Embracing the twilight years
I had to really think about announcing to my world that I had hit the advanced age of 70. But is 70 really old? Today's 70 is like 50 as we all live much longer.
I knew people would be incredulous and exclaim, "you don't look it!", "how old?" 'Never!" To which I would smile and reply that I didn't feel or act 70. I was like Zsa Zsa Gabor, getting younger every year! "Une femme sans d'age". Thank The Lord. I intend to grow old disgracefully and enjoy it! Move with these exciting cyber times and embrace the new ever changing technological world. A woman of 70 should know who she is, be bold and have the confidence to say and demand what she wants, especially if she is paying!
Two years ago, during a not so cold winter birthday and New Year in Berlin, I made the life changing decision to be a snowbird! Never to spend another dark, damp and cold winter in the UK. Why, when I want sunshine, bright light and warmth in my life? I want smiles not frowns. I want new interesting international friendships. I need to be with positive individuals, not negative ones. I want to be happy and the answer for me is Travel and speaking languages. This has always been my passion when I discovered in the 60s and 70s that I was an International Nomad. I followed my dream then and decades later, I am picking up the threads of my past carefree life. I have freedom in my life to make choices. And I do!
When I spoke earlier this year to my financial advisor, I finally realised that there is no point in waiting for that "rainy day". Thinking about the "nest egg" our parents taught us in a previous outdated decade, that this mode of thought does not work in our modern times. I can't take it with me, so I might as well spend it. Life is too short. We may never see tomorrow. So my new resolution is not to always look for a "deal" when I travel. You get what you pay for in life. I am now generous to myself. In fact I was encouraged by my best friend to be so. It was a revelation to be kind to myself. I will however say at this point in time that I have made no plans for rotting away in an expensive retirement home.
"Be generous" my late husband Martin used to say. He was, to the point of buying and manipulating people. He was the magician puppet master pulling the strings and controlling his "friends" and magic colleagues. His words constantly echo in my ears. I admit I was "careful" and protective of his generosity to others. Martin is long gone and now it is my turn as I have no natural children, never caring for my insincere blood relatives on both sides of our small family in Liverpool, London, South Africa and Australia.
Today I have an unofficial Cuban 'daughter' in Havana who loves me and emails almost daily despite Cuban communication difficulties. I was chosen to be her second mother several years ago. She has changed my life and I am grateful, feeling useful for the first time in my life. I have stopped being selfish and only thinking of Number One. Over the years I have collected extended family and kept some faithful lifelong friends but I know who cares for me and value my friendship. I have let some so-called "friends" fall along the way. I am on The Journey yet again and embrace "Le troisieme age", as the French so delightfully call old age. The Americans talk about senior moments. I love philosophical quotations and collect interesting compilations including some humorous quotation books on growing old.
I only became a Fashionista, wearing makeup and jewellery, taking a pride in my appearance after my rebirth a few years ago, like a Phoenix arising from the ashes of middle age. I now look in the mirror at that young soul before putting my best foot forward and venturing into the outside world. I even document how I appear to others by taking selfies or getting friends, who are good photographers, to take my image frozen in time. Ironically I used to own and manage my own photo library in London in the 80s for 20 years. Not once did I or my professional photographer husband take any photographs of how I looked then nor did I ever wear makeup other than the statement - red lipstick.
I turned my life around all on my own 2 years ago in 2013. I dared to have a makeover. I went blond in the front only and cut my locks very short. The man I thought I was in love with wanted a slim blond younger woman. I was brunette and shall we say voluptuous? He would spend hours on his computer with my photograph, using a photoshop programme transferring different blond hairstyles onto my portrait! He loved my mind but not my body. He never saw my soul or my metamorphosis! When the rose tinted glasses were off, I realised he was a vain, negative, cold, racist and mean spirited intellectual and that, in fact, we had nothing to talk about. I will never forget standing next to him, sitting at my computer admiring an excellent photograph I had taken of him in Amsterdam. He stared at his own image on the screen saying out loud, "I am good looking", to which I replied, "yes on the outside but not on the inside". Silence was his reply!
In fact I recommend having a restyle to all women over 60. Wake up and smell the coffee. Reinvent yourselves, open the shutters and let the light into your lives. In a word - Travel. But travel light. Broaden your horizons. Take off on your magic carpet especially if you are in good health. It doesn't cost as much as you think these days as the world has shrunk. Stick to Europe as then you are covered medically with your EHIC card. The world is your oyster. Go to the Never Never Land and find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! You can do it. I did!
Mix with younger people in their 30s and 40s. Show an interest in other peoples' lives. Ask a better question and you will get a better answer. Embrace technology. Use email and mobile phones to communicate with friends and family of all ages. Do not mix with the elderly who will moan and groan about their illnesses and the dread of their twilight years of uncertainty. How things are not what they used to be. We have gone through a technological revolution just like our forefathers went through the industrial revolution.
Positivity is the key. Get rid of all the complex cobwebs dragging you down. Extricate yourself from chaos and negativity. Declutter. Get rid of the past with the exception of some special photographs that tell stories and evoke good positive memories. Recycle and give away or sell what you no longer need in your home. Clutter is a hoarding syndrome and is now acknowledged as a mental illness. Clutter weighs us down. After all we only "borrow" things in our life. We can't take them with us into the next world. I speak from experience of course!
Speak to strangers on buses, trains, in shops and while waiting for Godot. It's amazing where the art of conversation can lead to. How more confident you will feel. Smile and make eye contact. Not a British tradition but it will change the way you feel and look about yourself. You can inadvertently touch and change other peoples's lives. I know. I have!
I was flattered the other evening, on the beautiful blue and white Cycladian island of Mykonos, when a 35 year old Lebanese South African woman asked me, after a delightful conversation with her and her sisters, what would be my parting words of wisdom.
I replied. "Follow your dream!"
Written on the beautiful island of Naxos, Cyclades, Greece during their Crisis. July, 2015.