Aging and HAPPY About It!

I love women!

I love that we’re bonded because of our bodies and what they go through; because of our understanding of life and love; because of our hearts.

Yes, women are very much alike. Especially older women.

I believe that women 40 and older are strongly bonded with one another because we share the same history and because we’re aging together. The absolute truth is that most of us don’t like aging because we lose things as we age!

That’s right, you know we do! We lose our smooth skin, good eyesight, strong muscles, and big chunks of our memory. But what we’ve gained is significantly more important. We’ve gained wisdom, empathy, perspective, and most importantly, an increased ability to love.

No, we can’t run as fast or jump as high, but we appreciate more and worry less. And we’ve learned that we just aren’t as concerned about what other people think or how much money we’ll make. And that gives us freedom to do what we really want to do and go where we’ve always wanted to go.

There are a lot of us now in this “season” of life – about fifty million American women – share the same memories of Sinatra, Elvis, and the Beetles. Together we transitioned from typewriters to computers, from Sheriff John to Sesame Street, from peddle-pushers to capris.

We share the same fears and very similar dreams. We’re the ones who worry about our children and aging parents at the same time. We wonder about Botox and social security checks. And we’re all shocked by how much time has gone by and how fast we’re aging.

Yes, we face this new period in our lives with a mix of wonderment and anxiety.

For most women 40 is when our world starts to look different. At 40 some women regretfully see that they aren’t the person they thought they’d be and they don’t have the life they expected to have.

Many of the things they saw on the road ahead, things they’d pursued and hoped for – love, adventure, success, appreciation – has either alluded them or doesn’t look nearly as good as it used to. And their disappointment and frustrations are reflected in spontaneous or premeditated acts that society labels “a midlife crisis.”

You know what I’m talking about – from going back to school or buying a motorcycle to starting a new business, moving to another country or learning how to ice-skate or play the guitar, we’re making significant changes in our lives. Perhaps the most significant change of all is the creation of an entire movement…. a new time in the history of women.

You see, our midlife is far different than our grandmothers’. And it’s not even our mother’s midlife! Theirs was often born of sadness; a time when 40 year olds were truly “over the hill” seeing less of everything ahead – less opportunity, less fulfillment, less fun, less time, less hope.

But things have changed dramatically. Thanks to better nutrition, medical advancements, higher incomes, better education, and long experience at juggling multiple roles, women today have far different expectations for their lives and they’re making their middle and older years the best time of their lives. Consistent with our history, we baby boomer women are creating a new model as we get older.

Why? Because today’s women are profoundly different in their attitudes about aging. More and more of us refuse to believe we’re “over the hill” ~ instead, we’re standing strong with outstretched arms on TOP of the hill, confidently excited about the limitless possibilities before us. Instead of asking, “What if?” we’re asking, “Why not?”

Such questions come naturally to us baby boomers who have been setting trends and extending barriers our whole lives. We’re the ones who raised the glass ceiling. We moved out of the secretary’s chair into the CEO’s; out of the station wagon and into a sports car. And we explained to our husbands that even though their fathers didn’t change diapers, we expected their help. We broke rules and we keep on breaking them.

Baby boomer women are looking around and observing their peers taking risks, developing talents, having more fun, and believing in themselves in ways their mothers never did.

From attending skill-development classes to taking their lives in whole new directions, women 40 and older are awakening. Many are smack dab in the middle of an exciting, soul-fulfilling metamorphosis, and they’re happier than they’ve ever been in their lives!

Look around… women engaged in such a transition are taking the crisis right out of aging; they’re enjoying this season in their lives.

You see them everywhere: two 65 year old women traveling together; a group of 40ish women scrambling over rocks in the Grand Canyon; a 53 year old woman painting by the side of a road; a wife working at her computer on the children’s book she’s always wanted to write; a grandmother running for senator.

We don’t look old and we don’t act old! We’re energetic, engaged, and engaging, like we’ve always been. We’re just doing it a little slower in older bodies. But our minds are sharp, our souls are wise, and our hearts are soft.

You can sense it. You know you’re transitioning because you’re bolder than you’ve ever been. You’ve waded through life’s muck and now you’re more clear about what you want. Parts of your life that you’ve been tolerating for years have now become intolerable. You don’t know what lies ahead, but you’re ready to figure out what comes next.

Yes, of course we feel guilty about what we didn’t do and things we could’ve done better… we’re women and we all do it! We regret a bunch of decisions from our past and in quiet moments we anguish over things we can’t change now.

We even occasionally peek over our shoulders and wish for our youth again.

But most of us agree that we don’t want to go back and do it all again. What we want is to stand on the foundation of our experiences and hard-earned wisdom, take everything we’ve learned and everything we’ve become – and use it all to create a life that is deeply-fulfilled, purposeful, and overflowing with love and joy.

One 68 year old woman moaned, “I’ve made all the wrong turns, and too many mistakes. I think my big moment came and went. I’ve wasted a lot of time on the wrong things!”

Most of us are raised to believe that if we’re going to be highly successful at something, the foundation has to be in place well before the age of forty. Perhaps when life expectancy was shorter that was true, but it isn’t true today. Women are living 30 and 40 years past their retirement age!!

The fact is that your first forty years of experiences, good and bad, are all essential for creating your new dreams. It’s true! You’re better today than you’ve ever been because you know what does and doesn’t work for you!

The truth is, nothing is wasted. Everything that’s happened in your life has been for your good.

Barbara Sher, in her book, It’s Only Too Late if You Don’t Start Now wrote,

“You can experience midlife as a time of immense opportunity – as a time of growth and transformation, as a time to be celebrated.

By the sheer magnitude of our numbers we are inventing a New Middle Age. Fifty million women of the baby-boomer generation are going to… reverse the belief that midlife is a dead end, a time of loss and decline. The opposite is true. Midlife is a time of rebirth.

As we embrace this rite of passage, not only will we shape the second half of our own lives, but we’ll set an example for the generations of women to come.” pg. 26

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that we women actually become a little dangerous during this time because we can no longer keep the lid on ourselves. One of the blessings of midlife is that we’re no longer willing to silence ourselves to comply with others or to worry too much about their opinions of us. We now feel the necessity to voice the feelings in our hearts.

The need now is to be authentic. Whatever we’ve silenced should be voiced, whatever we’ve set aside should be picked up, and whatever good we haven’t lived should be experienced.

Look at some of these amazing statistics:

According to the Wall Street Journal, every eight seconds someone in the United States turns fifty as the baby boom hits middle age.

Women hold nearly half of all executive, managerial, and administrative jobs in the United States.

Women today earn 58% of all college degrees granted and 59% of the master’s degrees. -National Center for Educational Statistics, “Post-secondary Institutions in the United States: Fall 2002,” and “Degrees and Other Awards Conferred, 2001-2002,” NCES #2004-154, Washington, D.C., October 2003, p. 5.

Female ownership and operation of motorcycles has risen 34 percent in the past five years.

Women now comprise 40 % of the field in Ironman Triatholons. Paul Huddle, Multisports.com, Encinitas, Calif., August 23, 2004, e-mail memorandum.

Women:

– Women control 4 trillion in annual consumer spending. ($4,000,000,000,000)

– Buy 2 out of every 3 cars.

– Take 50% of all business trips.

– Control 51.3% of all the personal wealth in the country.

_ Influence 95% of all US consumer spending, and make up 85% of all consumer buying.
Center for Women’s Business Research, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. Breaking Point, p. 120

– Initiate 74% of all new business start-ups in the United States.

Let’s look at some successful women over 40:

• Lauren Bacall, who taught Humphery Bogart how to whistle, went back to Broadway at the age of seventy-six.
• Gloria Stuart almost stole the show in the movie Titanic at the age of eighty-seven. In real life, she had given up movie acting in the 1950s to learn to become a painter in Europe. Then she returned to acting in her 80’s!
• Grandma Moses was seventy-six when she took up painting.
• Golda Meir was sworn in as Israel’s premier at seventy.

Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my heroes, wrote, “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it – to taste and experience to the utmost; to reach out eagerly and without fear for new and richer experiences.”

During this season in your life I encourage you to explore new possibilities, discover new gifts, develop new talents, and connect with other women heart-to-heart.

Stand confidently and declare that you’re not in a crisis, you’re on a quest. And it’s time to celebrate!

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