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.

4 thoughts on “Women in the Second Half of Life

  1. Deborah, thanks for this. It’s great to turn over such an important subject, examine it, hold it up to the light, consider it. Even better when you’ve got a buddy there to work it over with. Such is the topic of retirement relevance, I guess you’d call it. I so agree that each of us needs to decide for ourselves, but that actually takes a lot of guts. I don’t like being seen as unimportant by a society that primarily values us based on two criteria: looks and wealth. I don’t have either, so I have to make up my own criteria. Here’s one: I excel at privacy. Nobody knows me. I’m free to walk into any Starbucks in the country and not be bothered. (Tiger Woods, eat your heart out!) Have a great weekend.

  2. Hi Deborah,
    While unpacking a box that has been closed for over 20 years, I came across the invitation to the reception of your M.F.A Thesis Exhibition. I met you in 1986 or 87 through your brother, Chuck, who I was dating in L.A. I visited you and your husband at your home in Lancaster. I recall your horses, and you had a Saab that needed brake repair. So you could get the brakes fixed, I purchased some of your sculptures at a very reasonable price, including the blue pregnant horse and a pink and green person on its hands and knees. Unfortunately, both were broken to pieces in my move from L.A. to Miami. I buried them in my back yard, leaving the blue horse head sticking out of the dirt. I also put your name in a baggie with the pieces, so a future treasure hunter 100 years from now will know about you. I still have the large terracotta heart with the pastel colors painted on the exterior. It has survived 3 cross country moves, and is now in my home in Orange Park, Florida. I was saddened to hear of the death of your brother Mike. I recall when he adopted the 2 children from Honduras, and I even have a picture of them somewhere in storage. I lived in Honduras in 1977. It was great to see a few pictures of Chuck as a child with those big brown eyes. I hope you are well, you sound very content with your life. I send you my very kindest regards, Dan Waite

    • Dan,
      It is so great to hear from you.

      I’m sorry so much of the art you purchase was destroyed but I love imagining it buried in the backyard with the blue horse sticking out. I’ve just repaired and hooked up my kiln after 20+ years of it being stored in the basement. However, I’m not quite ready to do art. I have two manuscripts in major rewrite that I want to finish first. The memoir is about Chuck. The young adult novel is about my horse experiences out in Lancaster.

      I hope I hear from you by email. I would love to stay in contact.


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