Tag Archives: UNM-Taos

Ten Years

Ten years ago, in May 2014 to be exact, I began this weekly WOW blogpost on a quest. I’d just turned sixty-nine, my mother’s age when she died after a two-year battle with glioblastoma (brain cancer) thirty years before. At sixty-nine I suddenly felt I needed role models for admirable aging, guides on this new road to older age. I was hungry for older women’s wisdom, to help me go forward creatively, purposefully, and productively, all while the big Age Clock ticked in my ears.

 So I sought such women out – in Taos, New Mexico, where I was living then, and elsewhere – to interview them for my newly created blog I called “The WOW [Words of Wisdom from Wise Older Women] Factor.” This blog was my launch pad, my entryway into wise older women’s lives. I felt I needed such women in my life; and by extension, I thought, Don’t we all?

 My parameters were women over the age of seventy, women of some accomplishment in their own right, who were still accomplishing things; women who’d gained a measure of wisdom in their three-score-years-and-ten-plus lives. I wanted to give these women some well deserved recognition, while at the same time inspiring the rest of us to gain a little wisdom, like droplets of blessings on our heads, from their stories.

 My hope was to honor and celebrate a bright and happy parade of women over the age of seventy so that others might see them in a new light and maybe one day even join their parade.

Even then I knew this was a finger-in-the-dyke sort of undertaking. It was my small, stubborn, solo effort to hold back the fierce force of sexist-ageism, especially in the U.S., where older women tend to be ignored or dismissed as having outlived our usefulness, where we’re too often sidelined from the game.

I believed then – and I believe as strongly now – that as long as we’re alive and well, we older women are meant to be players, if not in the same game we played when we were “young and beautiful,” then in a new, equally important one. As older women, we have new roles to play, new contributions to make.

From May through December 2014, I did thirteen WOW interviews. Since then, nine of those women have either passed on or I’ve lost touch with them. But the four remaining have written to me in recent weeks to answer my burning question to them: What have you learned in the past ten years about aging? In upcoming WOW posts I’ll share their thoughts with you.

In 2015 I retired from teaching at UNM-Taos and moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I knew no one at first, including older women to interview. So instead of mainly interviews, I wrote “views,” personal essays about this bold move at the age of seventy – adapting to this colorful new culture, learning this new language, settling in to this new-to-me beautiful old country – and whatever else was on my mind. Gradually, I established friendships here and re-established my love for conducting WOW interviews with willing and available interviewees.

In these ten years I’ve published more than five hundred WOWs (this one is #505), and I’m thinking I’ll do just ten more, which will take us to the end of May. Ten years feels like a nice, solid chunk of time to me – neither too short nor too long – a kind of Goldilocks span of time. I believe it’s time now to turn my attention to another, quieter project, yet to be determined.

Looking way back, I can see that I’ve tended to do things in ten-year modules: I taught English and Creative Writing at UNM in Taos for ten years. Before that I had a catering business, Bonnie Fare Catering, in Manhattan for ten years. And before that I was a writer and editor in the corporate world in New York for ten years. All the while writing books in my “spare time.” 

In mid-May I’ll turn seventy-nine. To my great surprise, I’ve lived ten years longer than my mother did. But I must say, I’m tired.

(Photo courtesy of Pinterest)

So I’ll turn the question on myself now: What have I learned in these past ten years about aging? Well, in brief, I’ve learned that the wisdom of the aged is elusive. For most of us, getting old is challenging at the best of times, despite our best efforts to put a smiley face on it. We’re all on different paths, it’s true, but for most it’s a rocky (cobblestoned?) road. So much of it, I’ve observed (and experienced), depends on pure luck – as well as health and attitude and supportive friends and family – to say nothing of money or DNA. 

A whole lot depends, too, on where you live. Here in Mexico – and I found this to be true when I lived in Africa for five years in the late-‘90s as well – older people are respected. Older women are not only not invisible here in San Miguel, we are acknowledged and admired. This is a refreshing and life-enhancing change from the baked-in sexist-ageism of the U.S. I’d known.

Most recently I’ve also learned (as I wrote in my previous post, “Sibyl Says”) that technology is encroaching at such a rapid pace that some of us are  feeling overwhelmed, if not replaced, by it. We’re spending more and more time in front of our computer screens, yet we (okay, I) can’t seem to keep up with it all. I’ve found this to be especially true because I’ve noticed my WOWs have been receiving fewer and fewer views. I can understand why. We all have too much on our plates. Or, should I say, screens?

What was the title of that long-ago, long-running Broadway musical, “Stop The World — I Want to Get Off”? That’s the way I’m feeling right now. I’m getting too old for this. My eyes are burning. My brain is spinning. This is my truth – at least for the moment. But let’s stay tuned. May is some weeks away.