Resisting age stereotypes

Recently I was with a group of women, all over 60, who began expressing frustration over “being old”, along with annoyance that younger persons assumed them to be incapable or uninteresting due to their age.  They felt as though they were no longer viewed as useful, attractive, or relevant.  These women were active, vibrant, bright, and engaged in life, yet were being judged based on their lines and wrinkles.

While our bodies and faces may not be identical to that of a 20 year old, our wisdom and experience far surpass that of the young.  Further, age is not a deterrent for women accomplishing some very special things.  Consider that Elizabeth Warren, age 70, is running for president; Ruth Bader Ginsburg still sits on the Supreme Court at age 86; Nancy Pelosi, age 78, is Speaker of the House; Jane Fonda continues to be a political activist at 81; and Helen Mirren is a powerful actress at 74.  While your accomplishments may not be on the level of those famous women, do not underestimate the significance of service you offer through your volunteer activities, creativity you display through your artistic creations, the impact you have guiding a younger member of your family, or the experience you offer in a job you may hold.

We wouldn’t accept judging people by their color, sex, or nationality.  Why then, do we allow women to be judged based on their age?  Being a Woman Afire suggests that we don’t accept the stereotypes, imposed limitations, or condescending attitudes that others present to us based on our age.   With class and assertiveness, let us follow the path we want to follow, do the things we wish to do, and celebrate the experience-rich lives that afford us special skill to navigate life.  Don’t allow others to define your capabilities.

Putting yourself last

There is a tendency among many (if not most) women to put the needs of everyone else first.  You’d love to spend the day relaxing in your sweats but it’s Sunday and the family always comes for your home cooked dinners on Sundays.  You’ve got a long list of to-dos before your meeting this evening, but you don’t want to say no to your daughter’s request to babysit the kids for the afternoon so she can meet a friend for lunch.  If there’s remaining work to do at the end of the day the younger people in the office think that it’s no problem for you to stay as they assume your social life isn’t as full as theirs.  Your husband is retired and has ample time to pursue a wide range of hobbies, yet you feel that you must do the grocery shopping, cooking, and housekeeping.

We often give and give, postponing our own needs and desires, pretending we are superwomen who can juggle everything without attending to our own self-care.  But eventually, cheating on rest, exercise, personal growth, and other important aspects of our lives catches up.  We go through the motions of doing for others, but they are just that––motions, done with bitterness, resentment, frustration, impatience, and, at times, downright bitchiness.  Have you experienced this?

It may be useful to give some thought to how you care for yourself.  Do you take time to consume a nutritious diet and enjoy mealtime?  Are you able to turn down without guilt or apologies requests to serve as a volunteer, help someone out, or host a family function?  Do you regularly take time to indulge in something you really enjoy that isn’t a “have to do”?  Does regular exercise continue to be an elusive butterfly?  Do you feel secure knowing that you’re really not a bad grandmom when you tell your kids you’re unable to babysit every time you’re asked?

We need to realize that if we’re not caring for ourselves, not only will our own physical and mental health be eroded, but we’ll have little to offer others.  It is important to invest the time and effort in yourself before it is too late!  Indulge in a some healthy selfishness!

 

Recognizing we traveled the wrong road

It can be quite unsettling to realize we have achieved success by worldly standards, but feel unfulfilled.  Perhaps we entered a career because a significant person in our life told us it was right for us; so we traveled that road although it wasn’t our true desire.  The time and effort invested in developing that career absorbed all we had and diverted us from our passion.

In my case, it had to do with my choice of nursing.  In high school, I had an interest in philosophy and writing.  Pondering, debating, and writing about great ideas was inspiring and fulfilling.  But, my father informed me that we were not of the aristocracy and if I wanted to continue my education after high school it needed to be in something practical, like nursing or teaching.  (Back then, in my neighborhood at least, it was expected that a girl would become a wife and mother, so there was no incentive to invest in her education.)  And so I chose nursing.

My nursing career was a successful one.  Authored several nursing textbooks.  Became a recognized leader in my specialty.  Earned some decent money.  To the outside world I was doing well…and by worldly standards I was.  But I never stopped wondering how different my life would have been if I had followed my dreams.

There is a price to be paid for choosing a path for ourselves that others value more than we do.

Yet, I believe it is never too late to change.  We can––should––make an effort to pursue those shelved desires, unfulfilled dreams.  It can start with baby steps:  taking a class in an area that interests us, joining a group to network with others with similar interests, saving time and energy for self rather than spending it all on others, making our desired choices without seeking approval.  It is time to divert our journey so that we are travelling down the road that brings us the most fulfillment, passion, and joy.

What is stopping you?

PS… By the way, I am attempting to fulfill my dream by pursing creative writing.  Not sure where it will lead, but I’m having fun doing it.

If sexual identity can be changed why not age identity?

Seems that many in our society have accepted that despite people being born with organs that clearly delineate them as male or female, they can determine to change the sex they choose to identify with and society must not question that.  There also are individuals who change their sexual identity daily as they don’t want to be defined by rigid terms. The implication is that this must be accepted and society has no right to question the normality or appropriateness of this.

I am a mature woman who feels much younger than my chronological age.  In fact, when I hear the Rolling Stones singing Satisfaction I start swaying my body, moving my feet, and imagining I’m in my teens again.  I feel like a teen and want to be young again.  Just like the people who choose the sexual identity by which they want to be defined, I may not want to be defined by the rigid terms of senior citizen or older adult.  Like those who decide that the organs with which they were born should not define sexual identity, I could choose to deny reality and expect that society shouldn’t define me by the rigid terms of my birth date.

However, if I begin informing others to treat me like a 16 year-old, start acting like one, dress in teen’s clothing, begin dating 17 year-olds, and start hanging around high schools my mental status would most likely be questioned.   I would be expected to conform to the date on my birth certificate and the truth, according to my birth certificate, is that  I’m an older woman, not a teen.  Why is it any lesser a truth that someone born with certain sex organs is of that gender regardless of their preference, and why should society have to deny that truth?

Sharp, sexy, and self-assured: The changing profile of women in their seventies

Meryl Streep…Diane Keaton…Cher…Susan Sarandon…Helen Mirren…Goldie Hawn…Dolly Parton…Christie Brinkley…Olivia Newton-John…Candice Bergen…Nancy Pelosi…Sally Field…Debbie Harry….

What do the above women have in common?  They’re all in their seventies.

I don’t know about you, but when I was young, most grandmothers and other women I encountered who were in their 60s and 70s looked and acted old.  They stayed home, cooking, sewing, and, perhaps, babysitting grandkids.  Their bodies, far from firm, were covered with conservative, loose fitting clothing that camouflaged rather than showed off their figures.  They wore short hairstyles and scarce makeup (if any at all!).  When I saw them at the beach or at parks they typically were sitting on the side observing rather than swimming, throwing balls, or jogging.  And the thought of them being sexually active was never even considered.

Times have changed!

The generation of women who are in their 70s today have been exposed to an abundance of information about healthy diets, the importance of exercise, and other facts that promote healthy aging.  Because they have engaged throughout their lives in more exercise than their mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations, they are reaching their 70s healthier, active, in greater condition, and more youthful looking.  More of them have had careers and are more likely to continue working or find new ways to apply their talents outside the home and stay active in their senior years.  They continue to be interested in having a good appearance so they won’t give up wearing makeup and dressing stylishly.  The sexual revolution impacted their generation, so they are more likely to continue being sexually interested and active.  And, the women’s lib movement guided them to be free from stereotype expectations; they’ll dress, fix their hair, and behave however they like.

A new path is being carved for women as they age.  Let’s embrace it!

On forgiving others and self

Joyce learns that her husband has had an affair with a coworker.  Trish, the woman Barbara thought was her best friend has told others sensitive information that was shared in confidence.  Without her knowledge, Cathy’s brother Peter talked their 88 year-old mother into mortgaging her house and, under the pretense that he would invest the money for her, took the funds and gambled them away.

Perhaps you haven’t experienced such violations of trust and the hurt that results.  But chances are you have had people violate your trust at some time in your life, resulting in you feeling angry, resentful, and damaged.  It is the rare human being who hasn’t been wronged.

Carrying around the resentment resulting from the offense can produce many of the harmful effects of stress and affect your health.  In essence, the negative impact of the original offense can continue to produce negative effects for a long time.  So what are you supposed to do?

Forgive!

When you forgive you release the negative emotions that you’ve been carrying around and change your attitude about the offense.  This isn’t to imply that you forget the offense, condone it, or make excuses for it.  Instead, you take control, making the decision to limit the negative impact, and freeing yourself to move past the transgression.

In order for the forgiveness process to begin it can help to confront the person who offended you.  This needn’t be in an ugly or angry manner. Just calm and direct, sharing how the offense made you feel.

“John, I always trusted you and am torn apart to learn of your affair with Linda.”

“Several people have told me that they found out about my legal problems from you, Trish.  I told you about this because I thought we had a special friendship and that I could confide in you.”

“Peter, you gambled away all of our mother’s money. I’m confused and angry that you would have so little consideration for her welfare.”

You can follow this with your suggestions on the actions that would heal the situation.  For example, you can tell your unfaithful husband that you want to know if he is committed to the marriage and if so, that you want to seek marital counseling; you can tell Trish that you want an apology and that she will need to regain your trust; you can tell your brother Peter that you want him to develop a plan for repaying the money he took from your mother.  The other parties can then take responsibility, hopefully apologize for their wrongdoing, and take actions to restore the trust in the relationship.

There always is a chance that the offending party won’t be interested in taking responsibility and healing the relationship.  John may tell you that you are lousy wife and he wants a divorce, Trish could deny sharing your secret, and Peter can inform you that as he would have inherited this money in the future anyway he sees nothing wrong and has no intention of chalking up any money.  Forgiveness may not be possible.  You then know where things stand and instead of harboring anger, can begin focusing on your future plans.  You may be hurt but you know where things stand.  Trying to understand what motivated the person’s action could help.  You can choose to forgive the person while making the choice to move away from the individual and reduce the power he or she has to impact your feelings.  Let it go.

And it’s not only others that are recipients of your forgiveness:  forgiving yourself has considerable value.  Chances are you have behaved in some less than ideal ways and done things that have produced negative results for yourself or others.  This can cause you to feel full of shame, guilt, regret, embarrassment, and sadness.  It can help to approach the person you wronged, admit to your wrongdoing, ask forgiveness, and correct the wrong.  If that is not possible, work on accepting that you, like everyone else, are an imperfect being and cut yourself some slack.  Not forgiving yourself will only eat away at you and reduce the richness of life that you can bring yourself and others.

Memories stored in an old tin can

Recently I was going through my parents house, packing items in boxes for Goodwill donation.  My father died three years ago and my mother within the past year and  I’d been posting this task, partly due to it not being a priority in the whole scheme of things, partly due to my reluctance to change the environment that was associated with so many memories.

There was no problem parting with the numerous knick knacks, baking pans, china, bedspreads, and wall-hangings.  I had more of these items than I needed myself so absorbing them into my household made no sense, regardless of their modest value.  In fact, if I was to be totally honest, I probably should be going through the same exercise with my own household possessions, but that’s another story.  Suddenly I came across an item that caused me to pause:  an old round tin can that I recall from my childhood as originally holding Christmas candies, that since had been used to store my mother’s sewing supplies.

The holiday decoration on the can could barely be seen due to the years of wear and tear.  Upon opening it, I saw spools of cotton of various colors, a cloth measuring tape, and a few pin cushions containing needles of different sizes.  There also was a wooden sock darner; I remember watching my mother place it in the foot of a sock to enable an easier sewing of a sock’s torn toe area.  (Back then, people of modest means, as was my family, sewed torn and worn clothing rather than discarding them.)  As I looked through that can I thought it just seemed like yesterday that I recall sitting beside my mother as she showed me how to thread a needle, hand stitch a straight line, and tie a knot at the completion.

Of all the items that I sorted through that day, that old tin can containing the used sewing items had the least value.  It didn’t go into the Goodwill box, however.  Instead, it went to my home where it is kept in a spare bedroom.  It is hard to explain but I can almost feel my mother’s presence when I open the lid of that old tin can and hold the spools.  Funny how memories and feelings can be stirred from the most unlikely objects….

Are there any such simple or mundane items that stir such memories for you?