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Monday, June 21, 2010

Inspirational Interview With Eliza from Silver and Grace

What does a 47 year old think of turning 30, milestones, and aging? That is exactly what I wanted to find out when I interviewed Eliza, who writes the blog Silver and Grace: Guiding Graceful Women into Beautiful Aging. 

Even though Eliza's blog is primarily geared towards women who are over 40 years of age, there are many articles that people who are younger will find helpful, too. While there are articles specifically geared towards her target audience, like "Stylish Dressing After Age 40" her most recent post is "20 Ways in 7 Days to be a Super Woman" a guest post by Danna Flannery, offers advice for women of any age. 

1. How do you feel about people hiding their age?
 I don’t get it. I didn’t understand it when I was younger, and I still don’t understand it now that I am older. “Eliza, how old are you?” “Forty-seven.” See, that wasn’t hard at all. Actually, “Forty-seven, and proud of it. Can’t wait to be forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty, fifty-one…”
 I have met a few men who keep their age to themselves, but it is mainly women who feel the need to be vague. “Twenty-nine and holding.” Uh-huh. I like to think that being coy about your age is antiquated, but I am continually shocked by the number of women who refuse to state their age. I can only think it suggests a fear associated with aging. A fear of mortality? A fear of no longer being considered sexy? A fear of no longer being useful to society?
 It really bothers me when I hear a woman hide her age. I want to wrap her in a hug then give her a little shake, and shout “You deserve your age! Own it!”
 2. How did you celebrate your 30th birthday?
 Okay, you are asking me to cast my mind back seventeen years. Did I have a blow out Turning Thirty birthday? No, because I have never put milestones to age. Turning thirty was like turning three or thirteen or twenty-three. I think it is safe to say it was a quiet and small family dinner with my children, my partner at the time, and his parents.
 3. Did you have goals for yourself  - things you wanted to accomplish by the age of 30?
 Hard core feminists are going to shudder at this response, but I had one answer and one answer only to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I was going to be a mom. I never even envisioned my wedding or what married life would be like. I simply wanted to be a mom.
 I married at age 21 and had my first daughter at age 22, my second daughter at age 23, and my son at age 24. By 28 I was divorced. Hardly surprising since I skipped the whole thought process about married life. But I was a mom and ultimately that’s all that mattered.
 But to answer your question if I wanted to accomplish something by the age of 30, the answer is no. Again, because I did not hold age 30 up as a milestone.

 4. What did you think would be really important in life that's proven not to matter much?
 Oh my! I could write a book on that. I’ll try and narrow it down to a few key ones.
 1. In order to be complete I must have a man in my life. Trust me, this was huge, and led me down some unfortunate paths. At age 43, I finally took time for me. I lived on my own for a year. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. It is also the most incredibly wonderful thing I have ever done. At the end of that year, I woke up one morning and realized I was quite happy being single for the rest of my life. I liked me. No, I loved me, and huge surprise, I was complete! Interestingly, two weeks later Mr Very Right entered my life. He does not make me complete. Rather, he enhances my completeness.
 2. Being financially secure is critical. After my divorce I had to go on Family Benefits, which is a nice way of saying I was on welfare. I come from an upper middle class upbringing, with quite literally the white picket fence. I was embarrassed and petrified, but more importantly, I was humbled. I made ends meet while going back to school, ending up with an excellent job in IT. This eliminated my fear of loss of money. However, I still clung to the notion of being debt free. Mr Very Right helped me change my attitude on this one. I never traveled. I paid cash for older cars. I rarely enjoyed a fine meal at a restaurant. Over the last couple of years I have learned to enjoy life, even if that involves running some debt. Notice I say ‘some’ debt. We are still very responsible and live within our means, but boy are we enjoying life!
 3. Finally, to be successful you must climb the corporate ladder. Been there, done that. Hated it! I actually requested a demotion, and believe it or not, I had to fight to be demoted. I was being groomed for senior management, and I was messing up their plans. I let them convince me for a full year to stay in a position I hated, because I thought I would look like a failure. I was miserable. I was literally going to work in tears, then doing a brilliant job anyway. I finally realized I was more than capable of being a manager, but I didn’t like it. It did not suit my personality, and in my particular job, my core values and ethics. I went back to being a team leader. I am doing another stint as manager – never say never—but only because I enjoy the challenge of this particular project. When the project is over, I will be demoted again. It’s not about the position (the prestige is highly over rated), it’s about what makes me happy.
 5. You mentioned that your attitude changed towards birthdays. In what ways has it done so?
 I would say prior to age forty, I looked on birthdays as the one time of the year people gave to me, instead of my never ending giving to other people on all the other days of the year. Most birthdays, this meant that people didn’t live up to my high expectations of what the day should bring, and I would end up hurt and disappointed. How could they live up to that expectation? Only I knew what I expected and why.
 Two things happened in my early forties:
 1. I left a sixteen year long very bad relationship, in which I was giving giving giving.
2. I became an empty-nester. I no longer had to give as much of myself to my children.
3. As I became happier with myself, I gave freely instead of out of obligation.
 POOF! As soon as I let go of any expectations, all of a sudden I was surrounded by loving people who gave freely to me, all times of the year. 
 6. How did you used to celebrate your birthdays? What do you do now?
 As a child, my mother always made a special day of it. It was the one time of the year I had her undivided attention. In my twenties, my birthdays were pretty much ignored (my poor husband was as overwhelmed as I was). In my thirties, my partner would host a family dinner. I was the guest of honour, but it was generally all about him. 
Now, my birthdays are relaxed and enjoyable. My Facebook account is flooded with best wishes. Two of my children phone, and the one who lives near me joins us for dinner with her boyfriend. This year on my actual birth day, Mr. Very Right and I were winding up an incredible mini-vacation in Montreal. The following weekend, we had a family dinner with my daughter, her boyfriend, one of my brothers and his two children. I didn’t care that the excuse for the dinner was my birthday, I was just thrilled to be surrounded by so much love and laughter.
 7. Do you think society puts too much emphasis on one's age?
 Oh dear, you are going to send me off on a rant. YES! Just look at the cosmetic industry. The average American woman spends $50,000 in her lifetime on hair products alone! I let my hair go its natural beautiful grey five years ago. People tell me all the time how stunning my hair is. Men follow that up with a comment about wishing their wives would stop fussing about their grey roots and stop colouring their hair. Women tell me how brave they think I am.
Why brave?  Does grey hair mean I’m so old death is knocking my door? I was grey by age thirty. My daughter is 25, and her hair has beautiful silver strands. Does grey hair mean I am no longer desirable to men? Talk to most men, and you will probably get the response that they do not see hair colour. They see a woman’s confidence, which equates to sensuality and sexuality. Saying I am brave means I have overcome a fear. What are women afraid of? … hmmmm… this seems to go back to why do women hide their age?
 Actually, let me modify my answer. I don’t think society puts too much emphasis on one’s age. I think society puts too much emphasis on not aging. Whatever you do, do NOT get older. I love aging. Each year under my belt is another year of incredible experiences. Even bad experiences are incredible experiences. It’s called living. Really living.
 8. I've heard that people don't get wiser with age, they just get older - what is your opinion on this?
 BULLCRAP! Actually, I would replace ‘crap’ with another word with the same meaning, but I am trying to be polite. I am sure the rare individual exists who can go through life managing to not gain experience and knowledge and synthesize this into wisdom. Or maybe people who say that have a definition of wisdom that I don’t personally agree with. I defined wisdom in an article on Silver & Grace. Here’s the link . Bottom line, I find it hard to believe that someone can avoid getting wiser, short of being a zombie.
 Any advice or other information you want to provide or share!
 My spiritual belief system is heavily based on the three stages of womanhood: maid, mother, crone. Aging is about the natural cycle of moving from one stage to the next. Each is of equal importance. Each is equally exciting. Of course, there are times I am still a maid (e.g. entering into a new situation), and still very much a mother (e.g. “Mom, I need your advice!”), but I love being a crone. I am a vibrant, sexy, intelligent woman, and I have full confidence this will only increase with time.
 And going back to the question above about wisdom, here is the final quote from my article:
I can now define for myself the wise crone. A woman who has blended all her life experiences into parcel of knowledge which enriches her life and the lives of those around her.
Enriches her life and the lives of those around her. Why would anyone fear age, if this is what you can end up doing?

Thank you Eliza for taking the time to let me interview you! I am sure that this interview will prove to be inspirational for women (and men) of any age! 
You can find Eliza on Facebook, twitter, and of course on her Silver and Grace blog.

What did you find most inspirational about what Eliza said? 
Is there anything you feel differently about? 

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