Did you ever think, “Ah, when I’m 65, I can finally do what I’ve wanted to do for so long: I can read when I want, be creative, take afternoon naps, see friends and play with my grandkids”?
That old Golden-Years dream of pursuing our passions has a lot of holes in it these days. Instead, just when things should be getting easier, many women find themselves having to recreate, redefine, and reinvent themselves.
My dear friend Annie, a retired psychologist, started painting and hand-building ceramics after she stopped working. She couldn’t get enough creativity. She showed in galleries and developed a following.
She and her husband lived in Bali part of the year and, as their brilliant daughter launched into the adult world, they thought they were home free. But one grandson later and a devastating divorce for their daughter changed all of that.
Now Annie spends a lot of her creative time doing child care, transportation, and laundry. She rarely comes to Bali and laments, “I never thought my life would go this way. It’s a constant challenge of letting go of where I thought I would be in my 70s and accepting where I’ve landed.”
Some of us have been cruising along earning a living as entrepreneurs, building businesses to sustain ourselves, and living satisfying lives. Then Social Media came along and changed how business is run.
We find ourselves scrambling to keep up, trying to learn what does not come naturally to us, and trying to understand how to utilize these rapidly changing technologies.
I have had a business carving mammoth tusk, an ancient ivory at least 10,000 years old and dug out of the permafrost in the Yukon, Alaska, and Siberia.
After 25 years in the business, supporting carvers, staff plus myself, I have to rethink what I’m doing. Several American states have already made all ivory illegal whether it’s ancient or not.
At first, I panicked. I’m a jewelry designer, and this was my signature material. What was I going to do? Retirement is neither in my vocabulary nor my bank account. I have to keep working.
Another friend, Sheri, found several of her income streams drying up. She was in the same boat I was in. We both wanted to pull back and work less, but now we were thrown into the steaming pot of reinvention, and we hadn’t a clue how to do that.
It was not an easy ride. Fear tried to claim us many times, and we both had to overcome visions of becoming ‘bag ladies’.
Perhaps because we have been creative most of our lives, we figured out – after some time of gestation (a.k.a. quiet desperation) – the directions we could take.
I expanded my carving business to include bone, wood, jet, stone and tagua nut, thus reaching new clients – clients not interested in the mammoth tusk.
Sheri built a website on her own and is using social media to drive clients to it. She started designing articles of clothing she’d never considered, such as batik boxer shorts with matching robes to sell on a web-based platform.
If I had to boil it down to the concepts we used, they would be acceptance, trust, and perseverance. Plus having a strong female support system to keep us positive and out of a fetal position, sucking our thumbs!
One of the hardest parts (and they are all hard) and the first step in this situation is accepting that elder life is not going to be as you envisioned it.
Grieve that loss. Cry, rant, contemplate, and process with your support group. Then move on. Without the acceptance of what is there is no way to reinvent yourself.
You have survived this long. Trust that you will find the right path to continue surviving. I remind myself of this over and over: “I’m 72. I have gotten this far, why would that change?”
Of course, you can go into a million scenarios including poverty, illness, or death of a loved one. But just notice those fear stories, acknowledge them, and move back to trust.
You will probably have to do this over and over but don’t give up. As a wise old sage once said, “My life was terrible and 98% of it never happened.”
Both acceptance and trust require perseverance. Grit your teeth and do the work, whatever that entails for you. We are women – we are strong, and we can get through almost anything.
It was these three techniques that got me through fourteen years of caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s. And it’s these three ‘ways of being’ that have been helping me reinvent myself the last few years. It’s still a work in progress.
By the way, Annie arrives in Bali in a month, after an almost two-year absence.
In what ways have you had to reinvent yourself after 60? Please share with our readers how you did that and any inspiration you have for others in the middle of this process.
Tags Reinventing Yourself