The counter story to menopause in Darcey Steinke’s “Flash Count Diary,” is her research into killer whales, specifically females who are post child bearing years. We share the experience of menopause with killer whales, but our societal roles are not the same. Female killer whales become powerful leaders of their pods post child-bearing years.
And this does not surprise me.
Women do not stop creating or exploring after 50. In fact, for many of us, creativity explodes whether in business, art or personal pursuit. It seems we get real with our drive to dive into something new. The need for recognition or reassurance is not as strong a pull which enables us to lurch into our vision and voice with a perspective of exploration. We know we will get where we are meant to go and it is easier to trust that. We can let go of the quest for perfection and instead finally have the freedom to ask ‘what if?’
I am thinking of women I’ve already had conversations with, Sally, Sandy and Gailyc and the women I’ve met who will be featured in coming months. I’m thinking of women I meet as I expand on the reach of Our Stories Today, many who have embarked on a new career path or creative direction. I’m thinking of women like Darcey Steinke who jump into a powerful exploration of a patriarchal society and women who forge their own path, away from corporations or industries that remain dominated by men.
They are not dissolving into the mist, they are quietly coming into their own.
All my life, I’ve been tugged towards words, language, stories and creating art. I’ve taken classes in watercolor, pottery, pastels, collage, painting and most recently photography. I’ve participated in writing workshops and wrote a regular column for my local paper for close to seven years. I am happiest in these spaces, happiest when I follow my curiosity or ask myself, ‘what if?’ and then endeavor to answer that question.
When young, art teachers were not complimentary and though I was encouraged from time to time as a writer, I was unable to see my own potential skill. When I graduated high school in 1977, I wanted to go to college, major in English and teach, but my guidance counselor told me that there was a glut of teachers and only the best of the best would ever become writers. Today those would be fighting words, causing a steely determination and a healthy ‘F’ you. But I did not have confidence in my skills when younger.
I’ve not devoted enough time or space to this part of myself, which is crazy ironic. I suffer from anxiety and artistic expression, like time in the outdoors, always has a calming effect. The voices in my head that ramble on and on or torment me with potentially disastrous outcomes or happily tell me why I can’t, become silent when I walk a mountain trail with my camera or when I write on my laptop at a cozy table outside with a cup of coffee or glass of wine nearby. They lose their power to make me lose my mind.
I’m devoting time to this part of me now.
In mid-life many of us finally have the time, financial security and wisdom to explore in ways we were not able when younger. We tend to be more patient with ourselves, realistic about expectations, and able to march to our own drummer immune to criticism in ways that were challenging when we were younger. Even Forbes Magazine has noticed this trend in women who begin again–and they aren’t the only ones. According to this Artsy story, old women have replaced men as the the art’s world new darlings.
This professional pivot began when I paid attention to other writers and artists who were making a living from their craft. Paid attention to how often I felt envious of women who had spent their entire life honing their craft. I paid attention to the fact that my time on this planet and in this lifetime was not never-ending.
You know the famous quote, ‘if not now, when?’ Those words would not leave my head. One day, while trying to explain to my engineer husband the challenges of creating art in stolen moments, I began to cry. I said to him, “I’m afraid I’ll never use my own voice. I am afraid it’ll never be my turn, that I’ll never find out what I can really do.”
After the crying session and giving language to my big fear, a determination was born that propelled me outside of being paralyzed and into the perspective of NOW. I would do this, God dammit it.
But, like most human beings, I still need to make money. I’m the CEO of my own merchandising business which pays the bills. Starting something new at 60 is one thing, working two jobs is another. I knew rolling on the schedule of running two businesses could not be sustainable, but how to find time to feed my passion while still putting in time with my money-making business?
I was sharing my dilemma with my husband, when I cried again. We were driving home from a camping trip and in the middle of a marathon month of visitors, trips and obligations. A month when stolen time was nearly impossible, never mind hours upon lovely hours of uninterrupted time.
We talked about my obligations and my schedule and then we, together, figured out a few ways I could make minor changes and prioritize my time. Things like adjusting my consulting schedule, limiting social obligations, getting up at the butt crack of dawn to write and creating my own art space for those moments when I need to ‘cross-train’ and get lost in a playful art project.
Our Stories Today has big aspirations, but the biggest of all is the one where I just free fall into it, follow my heart and be me. Oh man, how I would love it if I went viral, changed societal paradigms about aging women, and the creds piled up and the blog helped me earn my living through facilitating retreats, portrait photography, and sponsorships from organizations that want to connect with and know all of us. Wouldn’t that be something?
Yet, something bigger is at work here, something that is unimpressed with all those sweet financial gains. It’s trusting my voice. It’s letting myself be known. It’s running with scissors. It’s living my life. It’s not letting culture decide I’m done or irrelevant. It’s connecting with you.
I’ll share with you the self talk I use as I work towards a new profession and way of being:
You are the only you. Your voice is unique. You have something to express. You have something you want to explore or change. You are fucking powerful, but sometimes you are frightened of where your power will lead you. Go there anyway.