Sunday, August 5, 2012

An Unexpected Gift

Alert the media! I finally have something good to report from the dark side of 70. I’m a generally optimistic person, as anyone who knows me can attest. But I admit to feeling a bit disappointed in this aging thing. Clearly I have some health issues, as does my husband, but I’ve noticed lately that my mental attitude sometimes slips from its usual sunny seat by the window to the top of the basement steps. We don’t actually have a basement. That’s my metaphor for where I go emotionally when things aren’t going so well. I begin to dwell in trivia, the more trivial the better. I feel dumpy instead of stately and elegant. (I was, I suppose, hoping to be taller) and all my shoes are ugly. That kind of trivia.

So what’s the good news? My seventies has presented me with a collection of women friends who have enriched my life beyond anything I can describe. I’ve always had great women friends, some for forty years, but distance, family and jobs kept our time together very limited. Since moving to southern Arizona six years ago, little by little the most amazing women have shown up in my life. It’s a gift that I cherish. More than that, it’s a gift I need.

These women are unique in their own right but they are alike in some important ways. They are all extraordinarily intelligent, artistic in many different ways, interested and curious about the world. They love to laugh, sometimes at themselves, which is a great uniter among friends. And each has such a core of kindness and compassion that those who know them feel valued and affirmed. I love that we encourage each other’s wishes and dreams and fearlessly speak truth to each other.

I should mention that we are all in the same neighborhood age-wise. That means we are all, more or less, in the same stage of life and have experienced some physical and emotional wear and tear. (That would make us all laugh and someone would say “You got that right!”) While none of us has escaped challenges and disappointments, to be sure, we care deeply about important issues in our community and the world and still have much to offer the causes we care about. And opinions. Oh Lord, lots of opinions! We just want to contribute on our own terms. We’ve earned that right!

We’re mostly all married, or have been, some more than once, and clearly those are the central relationships in our lives. But we seem to share this female bonding desire which fills a need outside of marriage. When I spend time with these women, I feel heard and understood at a different level. It feeds me. It makes me feel significant in ways that the dismissive “senior citizen” label (like all labels) tends to undermine. When we spend time together, over a glass (or a bottle) of wine, I feel my strongest self come forth.

I know that older women can become invisible if they are not connected to an enthusiastic cluster of friends and a couple of important causes they care about. My friends and I would never allow any of us to become invisible. Even though magazine articles and TV programs bear such titles as “How To Be Fabulous after 50”,  they don’t mean this long after 50. It is clear that I am now in nobody’s target marketing group except for pharmaceuticals and insurance to cover “final expenses.” We’re pretty much on our own to discover ways to still be fabulous, and we are long past caring about fashion trends. Comfy is the word that comes to mind!   

It’s not the easiest time of life. Everything seems harder, whether it’s opening a jar or realizing that if it weren’t for doctor appointments you’d have no social life. Still, I think I can handle it ...with a little help from my friends.






6 comments:

  1. As always, it's so wonderful to know you're out there, waiting to inspire the rest of us!

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    1. To be clear, all my fabulous friends don't live here. I'm glad you are out there too!

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  2. I'm so glad that you have pals and peers! It's something I hadn't experienced in a long time--until bringing into the world a couple of little social butterflies (caterpillars, anyhow)!

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  3. You have no idea how much this post means to me. I am yes, in my 50's, during a period where friends are either working full-time or still have children at home. Transition is the word of the day. My closest friends (from childhood) live around the country. I dream of a Lucy-Ethel relationship, where we can do as you do - drink, chat, laugh, empower and lift each other up. I MISS that terribly, and it brings me right down to the cellar when my husband is working, I work from home, and no friends to be found to share a glass of wine with (or coffee!) I thank you so much for your frankness and the hope that I, too, can find new friends when we get to move south (our dream.) Thanks for listening!!!!

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    1. Hi Cathy: Thanks so much for your kind words. I am so glad you found something meaningful in this piece. It can be very difficult to find a pal or group of pals with similar needs in this busy world. I hope you will keep looking and open yourself to discovering great friends in unusual places. I met someone who I am now very close to when we were both undergoing physical therapy after knee surgery. In just a few minutes of idle chatter we discovered we had so much in common and began exploring that. I hope you do find someone to share a glass of wine with very soon. Don't give up. Thanks again for writing.

      Nancy

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  4. Very well put Nancy! I believe your piece touches women of any age. It definitely applies to me and some days I feel like I'm not that far behind. I miss you my friend. Margarita

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