Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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What do women (of a certain age) want?

I am female. I am a baby-boomer. I am a senior. Which, according to current vernacular places me somewhere in the vicinity of ‘a woman of a certain age’, a term coined by a British essayist way back in 1754 and later immortalized by poet Lord Shelly Byron who wrote in 1817, “She was not old, nor young, nor at the years/Which certain people call a certain age,/Which yet the most uncertain age appears.” In 1822, he clarified his reference to women of “a certain age”, by crudely stating that women of a certain age were, “certainly aged.”

Lord Byron aside, recently, as I prepared to retire from a career I loved to engage in this new field of possibility called, life after a career, I began to wonder, what does it mean to be a woman of this certain age? What do I really want now that it feels like nobody really wants me?

After decades of chasing after the dream of ‘having it all’, I was tired of always trying to be everything to everyone. Of feeling like I had to do more, especially as I was never sure of what the ‘more’ was. I had raised two daughters, mostly on my own, and was a step-mother to two adult children as well. I’m still all of these things, but, along with being a wife, a new grandmother (or YiaYa as I’m called because I’m cutting back on the No’s in my life so NoNa or NoNo didn’t work!) daughter of an octogenarian and a recent passing over the threshold into what society calls, ‘being a senior’ I was tired. Tired of the constant drive to find myself in a world that told me who I was, as a ‘woman of a certain age’, was old and possibly no longer relevant.

And that’s when I began to wonder, what if I was never lost? What if, at this certain age, I have the luxury of simply being me without feeling pressured to be anyone, or anything, else?

Which is when the panic set in. Having spent decades being defined by not just the fashion I wore but also what I did in the world and how much I gave to others, I wasn’t sure I knew how to step out of my designer heels and give to myself what I needed most. Especially when I wasn’t quite sure what it was I needed the most.

The question, “What is it I want most at this certain age?” became my rallying cry to discover the more of what there is to create, do, be after tipping over into the other side of the second half of my life. That place where I am learning to value the wisdom I’ve gained after so many years on this earth, without fearing ‘the younger generation’ has all the answers. They’ve got their answers but they don’t have mine. And mine are worth their weight in gold.

At this certain age, I am settling into accepting aches and pains and crêpe-like skin as part of my beauty, not detractors from my desirability. I am learning to slow down with grace, including remembering to not bend over too quickly to pick up the earring I dropped because if I go too quickly, I might just pass out.

And I am learning to accept (with grace) the answer to my question, “What is it I want most at  this certain age?” is not a sprint to the finish line of my life, but rather, a beautiful wandering journey through fields of gold along the shores of golden ponds and verdant valleys.

I am a woman of this certain age where I have the wisdom, and the experience, to know how to live life on my own terms. I know how to fearlessly and effortlessly fall in love with being old enough to know when to slow down and young enough to want to kick up my heels and dance naked in the light of a full moon, because at this certain age, I am certain nobody’s watching but me. And I if I am the only one watching me, then I am certainly not going to worry about what other’s think of me. Which means, I have all the freedom in the world to grow more certain of who I am as a woman of this certain age.

So… as I continue to explore what I want most at this certain age, I have an invitation for you. If you relate in any way, or are asking yourself similar questions, I’d love to know what you want most at this certain age. And what you don’t want.

For me, the list includes wanting to feel like my life has had meaning and relevancy. Like there is still –more’ and the more is not prescribed by what I’ve done in the past, but rather, how much I still have to contribute.

I want to feel like it’s okay to grow older without fearing being old.

I want to know my wisdom matters. That I am heard, seen known for my grace, elegance and style, not just the clothes I wear and the title I no longer carry.

I want to be okay with being silly, just because, and I want to be ‘nothing’ other than who I am.

I want to let go of feeling like I have to explain or defend my decisions.

And I want to be okay with the past and its many ambiguities so that I am at peace today, with me, the world around me and everyone in it.

I want to make peace happen.

What about you?

What’s on your list?

I’d love to hear from you. If you don’t feel like posting here, an email would be great too! You can reach me at louise [at] louisegallagher.ca.

Namaste.


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Aging takes time, and a whole lot of laughter.

“It could be a stress fracture,” the doctor says. “But it’s most likely arthritis.”

He presses on the swollen and inflamed part on the top of my foot. Not so gently I might add.

I pull my foot away.

“Ouch!” I exclaim, before adding kind of jokingly. Kind of not. “I’m not old enough for it to be arthritis.”

He doesn’t sense my ‘funny’. He looks at me. Looks at the computer monitor where my file is open. I imagine my date of birth flashing at him in big red numbers, a sireen blaring somewhere in his head. Age Alert! Age Alert!

He quickly does the math and says, “Yes you are.”

Thanks. I feel so much better.

He does tell me arthritis can happen no matter how old you are, but risk increases with age. Mostly because the soft tissue between the joints wears down with use.

“But I’m not that old!” I exclaim. I’ve checked the data. Sixty-five is the average age for symptoms. I’m not that old.

He looks at me. At my chart, again and replies. “And you’re not that young.”

Yup. I feel so much better.

I went to the doctor yesterday to have my foot examined. I’ve been struggling with lack of sleep for the past few days. It’s been hurting so much it’s been keeping me awake.

I’ve tried ice, heat, stretching, coddling, moaning and groaning. Just about everything I could think of but mostly, I was trying to ignore it in the hopes it would just go away. Time, that wonderful healer of break-ups and other heart aches was not making it feel any better. I decided to have it looked at.

The doctor gave me a requisition for an x-ray and a prescription for an anti-inflammatory cream.

“I love this stuff!” the pharmacist exclaims as she hands me my filled prescription. “The more you rub it in, the better the absorption. The friction heats it up.” I think she might have winked as she said it. I know she was smiling. Big.

She shows me the contents of the little white jar filled with buttery yellow ointment.

“I like to rub it all over my body,” she tells me. Again with the laughter and wink. She looks at me intently. “You know at our age anything that keeps the joints running smooth is a good idea.”

I pretend to laugh with her and take the container. “Does the funny bone get arthritis?” I ask. “Because I’m not finding this part of the journey all that funny. I’m kind of finding it makes me a bit grouchy.”

“Oh don’t let it do that!” she exclaims. “Laughter really is the best medicine.”

Harrumph.

I hobble away and leave the drugstore, climb into my car and drive home.

Beaumont greets me at the door, his entire body quivering with the joy of having someone come home.

Take me to the park! Take me to the park! he says (or so I imagine he’s saying) pushing his body up against me, tapping his head against my hands, insisting I pet him as I try to get through the door.

I’m feeling kind of sorry for myself and mostly try to ignore him.

I lay down on the bed. Rub the ointment into my foot and the excess into my hands, just the way the pharmacist told me to do.

Beaumont jumps up and lays on top of me, placing his head on my shoulder, looking at me with pleading eyes.

Okay. Okay, I tell him. We’ll go.

He leaps off the bed in one giant bound. I envy his youthful joints and energy.

I find a pair of shoes that don’t press against the sore point on  my foot and we drive off to the park.

Outside in the fresh air, throwing the ball for Beau, feeling the softness of the summer evening’s breeze against my face I finally accept the truth of the pharmacist’s advice.

Laughter truly is the best medicine.

I can’t change my age, but I sure can change my attitude.

I laugh at myself, shake off my self-pity and cast it to the wind.

I throw the ball again for Beau and laugh out loud as he races in circles trying to catch it as it bounces on the grass.

Aging, I decide, is a journey best taken with a good dose of humour.

_____________________

Photo by Alex Harvey on Unsplash