same thing over and over. I thought it was a temporary move, but I have turned out to love the city I now live in and have settled in for retirement. It was a little difficult to adjust my budget downward, but ultimately it didn’t really make any difference. It does mean I won’t be a world traveler in my retirement, but I am having a ball.

    I say amass your FU money as long as you’re reasonably content — it will be hard to make a social life when you quit working. My husband advised me not to quit medicine until I had something to go TO, not just FROM. It was very sage advice.

    There is no magic number in “one year”.

    Hug and kiss all the kitties for me.


    • How about a Legal Blog…maybe your specialty or (general) years of practice would position you well. Not well versed in how best to monetize a blog but that would be the goal. I live in an HOA so I do a lot of HOA-related online research/reading etc. There are a few attorneys (I follow) whose blog is strictly dedicated to HOA/CID, Property Mgmnt related matters. One Atty/Blogger in particular just lists all the filed Legal decisions. Some haves notes stating ‘Not Published’. I assume you know what that means. I don’t (yet). On some, he editorializes at the end. — Just thinking….


  • Dear Elle—I’ve been thinking about you this past month. The world has been pretty crazy, and I’m usually pretty dialed in to what’s going on, but I’ve found myself taking refuge—in cats. I’ve started working for my sister, cleaning and feeding in her cattery, and recently saved the life of a new-born kitten. I’ve rather fallen in love, have started a youtube channel for him, and just started blogging about him today. Anyway, I thought maybe videos of adorable cats might be soothing for you, as your personal world has been so very hairy for the past several years. Here’s a link if you want to take a peek: Take care, good lady. ~curvylou


  • good for you! sounds like you have FREEDOM. I would say keep doing what you’re doing until something else feels like the next logical step. (I know this opinion doesn’t carry much weight but still!)


  • Sorry for the long absence away. No voice to tell you “left, right, forward, back”. There is one – your own. I’d probably agree with your dad, stick out a couple more years at a law. Better to walk away at the double nickel – nobody bothers you. You won’t have people asking why 53 or why 54.

    You’ve the reached moment of truly being grown-up.

    Hope you and the kitties are well. 🙂


    • Hi there, Ms. Shoes. I think you’re correct about the blogging. I finally started writing again last month. It’s taken two years. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month, and will be finished in sixteen days. Then I shall make a comeback, here. I’m still in Austin.


  • One does need a plan. I learned the hard way that not having a definitive plan when I retired was a mistake. The other thing I learned is that one’s work is NOT who we are. But all is good now. You will find your way….

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