Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Friday, July 13, 2012
If you're post-menopausal and (one hopes) female, you've probably got at least as many years left as the number you spent raising your kids. Men, a little less but still plenty. What milestones might you be looking forward to in this, the second half of your one precious life?
Here's what the culture tells you to expect:
- You'll lose things: bone density, skin tone, hair (except where you don't want hair. There, you'll get lots of it, overnight and without warning), memory, energy, friends, loved ones.
- You'll need lots of pills.
- You'll decline further and die.
Society has no expectations of you in the second half of your life, in contrast to the first:
- You'll get teeth! You'll stand upright and walk! You'll enter school!
- You'll get your license! Prom! Graduation! First job!
Then what? Uh oh. See above. So that sucks. What to do, what to do?
Here's what I recommend. We're an independent bunch, right?
Let's establish our own awesome, middle-age-and-older milestones to which one can look forward with delight. If you lived in a different culture than one in which we do (the Hollywood-defined one in which, as Steve Almond says in his profoundly thoughtful introduction to Cheryl's Strayed's new book, explosions/shiny tits comprise our personhood), you might not have to do this, but since you do, you may as well revel in the freedom to make things up. So, what milestones might, in your ideal world, beckon to you in the second half of life?
Here are some ideas to get you started, and then I hope you'll contribute.
IN THE SECOND HALF OF LIFE, ONE IS EXPECTED TO AT LEAST MAKE AN EFFORT TOWARD ACCOMPLISHING THE FOLLOWING:
- Women will develop a new and highly personal sense of style, characterized by three essential elements: fashion, comfort, and making young women envious.
- Pursuit of your grand objective is expected. Whatever dream you've blathered about for the past fifty years or so - travel, a sport, painting, starting a business, writing, reading, thinking, teaching, computer expertise, living fulltime in an RV, photography, dance, singing, escaping - you'll be expected to make major moves in that direction.
- Your overriding political interest will change from your own good to the welfare of the country and planet. I.E., larger than yourself.
- Your kids will see you as an example of how to live powerfully in the second half. (They won't pity you, as in this sad little article.)
Listen, people. We're old; we're awesome - those lines in your face speak of hard-won experience. How about we tap into our power instead of giving it away by worshipping at the altar of a culture that tells us that if we're not fertile (women) or kickingass/takingnames (men), we're pointless?
Please share your utopian dreams with us.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
There's something about turning 50 or being close to it that allows you to benefit from your hard-won experience. This is a time when our life lessons come home.
I remember when I was in my 20s and 30s thinking I had everything figured out. But now at almost 60? No comparison. In our younger years, we're just gathering data. Then at some point our vision clears, and we're able to assimilate it. Dr. Christiane Northrup would say that it's because of our changing levels of hormones.
She believes that these hormones were responsible for keeping us complacent and placid during the years that we're fertile. Otherwise, we might go crazy and do something bad to our babies or our mate. Then at a certain point your reproductive ability diminishes and the fog clears (again, this is according to her hypothesis).
The woman now has new perspective, and along with it, a new impatience. I selected the pictures of these famous women because they have that face - they know what I'm talking about. I'm sure you or your friends have looked around at the world, even if only your little slice of it, and suddenly felt unable to tolerate the same old, same old. Did you know the divorce rate is highest among women around age 50 - and it's the women who are instigating them? According to one study, a primary reason for breaking up a long time union is a desire to move to a new city, state, or country, but the husband is unwilling to go.
At this time of life, women are freer, no longer responsible for dependent children (at least, theoretically.) At this point we have the strength to handle reality. I recently heard of a middle-aged woman finally giving up and accepting that her birth mother still didn't want her. This heartbreaking truth was probably evident all along, but it took some time for the adoptive daughter to realize and accept it. I suspect she would not have been able to handle it had she been younger and this is why the realization is now hitting her. And life will go on.
I've mentioned a million times that I live in a 55+ community. I frequently hear people saying "I'm not going to put up with that anymore." Or, "I'm too old to take that nonsense." As much as I think there's a danger that we might use our age as an excuse to disengage, I really think you do reach a point in life where you are able to gather all of the data that you've collected, look at it with a mature eye, draw conclusions, and then act.
This is empowerment.
This is the time for cutting loose, and letting go, and standing up for ourselves, regardless of the price we might have to pay. The strength and power of this demographic – of us – has never been measured, but you know I'm right. You feel it, don't you? The question is, how are you going to use it?
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Friday, March 9, 2012
O Magazine was started twelve years ago. How many articles do you think Oprah Winfrey has published about reinvention? Yet it seems even for the Big O, it's not that easy. (Boomers everywhere hide a half-smile of schadenfreude.)
Used to be the only time we had to invent ourselves was in our late teens, early twenties. "What are you going to do with your life?" was the big question. Now we have to recreate ourselves every decade or so due to job insecurity. Capitalism depends on creative destruction, and the United States is the envy of the world in the way our CEOs can toss workers into the garbage whenever the balance sheet needs more black ink.
Most of us are vulnerable. We're the little guy, Joe Employee. We don't have much power, unless you're one of the few remaining union members and even they are pretty much toast. Witness the tens of thousands of highly trained and educated teachers who stay home every day, losing their edge as opposed to educating the next generation. But I digress.
Little Guy, take heart. You're not alone. It seems Oprah is flailing about in her new life-phase. (Warning: mute this article because otherwise you'll be force-fed an annoying commercial.)
Apparently Oprah's reinvention has hit a rough patch. Her new cable channel is sucking wind. I feel her pain because I've been there, stepping off the cliff from where you are golden into a place where you are tin. You feel as if you're twenty years old again, but not in a good way. In your new incarnation, you have little power or authority, and must slave away to rebuild it. But this time you're forty or fifty or sixty or more.
In my late forties, I left a profession in which I'd established a twenty-seven year history and threw myself into freelancing. After ten years of trying and failing, changing my mind, feeling lost and/or depressed, wasting time, wasting money and learning things I'll never need, I've finally figured out my new career. Apparently I'm a teacher and a writer. I'm so happy, it's obviously the right choice.
From my new vantage point, I'd give younger people this advice: think of yourself as a small business. You may have to reshape it or carry it to an unexpected place, but this will be less jarring if you plan for it. What would you do if you were suddenly tossed from your current job?
Burnish that business called You, Inc.
WHILE YOU'RE EMPLOYED, learn everything you can, network with those who can further your career, keep your eye out to alternate but related industries, think of side businesses you can build in your spare time for emergency cash, and save your money. Living within your means is the ultimate power over the unpredictable future.
For the older people, my peers, this is something you've already discovered. If you need tips from your contemporaries about reinvention and finding work in mid-to-later-life, here are several:
- In 2012, Career Success is Up to You
- Lots of articles about midlife reinvention
- Jobs for Women Over 50: Five Keys to Find Work You Love Now
- Fifty Jobs for a Second Career
I wish you success and contentment, and I hope you'll take some comfort from knowing that the great Oprah is struggling, too.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Are you self-published and wondering how to get the word out about your book? Want to learn in one hour the most important and simplest ways to create an online presence to market your work? I'm teaching a one-hour class to those who are just getting started with using networking to improve sales. You can check it out here.