By Dr. Paula Fellingham
My life’s mission is to strengthen women and families worldwide. I do this by helping people live more joyfully. Today I’d like to speak to Baby Boomer women ~ women born between 1945 and 1965. Currently, there are almost 50 million in the United States alone.
I’d like to let all Baby Boomer women know (and the rest of the world know as well) that we’re not “over the hill”. We’re on top of the hill ~ looking at the endless possibilities before us! And we’re not in a crisis, we’re on a quest ~ searching for ways to reinvigorate our lives. Ask us, and we’ll tell you that we want to connect with one another and make this season the best time of our lives.
Yes, it’s time to celebrate! We belong to the largest generation ever! Fifty million American women – right now – share the same concerns and excitement as we enter that Middle Age between youth and elderly. We belong to a wonderful, important group made up of people who share the same memories of Elvis, the Beetles, Peter, Paul and Mary. Together we transitioned from typewriters to computers, from Sheriff John to Sesame Street, from peddle-pushers to capris.
We share the same fears and very similar dreams. We’re the ones who worry about our children and aging parents at the same time. We wonder about Botox and social security checks. And we’re all shocked by how much time has gone by and how fast we’re aging.
Yes, we face this new period in our lives with a mix of wonderment and anxiety. Many of the things they saw on the road ahead, things they’d pursued and hoped for – love, adventure, success, appreciation – has either alluded them or doesn’t look nearly as good as it used to. And their disappointment and frustrations are reflected in spontaneous or premeditated acts that society labels “a midlife crisis.”
You know what I’m talking about – from going back to school or buying a motorcycle to starting a new business, moving to another country or learning how to ice-skate or play the guitar, we’re making significant changes in our lives. Perhaps the most significant change of all is the creation of an entire movement…. a new time in the history of women.
You see, our midlife is far different than our grandmothers’. It’s not even our mother’s midlife! Theirs was often born of sadness; a time when 40 year olds were truly “over the hill” seeing less of everything ahead – less opportunity, less fulfillment, less fun, less time, less hope.
But things have changed dramatically. Thanks to better nutrition, medical advancements, higher incomes, better education, and long experience at juggling multiple roles, women today have far different expectations for their lives and they’re making their middle and older years the best time of their lives. Consistent with their history, baby boomer women are creating a new model as they get older.
Why? Because today’s women are profoundly different in their attitudes about aging. More and more women refuse to believe they’re “over the hill” ~ instead, they’re standing strong with outstretched arms on TOP of the hill, confidently excited about the limitless possibilities before them. Instead of asking, “What if?” they’re asking, “Why not?”
Such questions come naturally to us baby boomers who have been setting trends and extending barriers our whole lives. We’re the ones who believed Ado Annie when she sang “I can do anything you can do better” and we raised the glass ceiling. We moved out of the secretary’s chair into the CEO’s; out of the station wagon and into a sports car. And we explained to our husbands that even though their fathers didn’t change diapers, we expected their help. We broke rules and we keep on breaking them.
Baby boomer women are looking around and observing their peers taking risks, developing talents, having more fun, and believing in themselves in ways their mothers never did.
From attending skill-development classes to taking their lives in whole new directions, women 40 and older are awakening. Many are smack dab in the middle of an exciting, soul-fulfilling metamorphosis, and they’re happier than they’ve ever been in their lives.
Look around ~ women engaged in such a transition are taking the crisis right out of aging ~ they’re enjoying this season in their lives.
You see them everywhere: two 65 year old women traveling together; a group of 40ish women scrambling over rocks in the Grand Canyon; a 53 year old woman painting by the side of a road; a wife working at her computer on the children’s book she’s always wanted to write; a grandmother running for senator.
We don’t look old and we don’t act old! We’re energetic, engaged, and engaging, like we’ve always been. We’re just doing it a little slower in older bodies. But our minds are sharp, our souls are wise, and our hearts are soft.
You can sense it. You know you’re transitioning because you’re bolder than you’ve ever been. You’ve waded through life’s muck and now you’re more clear about what you want. Parts of your life that you’ve been tolerating for years have now become intolerable. You don’t know what lies ahead, but you do know that you don’t want to continue living the way you’re living, and you’re ready to figure out what comes next.
Yes, of course we feel guilty about what we didn’t do and things we could’ve done better ~ we’re women and we all do it! We regret a bunch of decisions from our past and in quiet moments we anguish over things we can’t change now.
We even occasionally peek over our shoulders and wish for your youth again.
But most of us agree that we don’t want to go back and do it all again. What we want is to stand on the foundation of our experiences and hard-earned wisdom, take everything we’ve learned and everything we’ve become – and use it all to create a life that is deeply-fulfilled, purposeful, and overflowing with love and joy.
One 68 year old woman moaned, “I’ve made all the wrong turns, and too many mistakes. I think my big moment came and went. I’ve wasted a lot of time on the wrong things!”
Most of us are raised to believe that if we’re going to be highly successful at something, the foundation has to be in place well before the age of forty. Perhaps when life expectancy was shorter that was true, but it isn’t true today. Women are living 30 and 40 years past their retirement age!!
The fact is that your first forty years of experiences, good and bad, are all essential for creating your new dreams. It’s true! You’re better today than you’ve ever been because you know what does and doesn’t work for you!
A young girl asked an elderly woman the secret to her success.
“My secret? Good judgment,” said the older lady.
“Yes, but how do you get that?”
“Experience,” she answered.
“But how do you get the experience?” the young woman questioned.
The truth is, nothing is wasted. Everything that’s happened in your life has been for your good.
During this season, women typically recommit themselves to deeply held values and beliefs; they find their own voices and discover new strengths.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that we women actually become a little dangerous during this time because we can no longer keep the lid on ourselves. One of the blessings of midlife is that we’re no longer willing to silence ourselves to comply with others or to worry about their opinions of us. We now feel the necessity to voice the feelings in our hearts. Have you noticed this too?
These years are the ideal time to focus on making life better. These years are frequently the first chance baby boomers have had to pursue that goal. Why? Because the distractions and obligations of yesteryear are fewer and we can take time to seriously consider our many options.
The need now is to be authentic. Whatever we’ve silenced should be voiced, whatever we’ve set aside should be picked up, and whatever we haven’t lived should be experienced. Yes, its time to celebrate your life!