Do you love chain letters or do you hate them? Sometimes they are just like daisy chains, bits of sun drenched thought linked together to brighten someone’s day.Sometimes they are really annoying. Well I have been invited by Mary Tabor, the wizard of words about love and life’s other irresistible trials to play in The Next Big Thing chain and I am thrilled to be part of this!
Here is how it works;
Mary tagged me at Mary L Tabor.com
Mary’s latest book, Who By Fire is a journey into a relationship which left me delightfully “jumbled” and hungry for more of the Mary L Tabor style of scripting life and love.It is honest, heart wrenching and a winding path you cannot put down.
Now I get to tag five other authors,the hard part is deciding who and on which of their books to focus. Then I encourage the five I chose to tag five more and so on and so on.
So, who shall I tag?
Hilary Mantel author of Wolf Hall: A Novel and Bring Up the Bodies, the first two books in a trilogy based on the life of historical figure Thomas Cromwell. I admit to being addicted to the Showtime series The Tudors in which Thomas Cromwell played a significant role. After the Tudors Ms Mantel’s books are a great indulgence for me, so much more detail, so much more intrigue. I have always loved historical fiction,since childhood, because what interested me the most about history were the stories about the people of those times. Historical fiction grants the author such leeway to expand the characters and plumb them out with human emotion, frailties and heroism.
The Cromwell series works well within the boundaries of fact but does exactly as I described,it plumbs out the man and his life in a way that makes the tales irresistible.
OK Hilary, as much as I would love you to join this chain mail, I must insist you stay tied to your desk and working on your next big thing,The Mirror and the Light, the third in this trilogy.
Tim Winton is an Australian novelist and short story writer. I have read many of his books but Breath,A Novel was my first and your first is always special. I have traveled to Australia twice and I have seen those waves which holler at us as we stand in awe on the beach,“ I am in charge. Take note, mere human”. Mr. Winton’s novel explores the marine waves and the developmental waves of a young man coming of age on a surfboard and in his heart. After Breath I read five more Winton masterpieces in a row, need I say more?
Peter Heller is an adventure writer so perhaps this explains The Dog Stars,a novel which is not just another apocalyptic tale. Who doesn’t love a tale about when it is all over and the rules are up for grabs? We like to fantasize about how we would act, where we would draw our boundaries. The Dog Stars will give you that opportunity. It has its share of gruesome detail but you will also laugh and cry sweet tears. I intend to explore the world of Peter Heller again soon after this first trip with him.
Raul Ramos Y Sanchez took me to an L.A. with which I am not familiar and quite frankly hope never to be. House Divided vividly describes what can go wrong in a multi ethnic city full of fear but it also inspires as it describes what can go right with the human spirit. Raul Ramos Y Sanchez is Cuban born, raised in both New York City and Cuba and he draws from his own experience and considerable insight into the human soul to create this book.
Simon Mawer, grew up in one place was educated in another and now works and lives in yet another. I think these shallow roots blossom creativity; they also allow an author to ably take his readers on a journey to wherever he cares to set his tale. I was quite undecided on which of Mr. Mawer’s books to highlight here but in the end I picked The Glass Room. This book is about a room, which if you are an architecture fan like I am is enough to intrigue you, but of course a room is envisioned, build by and contains people and there the story begins.
This is the part where I answer ten questions about my writing set by the Next Big Thing chain letter game and the five folks I have tagged above will hopefully do the same.
What is the title of your book (or story)?
Fifty & Fabulous! The Best Years of a Woman’s Life
Where did the idea come from for the book?
When I was 54 years old both my parents died. I was kicked off the bench and onto the field of life. One day as I struggled to reconcile a thousand competing emotions this question popped into my head “What is a woman’s role in life after the biological imperative to reproduce is passed, in other words after menopause?
What genre does your book fall under?
Non fiction- research based, but not the sort of research that seeks to proof an existing hypothesis. My research began uninformed and I had no idea what I might find. I interviewed women from 45 – 102 years of age in five countries before I began to write.
Write a one sentence synopsis of your book.
Life after 50 is stage of human development not a stage of human decline.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My book is nonfiction so I am not sure how to answer this one but it is fun to imagine representing the voices of the women I interviewed with actors. My casting list would include; Meryl Streep, Isabella Rossellini, Annette Bening, Susan Sarandon…get my drift, amazing strong willed, talented woman who are aging in confidence, naturally.
Was your book self-published or represented by an agency?
Watkins Publishing, London, UK
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Actually plopping words down on a page… about 24 months. However the interviews and analysis of the information gathered took about another 24 months…not full time of course, a girl has to eat which means work at a paying job.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Anne Morrow Lindberg’s A Gift From The Sea.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
When I analyzed the words of my interviewees I saw that life after 50 is a natural spiritual journey, the most fertile time of a woman’s life and I just thought …wow! I had to find a way to share this. Why would anyone be afraid to grow old if they knew what was waiting for them in these years? I was inspired by the sparkling eyed women across the world who had so generously opened before me their hearts and minds and their experience of life after 50.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I am now interviewing men over 50 and hoping to give the male gender equal time on the topic of aging. What I am finding so far, is in many ways, quite different from what I am found while interviewing women.
If you know any great older men, particularly 85+ please send them my way and help me on my Next Big Thing.
Mary Tabor will interview me on May 8th at 1:00PM PCT. You can tune in live on Rare Bird Radio, bogtalkradio.com at
or catch it later on Mary’s page at the same address.
Many of my readers are over 50 years of age so like me,creeping up to 62, they have already made a significant mark on life. We have shed our baby skin, carved our careers and raised our families.
We have had many opportunities and some we have mastered while others have slipped through our fingers. There is much living left to do and while one career may be playing out its final notes the next one could be just around the corner.But no matter what our work is we will be doing it in the new 50+ style.
In emFifty Fabulous/em I described what my interviewees told me about how their roles in the workplace have changed as they have aged. They described a movement from direction to guidance, from management to facilitation from boss to mentor.
The wisdom and experience that accumulated during the journey and over the years is now applied in a very new way. It seems that the firm grip on control which we thought so essential when we were younger, we now perceive as a limitation that does not serve our purpose. As our hips may have softened so have our hands and hearts and I believe that at this age we open them both more vulnerably to gently shape the work of others.
What explains this change? With age confidence increases, experience, both success and failure,is a teacher whose lessons have reshaped our thinking. Our perspective widens as we raise our heads from the single pointed view of our own struggle. We begin to understand that doing is for today but mentoring is for tomorrow as well.
Let’s kick off the next International Women’s Day by extending are hands and sharing the largess of our success to support the career of someone just starting out and let’s begin right now.
Kiva is a virtual community of micro credit lenders and recipients which facilitates our generosity seamlessly.
Just go to a href=http://www.kiva.org title=Kivawww.kiva.org /a
There you wil be efficiently led through the process. You select a recipient from the business profiles which are listed and grant a business loan for as little as $25.US. The woman you support will be required to repay this interest free loan over time and you can then decide whether to lend the money to someone else or take your money back.
Our small gestures can may make the difference between death and survival in third world economies.
For less than we spend on our weekly coffee we can back a village business that could feed a family.
Kiva is the brain child of some young folks who want to make it easy for us to be what we have become, grateful, Fabulous and wise!
Many women dread the day that they turn 50. The saying “life begins at 40” makes this age more acceptable, but what happens when you reach 50? Does this mean your fun days are over? Turning 50 is often associated with mid-life crisis because you are not that old nor too young anymore. Of course, you need to prepare for the physical changes and menopause by adopting new exercise and diet regimes which will allow you to navigate this new territory most successfully. But those should not stop you from enjoying your life. There are many ways to look great in your 50s and beyond.Famous celebrities like Michelle Pfeiffer, Sharon Stone and Christie Brinkley still look hot despite their age. Here are some tips on how to remain youthful even in your 50s:
Don’t spend your days sulking and complaining regarding your age because that will just make you feel old. Do something that you enjoy even if it as simple as playing online games. There are many exciting games available on the web including those at FoxyBingo.com. You won’t only have fun playing, but also get a chance to win huge cash. If you are lucky, then you can use some of your winnings on a spa treatment,think massage!
You can also start a new hobby like yoga, swimming, and dancing. Madonna keeps fit by dancing all the time so why not give it a try?
Join a Club
If you enjoyed going to dance clubs during your younger years, then why not try that again. There are great clubs that cater to your desire to move your hips once more.
Many women in their 50s join a book club where people can share their views and experiences. You can sign up at Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 to join conversations, asks questions and get access to interviews.
It is important to interact in mew arenas during your 50s because children will be fleeing the nest and space opens up for new friendships that you may not have had time for before.
As you reach the age of 50 you may see your retirement on the horizon. It is time to begin planning for those glorious work free hours.
A whole new career, philanthropic work and or travel are all opportunities for post working life. Begin to explore your interests and desires … Do you want to work and travel alone or with friends and family or chose activities where you can make new friends?
What are the life priorities you will need to consider, income requirements, family time, geographical location?
Life 50+ is rich with unique opportunity, far from being a stage of decline as some would have us believe it is a stage of human development waiting for you to explore and discover.
In 2009 I was on the board of an LA based group for women 50+. I suggested we register a Facebook page to stay connected with each other and to share our needs and accomplishments. The members railed against it,” our children will tell us to get out of their party” they claimed.
Within six months, I was receiving daily Friends requests from the same demographic, indeed many of the same women who rejected the earlier idea.
Things change, according to The Pew Research Centre’s Internet & American Life Project, 59% of internet users over the age of 50 are using Facebook. The largest user group is still in the 18-29 year old demographic, coming in at 83%. So we can assume that the structure and policies of the site will cater to that group but the neat thing about Facebook is, you choose your Friends, just like in “real life”, this gives you considerable control over your environment.
My personal relationship with Mr. Zuckerberg’s baby started off tentatively but I am now proud to say, I am a total convert. I would even pay to use it as long my Friends would too. My guess is many would protest a fee, so Mark, let’s keep it an advertising business model please.
Facebook works for me. It is a communication method that suits my lifestyle, the right tool for the job. I am a nomad, born in one country, grew up in another and raised my family there and now I live in a third. I am nonresident in that third country for approximately 7 months of the year while travelling. The result is my friends, family, associates and acquaintances are widely distributed. For private and in depth discussion I use the tried and true, email, phone and meet you at 6:00 PM. But Facebook is my go to tool for daily, efficient connection with a larger number of people.
Each morning I make the coffee, prepare the breakfast and sit down to check my email and the morning news and then I check in with my Facebook clan. I have standards. My mission is to inform or uplift others through my Posts and Shares. I post links to articles from Zite or other online news sites. I restrict my personal posts to the level of interest I would like to receive i.e., I don’t tell people that I am going to the bank or that I just had raspberries for breakfast. I enjoy clicking on the little globe icon which reveals what my Friends have to say about what I have posted, a little morning ego massage, it is good to start the day knowing you are accepted. I catch up on what my Friends have deposited over the past 24 hours, milestone events, travel news and grandchildren pics. Generally I don’t Share these unless they fit my mission, to inform or uplift others. I do enjoy hitting share for art, literature, business news and philanthropic ventures. I learn something from my 30 minute Facebook exercise every day and hopefully most days I contribute an interesting tidbit for others.
Just the week after this loss my son was married and I posted the emotions of this milestone along with, of course, some pictures and I was rewarded with a celebration of Comments and Likes. All my Facebook Friends from around the world joined the festivities and I did not have to tick off my son and his wife by stacking the guest list.
Maybe I am lucky, I have interesting Friends, so I am eager to see what they post. I am careful about who I Friend, my natural introverted tendencies extending even out into the virtual world. I am not looking to win a popularity contest but to create an online coffee shop where people I enjoy and respect can meet for virtual morning java across the time zones.
Is Facebook for everyone, maybe not? Face or don’t Face, up to you, but if you choose not to I request that you abandon your judgment of those of us who do. I meet some “real world” elitists at parties, “oh no, I do not use Facebook, I am too busy for that”…that is why I use it, because I am busy.
” I have real friends”…so do I but many of them live on the other side of the planet and I either don’t see them every day or I don’t have time to write to them all individually.
“I don’ want everyone knowing my business”…so don’t post it and or learn how to use the tool correctly.
In high school, I was judged for the company I keep now it seems I may be judged for how I keep it.
If I did not use Facebook I would not know that:
• Irina’s art is still a showcase for her spirit and energy
• Tom is out there and listening
• Maria has the most amazing eye for art photography
• Hailey made pancakes today with her Daddy
• Katherine’s grandchildren are way cuter than we imagined when we were 20
• Sarah is brave and adventurous
• Stacey is every animal’s hero
• Chris is making us proud to be 50+ on Fabafterfifty
• I miss Cat and Chris every day
Life will take my friends as I age, but if I did not have Facebook I would lose so many more Friends due to the circumstances of geography and time. So much richness from friendship and sharing, it would be a shame to miss it before I have too.
So love it or leave it, but if the tool fits the job…use it well.
It is with great sadness and shock I am writing to tell you of the passing of a fine Canadian artist and advocate for women, Tina Dolter, tinadolter.com
Tina had what I consider the greatest of fortune in life. She was able to combine her talent, her passion and her cause all into a highly successful and recognized career.
I had the incredible pleasure of co chairing with Tina a panel discussion titled Redefining The Art Of Aging Well in conjunction with her Toronto exhibit Sensuality of the Maturing Woman. That was just under one year ago and now Tina has gone. She passed away suddenly this morning from complications related to flu.
Tina’s portraits are the visual representation of my written message on fabulous aging and it was a great gift to me that we found each other. Tina’s talent for capturing the light inside the woman 50+ was miraculous. I thought her work was good when I saw it online but I will never forget how overcome I was when I first stood live in front of her canvas. It was not just technique, it was an ability to hear and see and feel the subject which directed her artist’s hand.
Agora Gallery in New York City had very recently asked Tina if they could represent her and suggested she begin work on the portraits of famous NY faces, she was at the peak of her much recognized and awarded career. Tina and I joked last September at the panel discussion about the next step; painting and writing about men! In true Tina form she got right on it and had already finished a few striking portraits of men, proving that her gift for capturing the authentic being was not restricted to the female portraiture.
I cannot express how distraught and disappointed I am by this loss. In my foolish believe that life goes on forever I luxuriated in the thought that Tina and I had a few more panel discussions in us. In her passing Tina has offered me a lesson; life is fragile and to live it fully and kindly and with such ardour as she did is to acknowledge that lesson and to honour Tina.
My deepest sympathy to Jerry, her great love, and to all her family. Even in our short time together professionally it was easy to see how Tina cherished her family and her life in Newfoundland. I cannot imagine the gap this loss will create in your lives. I pray that the impact Tina had on the lives of others offers you some comfort at this time.
Goodbye Tina it was a gift to know you and your work.
How do we come to terms with this, it is bound to happen as we age? I mean do the math; if I am 61 then my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc would have to be 80+ at least ( no teen pregnancies in my family)
My sister recently had to put her cat to sleep, it had cancer. The cat was the older of two. The younger one who adopted itself to the elder is in quite a state about the loss. She wanders the house aimlessly howling, has not eaten much and is just generally at odds with life.
My daughter, observing this poor confused feline, suggested that in a situation like this the dead pet should be brought home from the vet so the other household pets could be given some time to spend with their deceased friend. She assumed, probably correctly, that animals would handle this event of death quite naturally and once they understood that Fluffy was dead they could accept the fact and move on without the confusion which the absence creates when they do not understand.
I think she is on to something.
So what about us? I don’t think fear that what will work for our pets will not work for us. We have a whole other level of functioning which, quite frankly the more I age, the more I come to understand is not a blessing!
We think, emotionally and we project those thoughts into the future and the past. So in effect we triple our pain.
Some people say this is the difference between pain and suffering. Animals fear, feel and react in the moment. Patches may now feel the absence of Tiger beside her in their favorite chair. I believe that the cat can feel that absence in a way which results in an unease, let’s call it sadness. But she does not extrapolate that unease beyond the experiential present moment. She feels the pain and leaves it at that. It is bad enough!
My thoughts on the other hand, drift off quickly into projection and guilt so ultimately suffering. My son will be married this fall, how I would love my parents to share that day with him. How will it be without them? Will I miss seeing the pride and joy on their faces, remembering past family weddings? Will my son be sad on that day without the presence of his grandparents? I was at a mall today where I had lunch with my husband’s step mother 5 years ago. As I parked I remembered that day and how much I valued our conversation. OK, that is comforting and grateful thinking but then I regrettably moved on to “it will never happen again” Then, the guilt because I did not see her Claire enough when she was alive. This is suffering not pain and it hurts even more.
It is almost like emotional scope creep. Scope creep is the term used in business to describe how a project based assignment can get off track when the boundaries, scale, the range of the work are augmented.
I miss my dog. I miss her curled up all warm and happy at my feet. I miss her on my walks. Then the emotions creep from the experience of those momentary sad feelings to projected thoughts.
What is the point of walking when I cannot share her joy over the smell of urine soaked spot? More creep…did I walk her enough and did I make the best decision when It came time to put her down, was she ready? This can degenerate into agony.
It seems that the best we poor humans can hope for in our inevitable losses is the momentary pain of absence mixed with sweet memories which sustain us in the moment and celebrate the joy of those we have loved.Because even faced with incontrovertible evidence we cannot control our complex thinking.
Still it is better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.
I wonder how we say that in cat tongue.
Friendship is in a woman’s DNA. We cannot rid ourselves of the imprint of a shared fire and a bit of companionable gab over the fresh hunt. In fact, according to Anna Holmes who writes for the New Yorker online “It is other women, not men…who most impact the evolution of girls into women. Other women, not men, who provide the opportunities for self-expression and self-discovery. Other women, not men, who bear witness to the triumphs and tragedies of young womanhood. Other women, not men, in whom we both find and lose ourselves” http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/07/the-age-of-girlfriends.html
Friendship is a hot topic for women of that certain age and it came up a lot when I was interviewing women for Fifty & Fabulous! I discovered that changes in friendships were common at this stage of life and that post 50 we have three options for friendship.
1. The Gift of an Old Friend
Take Mickey and Lil …they met when Lil was five and Mickey was two. A few weeks ago they celebrated Lil’s 95th birthday at Disneyland. And yes…they did take on some of the rides! There they were, two old buddies side by side, holding hands while they whizzed around the park in their wheel chairs.
Imagine what these women share, a lifetime, not a short one at that, of circumstances. They have been there for each other on the real roller coaster of life. They have seen each other through childbirth, grand childbirth and great grand childbirth. They have heard each other’s secrets and dreams from playground giggles to the present. Together, still, now they stand before the final stage of their lives.It is only the very best of friendships which survive this long and as with all things that grow,the reward justifies the work.
Note: Sadly after this piece was written Lil passed away, just a few weeks after her 95th birthday. We send our love and support to Mickey and our gratitude for the inspiration of such an amazing friendship.This is such a sad note but my guess is Mickey would not trade away the years with Lil to be without her sadness now.
2. The Gift of a New Friend.
The women I interviewed spoke about letting go of older friends with whom they no longer had a deep connection. They were searching for new friends with whom they could discuss the more thoughtful aspects of life. They told me they had lost interest in relationships which were being maintained as social niceties. At this point in their lives they longed for the same meaningful conversation with friends that they were having with themselves. I wonder do we hear a voice that tells us “life is not infinite; you have no time for chat that does not engage your heart and mind”?
If we want to meet new friends we need to put on our lipstick and go out the front door. We are bound to meet people. Friendship like any other relationship is the result of circumstance and the mystery of chemistry. New interests can bring new friendships which, at first, are based only on the shared common ground and then the chemistry comes into play. We spend more time together and see what grows. It is worth the effort.
3. The Gift of a Retro Friend
Sometimes paths which diverted years ago come back together in a wonderful reconnection. There is a great attraction to these retro friendships as we age. In the post menopausal years women experience a space opening up inside them which promises a new freedom, increased confidence and a healthy search for self. It seems perfect that we would gravitate to older friends who knew us before we “gave ourselves away” to the roles-wife, mother, lawyer-we played in our 30s and 40s. Retro friends may be women we were joined to the hip with in elementary school or high school or college buddies we cried with when our heart was broken. They may be women with whom we began a career or shared new motherhood. We may have found a deep connection with these women then but at that hectic time of our life we were unable to maintain the relationship.
Retro friends remind us of the optimism of our youth .They remind us of our days of endless possibility. As we age these are vital reminders because the media message would convince us we are entering a stage of decline and nothing could be further from the truth. Life after fifty is a stage of human development with its own unique energy and what could be more fun than exploring that with a girl friend.
I think Ms. Holmes’ gem about the role of girlfriends in the evolution of women should be drilled into the head of every prepubescent girl. This is a recipe for a rich and deep life, abundant in human connection, male and female. I see how different my life could have been if I had appreciated this many years ago.
Well, we are never too old to learn. Last year I reconnected with a former work associate I had not seen in fifteen years. We found each other again at a precise and perfect moment in time, a time when we are ready to find and lose ourselves in each other’s exploration of life. This is a gift which has come to me past 60 but I feel some regret for the lost time of the years before. There were other friendships but I was unable or unwilling to take the risks required for those opportunities. Alas, regret is such a waste; it changes nothing so instead I will embark on this new friendship with intention. It is my best intention to stay strong in my vulnerability, to share without fear, to risk losing what would have no value had it not been honest in the first place. It is my best intention to receive without judgment, to listen with no sense that I have an answer. It is my best intention when moved to speak to share only my experience not my opinion. It is my best intention to weather a storm if and when one comes. With any luck and maybe some divine intervention my intentions will be my actions.
I have immense gratitude for a dear friend who has magically reappeared at a time in my life when I am most ready and capable of appreciating her.
We could do the Disney thing, it won’t be a 90 year old friendship, we don’t have that many years left but we can still fly together on the Mickey Mouse roller coaster. Whee!!!
Since writing Fifty & Fabulous! The Best Years of a Woman’s Life I have been on a one woman mission to change people’s attitude towards their next birthday.
The book has accomplished that in many ways and in many places and I am gratified by that. But I know that some women are like me and they want more than just the ability to read about positive aging- they want to experience positive aging.
So I created the Fifty+ Fabulation Event. In everyday language this is a workshop but I hesitate to use this term because it sounds like something you have done many times before and I believe that a Fifty + Fabulation Event is not like anything you have ever done before.
The event focuses on the three areas of Gerotranscendence. Those of you who have read Fifty & Fabulous recognize Gerotranscendence as the term coined by Swedish gerontologist Lars Tornstam to describe “a developmental possibility which begins at fifty years of age”. In the workshop Dr. Tornstam’s theory on aging and development creates a path along which participants can explore themselves as they enter the stage of human development that begins at fifty. Every stage of life has its own unique energy and the secret to success in each stage is to find and embrace that energy.
What you learn about living fifty plus could nourish the rest of your life!
Any woman over fifty is welcome particularly if you are:
• Asking yourself what is next
• T ransitioning to a new career or retirement
• Empty nesting or downsizing your home
• Caring for an aging parent
• Crafting a new life for yourself with new roles and relationships
I am very excited to announce that in 2012 I have partnered with Nature’s Emporium , Canada’s largest holistic market, in Newmarket, Ontario to present two Fifty+ Fabulation Events, workshops for women exploring life fifty+.
The Fifty & Fabulous mission fits right into Nature’s Emporium’s central goal of introducing and providing a healthy and natural life style to the community.
The powerful Fifty + Fabulation agenda will be enhanced with sessions on Outside Shine and Inside Glow presented by cosmetic and nutrition experts from the Emporium.
Here is how one former Fifty+ Fabulation attendee described her experience- “I feel that tremendous healing and power that comes from the forming of circles of women. Thank you a million times over for stepping out into your mission and providing a safe and loving environment for women to share their truths and open to one another. This is how change comes.”-Lori 55
Workshops are planned for March 29/30 and March 31/April1 and I hope to see many of my Toronto area readers at one of these events. Bring a friend and share the harvest of your wisdom.
For more information and to register contact Laurie at Laurie@NaturesEmporium.com or call 905-898-1844 X 131
Jaki is happy to answer your questions about the event at www.fiftyfab.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this month BBC Director General Mark Thompson responded to accusations that the British government owned broadcaster was treating older women unfairly. The accusations centered around issues such as representation of older women as presenters and program hosts and the nature in which older women were represented in general in the BBC programming.
There had been some incidents over the past few years where older woman were removed from their positions and replaced with younger women. One incident involving on air host, Miriam O’Reilly generated particular attention and in the end an employment tribunal judged against the BBC in the case of Ms O’Reilly’s dismissal.
Mr. Thompson wisely councils against knee jerk reactions which would remove competent younger BBC employees and replace them with politically correct appointees. Is that what we want? I think not. The BBC like any good government owned organization, commissioned a report on the issue. This quote from Mr. Thompson in reference to that report speaks to the meat of the whole issue, “But a significant minority of respondents — and not just older women themselves — did tell us that they felt that older women were ‘invisible’ on the airwaves. That perception, and the reality behind it, is what we have to change.”
What does being invisible on the airwaves really mean and what would it take for older women to feel visible in the media? Is it up to the media to make changes or is it up to the women themselves? I have heard this word used as women over fifty describe the way they feel in the world. In order to address this issue, which I do believe is real, we will need to dissect and understand the true nature of this invisibility.
Let me take a shot at defining invisibility for women over fifty: failure to be seen for all that a woman fifty plus is at this stage of her life.
It is not like “they” do not see us at all just “they” fail to see us as anything other than a homogeneous, monochromatic group known as the aged and thought of as less interesting.
This is a big mistake. Being female and fifty is a different ballgame than it was just one generation ago and for the most part the media has failed to acknowledge this at the most subtle level. The options available to women fifty plus are endless and impact our working, personal, spiritual and physical lives. We are no longer fitting onto the old track or into the old track suit for that matter…retire and give up the three P’s-Power, Prestige and Passion.
We are as multi dimensional as we were when we were thirty five, maybe even more so. Some of us work for income into our ninth decade, others establish charities in foreign countries, others go back to school and start again, some write books or make films, some become nanny grannies and revel in the years they did not have so simply with their own children. Many women just finally hit their stride as they enter their fifties, think Hilary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, and Margaret Thatcher.
Women 50 + have embraced the stage of human development that begins at fifty and is characterized by expansion and freedom in our thinking and our actions. When we are small children we enjoyed an open space of exploration and limitless boundaries then as we matured we were shaped into the responsibilities and roles of adulthood. We willingly gave up many freedoms and dreams and pressed toward midlife, focusing tightly on the prizes of acquisition and the rewards of achievement. Post fifty we begin to enter a space again which moves towards freedom. As one of my mentors put it “life is a journey to and from freedom”.
We move ahead into this unfamiliar territory with the renewed confidence and the strength which comes from a life lived and explored. We hold dear a corresponding sense of self which makes many of us a far braver and far bolder version of our former selves.
The media for the most part just have not caught onto what is happening yet. They have failed to capture the zest and vitality and the sense of freedom that we are experiencing and they continue to see us, paint us up and write us in, as old which means bland, one dimensional and bereft of options. Decisions to replace older female personalities or executives with younger employees are driven by the mistaken belief that the younger audience requires this and that ratings will benefit from it. Someone is missing the point. A woman in her late thirties worried about her upcoming fortieth birthday can see her future open wide and rich before her when she realizes that at sixty she can still be a dynamic on screen presence.
In all fairness to the media I do think that we need to be comfortable with what we are at this age at the same time as we ask the media to represent us more accurately. I don’t need to see every face fifty plus botoxed and ironed smooth to see beauty fifty plus. I don’t need to see a perfect figure to see sexy and I do need to acknowledge that the seasoned years like all years are a mixed bag. Meryl Streep needs glasses now to read her acceptance speech. Does this detract from her outstanding theatrical performance? No, it is just one of the slightly more obvious issues of being an actress over fifty. Why was giggling nervousness on the podium at twenty five more acceptable than reading glasses at sixty two?
I don’t need my news anchor to be my age or my gender to value the news more but I do admit that it irritates me that the general public still accepts the credibility of the older male anchor more readily than the older female and is more willing to listen to the older male, apparently a father image issue.
But my guess is that this will slowly change as the next generations see strong successful female role models in their homes and come to expect them on the news too.
The bottom line is ladies; we still have some work to do, the boomer generation and the generations before us had some tough firsts to achieve. We had to carve out some new paths in which our daughters and granddaughters could follow. I was one of only two women in my 1971 university economics class, my professor did not want me there and he made it tough. I never worked so hard for any grade because I was determined to claim my right to that credit
As the early feminists called us to stop the inequities, to stand bravely and to speak out for what we knew was right I call on us all to do the same thing now on the topic of aging. Make yourself visible through your actions.
• State your age proudly
• Act what you know today
• Show what you can do today
• Introduce those who have not seen 50 yet to the vibrant world of opportunity which awaits them on this side of the hill.
We must be the change we want to see happen…sound familiar sisters?
Link to the article on the BBC
When I was very young my grandfather would lift me onto his lap, he would point out the cuts, bruises and scrapes on my knees and ask where I got each one. I would then explain what game or fun exploit had generated these worldly scars.
Recently this childhood reminiscence came to me when reading the work of Bronnie Ware. Bronnie worked for many years with hospice patients and recently published a thought provoking work titled, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Here they are:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I picture tabulating regrets in my dying hours as a similar process to checking off the scars on my four year old limbs. I was not willing to give up even one of those booboos for a more placid or less adventurous childhood. In adulthood too, if we are engaged in life, we will take some “bumps” along the way and a few will not be erased by time. I assume I will carry repentant scars to the grave just as I carry the pebble under the skin on my forehead, the cost of a riotous adventure on a swing (or maybe my sister pushed me).
Sadly, I have to admit that I have already started to count some on the list above as my regrets.
1. Do I wish I had followed my dreams more and worried less about what others expected?
I get a pass on this one because I have been quite diligent in pursuing what dreams came up sometimes without a nod to common sense, but that is another kind of regret.
2. Do I wish I had spent less time at the office?
Sure I do. My children are now in their 30s and as I sometimes wait patiently, or not so patiently, for a visit or a call, even a text, I cannot imagine how I ever voluntarily missed a moment of their lives.
3. I can definitely say I wished I had expressed my feelings more.
At sixty I am just learning that my feelings don’t need to right, checked out by some universal standard or OK’d by anyone else. They have worth just because they are my feelings…never too old to learn, forget that old dog saying.
4. Do I wish I had given friendship a greater priority in my life?
Of course, now I find myself with few old friends and therefore without the insights of people who have shared the stages of my life. Old friends cannot be created, only the years of tending the relationships will cultivate them.
5. Have I wanted to be happier in this life?
Well who would turn down more happiness? I have not always been as happy as I would have liked. I have not laughed as many times as the smile lines on my face would suggest. But I question if we chose happiness or more importantly do we chose its opposite? I don’t think anyone chooses to be unhappy and yet, unhappy happens. In the circumstances of living fully both joy and sadness will come and I believe that both are required to experience each other. How would I know happy without sad?
If we are able to predict what we will regret in our last moments of life then why do we not change our lives to forestall those regrets?
In my professional coaching practice I have observed that people get stuck in self defeating patterns of thinking and action for example; guilt, fear, working long hours, isolation from meaningful relationships or hiding feelings. Patterns can be broken and when they are change occurs.
First we need to observe the patterns of behavior and perspective with which we operate
Second we must come to understand the effect of this patterned thinking on our lives
Then we can make the conscious effort to change just one thing and viola… the chain of habit is broken and the crack that lets the light in is formed
Then practice makes perfect. This process of breaking from the old pattern and forming the new takes frequent practice
After each practice session the result must be observed so it becomes the learning
Over time the value of the new becomes more clear and then eventually we have a new pattern of behavior. Someday the new behavior may need to be changed also because it is not the patterns themselves that are bad but the fact that some have outlived their usefulness or appropriateness in our lives.
This brings me to what I see as the value of a book like The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
The perspective of the dying can never be the full perspective of those who do not face their imminent demise. That end of life perspective is as unique as the way a child views life.
However regrets that are noted when it is too late to change anything, can be literally food for thought for others. Those of us with a few years left can use these pre death insights to evaluate how we are doing today. Maybe this alternative view is just what we need to make the changes that could nourish the rest of our life.
It is possible that if you examine how you are currently living you too may find that you have planted the seeds of some of the 5 regrets listed above. If so, consider beginning the process of breaking the patterns which no longer serve your life.
Personally, I am still hoping for another 30 years or so. My mother lived to be 92 and my father 96 and if it be the will of my higher power so will I see such a ripe old age.
I do not really know what final regrets I will have with my last breathes but I am sure I will have some. I am greedy and I want a full serving from this life and I can’t imagine I can get out that type of living without a few skinned knees or a few more embedded pebbles under my thin skin.
What do you anticipate as your final regrets and what are you willing to do about it now?