Aging, Creativity and Women – This One Is For You
Posted on August 26, 2018
A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Before I delve into my high school years, I need to share something that has come up for me over the last week. This past week I have been on a hunt and have been praying for inspiration.
Inspiration in my writing and all that I am sharing with you. I have been calm, knowing that somehow I would know what I am about to discover. As I awoke at 3:33am this morning I shouted – Hurrah!
I feel elated.
It use to be that the years would pile up, one on top of the other.
Now, it’s the decades piling. In a ceaseless rush, the words are now spilling out of me as I fly from Denver, Colorado, to Newark, New Jersey to Lisbon Portugal. After a lifetime of yearning to uncork the highly sensitive intuitive and creative side of me, it happened, in these dawning hours, on this day. All the words on this page are carrying me into a new, rewarding and surprising stage of my life. As always, creativity is saving me. I have always been intrigued with the stories of creative women hitting their stride later in life.
Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first of her Little House books at 65.
Valerie Trueblood, 69, a Seattle writer who did not publish her novel, ‘Seven Loves,’ and two short story collections until her 60s, said, “Age can bring greater urgency to the creative process.”
Sojourner Truth worked for women’s suffrage and civil rights well into her seventies. Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 78, when arthritis made embroidery too difficult.
Toni Morrison still burns bright at 87, a leading literary voice and a force for feminism and racial equality.
Rachel Ruysch, the brilliant Dutch still-life painter, proudly signed her age on all her paintings and worked into her eighties.
Beatrice Wood, the “Mama of Dada”, made art until the end of her astounding 105 years.
Aging is an effective teacher, when we listen.
It counsels acceptance and patience, it gives us experience and perspective. The decades can whittle away our concern for the opinions of others. They prune the unnecessary and allow us to blossom as we are, as we need and want to be. I care so much less now for protocol, for norms, for the rules of society. The cycles, the seasons, the wins, and the losses — it’s bouncing back and getting up that trains us for the marathon.
The storms are easier to weather when we’ve seen so many. We know the Western tropes about women and aging. From the old blue-hairs in compression hose, playing bridge and griping about the weather, to the plastic socialites, refurbished to a cartoon approximation of youth — the clichés abound. I have pushed aside my anxieties about satisfying the market, and competing with anyone for attention. I am just making something globally which will please me first and foremost. I am also pushing aside the need to satisfy the world’s gaze.
After 20 years of defining myself as an advocate and educational consultant and developing an adequately successful business and career, It is now time to start a new chapter of my life.
This task looks simple on paper, however, translation to reality is anything except simple. I know where I want to go from here. I know what is fulfilling and stimulating for the remainder of my life. I know how I can make a difference in the world, and leave a mark after I am gone.
The path ahead has been determined by looking back as the road that led to where I am today. Life is full of choices, each leading to another series of options, then another, and then still yet another. Now it is time for this journey to move forward. Now is the time for me to explore the new path. Now is the time to see how intuitively insightful I really am. The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: When you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. I’m not really a dirndl and magnolia kind of girl, however, I might finally wear those high-waisted Hepburn trousers with a man’s white button down, popped collar. Or, my real draw is the look I had in the 60’s and 70’s when love, peace and rock ’n roll filled my days and everything I wore was fantastically me. Why not?
47.8 million. The number of women age 65 and older in the United States. What are they doing? They’re doing everything. All of the things. They’re raising kids and grandkids, nurturing careers, running for office. Doctoring, lawyering, judging, and teaching.
Building, designing, painting, and writing.
Getting busy, staying busy, making it all up all over again. In spite of the vagaries and the decades, in spite of a culture that tells us to put up or shut up, women are making joyful noise and polishing up this old world wherever they see its shine waning. Women are awakening.
A woman is a story, a history, and a mystery.
She is — you are – regardless of age, shape, color, size, or inclinations — worthy. Do you hear me? You are worthy!
A woman learns from her decades and she has weapons — so don’t mess. When she likes you, maybe she’ll feed you. Maybe she’ll keep you alive.
It’s important to avoid the platitude trap “Aging is great!”
It’s not, not always, not even usually. Things break, they wane and they wobble. Aging is, of course, a fraught landscape, full of pop-up terrors and bland landscapes.
We lose people, through apathy, entropy, or plain old expiration. We struggle with previously unconsidered tasks and find our bodies disappointing our active brains.
However, accountable women, brave women, conscientious women, giving women, insightful women, loving women, and women who do things together with other women to build them up rather than tear them down – those women write their own scripts and we choose which attitude to wear. These are the women that will stand together.
Gravity will do its work and the bad news will get thicker on the ground, however, we have ideas.
We have plans and we’re bringing our lessons with us.
Aging, it turns out, really is largely about attitude. Having a positive self-perception about the benefits of getting older can create a self-fulfilling prophecy by helping us stay mentally, physically, and psychologically younger. I love film and books and am always looking to learn and grow.
I am still creative, still making things. I am not concerned about those that choose to ignore me, or don’t believe enough in me to stay with me, either personally or professionally. I delight in the people I love and I revel in the lives I get to share in with these beautiful souls.
Forewarned is, hopefully, forearmed.
Age is coming for all of us.
The decades will pile on until they all fall away. It’s up to us what me make of it, what we create through it. We need to use the material wisely — the alternative is oblivion. I finish my 65th year this month and start my 66th. After a decade of looking inward, tending the creative business fires, and licking the life-built wounds, I’m loving what I built and taking that to create something every better.
I’m well enough, through the trials — menopause, the hard work of building a company, plain old garden-variety aging — I am still buzzing about. I have more patience for the whims of the world and, curiously, less for the fools that run it. I’m beginning to sense a future, to see the next decade — one in which the buzzing things will be put to bed, placated, or wrestled into submission. I’m ready for a chapter of looking forward and around, instead of backward and in. A decade of making and learning and working to change the mess all around me. I’ve absorbed a powerful secret in this last decade of steeping in hot water and finding my strength — women are badass. Don’t ever count a woman out. I spent a portion of the previous decade doing what was expected of me.
Yes, the knees hurt at times and the eyes need glasses. The walks are slower.
However, the spirit is rising and looking to the future.
When I’m 70, I hope to be standing atop a decade of delicious accomplishment, toasting my winnings, tending to my inevitable and well-earned injuries, and looking toward the next ten years with enthusiasm.
Since age nine I have mostly been alone on my birthday. Or, I should say, not with the people I would choose to be with. As I finish my 65th year, I have made a promise to myself for all the birthdays I have left. I have learned to accept this part of my life with grace.
When I turn 70, I’m going to have a party, with cocktails and canapés, and I’m going to wear whatever pleases me. It would be great if you would add that to your calendar now 🙂
It remains to be seen how my new path will influence the lives of others and may be my true legacy to the world.
The future will at minimum be interesting and with the right blessings and perhaps some luck, I will be adequately successful.
Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength. ~ Betty Friedan
What are the humors and horrors you have faced as a woman?