I loved executive and life coach Tania Carriere’s insightful guest post about “becoming” during our Second Act. I think any woman pondering the person she might grow into will feel its resonance.
Tania will be leading a visioning retreat for women October, 2017 in Moloka
i, Hawai`i. I’ll be participating as well – this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity. Details and link at the end of the post. Enjoy!
Helen Mirren made me do it
by Tania Carriere
It was a normal enough moment.
I was sitting at a Starbucks, coffee in hand, putting off some work for a few indulgent minutes of Facebook. I was robotically scrolling, only partially engaged with the usual mix of animals, self-help quotes and messages from friends.
That’s when it happened to me.
That’s when this photo happened to me.
I froze, my scrolling index finger mid-air. I was riveted. I could not stop looking. I felt like I had found something of importance. I looked at it and felt…. Awestruck. Not because of her beauty or her fame but because I didn’t realize until I saw this photo, that this is what womanhood can look like. Real, authentic, vibrant, strong. Bad Ass. Commanding. Awesome. And wrinkled.
And something in me cracked open a little.
I had just started to navigate the changes that come with age. I had gone through 4 different sizes in 2 years as my body decided what kind of metabolism it would like to have that day. There were the reading glasses that I resisted for a year, the lessening of stamina, (staying up past 1 a.m. requires a day off to recover) and the new wardrobe that seemed to have gravitated to tunics and flowing shirts to hide the belly fat and rounded hips that appeared. I tried to hold all these changes with grace and dignity, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having sat down on the little bench in the Nordstom’s changeroom and cried with dismay at a body that I couldn’t seem to anticipate or understand.
I don’t mean to paint an entirely bleak picture. There are great things that come with age too, like no longer seeking “permission” to be the person I really am, giving up the need for people-pleasing, having enough independence of spirit to leave the house without makeup or shaved legs and knowing, exactly, how I like to spend my time. I am eternally grateful for those gifts and the ease that they bring. So it’s not so much that I resisted the changes that came with age, I realized that with the sagging bits came the reward of newfound wisdom. It was more that aging seemed to have landed me in uncharted territory. I didn’t quite know how I was supposed to be in it.
I was perplexed. I had achieved so much and lived a wonderful, expansive life. I had a delightful circle of loved ones. A wonderful career. I did the things I love; dance, travel, read, theatre. I cultivated relationships that charmed me, I ate glorious meals that I delighted in cooking. But there was unrest in me and perhaps, a little sadness? A part of me that struggled with a loss of vibrancy, a giving up of the coltish legged creature that once seemed fearless. I had a longing for the permission that I used to give myself to be glorious.
I used to enjoy the attention I got for my youthful rendition of beauty. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy, just enough to fit the checklist that someone, somewhere decided was the definition of who I should be; thin, blonde, nicely shaped, long legged, exuberant, friendly and full of possibility. I excelled in my profession, got invited into the big meetings, was offered top tables in restaurants and skipped the lines. I travelled, bought a house and stood as a vibrant example of thirtysomething femininity. I was used to the attention that my confidence gave me. The world was mine to conquer, to delight, to engage. Yes, that confidence came at a price. I bristled at and occasionally faltered under at the demands of perfection and got lost in the dark world where self-worth equates body image, but I got noticed. I was a part of those who had the right to be vibrant and boldly stride into whatever lay ahead of them. No matter what, I could count on being seen. At the interview, at the audition, at the first date.
And then suddenly, it seemed almost overnight, I was unseen.
Not rejected, just unseen.
I was no longer in the world of 30-something-vibrant-flat-stomached-world-achievers (heck I am about to enter the world of 50 something) and suddenly I did not register in people’s awareness as I walked by. I was no longer the sassy upstart that people used to see when they looked at me.
And that was the problem. I was not sure who I was at this age and I couldn’t seem find the checklist for a powerful, vibrant, sexy woman of 50+. I was standing there with the old checklist and it was not working. I knew I didn’t want to look like the botoxed version of Barbie, but I also didn’t want the diffuse, shrinking energy of a woman who was no longer in command of her vitality.
Where was it to be found? Where were the examples of women who wore their years, their experience, their glorious ways of being with pride? Women who still exuded vibrant possibility. Women who created a whole new phase of being that lies between Nymph and Crone. Women who left you enchanted, wondering, longing and were over the age of 50?
When I saw this picture of Helen Mirren I became curious. I stopped and looked. I mean, really looked. And then I became envious. Can you believe it??? Envious! The last time I felt envious of anyone older than me I think I was 16 and wishing that I would be a very gown up 21. But look at her – the command of her space, the energy that just leaps out at you, the defiance in her tattoo and her exposed cleavage that just takes the whole notion of being matronly and flips it the bird.
Oh, the stories that she has to tell.
What I wouldn’t have done to pour her a glass of wine (or better yet, a whiskey) and get down to a long talk.
It’s not that I wanted to be her. It was that in seeing her I realized that I didn’t have a vision, a mentor or a knowing of who I wanted to be. I instantly loved this photo, and strangely enough I think I fell in love with myself when I looked at it. The old choices society wanted to offer me just didn’t cut it. The blessing of age is that I could see that they never did. It was high time that I decided how this next decade or two (or four) are going to look and feel. I Re-Imagined myself, finding the new markers for MY new definition of this Self. I erased the page, creating space to be the kind of woman that I would envy.
And if someone asked me about a new sizzle in my responses, the reappearance of my coltish legs from under the tunics, the haircut and the sultry attitude I’d just respond….
Helen Mirren made me do it.
And pour myself a whiskey.
About the Retreat
The Re-Imagined Self is a mini-sabbatical, a moment in time that leaves the everyday behind, where you can drop in, hear the questions that you are already asking, but don’t have the energy, time or courage to answer.
These 7 days in Hawaii, in the company of a small group of like-minded women, will rejuvenate the creative spirit while exploring identity, achievement and what makes yours a life well lived.
As executive and life coach, I have been leading discovery retreats of self exploration for over 15 years. Join me and Lynette Sheppard in this unique opportunity to Re-Imagine the Self you are today. Click the link for details: