You never lose your power. Some of us misplace it or believe it’s diminished over time. We might need a lot of shaking and stirring to bring it to the surface. Then we rinse, dry, polish, and put it back where it belongs. Any place we want.
We’re all essentially the same person we were in childhood. Life weakens and fortifies us. We crawl out of swamps and bask in the light of our accomplishments. And we all break, but the miracle is that most of us mend. We recover from setbacks and illnesses of the mind and body. We may not seem the same on the surface, to ourselves or others, and we may develop a few gnarly habits. Nevertheless, our power is with us. And we’re whole enough.
This is truly true. All the strength you need to survive and thrive is in you. A lot of people believe our capacity fades over time, especially employers. And truth be told, many of our friends and family feel the same way. The collective message is a foghorn.
When you paddle hard through middle age, you might forget what you are capable of. You may not be as fast as you were in your teens, you may regularly forget things and struggle with word retrieval, but deep down you’re still 100% you. No less, maybe more.
Being a tortoise, instead of a hare, seems like a good thing. Who wins the race? I’m not saying we’re tortoises, but I would suggest that wisdom and persistence is a winning combination. My Aunt Kay always beat me in tennis because she knew where to place the ball. No amount of lung capacity or agility could overcome her acquired-over-time skill at lobbing the ball to the back line or returning the ball a foot from the net. She started playing tennis in her thirties. I started playing tennis when I eight-years-old.
Knowing I have the power I had as a child is a substantial revelation. I unearthed it courtesy of being lashed a like clapboard home in a hurricane. So many things unraveled this year. Good things and really bad things happened. At my lowest point, I realized that I was still the person who defied sweet nuns and forged her own way, set goals with a singleness of purpose, and rarely entertained failure. I am still the person who applied to one college and set her sights on one job at one place.
In my fifties, while my contemporaries were empowered by aging, I focused more on failure than achievement. I sat, and even laid down, in all the rotten expectations for women. Vitality, youthful beauty, a slim body, fashionable (and odd) attire, and a narrow view of what it means to achieve. Also, I completely missed the memo about letting go of insecurities in your fifties even though I read plenty of reflections in popular magazines about women who were liberated in middle age. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen to me. I felt inferior.
At age 61, as a result of some serious setbacks, I found the buried power I desperately needed. I couldn’t believe it was still there, and couldn’t believe I let it go.
Life’s trials haven’t necessarily made me a better person. A little bit better, but they’ve helped me resurrect my power. I feel it when I shake off petty insults and make decisions with confidence. And when I put the worst news in the proper perspective. I’m pretty sure I can stand up to any challenge.
Now, for some confessions. These are a few of the regrettable things I’ve done for conventional reasons. Times when my power was dialed low by outside forces. I regret getting Botox treatments three times. I’m sorry I wore Spanx a lot or applied dangerously old mascara rather than none at all. I wish I never checked the size of someone’s engagement ring, always, or noted the brand of car he or she drove, always. And, oh my God, I feel stupid for judging people’s intelligence by the college they attended or type of job they have. Most of all, I deeply regret not spending more time with people who are different than me. I would have learned so much more about being and living.
I probably have a decent amount of time left for improvement. It should be a little bit easier now that the power is with me for good.
Beautifully written and I’m with you with one exception. I’ve had Botox once. It took ten years off my face and if I could, I’d have it again and again. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have the means to age gracefully but here I am wrinkles and all. I require a 10x magnifying mirror to remove chin hair (the alternative would be a white goatee). That mirror is my biggest nemesis, and a necessary evil. It reveals every expanding pore, laugh lines that aren’t at all funny and an age that seems so surreal because inside I feel decades younger. I will say that when major stars proudly donned gray hair at Cannes and declared the end to wearing a bra, I felt a sense of relief. I guess my mirror is a gift and a curse as it it forces me to reconcile that while I enter my third act on this planet, where I’m going next I don’t believe I’ll ever have to pluck another hair again. In the meantime, I’m slowly accepting what is. I still want Botox but I will say I discovered one hack to happiness the other day when I tried on every one of my bathing suits and was actually happy with the way I looked. The hack was not wearing my glasses, and standing 10’ from the mirror. A work in progress.
You are fantastic! Thanks for every last word!!
Hi Maureen! I saw your posting because I am friends with Mark on Facebook. I worked at Babbit & Reiman in the early 1990s. I was thinking when you said we are who we were in our childhood. My mom died when I was 13 and my dad remarried 6 months later. His wife was never really nice to me. She picked on me for 40 years (she is still alive) and she still does. It bothered me that she thought I was or am something I am not. But… I think back often to when I was 19 and went to an al-anon meeting (my dad was an alcoholic) and when I was walking in the meeting I smiled at this older man and he brought it up in the meeting. How it meant so much to him. That is who I am. I have always been a nice person. I still am. I try hard to keep on keeping on even when sometimes so much can be against us. I look forward to reading your blog. Jackie 🙂
Jacke, that’s amazing story and a wonderful way to think about yourself, a smile. Thank you very much for sharing it. xoxo
Beautiful, Maureen, and your power shines strong.
Thank you, BA! I hope you all are well. xoxo
Great article as always! Life is a journey that takes us on many twists and turns, just as you expressed! I keep my eyes on the one above! 💕
Judith, I really appreciate your love and support! xo, Maureen
this was very inspiring Maureen…so glad I stopped (whatever I was doing) and sat down to read this
Thank you for sharing your wisdom
Thank you, Betsy! Did you get a puppy yet?
This is a great piece of writing.
Thank you to my best friend!
One of my favorite posts to date. As always, beautiful writing from a beautiful person. xo!
Why, thank you Emma! xo
I am 20 years older than you, and when I remember all the things I could do at 61 — oh, my goodness! It sounds as though recent years have been challenging and difficult for you, and those hard times can come at different times in our lives. The past year or two have caused me to lose a lot of self confidence. I think it’s because our divided country, the pandemic, not getting out with other people, not seeing our adult children and grandchildren for nearly two years — all of that. You are a very good writer, focused on what’s important and what’s not. Thank you.
Thanks so much for posting a comment. I thoroughly appreciate what you said. These past few years have been hard on all of us. It’s very easy to lose confidence later in life as circumstances and our roles change. I hope you’ll keep in touch. xo