Women in the Second Half of Life

Girls Running With Horses: a watercolor from my Ft. Wayne, Indiana art school days.

Today, I’m finally taking a break from my writing, poking my head above ground to see what’s been happening while I’ve been hiding on the farm working.  I’ve missed bopping into town to visit my friends (which I will do tonight at the Spring Artscene in Rockford Illinois to see the opening of Roni Golan at the gallery at Emmanuel), surfing Facebook, the Twitter-sphere, and of course my favorite blogs.  This morning, Lynne Spreen at her Any Shiny Thing blog triggered a slew of conflicting thoughts. It was about women in the second half of life, staying on the hamster track (turning wheel) or taking it easy.

Am I retired? I guess you could say that, although I don’t think of myself that way. Yes, I’m collecting Social Security, to help pay the bills until I can sell my first book.  Travel, yes. Putz in my garden, yes. Read for days on end, yes. Kick up my feet in a silent house and just muse about anything and everything, yes.  But retired? Never.  At 63, I’m just getting started.

Maybe, you’ll say, I’m a late bloomer.  Actually, I do most things backward.  The only kids I raised were two twelve-year-olds starting about ten years after I went through menopause.  I didn’t settle down until I was 45.  Not by choice, but by circumstance.  I moved 50 times before that, but not since.  I still hope I never have to move again.

I am a proud, card-carrying feminist.  I believe in girl power–have since I was ten when I protected all the other girls on the playground from the taunts and harassments of the boys by kicking the offenders in the ankle with my pointy flats.  I was the tallest in the class and they were terrified of me.  I still sometimes terrify some men–thank god not my husband–but those who fear powerful women.

Now, a bit about women and power.  Yes it’s nice to have corporate power, though I never had that.  I ran a not-for-profit and several of my own one-person-dog-and-pony-show businesses.  But I was never in charge of a lot of people. Well, except when I just took charge, which I have a tendency to do, because I’m a visionary and an organizer and well, I guess I just think I know what to do when everyone else seems to be hesitating.

I’m not usually quite this upfront with my pushiness, but hey, I’m leaning in.  Anyway, at 63, I guess I care less about how many people like me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still care.  I just care a bit less.

Financial power is the piece I’m still hoping to achieve.  The power to do what I want, when I want, help who I want, travel where I want.  That sort of thing.  That’s the power I can get down with.  Freedom from at least that worry–for at least a while.  I’ve learned nothing lasts forever, and sometimes not for very long.  So I enjoy it while I can.

About other women and retirement, I have two things to say.  First, do what feels right for you.  Everyone is different.  Sure we have commonalities.  And it’s fun to discuss all the pros and cons.  But in the end, its our decision, our choice.  Follow your gut and don’t be so damn hard on yourself! (I’m talking to me as much as anyone else.  That inner critic is the toughest voice to silence.) Secondly, if you only help one person with what you’re doing in the second half of life, you’ve made a difference, and probably in a way that no one else on earth could have done.  So Ladies, do what feels good.  Rest, play, work.  If it’s the right kind of work, if feels like play anyway.  Just be sure to get eight hours sleep every night (or at least most nights) and eat an apple a day.  That way you’ll have lots of years to change your mind and continue the debate and squeeze it all in.

And thanks, Lynn for giving me the idea to vent on one of my favorite topics–women.

If you have a different viewpoint, or just more of the same, I’d love to hear it.  Leave a comment and I’ll respond as quick as I can.  I still have a few pages to finish on my YA.

IN BETWEEN

An image from dried Iris leaves, part of a series I did while in grad school at UCLA.

I wanted to post a piece of my art from the past to illustrate my “in between” state that I am currently in: the center egg, about to give birth, nestled in the colorful foliage, being nurtured and protected.

This is how I feel after coming home from my last conference, well for that matter, all of the conferences I have attended in the last three years.  I am nurtured by all the generous writing professionals I am privileged to spend time with, by their advice and their encouragement.  Thanks to all of you.

I am protected by nature and nurtured by my husband and my animals in this wonderful place I call home.  This little piece of land in Leaf River, Illinois.  This beauty that I am lucky to wake up to each morning.

I am in between because of all the changes that are taking place and will take place as a result of my experience at the conferences, and for that matter, with any of the wonderful members of the writing community that I can now say I am a part of.  My life is rich and full.

This is kinda strange for me to be writing this, because yesterday, I hit a wall.  The ultimate fear.  That my work will never be done.  Never be good enough–at least for me.  I went to sleep and woke up realizing that it was okay.  I’ll send it off anyway, and continue to work, to make it better.

I read a blog today about a writer waiting for an agent to respond, the torture, the development of patience, or else madness.  I get this.  I used to be this way in my younger days.  But now, with 62 years of experience, years I am proud to have survived, I think it is different for me.  I actually sent off some pages to an editor months ago, and then promptly forgot that I had, too busy editing, over and over again, starting another book, a YA.  But now, I need to get organized because I will see that agent again next week at a conference in Evanston.  I need to take care of business.

That is the struggle being in this create profession.  We need to be creative, but it is also a profession.  We need to take care of business.  Achieving balance is the challenge.  Especially when I feel like a school kid, learning all kinds of new skills, Twitter, Gravatar, Scrivener.  I know I should be doing links to all of these for anyone who might be reading this blog, but that will have to wait for another post.  I need to get back to finishing the edit to my first 100 pages, well to the entire manuscript for that matter.  It is begging to be sent off, to start its own life out in the world of readers.  It is time.

I’ll work on balance some more tomorrow.

Lets Begin

 

 

With all the radiation flying around in Japan, and non-stop human suffering, it’s hard to concentrate on everyday tasks at hand.  Having a sensitive nervous system that responds to tragedy by either shutting down or exploding with high anxiety, I try to limit my exposure to the news.  An hour in the morning and then again at night, split between local weather and national nightmare, is about all I can take.  To save precious time, I skip over the commercials by recording everything first.  That makes it near impossible to vote for my favorite American Idle, but it gives me time to write.  In the morning, I break up my news addiction with email and blogs effusing advice for writers.

When it comes to my own writing, in addition to working on my book, I’ve struggled with what to blog about on this website.  I’ve considered discussing women’s issues intertwined with spiritual insights and discussion of events I’ve attended.  I know I’ll use my photos from around my farm.  I’ve decided to begin with sharing tidbits from my favorite books that I’ve been reading on writing, both bought and borrowed, and accent with a dash of referrals to blogs that made me think and smile.

It’s tough to get a handle on where to start due to the plethora of blogs on line that bounce you back and forth, referring to other sites of friends and supporters. I guess I’m adding to the deluge.

For me, the web easily becomes a black hole.  When I fall in, there’s no time left to transfer all my scribbles on yellow pads that lie about my desk.  They are gathered from car rides, sleepless nights and early morning flashes of brilliance, and need to be loaded into my Mac.

One hopeful solution is the program Dragon.   www.macspeech.com/dragon It remains for now on my wish list, though it has moved to the top of the line, primarily because it would allow me to stand and move a bit while vocally transferring pen and paper to electronic type.  My old friends arthritis and fibromyalgia restrict my sitting  to preferred one-hour stints.  (Hmm.  There seems to be a pattern here, one hour at a time.)

Typing has been additionally handicapped these last eight months due to a severely shattered wrist.  While rushing, I tripped on a rug and went flying through the air, landing on unforgiving ceramic tile.  It’s taken three surgeries to repair the damage.  So, I’ve learned to type one-handed.  On a good day, I can use one finger on my casted hand which really speeds up the process.  I try not to complain.  So many have it worse than I and I know it won’t be long before I’m almost as good as new.

Anyway, I want to share the books and blogs that I’ve found valuable.  So, keep an eye out for my next post.  I’ve got several to tell you about.

If you are interested in my art work, check out my webpage:  www.trottownstudios.com

It’s still under development (I’m doing all the design myself and there’s lots to learn) so keep a look out for new additions to it.

I also have a blog about the farm  leafriverwriter.blogspot.com recounting our struggles and mishaps (like getting snowed in the last two winters).  Please forgive the absence of posts during the months when my wrist was injured.  I’m getting back on track, and hope to make additions to both sights soon.  There you’ll see all my animals: horses, chickens, dogs and lots of cats.  Hey, I’ve got to do something with all those pictures.  Might as well share the joy.