Why It’s Important That We Set the Example
“I’m showing this to my daughters!” A commenter left this message on a story that I had written about setting a goal for myself to successfully complete 120 pushups – the standard full-plank type – on my 68th birthday.
I did it. That was yesterday morning. I wrote a story about it, posted it, and didn’t expect much.
In fact, I got a lot of feedback, of which this young father’s was the most moving.
My article is NOT about teaching yourself to do pushups. I blog on fitness after 50, and since I do adventure travel, upper body strength isn’t an option. It has at times saved my life.
Being a military veteran and farm girl, I am no stranger to physical labor. That’s not true of everyone, nor do I believe that goals that work for me are going to work for you or anyone else.
Setting the Example
What I will say is that you and I, as elder women, silver sisters, set the example. The example we set teaches our kids and our kids’ kids how to live late in life. To my mind, it’s an enormous and unbelievable responsibility which offers all kinds of opportunities for us to grow into the wise women we were always meant to be.
But it takes work.
If you can eschew, as do I, the ridiculous notion that we have to look incredibly young or be model thin or any of the other largely unreachable standards that are unfair to all of us at any age, you will open the door to the grace, gravitas, humor, and happiness by which we can live well.
That doesn’t take being Jane Goodall or Maya Angelou. It simply means that you and I carve out a unique way of being that works for us, for which we are unapologetic. I assume that nobody gets hurt by that lifestyle. However, the overarching point is to live life with gusto, whatever that means for you.
One dear friend of mine, a Berkeley PhD, learned to ride Harleys in her late 50s. My kinda woman.
Another friend who is also on this platform is a rescue diver and pilot, both of which she earned at 68. My kinda woman.
Your kinda woman might have taken up painting. Or dance. Perhaps she rescues animals or massages horses. Or she works tirelessly to get out the vote. It makes no difference how we choose to express ourselves. It’s how inspired our lives are for ourselves and others. That’s the gift.
Are You a Torch-Bearer?
Until a few years ago, I had a mentor who was a lifelong athlete and serial entrepreneur. She died at 91, and up until the day she passed she worked out with a trainer several times a week, running (slowly) around a lake near her home in Boulder.
She was my example. I was honored to know her, and she knew – because I told her – that she had been my inspiration to start adventure travel at 60.
Meg died five years ago, and she handed me the torch. You and I hold that torch, especially once we pass 60. Even if it wobbles, even if we drop it once in a while, you and I are blazing a path to show younger generations how aging can be done well.
You certainly don’t have to. There is no pressure on you whatsoever to do anything.
However, and I can only speak for myself, the older women who inspired me fully expected me to pay it forward. Their investment in me is paying off not only in my life, but through the responsibility I feel to live as fully as I can until the day I am toes up.
Meg was the example for me that my mother wasn’t. I am today the woman my mother badly wanted to be but couldn’t. This is not a condemnation of her choices. It is more so to point out that we older women can end up being “mothers” to all kinds of people, and in doing so, influence and shape lives of great promise.
But first, our lives have to be full of that promise and action. It does NOT have to be some great world-wide achievement. Some of the most influential women in my world simply did incredible internal work, and their wisdom has been crucial in helping me grow as a person.
The journey doesn’t matter; what matters is whether you and I are doing something that a young parent wants his daughters to know about, for that will help shape their hopes for the future.
We Always Need Inspiration
You and I never stop needing inspiration. Whether it’s from someone like Margaret who, late in life, formed an online platform that now serves some half a million women over 60 worldwide, or a woman who, after her divorce, decides to walk across England or learn a new language so she can teach in Brazil.
Doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing that you and I are being watched. How well we live, how well we handle life’s tough spots, how well we manage our health and happiness, our relationships and ways of being can be seen as the guideposts for those coming behind us.
If you and I surround ourselves, even at this age, with people who inspire us, then we are more likely to become someone living an inspired life. Nobody says you have to. But I can most certainly tell you that you can and will change lives in ways you can’t possibly yet imagine.
For me, as I age towards 70, that is a bright horizon, an exciting future, and a lot to be grateful about.
Do you have someone who inspired you? How has your life been different as the result of an inspiring story or mentor? How did someone impact your young life in ways you now want to pay back?