I don’t think my former body is coming back, at least not without sacrifices that seem just a bit too great. What I work on now is acceptance and making this body at this age, the best it can be.
Now that you are 59, how has your professional life changed?
I’ve stopped (mostly) chasing others’ views of “success” and started listening to my own self. I realize that I have often listened to outside voices and my own limiting beliefs. And that these have kept me trapped in something where the time does not fly, my interest is not piqued, and satisfaction comes only in a paycheck.
Part of listening to me includes listening to my body. Our bodies are incredible bullshit and danger detectors if only we listen to their sage advice. While my body is great at telling me which direction not to head, its barometer isn’t nearly as well tuned to tell me which direction or directions to chase.
Where to head next is a work in progress for me. I am learning to approach the question of “what next” with curiosity instead of fear, to ask myself, “I wonder how this would feel,” instead of approaching new possibilities with fear of failure.
I am learning that fear can be an ally and a strong indicator of the next right thing. Because if I am afraid of failure, perhaps that indicates it is something that matters to me.
How do you feel about turning sixty?
I had been approaching this milestone with more than a smidgen of resentment. At the fact that I’m sixty and my life is almost over, that I didn’t use the years leading up to this as potently as I now wish I had, that I wish I had jumped the cliff into a new career long before now, and why didn’t anyone tell me about the importance of daily exfoliation, retinol, and hyaluronic acid?
My resentment is based partly on how society views older women – or perhaps more accurately about how society doesn’t view or see older women at all. I have personally witnessed younger people physically looking past me, like I am irrelevant. I have also resented 60 because I think I have viewed 60 and being postmenopausal and its belly and its wrinkles and its fatigue as cruel and unusual punishment. I despise the fact that I eat and drink the same as I ever have and still, weight attaches to my belly and my thighs, and even my back – yes, I now have freaking back fat – like flies to flypaper.
I also hate the fact that I wake up and the face staring back at me is either beyond the pale, or blitch-blotchy red and wrinkled with eyes that look like they haven’t slept in fourteen days. Oh, and some of my eyebrow hairs have left the building, leaving hither thither brows that require brow gel to make me look just a smidgen less scary. Even during quarantine, I apply tinted moisturizer, brow gel, and mascara.
But, it’s funny. I do these things for myself, because I want to feel fresh and dewy and vibrant and alive. I want my face and my body to match the spirit that still lives inside me. My creative, energized, beautiful, wise and wisecracking spirit. The world cannot see what’s inside me, not easily anyway. And so, yes, I also do this for the world, so that my book jacket hopefully makes them want to explore what’s inside. So that the world knows that age does not equal irrelevance and letting yourself go to pot.
I’ve since begun turning this resentment on its arse and realize now, how blessed I am to have become this old. And how foolish I’ll be if I don’t grab this – and every age – by the balls and make the most of it.
Most days I choose to feel grateful. For grandchildren that I can chase and make brownies with, for brow gel in just the right shade, for being able to hike and bike through forests and vineyards, and for the wisdom and I-speak-my-mind attitude that can only come with age.
What I still wrestle with is how much to fight the belly bulge and the back fat. How much of life – like brownies and wine and pizza – am I willing to give up? I don’t think my former body is coming back, at least not without sacrifices that seem just a bit too great. What I work on now is acceptance and making this body at this age, the best it can be.
Words and wisdom you’d like to share with women a generation or so behind you?
Believe in and speak up for yourself now and always. When I was younger, and even still sometimes recently, I have sometimes deferred to others’ opinions and beliefs when making decisions for myself, rather than trusting and using my own voice and intuition.
Your intuition is uniquely qualified to know what is best for you. Trust it.
I am not suggesting that you should forego soliciting information from close friends, family, and colleagues. Instead, when you do solicit other people’s opinions, simply use it as information – not the gospel – that can inform your decision process. Ask yourself where you agree and disagree with those opinions, take pieces of them, or toss them out entirely. It’s not their life.
I did not learn to speak up for myself until much later in life. I spent so much time worrying about how people would reject me if they disagreed with my thoughts. I gave others’ thoughts and beliefs more credence than my own! How ridiculous!
Today, when I solicit others’ thoughts and opinions, I first ask myself whether their advice is coming from a place of openness or a place of fear. Whether they are thinking of how it would work in their lives versus mine. Whether, as I sit with their advice, it sinks into my bones as truth, whether it inspires me or shuts me down, whether I believe it to be the best course of action.
Skincare, skincare, skincare.
Don’t worry about daily teeth flossing. Floss only the teeth you want to keep.
What brings you the most joy today and why?
My grandbabies. One of their favorite games is tickle monster, when I transform, unbeknownst to me, into a tickle monster and tickle their toes and their bellies and the ridge above their knees until they beg to stop. I don’t think about where my career is going or when the pandemic will end when I am playing with them.
Being outdoors. Hiking. Biking. Being.
Travel. The thing I miss the most during this pandemic is packing my bag, driving to the airport, and getting on a plane to somewhere, to breathe in somewhere air, to notice the saltiness of its cuisine on my tongue, to drink its wine. Always the wine. To meet somewhere people and to see them as not so different from us after all. To hear the live music in the Concorde station of the Paris Metro, taste the pain au chocolat from my favorite purveyor, to watch the children as they nudge the wooden boats in the Jardin des Tuileries.
What books have you recently enjoyed and why?
I am currently obsessed with self-help-ish nonfiction. My two most recent reads are Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis; and Untamed, by Glennon Doyle. Both are beautifully written, direct, raw, and inspiring. These women are 37 and 44, respectively.
Becoming sixty this year, I am recognizing how inspiration can come from those younger and older than me. I relish the refreshing outlook, inspiration, and knowing of these younger women, as I do from my own younger daughters. Never thought I’d be considering 44 as “younger,” however….
Colleen is also a travel writer and you can find her work at La Femme Afar.