4min readLifestyle 31 October 2019
Photo credit: Susielangphoto.com
I'm on Instagram. Yes, at 67 I'm on Social Media!! My page is @the.pro.age.woman, and over the last year, it has transformed into a community of 20K followers sharing content, conversation, information, and connections.
Let me start by sharing how this journey started.
In my early fifties, I worked as a fitness and wellness professional with female clients that were midlife and beyond. I was always inclined to coach women to be the best that they can be. I then began scouring internet shops for activewear and street styles geared toward my age group. And that's when I came to the realization that there was not much out there for the stylish, sophisticated, older active woman. What were all the fashion retail companies thinking? We are a huge market! Anyway, I did find things here and there, but, even now, there's still not much targeted to us. There began my experience with invisibility, and I certainly didn't like it.
I retired in my late fifties; although, I did continue a lifestyle of fitness and wellness.
Then in April of 2017, out of the blue, I was diagnosed with Marginal Zone Lymphoma. If you don't know what that is, it is a cancer of the bone marrow and lymphatic system. I had been void of energy for a few months prior; but, never thought it would be cancer. I was 65 years old, fit, strong, playing tennis, or working out almost every day. The diagnosis came as a total shock! After months spent trying to determine the next step, I started a 6 months infusion treatment. Trying to keep up with my weekly routine was daunting; but, I kept trying.
This was the catalyst for what was to happily, as well as surprisingly, come from that moment in time. In April of 2018, while recuperating, I remember thinking, "How can I turn this difficult life event into something positive?" I thought there's got to be a reason why this happened. I needed to find its purpose. I needed to replace all the negative thoughts with thoughts of how to move forward. As you can imagine, this was not so easy.
Well, after a short time, it hit me. I would create an Instagram page, incorporating my passions to provide inspiration, fashion, and fitness tips to women 50 years old and beyond. For many women at this stage of life, there's a feeling of invisibility and a not-knowing what comes next. I know, for me, there was a sense of "if not now, then when?" The thing is, this is the perfect stage of life to move forward, to dig deep and recognize our passions and act upon them. We have more wisdom, as well as a "care less what you think" attitude. We can be free to grow, transform, and evolve.
I started working on my new passion and purpose. I did what I could on my own, but I really had no idea what I was doing, so I began working with an assistant to help me bring my vision to life. She not only does that beautifully, but she teaches me what I need to learn. It has been a perfect intergenerational partnership. It's been fascinating and fun at the same time. So, as I continue to grow, so does my page. There's no telling where life can lead if you just go for it, and if you don't know all the answers, find someone to help.
Initially, my page was created to help women locate cool, edgy studios and street fashions for those wanting that. My perspective is we've earned the right to wear whatever the heck we want! Those "old rules" of what to wear and how to wear it are just simply "old news." As time passed, I needed my mission to be greater than I originally thought. This is when things really took off. I started building a community of like-minded women; that is, midlife and beyond; women that want to live with positivity, growth, involvement, learning, and don't just sit back and watch the world pass them by. As I encourage them, they encourage me as well. It's been a gift to me that I never expected. I began reframing what this later stage of life can look like, and wow, did this resonate with my peers. I call it Pro-Aging..no more anti-aging or age-defying for us. Pro-Aging is a new and exciting way of defining midlife and beyond. It is the idea that no one age is better than another; that we age on a continuum with each year, bringing a unique perspective and learning. It is the "New Age of Aging."
For me, it is making a conscious decision to age with positivity, that is, choosing to be active, relevant, and visible rather than to disappear and decline quietly.
There are definite challenges at this stage of life; but, we have to challenge these challenges by finding strategies to overcome them. We can learn through others' stories and experiences. Pro-aging is choosing to express who we are, to be who we are, and to lead our lives toward fulfillment. It is choosing to live as a reflection of our wisdom, our years of acquired knowledge, our intuitive instincts, our unique traits; while, utilizing our creativity and developed strength to follow our dreams. All this, while we appreciate and applaud our individuality. It's a time to encourage and uplift ourselves as well as each other... stop the negative judgments and ridicule.
Now, believe me, I know it is not an easy task to think with positivity where aging is concerned. It's a process to train your way of thinking. It can be two steps forward and one step back. Let's be honest; as I've said before, there are challenges at this stage of life; bodily and facial changes, economic concerns, health issues, as well as physical and mental fitness limitations. The trick is to continually reshape our mindset to take action, to make strides towards moving forward. It can be challenging, but well worth it.
Here are some helpful tools to help you pro-age:
- Firstly, try to be conscious of your thoughts and change the negative ones to those with a more positive twist. For example, see the wisdom, not the wrinkles. See the wonder of the way our bodies function, not only the size and shape of it. Yes, I am aware of how difficult this is!
- Keep busy with the things YOU enjoy doing (i.e., join classes or hobbies of interest to you). Get involved in group activities with like-minded people.
- Listen to your gut instinct. It will not steer you in the wrong direction.
- Take time for YOU. Learn to say no.
- Stay physically active for heart and bodily strength as well as for mental well-being.
- Eat healthy foods. Yes, you can indulge in moderation.
- Learn ways to manage stress.
- Create a sense of community and friendships. This is so very important. This is what Pro-aging is all about...continually growing and evolving, being bold and fierce while continually emerging. Let's be each other's cheerleaders and reach for the moon.
I'm so looking forward to watching where the Pro-Age evolution takes us. It certainly has been and will continue to be an exciting ride!
4 Min Read
During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.