This is the age of the Crone. The older, wiser woman begins to emerge around the age of forty. Own up to this and enjoy the best part of your life! This is what I want to say here but it is going to sound a bit confusing when I now turn the conversation over to talking about your body. The aging process brings a whole new set of obstacles to face. This is the time in your life when you no longer look the same as your body begins to let loose and an end to the cycle as a tight and firm young woman is over. It is a time when all those crazy symptoms of menopause start showing up as you are transitioning through this final stage of womanhood. Some women have stated that their mood swings can go from being a saint to a demon in the span of a day. This does end eventually though and it shouldn’t define you. Instead, this time period should force you to realize how important it is to set boundaries, if you don’t already. At the same time, women report feeling much more confident at this stage in their life. There is less of concern about how others think of you. Think of this as a time to have fun, despite the new health problems that are beginning to emerge and the changes in your body.
Allow this stage of your life to emerge and blossom. Go with the flow rather than resist it. As they say, “The more you resist, the more it persists.” Women don’t put up with as much in this stage of their life because they are experienced and understand life better. Divorces can occur at this time. Even if you are okay with your spouse or partner, you might still feel you are on the verge of discovery. This is a time of self-awareness that pales in comparison to that of a twenty-something wondering about God for the first time. If it is time to leave your partner, know that it is okay to be alone for a while and just enjoy finding yourself. If it is not time to leave the partner, go on a women’s retreat for a few weeks. Many of you have been craving some time to yourself for quite a number of years now. Give yourself a break! In this final stage of your awakening process it is important to cherish this time in your life, embrace your inner self, allow exploration and creativity, and don’t say, “I can’t do that because I don’t know how.” You are a wiser woman now and you will be surprised at what you can do when you allow yourself.
If you take time to love yourself, you will embrace the aging process, as it is nothing more than another phase in life. It astonishes me the number of women who continue to get plastic surgery when it is quite obvious that it looks ridiculous. How many cartoonish women is it going to take before these women get the message? Unless it is for medical reasons and your insurance is paying, leave your body alone. If you work on your body through exercise and eating right, you are going to look like a normal woman who is getting old. Older women do look beautiful when they flow with the aging process rather than resist it. American women are afraid of this change and often times you see women who have given up and look old or we see celebrities going under the knife and/or using Botox. Being old is not a curse. I watch a lot of foreign TV and films and I can tell you that Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Juliette Binoche look as lovely and as spirited as ever. Some allow themselves to gain a little weight and enjoy eating the fine foods they couldn’t afford in their twenties. All of these women enjoy successful film careers, though I believe Ms. Loren is now writing and focusing more on being a grandmother. I find it is much more important to find role models who embrace the aging process rather than those who don’t. It helps getting through this stage when you aren’t fighting it every step of the way. Embrace your femininity.
If you are like me and it took you a while to realize you need to reclaim your power and make some different choices in life with men, it isn’t too late. As I mentioned, foreign films have lots of movies about women over forty. None of them have to do with plastic surgery but instead are about adventures and starting over and realizing their power. There are some wonderful films that depict older women as they are and in stories that only we can relate to. Films can help give you ideas, give you something to think about. There are magazines for women over forty as well. Of course there is AARP, but I also took advantage of More magazine for some time. Foreign magazines are wonderful guides to consider when it comes to travel and opportunities you haven’t thought of. Magazines on specific countries, such as France, are available at Barnes and Noble.
When I went to the universities I attended, there were plenty of women and men there older than me. Don’t be afraid to go back to college and get a degree. Getting my master’s degree at the age of thirty-eight was the most rewarding moment in my life second only to holding my son in my arms for the first time. I can’t tell you how happy I felt and how proud I was at that time in my life. Every time I look up at the degree on my office wall, I still have a feeling of excitement. Need money? One place to consider looking for scholarships for women is AAUW (American Association of University Women) which is the largest organization to offer scholarships to women and favors women choosing non-traditional careers.
There are also other things you can be doing. Learn a new language and travel to that country to speak it or continue your fluency. Travel with a volunteer program where you do work in another country. I work with lots of women over forty who seek advice from me on how to start over. It is so much fun seeing the delight in their eyes when they begin talking about what they are passionate about. As they do, I offer hints and suddenly, they are off like a race horse. They already know deep in their hearts what they want; it just helps to get a little validation, even permission from another, that it is okay to do these things.
Explore religion and/or a religious calling. Many women and men, after their partners die, consider this as a profession. It is also a place to go for a retreat and soul searching. Many religions offer inexpensive ways to go away for a while and contemplate your future, spiritually and otherwise. This can be a beautiful moment in your life.
Whatever you choose to do, naturally you will see your body changing more and more each year. You will be forced to set boundaries with people that you never imagined before, such as making bathroom breaks more of a necessity wherever you travel. Keep some tissues in your purse, if you have never carried them before, as they come in handy for many things other than sneezing. Traveling with anti-diarrhea medicine or antacids is a must. Make people aware that you are going through menopause so they don’t become alarmed when you pull out a mini-fan or go into a rage about something unexpected. Of course you may not have these particular symptoms at all and if you do, it might be minimal; it is not the same for every woman.
You are becoming your grandmother but you will look much differently than she did. While you still share her standards and grace, your style is much more modern. Instead of wearing an apron, you are wearing a backpack or “fanny pack” and hiking with your grandkids or taking them off to the zoo. There is so much to teach them and so many stories to share. Don’t allow them to use technology when they are with you. Make the most of your time together, just as you did or wanted to do with your own grandma. Don’t focus on them teaching you how to use the computer. Focus on teaching them about life by getting out of the house and exploring the world with them.
Become an artist. Were you held back from this world because it didn’t bring in money or you had no time for it? Get a camera or an easel or sit down with pen and paper and allow the creativity to come out. How about joining the theater and being on stage rather than in the audience? Create a fantasy garden in your backyard that is the envy of the neighborhood. There isn’t anything you can’t do if you want to. Take classes in your chosen art field or join a club. You will meet new people of like minds and you won’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself or hiding out in the corner of your safe new world.
When it comes to fashion, you want to develop your own style as an older woman. This is hard to do when we are in a bleak fashion period where quality is shunned and it is hard to find pieces that we feel comfortable with. Trying to look like you are still twenty is out because it makes you look foolish. Finding clothes meant for older women isn’t easy when stores cater to young women. Abandon the idea of trying to wear pants that sit on your hips because your hips probably aren’t there anymore. The good news is there are many comfortable shoe styles available so that you won’t have to wear the orthopedic shoes of the 50s. The Beehive hair style your mother had is out so you don’t need to go to the hairdresser every week to put goop in your hair. Now you can wear your hair long if you like and let it go gray. Cut down on the makeup because the more you use, the older it makes you look. Eventually, the oils will find the wrinkles and the lip colors will climb away from the lips. Experiment with less and wear none when you are at home doing yard work or when you are out in nature.
Sunscreen, moisturizer, and lip balm are essential ingredients in taking care of yourself. Look for the natural or organic formulas, which love any face. Wear dresses and skirts instead of pants because they are much more comfortable and so much more feminine. With the changes that your body is going through, skirts and dresses hide so many things when you choose a style that is relaxed rather than fit. Pants can be so restricting, especially when your thighs are getting a little too close together. Be free and comfortable and show the world how wonderful it is to be an older woman.
Thought for the Older Woman: You are never alone in this world when you are in the company of others of like minds.