Aging Proudly: 5 Ways to Fight Back Against “Age-Defying”

68. And a half. That’s my age number, and I’m proud of it.

Or at least I’m working on it. Constantly.

My little grandkids will announce my age number loud and proud to anyone in line at Stop and Shop –  so why does part of me cringe when they do?

We’re Here to Love and Pass On Wisdom

In my best self, I, too, announce the number loud and proud. But…that little inner voice…the one fueled by years of “don’t admit you’re a grandma”, and “but you don’t look your age” , Zoom image enhancers, Insta photos of Christie Brinkley in a swimsuit (rockin’ it, as she always has, now at age 67), and countless ads for products that invite us to DEFY age, to DENY age, and to FIGHT age…that inner voice sometimes struggles.

And then, there’s plastic surgery for vanity’s sake. Don’t even get me started — and yes, of course it’s sometimes tempting – not the slicing of my face, just the supposed results.

I once voiced a documentary that mentioned a myth where a young man was advised to “seek out someone with grey hair, for they will be wise.” When did that wisdom become something to be feared, hidden – something shameful?

I’m frickin; wise, dammit!

My biggest teachers here are my granddaughters, ages 5 and 3 1/2 – and (of course) their mom, my daughter. If I were to act all coy about my age, blush with embarrassment when someone says the number (gasp!) out loud, or stare into the mirror obsessing about my wrinkles – what does that say to them about getting older?

Happy Proud Birthday, whatever the number!

Getting older. Is it something to desire (seems to be, until about age 21…), or to bemoan? In this world, where Gen Z is poking fun at Millennials on TikTok (yes  -insert eyeroll here – I know what TikTok is. Also Clubhouse.), when do we express respect – and admiration – for the wisdom that comes with age?

Women (especially) are trained to pick apart their appearance, to focus on specific parts that they’d like to “fix.”. Other people – especially those who love us – see the whole, not the parts. My grandkids look at me and only see pure, mutual love.

 

Five ways to rethink Age-Defying:

1 – Notice what you are telling yourself about your age.  Catch yourself judging yourself – or others – when a number is mentioned. Is it the number, or what you are telling yourself it represents?

2 – Question where any negative “stories” come from. Is it that magazine ad you just saw for Botox? Is it the sitcom where the older person (parent, grandparent, senior manager) is portrayed as an idiot? Is it something that was modeled for you by your own family or friends? (“oh, my god, I look so old in that picture! Rip it up!!”)

3 – Replace the words with another message. Not so easy. Models are hard to find. Compile a list of go-to phrases that work for you. I often remind myself that women (especially) are trained to pick apart their appearance, to focus on specific parts that they’d like to “fix.”. Other people – especially those who love us – see the whole, not the parts. My grandkids look at me and only see pure, mutual love.

4 – Seek out role models for age-proudness – and be one. Look for celebrities who haven’t had plastic surgery.  Which ones own their age without apology? Who has a sense of humor about it? Think Bette Midler, Sigourney Weaver, Sally Field, Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Justine Bateman. Jeez, we all get older! We are LUCKY to get older. Hollywood, and advertising creators, just don’t often agree.

5 – Limit Social Media Overuse. Come on, seriously? Filters, photo editing, selfies that were the best out of 15. Instead: Learn something new. Take a class. Read a book. Draw a picture. Toss a ball. Take a walk somewhere where the trees are way oldewr than you are.  Expand horizons, that kinda thing. It’s what we’re here to do.

so….what next?

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Processing Time: Why Happier Does Not Mean Constantly Happy

I had a day on Sunday. You know, where I just couldn’t shake my sadness the way I usually can.

Ever have one of those? (If you say no, then you may want to check your pulse.)

As a “happier” writer, and the person people seem to seek out when they want a more optimistic perspective, it isn’t easy to fall into the occasional hole of a less-than-stellar mood.

But, boy, is is necessary. We just might want to be careful what we do while we’re down there, wallowing or figuring it out or whatever.

Moody thoughts are normal. All feelings are not only acceptable, but often necessary. Nothing wrong with that. But, as I teach my kids and grandkids, it’s what you do or say to others during those moods that can have a lasting, negative effect.

So – much as I wanted to “reason” myself out of the funk, I knew what I really had to do:

I just let myself be sad.

As a singing teacher once said to me, “Honey, your mind just has some work to do. Let it do its job, and let go.”  (I may be paraphrasing here, but you get the gist)

Sometimes, we just need processing time. Marinating, for you Food Network fans.

Think. Feel. Dwell. But don’t – please, don’t – say mean words, make rash decisions, do hurtful things to another human being until you feel in balance again.

Also, don’t judge yourself for your fall from “happier.” Human, human, human.

 

To be fair, the day had started out great.

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Hello Again, Stranger!: Tiptoeing Back Into Small Encounters

How I’ve missed you, person I meet by accident. We’ve been in our caves, zooming away, and hiding behind our masks for too long.

Cheers!

Yesterday my daughter Ali and I went took her three little munchkins out for ice cream at a local shop located on a family farm. Afterwards we went out to see the donkeys (gotta get fertilizer for the corn crop from somewhere!), and in the blink of an eye our 5yo made instant friends with another little girl named Emily, and (blink again) suddenly our kid troupe of three was a horde of five kids – Emily had a little brother – running around as if they’d known each other forever.

Being able to go out somewhere and accidentally meet and talk with someone random is something I hadn’t even been aware I missed so much.

Ah, people.

And, as moms of any age do, Ali and I started to chat with Emily’s mother. They don’t live in our town, so it’s unlikely we’d run into them again. Still, what a nice ten-minute conversation – we covered sleep training, school in a pandemic, sibling rivalry, and ice cream flavors.  And then we each went home to our separate lives.

But – oh, how lovely. For the past year, most “meetings” with people outside our pods have been carefully orchestrated, sanitized, and/or with a computer screen between us. Being able to go out somewhere and accidentally meet and talk with someone random is something I hadn’t even been aware I missed so much.

Ah, people.

  • Ah, little child sitting next to me on an airplane who gives me a sticker from her collection to put on my iPad case.
  • Oh, couple we chat with at the bar, talking about our families, our work, even (sometimes) politics.
  • Oh, woman behind me in the produce section who shares exactly how she can tell a melon is ripe. (thank you!)
  • And -for me – oh my audience members how I miss you. The exchange of energy, the shared laughter during the show or presentation, , the small chats afterwards.

How I’ve missed you. How I treasure you. These small encounters are little gifts from the universe that we didn’t know we needed, experiences to remind us that we don’t have all the answers, and that some of our plans need to be flexible.

Because: life.

Let’s inch out of this pandemic together, probably on tiptoe, but let’s never forget how much we can meant to each other – even in ways we took for granted, or didn’t remember to treasure, before we were isolated from them.

Stranger: welcome back. I appreciate you as never before.

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April’s Word: Complete. How Did it Go?

Well…is anything ever really complete? (*sighs* started with a disclaimer…no-judgment zone)

As you may be aware, this year I opted out of New Year’s Resolutions (okay, opted out again) and chose instead a try-and-see approach simply by choosing a word for each month, no pressure, and seeing what might happen.

April’s Word

April’s word: complete. Well, it was going to be finish, but that sounded too much like a command and I hate being told what to do (even by me). Complete, on the other hand, is a gentler verb (as in “you complete me.” Corniness aside, it’s still kinda sweet). Complete can also be an adjective, with all sorts of warm fuzzies attached. (as in, my life is complete, a self-talk phrase I used a lot during my 16 single-parenting years.. Better than, um,  my life is finished. You get the point. Word choice matters.)

Bottom line results for April: I did complete a few things (yay), but more often I just made some progress. And, as one of the Covid-era  online webinars I took reminded me: Progress is a form of success. (Shout-out to Brandon Eastman’s Be Better Industries).

Everything I did complete felt SO. DAMN. GOOD. Completion leaves open space.

Done: (work projects with deadlines don’t really count, as we’re usually motivated for those)

  • Completed (or skimmed and donated, truth be told) some books still left piled in

    Love my Sis – Color Adds to Doodles

    my reading spot from January’s word: Open.

  • Completed three of the masterclasses I’d started (Steve Martin on Comedy, Ron Finley on Gardening; Nancy Cartwright on Voice Acting)
  • Fixed the stuff in the mending pile
  • 2nd vaccine shot received!

Progress: (projects that had been getting pushed aside more each day):

  • Voice education started in January (warm-ups and reading)
  • 2 doodling classes (March’s word: Visual Art)
  • The happiness class I’d started (online) – hey, made it to end of week 2 (am I the only one here who starts a class and lets it slide?…show of hands, please)

So – if I were to grade the power of this word for me I’d give it a B+ – allowing for just being human.  Might try that word again. Everything I did complete felt SO. DAMN. GOOD. Completion leaves open space.

Note: I noticed that I never completed blogging about my words for February or March. So there’s that.

Briefly:

February’s word was: Write.

Results:

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Legacy: The too-short life of Amy Oestreicher

Ten years ago, I auditioned to play a role I’d performed twice before: Nancy in Oliver. I didn’t get cast (it had been a long shot, age-wise, but hey). The role went to my friend Amy – who was, to be fair, much more suited to it. Not only was Amy 30 years younger than I am, but she actually looked the part of the underfed, abused waif that Dickens’ Nancy probably was. 

Why did Amy look so thin?  

She hadn’t eaten anything for over three years. She was kept alive thanks to a daily IV solution, administered because she no longer had a stomach. Said stomach had literally exploded a few years prior, due to a major blood clot, right before Amy was supposed to graduate high school and go on to the prestigious college musical theatre program she’d been accepted to.

Instead of prom, Amy had spent months in a coma, at death’s door. She survived, after over 10 surgeries in the first week alone(!).  And she went on to a long “detour” of a life changed by medical crisis.   

Last week, though, death’s “door” finally opened to Amy. She passed awy, a few days shy of her 34th birthday and just days after her second book was published, with her loving family by her side. I think her body, after countless surgeries and challenges, had finally given up.  

In the 16 years between Amy’s near-death and her actual passing last week,  she left a legacy that will give gifts to the world forever. We all leave a legacy of some sort, really– the love we give, the work we do – it all adds to the world, and stays behind when our bodies go.  

Amy’s One-Woman show – highlights are on youtube

Amy Oestreicher, though, went far beyond the usual legacy – she left us with concrete examples of  courage, resilience, humor, art and inspiration that will touch people forever. What she did – what she chose to do – with those 16 years is a gift and inspiration to us all. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving.  

Bank to Oliver. I saw that show, and Amy absolutely rocked that part. Even though, during intermissions, she had to hook up to the IV to get nutrients.  After many surgeries, she also was – finally – able to drink something. Well, sort of drink.  

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Unmoored: What To Do if Life Goes Adrift

I’m not a huge interpreter of dreams, but last night’s was a doozy. My home was about to fall into a sinkhole. ( What ?!?!  )

So I had to climb onto the roof, leaving behind all I had worked so hard to create.  Carefully chosen wallpaper, brownies baking in the oven – all abandoned; I climbed up, nearer to the sky (with a friend, identity unknown) as the house drifted into the water (I guess I had scored a waterfront property in this dream, wahoo) – destination entirely unknown. No map. Just safety from disaster, and no choice but to trust that we would land somewhere. Somehow.  And eventually we did land – on an island where my family was among others waiting to share this new experience.

I know where this dream came from. Life is like that now for me – unmoored. Maybe for you too. My business has changed. More people getting into voice-overs and narration – suddenly everyone and their grandmas have created in-home audio and video studios, (and so my cool set-up isn’t the novelty it used to be).and they are lowering price points.

Live speaker gigs with actual people have disappeared for now – or morphed into virtual presentations. Even audiobook narration (my constant staple in 2020) slowed down for awhile – so I ‘ve had more unscheduled time than I had before Covid, and have been feeling (like in the dream) adrift and unmoored. Not sure what to leave behind, not sure what the Universe is trying to tell me.

One year (and counting) into this pandemic, and I can barely remember what it felt like to have a jam-packed day and then gratefully collapse back home, grateful to slow down at last. Can you?

So – we adjust. I’ve jumped (or been forced to jump) many times before, and have always landed on my feet. I bet you have as well.

But in-between the old and the new, there is that time we spend adrift. Boats unmoored, not quite knowing how to navigate.

Still – there is a lesson in everything. I firmly believe that. I have to. I’ve been unmoored before – and, looking back, it always led me to greater things.

So – we adjust. I’ve jumped (or been forced to jump) many times before, and have always landed on my feet. I bet you have as well.

My husband deserted our family when my kids were 3 and 6, leaving me to fully support and raise my son and daughter. This led to a new career as a radio broadcaster, and also a drama teacher. It also inspired me to greater heights as an actor and voice talent.

After 17 years, the radio station decided suddenly to “make a change”. I felt lost (unmoored). This feeling led to time to write my book (Ben Behind His Voices) – and to my speaking career, national and international.

Two years ago, I discovered that my biological father was actually a sperm donor – and my whole concept of “family” had to change. This led to discoveries: a new genetic half-sister; a reinforced concept of the value of “shared experience” and that family is what you embrace.

Every job loss, every relationship gone pffft!, every empty space left when you lose something is also an opportunity. Sometimes you know where to steer the boat – sometimes you don’t. In that case, some faith is required.

  • Stop flailing and complaining
  • Let Go of the past
  • Listen to what the world seemed to be telling me
  • Trust that you don’t know – or control – everything. But you do have choices.
  • Take a New Step off the boat onto that new land.

How about you? When have you been set adrift in the past, and what happened (oh, hindsight, you fantastic teacher). What did you learn? What new things did the open sea lead you do?

Unmoored. For now. Where will you travel to?

 

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Art: Creating for the Non-Artist

Word of the month for March:

Art.

Why?

Because I’m not an artist – at least, not a visual one.

Why do it, then?

Three reasons:

  • It can be fun.
  • It reaches another part of the brain
  • Hey, ya never know. Maybe you are a visual artist of sorts.

We all have our “gifts” – you know, the interests and abilities that  come to us easily, almost as if the universe is calling us to them.

painted field

Eviana Asked me to Draw This

For some of us, we see our purpose in the gifts that seem to have been there from birth. These mysterious talents (“I don’t know, I just started playing piano at age three and my parents couldn’t keep me away from it”) define us almost from the get-go. And well they should, in many cases.

But – what if we’ve let this definition of “who we are” cage us in too much? What can we gain if we just try some other things, letting go of having to be “good at it”? What if we open the door to another room and just live there for awhile and see what happens?

My word for March is “Art” because I want to see and feel what happens in the room.

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What’s in a Word? Turns Out, a Whole Lot.

Screw New Year’s Resolutions. Especially this year, unless the resolution is to just, well, stay alive. (Stupid Covid.) I can’t remember the last time I made a resolution, anyway, since my higher self knows they only make it until mid-January at best. Then it’s another whole 11½ months of Oreos buttered popcorn, and guilt until we “resolve” again.

I tried New Year’s “Goals” too – you know, changing the word to be more, um, productive. Even broke the goals down into monthly ones. Helped a bit. But nah. Ultimately, I ended up accomplishing only part of the list (the things I wanted to do the most), but also – and this is important for all of us to realize – many things that hadn’t been on the list of goals to begin with. Hmm.

Sometimes, life shows us the way, instead of the other way around.

But I still do believe that our thoughts, and the words we choose to express them, are the seeds of everything that follows.

Sometimes, life shows us the way, instead of the other way around.

So, this year, I choose words. One word. Not for the year (evidently I’m not so great with commitment), but one for each month. Easier, right?

One little change…

Choose a word, repeat it to yourself frequently, and observe what happens: what you do, and also what happens to you (or what you “attract”, for you New-Age thinkers)

The possibilities, as they say, are endless. You can choose an action, an attitude a focus, a theme. Experiment and see what works. Much easier than a resolution. You can’t really fail at an experiment – just get some results that inform you. Emotionally safe!

Words are shortcuts, too.

My word this month was: OPEN. Just that. Nothing attached, except what came to mind in the moment.

And here’s what happened:

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Dear Evi: Wishing You Simple Childhood Joys

Dearest grandbaby Eviana –

Simple Toys bring Best Joys

Simple Toys bring Best Joys

New Year’s Eve Day has forever gained a new meaning, leaving things like resolutions in the dust of a much more important focus: your birthday.

This year, you will be one whole year old on December 31, and you’ve already changed the world. Well – ours, at least. Your joy, your love, your needs, your snarky sense of fun and play…what an amazing person you already are!

And of course all other parents and grandparents feel the same about their babies. And so it goes, quite beautifully. But watching you grow in this past year has opened the window even wider to some nostalgia for a simpler time – and I hope, as your Grammy, to be a part of making sure these joys are part of your life.

A few truths you have reminded me of:

  • People need to play. It’s what you do all day, and something we all need to fit into our lives.
  • People love to learn. It’s not a “chore”, it’s a privilege. I see your face light up whenever you learn something new.
  • It’s fun to laugh. And your laughter has sparked so many laughs in me. I’ve missed that!
  • People want to connect. Differences disappear on the playground. As long as someone else (child or caregiver) is considerate, kind, and caring, there is no color or clothing that can be judged. We need each other. Love does indeed trump divisiveness.

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In a Word: New Year Changes Made Simple

Bah! Humbug! to New Year’s Resolutions.

I mean, seriously, have they ever really worked for you? If so, then you are a stellar human being and – seriously – I applaud you.

So this is for the rest of us.

what's yours for the new year?

what’s yours for the new year?

Simple instructions: pick one word to focus on in 2017. (Come on, you can do it!. Write it down, in your own handwriting, and place it where you can see it. And see what happens this year.

I don’t wanna pre-judge your word, but I find it’s best to pick an active verb, something that can translate into action when you it spires you – otherwise the magic can’t really happen as well. It kind of pays there like a dead fish.

Words like: dream, hope, believe…they’re nice and all, but rather inward-focused and passive.

On the other hand, what happens when you:

  • Share?
  • Hug?
  • Finish?
  • Simplify?
  • Organize?
  • Upgrade?
  • Weed? 
  • Focus?
  • Listen?

Feel the difference?

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