Becoming an Older, and Wiser, Woman

D-day, the day I've been dreading is finally here.

It wasn't always a Dread-day. There was a time when I gleefully anticipated my B-day; it couldn't come fast enough.

But now that my birthday is increasingly a reminder that my youth is fading, and my faced is etched with ever more wrinkles, like rings on a tree, my d-day, b-day can't come and go fast enough.  And, no matter how many candles I blow out on my birthday cake, being younger is a wish that won't come true.  So, I'm grieving, and given that there is a loss, grief is appropriate.

But how long shall I grieve?  If my grief is protracted, will I be diminishing, even dismissing, the life I've lived, the experiences I've had up to this point? More importantly, will I be saying that I would trade what I hope is becoming inner beauty for outer youth?  I don't like how I'm starting to look, but I do like who I am becoming.  In fact, I like myself far more than I did two decades ago when in my youthful prime.  My friend Macy said it well, “the price of wisdom is youth.”

Truly, truly — I don't know how to do this getting older thing; it's so unknown.  While I'm figuring it out, I will undoubtedly have days during which I'm immobilized, giving into my fear, staring longingly into the Mirror of Erised.  My plan, however, is to take my age on, one birthday at a time.

I'm going to get older no matter what; I'd like to become wise too.

***

Thoughts?

For more on this topic, re-read Lisa Poulson's terrific post Bette Davis (and Epictetus) were right.  For a male counterpoint, take a look at Some Thoughts on Aging by Fred Wilson, a prominent VC blogger, whose birthday was earlier this week.

Lisa Poulson | Bette Davis (and Epictetus) were Right

Lisa Poulson, a Managing Director in Burston-Marsteller's Global Technology Group. brings a deep understanding of the processes of persuasion to her work.  During more than 20 years in the field, Lisa launched Java technology to business, trade and consumer press and analysts — taking it from a lab project to an international force in software.  She has also managed communications and corporate marketing at two start-ups.  Lisa is LDS, single, just learning to knit, and lives in a lovely apartment with four walk-in closets in San Francisco, perhaps the most beautiful city in the country. 

***

The great Roman philosopher Epictetus said, “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: some things are within our control, some things are not.”

Oh how I wish I could attain this happiness and freedom.  Instead, I rage and I pine.

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Source:  istockphoto

Against the aging process.

To wit, my arms have become the consistency of melting ice cream, as if they were slipping from custard to liquid inside of a bag.  When I bend over my belly looks like lumpy pudding saturating a hammock.

My eyes are circled in lines.  My knees shriek when I stand up after watching a movie – I limp down the stairs holding the rail, amazed and yet unsurprised at the betrayal.

Also I can’t see.  I can’t see who’s on the phone without my glasses.  I can’t read the newspaper.  I can’t read a prescription bottle.

And I am only 47.

People tell me I look great for my age (whatever that means).  I exercise (cardio and Pilates), try to eat the right foods, etc.  I do try to control what’s happening to my body.  But somewhere inside I know it is largely futile. I know I have turned the irrevocable corner from growth to decay, and I know that this is beyond my control.

Perhaps it is because I am female, and therefore trained to be deeply invested in my appearance, or perhaps it is because I am vain, and am therefore deeply invested in my appearance, but these changes pierce every part of me.  Bette Davis was right – old age is no place for sissies.

It is not just my face and ligaments that are aging, but my soul, my mind, my perception of the future, my priorities, my regrets, my fears, my hopes.

How does one navigate the path ahead after turning that irrevocable corner?

Epictetus also said, “Circumstances do not rise to meet our expectations. Events happen as they do.  People behave as they are. Embrace what you actually get.”

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Source:  istockphoto

In the second half of life one needs new methods, new rules.  One sets aside broad hopes and dreams for a glorious future full of adventures.  One sets aside hopes for springy knees and smooth skin.  One learns that the most graceful thing to do is to embrace what you actually get, what you actually have.

I’ll be 50 in three years.  My plan is to work on embracing what I actually have, building depth about what I already know and who I already am and who I already love.  This is my process for devising Life 5.0 – my life at 50 – the new version of myself and my life.

It’s a quieter way to dream, and a narrower way to dream, but nonetheless a deep way to live a life.

***

Is there any inevitability against which you are raging and pining?

“I have turned the irrevocable corner from growth to decay, and I know that it is beyond my control.” After reading Lisa's post, I thought again of Krista Paulson's Learning to Slow Down about dealing with her husband's leukemia.  We all have things that we can't control, including our age — and it is difficult.  At what point, do we finally let go?  And embrace what we have?

Devising Life 5.0 or Life 4.0 or 6.0 or 3.0 – how do our dreams change depending on the decade in which we are in?


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