The 2021 Wise Women Project features interviews and portraits of women over 50 with the goal of recognizing the many ways women contribute and provide inspiration to our community. These are their stories. I am expanding this project into 2022 and am hoping to travel to meet women in locations outside of Colorado (like Leonie). Want to participate? Learn more here.
How old are you? 70
Where do you live? New Hampshire is my primary residence although I do spend four months a year in Park City, Utah.
What does the way you spend your time today mean to you at this stage of life?
I am passionate about living a meaningful life. I turned 70 this year and I feel like I want every moment to count.
My explorations run in four directions: travel, relationships, the environment, and seeing what my body can still do now that I’ve turned 70.
I am lucky enough to have traveled extensively in my life. In addition to sight-seeing and cultural and geographical explorations, my passion was hiking, backpacking and mountaineering in remote regions of the world including Africa, South America and Nepal. But it wasn’t just about the climbing, I was almost always able to participate in work projects in remote villages and fund raising for schools and orphanages. I tried to learn from the local villagers, respecting their dignity and their customs. The Covid pandemic brought a stop to my international travel, but I was still able to travel domestically. My husband and I are off to Hawaii in a few days for a second honeymoon.
I am passionate about relationships. Relationships with family and friends need nurturing and should never be taken for granted. I am definitely a believer in the power of positive thinking. It has helped me live with a chronic health condition that is not debilitating, but can sure make life miserable. I practice optimism. That doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of a tough situation, but acknowledging the challenge in a more hopeful way of working toward a solution or acceptance of the situation.
Another passion is the environment. I have been allied with an environmental protection organization for the past 45 years. I do all I can to minimize my personal negative impact on the environment and to teach and share with others. My three granddaughters are wonderful environmental stewards. From a very early age they have learned to respect all forms of life around them. When I am not traveling, I am lucky enough to be able to spend a couple of days a week with my daughter, son-in-law, and three young granddaughters. I help out doing whatever is needed, but I treasure my time with the girls and hope that I have some small influence on the way they live their lives.
My last passion, or perhaps now my mission, is to maintain my good health and to honor my body. To celebrate turning 70 this year, I went on a four-day mountain bike tour of the White Rim Trail in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. This was followed up by rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon – both bucket-list adventures that involved being in a beautiful but vulnerable environment. I am both humbled and awed to be in such majestic places.
What is/has been the biggest roadblock to you in your life?
My biggest roadblock has been my lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. Perhaps it was my upbringing in England where girls are supposed to be deferential. I was shy as a youngster and my nature is definitely introspective rather than extrovert. I always felt that I wasn’t good enough. Not smart enough. Not social enough. Not pretty enough. Not vivacious enough. Not athletic enough. Married at age 19 to an Olympic athlete with Mensa intelligence, I always felt “less-than.” It also wasn’t helped by the fact that he was American and I was British and we immediately moved to America where I knew no-one.
How did/are you pushing past that roadblock?
After working for three years to put my first husband through law school, I decided to go back to college to finish my education. I attended Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, an all women’s school. I thrived there despite missing out on the total college experience of living in a dorm because I was already married. Having the college degree gave me confidence to look for a better job and I was lucky to land one in the publishing field. At the time, I thought that I was hired for that job because my husband knew someone in that field who put in a word for me. As I rose through the ranks from assistant editor to associate editor to managing editor, I realized that it didn’t really matter how I got a foot in the door, it was how I responded to the opportunity and challenge.
After 27 years of marriage one biological daughter and one adopted son, my husband left me for another woman. Not a younger woman, but someone who was more savvy in state government circles and more connected politically. Again, I slipped back into feeling “less-than.” I went on an antidepressant for two years, but then had the opportunity to go on an all women’s expedition to climb a 22,000 foot peak in the Himalayas of Nepal. Leaving my two teenagers in the care of my ex-husband I went on the expedition and was the oldest of our group to summit. That gave me a much needed kick-in-the-pants to get off the antidepressant medication and to get on with something new and stimulating in my life. With the encouragement of my fitness instructors, I took courses in personal training and fitness class instruction. I became certified in multiple disciplines and plunged into this new part-time career. And then I found yoga. Yoga opened my eyes, heart and mind to a new dimension of mind and body connection and expression. I became a registered yoga teacher. The calmness and serenity of yoga fed my soul and the asanas challenged my body. My personality was more suited to teaching yoga rather than the perky, cheerleading style of other fitness classes.
What do you think it means to age gracefully?
I think aging gracefully means accepting who you are but that doesn’t mean to say you should stop taking care of your physical and mental health. Aging gracefully is also a state of mind taking the opportunity to reflect on past experiences and to think about what is to come. I love this quote but I do not know to whom it should be attributed “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, which is why it is called the present.” That always makes me smile.
At age 70, I feel I have wisdom to impart to my grandchildren and I also want to hike, camp, ski and ride bikes with them and teach them about the natural world. I want to keep on doing all those things for as long as I am physically and mentally able.
My mother, Joan, is 91 and lives in England where I grew up. She takes care of her own house and manages her own garden including mowing the lawn. She walks outdoors almost every day and works out with weights and her own bodyweight as I have taught her. She has developed mutually beneficial relationships with neighbors on either side of her house and they help each other. She is a master Bridge player and plays bridge with four different clubs. During the shut down of Covid, the Bridge matches became virtual and she learned how to use her laptop and her iPad to Zoom so that she could still participate. She is a shining example of aging gracefully.
What has been challenging for you since you passed the age of 50?
Summoning the courage to jump into the dating pool!
After my first husband and I separated, I wallowed for a while before starting my new career in the fitness industry. I taught classes including yoga every single day of the week; sometimes multiple classes a day as well as working one-on-one with clients for personal training. I was trying to keep busy. A couple of men had flirted with me at the gym but I was full speed astern. But, while my days and weekday evenings were full, Saturday evenings were lonely. I began to miss the simple things that couples do such as holding hands, loving looks, caresses, kisses, and, of course, sex.
My young-adult daughter suggested that I try on-line dating. It took me a while to get up the courage to try it, but I’m glad I did. My current husband and I met on E-Harmony in 2010. For a first date, I invited him to a yoga class that I was teaching on a beach and then to dinner. We bought a house together in 2016 and got married in Hawaii a year later. He is my rock: he sees me for who I am and loves me for it.
What is the greatest blessing in your opinion about getting older?
Well, I love being retired and setting my own schedule. I love having time for leisurely pursuits and exercising when I want and how I want. I love having the time and wherewithal to travel. I am blessed with three grandchildren. I love spending time with them and helping to guide their lives. I look forward to watching them grow into resourceful, caring, responsible adults. I hope they are able to reach their full potential in this uncertain world.
I am grateful for the life I have led; my family; and my friends. My life has had its ups and downs but each of those experiences has led me to the person I am today. It may be trite to say I want to make the world a better place, but its true.
What worries you most about the future?
Pandemics, global warming, political divisiveness, race relations; loss of our humanity, our kindness, altruism, and our willingness to work for the common good and to do the right thing. I could go on. I am worried about what the world will be like when my grandchildren reach adulthood. What challenges they will face. I hope I, their family, friends, and community will have prepared them to be resourceful, resilient, creative and compassionate in the uncertain times ahead.
Why did you decide to participate in this project?
I think it is important that the voices of mature women be heard. We are no longer “on the shelf” of life but we are still fully participating in it. We have much to offer the world and ourselves. We can be an inspiration to each other; learn how others have coped with adversities; learn how others have experienced a new calling in later life; we can support each other; we can teach and encourage each other.
Thank you for creating and providing this inspirational platform for us wise (and not-so-wise-still-learning 😉) women.