The amazing Helen Mirren is credited with this quote:
Your 40s are good. Your 50s are great. your 60s are fab. Your 70s are F*@ing awsome.
When I first read it, the 40s, 50s, and 60s decades resonated. But the 70s? F*@ing Awesome?
I tried hard to believe her — I really did . But I wasn’t totally buying it.
The 40s were good. I got married, had a son, enjoyed being young and healthy. But before the decade was done, dissatisfaction cast its shadow and darkened into a full fledged storm of divorce. Better things were coming. I managed.
I’ll agree the 50s were great. I felt some discrimination for the first time in this youth-obsessed, Instagramed culture we’re fed. Fifty seemed the invisible tipping point that toppled me over to the silver singles realm of on-line dating. It kinda pissed me off. Yet… at the same time I got smarter and began learning to have a relationship with myself… and enjoyed my freedom!
The 60s, where I’m currently running out the clock, have been fab. I’ve stopped both trying too hard and taking myself too seriously. I’ve gotten away with scamming fear a few times and even traveled solo half way around the world, and I’ve come to accept and like the skin I’m in (well most of the time).
Which brings us to the 70s being awesome. I wasn’t buying it initially. Why was that?
Well, for starters Covid-19 has hit this age group and older the hardest not only with infections but also with deaths. And many of us, myself included, have shamefully accepted this as less serious.
I’ve heard from women in mid life complaining of feeling invisible. Just wait a couple of more decades. Another wrote about the benefits of being invisible. What?? No way. I see no possible benefits to being invisible. I still want to be deemed relevant in the world. Invisibility be damned!
But as I stewed on these self imposed, narrow perceptions, I noticed that the world, and even social media are slowly changing, and elders are being recognized for their sex appeal, style, and talent, as well as wisdom and experience.
Just look at the actor Stanley Tucci, an Instagram star with a huge following mixing cocktails for his wife in his slim- fitting black polo.
There’s been an explosion of gorgeous, silver-haired models and social media influencers selling, very successfully, I might add, beauty products.
But what has really kicked out the jams of my faulty thinking and prejudice are the recent Academy Award nominations of actors who not only represent diversity but also elders in their 70s. Their perseverance and stories are inspirational.
Self taught Korean star, Yuh-Jung Youn, up for best supporting actress for her role in “Minari,” spent 50 years in TV and movies in her homeland before being recognized here in the US. She is the first Korean woman to be nominated: “Me, a 73-year-old Asian woman could have never even dreamed about being nominated for an Oscar.” A divorcee who raised two sons Youn decided when turning 60 that she would only take on projects with people whom she trusted exemplifying the philosophy that I want to embrace. That is: to live and age on my own terms.
Seventy-two-year old actor, Paul Raci, also nominated for best supporting actor in the film “Sound of Metal,” had been playing bit parts in Hollywood for the past 40 years before he was discovered by Director Darius Marder for the role of a deaf, recovering, Vietnam vet. He always felt he was capable of more, and when nothing happened, he continued to hope and pray for a break through.
To realize that dreams can still come true in ones 70s, even after decades of dead ends, is truly remarkable. They’ve both shown us that this is a time for refirement not retirement, modeling that the best can still be… yet to come.
So I’ve changed my perspective. At a time when I thought I should be content driving through life on cruise control, I’m going to put my pedal to the medal…and mettle… and never look back in the rear view mirror of the past.
These 3 easy practices, done together, might even manifest an adventure.
Five years ago, I started an inner journey and stumbled upon three easy yet different processes that I, fortuitously, did at the same time. These three things shook up my life and sent me on an adventure that continues to this day.
It began with a picture I’d cut out of a magazine of a lithe, ballerina-like figure balancing on a tightrope with the aid of a tiny, black parasol. The background was dreamy and verdant. I responded to this picture in a visceral way, but its meaning remained a mystery. I placed it in the center of my poster board and just let intuition run rampant and continued to cut away other visuals and words/phrases that sparked a response. I’ve dubbed this my Mining the Unconscious Board.
At the same time, I dusted off the cover of Julian Cameron’s wonderful book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, and started writing three, stream of conscious morning pages right after waking up each day.
For the umpteenth time, I also tried meditating, but this time I stuck with it. I took the advice of a friend who recommended the lectures and guided meditations of Dr. Joe Dispenza, a meditation expert and neuroscientist.
Guided by a higher power, I practiced these three things together, and my life hasn’t been the same since. I’ll go into these in depth in a minute, but first, you might relate to what precipitated this discovery.
In 2015 I was living in a state of what I considered “quiet desperation.” Divorced, with an empty nest, and feeling stifled in my teaching career, I longed for change. The thought of my life cementing into a numbing routine terrified me. I wanted to feel alive again. The new year and upcoming birthday would allow me to take my retirement without any penalties, but it would be a risky move financially.
For months I agonized over this decision. Seeking answers, only I could find within, I haphazardly began this practice of three. Then in June, a week before school let out, I literally jumped off that high wire into the unknown and retired. Well, semi-retired.
My friends and family were shocked.
Not one for bucket lists and without a plan for the future, I found myself both exhilarated and petrified. Mostly exhilarated. The only thing I did know was that I would change things up.
In August invisible gale forces gathered me up and suddenly blew me into action. A close friend from Perth and her daughter from the Kimberley of Australia came for a visit. Upon discussing my recent news, they in unison asked the question: What are you waiting for?
A month later things magically fell into place. I had my house rented for a year to the perfect couple, a friend offered me free rent in the interim, and I began plans for a solo trip to New Zealand and Australia for nine months…on a budget. At the same time, I started writing, something I’d wanted to do for years. I left on January 11th 2016, and published 30 blogs. It was a trip that changed my life.
And it didn’t stop there.
After being home again for two and a half years, I started feeling unsatisfied. Then one day I discovered a box of books I’d misplaced, and in the box I found my The Artist’s Way book and a binder of the morning pages I’d written before. I figured it was a sign and started writing them again.
I had never stopped my meditation practice and thought it might be time to create another mining the unconscious board. Pictures of lovely rooms spoke to me and a map of Brooklyn, NY, were posted along with words and phrases about adventure and new beginnings. For years I’d always wanted to move to New York City, but the time was never right.
In July of 2019, things magically fell into place again. It’s hard to explain but it’s like being caught up in a wild surge of electrifying energy. Invisible hands ushered me forward, and in November I found a sublease in exactly the Brooklyn neighborhood I wanted that included a separate room for a studio. In December, I sent a piece I wrote about finding a roommate in the millennial world of Brooklyn, which resulted in an interview and then a half page feature article in The New York Times Renter’s column in March of 2020.
Vision boards and dream boards are nothing new. They are powerful visualization tools that allow you to create a tangible representation of dreams, goals, and your ideal life. But they tend to be externally focused on material things you want to manifest in your life. I am more interested in having experiences that will make me feel alive, and by mining my unconscious, I look for pieces to the puzzle that prompt questions such as What is this revealing to me? which in turn, eventually lead to answers.
Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, believed that there is a whole world of fears, desires, and feelings that lay hidden in repressed memories, in repressed memories, in our unconscious, that can have an effect on our current behavior. The analogy of the iceberg is often used to help conceptualize the workings of the mind. “The things that represent our conscious awareness are simply ‘the tip of the iceberg.’ The rest of the information that is outside of conscious awareness lies below the surface. While this information might not be accessible consciously, it still exerts an influence over current behavior.”
Tapping into the unconscious isn’t easy. Freud used dreams and free association. Cutting out pictures and words that you react to in a visceral way is a form of free association, and it’s fun.
So get your magazines together and let your intuition be your guide. Cut out pictures, words, and phrases that speak to you. Once you feel you have enough, begin arranging and rearranging them on the poster board. What picture(s) are especially intriguing? What word, or words put together in a sentence, resonate? Once you’re satisfied, glue them in place. Put your collage where you will regularly see it, perhaps a night stand in the bedroom.Then marvel at the mystery of what it means!
This is also a great creative writing tool. Find a picture, then arrange your cut out words phrases into sentences to create a narrative. Often stories reveal themselves.
2. The Morning Pages
The morning pages are another form of free association, and they are done upon waking when our brain is still in a theta wave, twilight state between sleeping and waking. Right after getting up, I grab my notebook, make my coffee and sit down to do my three pages. It takes about 20–25 minutes. Done in longhand, you simply write stream of consciousness.
This cathartic writing frees you to dump any negative monkey mind thinking. For instance, you can let that inner critic rip, and then he/she is silenced for the rest of day allowing you to be more open and receptive to creativity. Just write whatever comes into your mind. Cameron recommends writing morning pages for three months, which is what I did in the past, but I’ve been doing them daily now for a year, and they’ve become part of a routine of good habits I’m cultivating.
3. Daily Meditation — Start Small But Start
I’ve known about the benefits of meditation for years, and reading Eckhart Tolle’s bookThe Power of Nowmotivated me to start. But I just didn’t keep up with it until I was introduced to Dr. Joe Dispenza, who for years has been studying the effects of meditation on the brain. His scientific approach and combined research in neuroscience, quantum physics, epigenetics, and more appealed to me. He has numerous, well articulated videos available on YouTube. His teachings worked for me.
Regardless of where you draw inspiration, the point is to start. Begin with just five minutes each day then gradually work up to ten. It gets easier with practice, and you’ll notice perks right away. I noticed I felt happier more and more and less stressed. No small feat during these crazy times.
Any one of the above three will improve your life, but done together…well… the results can be extraordinary.
So give it a go! What have you got to loose? In any event, you just might experience, as Joseph Campbell put it, “…the rapture of being alive.”