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.

60 thoughts on “Ten Years”

  1. I’m sending you lots of love and light in these troubled and depressing times. You bring truth and joy into my world and I’m grateful to know you and consider you a friend. Big hug!!

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on women and aging. I believe we flourish in the later years when we focus on creativity and the Arts. I say to my friends, with a smile, “Let’s keep rampaging!”

    1. Thank you, Andrea. Yes, so true. There’s an art gallery here in SMA that has a sign in the front window reading, “All you need is ART [with LOVE crossed out].” Always makes me smile. 🙂

  3. BonnieDear, I have benefited greatly from the wisdom of older women—including YOURS—and so I would of course be sad to see you turn in the pen for simpler pleasures. But I can so understand why you might want to do that at almost 79. It’s like the hammer-and-nail proverb: When you have a blog, everything in life looks like a story that must be researched, written, and published—or rejected.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful just to live without the obligation to do either, to wander about in awe, drinking in the beauty of San Miguel—to paint it occasionally—without having even to consider reporting on it? That would be my choice. Then again, writing to share is a good incentive to get out of bed in the morning. I know you’ll make the decision that best suits you and your integrity. xoxo

  4. Bonnie
    I love your column. Your wisdom
    answers questions we all have. As I at 79, tell others, I’m not done yet!! Please keep writing!

  5. You’ve always been a beacon of light, Bonnie, to me and so many others. Your wisdom has never been lost on me at any age. I understand feeling dubious about the foreboding technology that seems to say “keep up or get off the ride”, and with the escalating encroachment of AI, I fear it’s worse. I feel it myself daily. Staying in the game does get harder.

    You’ve given us such a gift all these years and that legacy will never diminish. I may just go back to the beginning and reread each post again. Do what you must or what you feel right doing. You remain right here where you’ll always be, smack in the middle of my heart. I love you, BB!

    1. Dearest Michael — I’m having trouble focusing at the moment because my eyes are so teary from reading your loving words. You’re smack in the middle of my heart too, my darling, forever one of my Bonnie Fare “boys.” — BB xx

  6. Dear Bonnie, thank you for these 10 years and I will not try to change your mind about the decision you’ve made. We all get it! There’s a time for everything. I felt that way about Ser Mujer which I coordinated for 7 years. Now…two young Mexican women are in charge and presenting programs in Spanish on a whole variety of topics. Trish

  7. Estimada Bonnie….ten years does seem like a nice round number for concluding this chunk of your creative life. I am grateful for the honor of having been one of your WOW interviewees. I’m glad I will continue to rub shoulders with you at sketching events …and more.

  8. I, for one, will be very sorry to see the end of your WOW postings but I also understand a life that functions in 10 year periods. If I do something for longer than 10 years, my life goes way off course, and I pay for it.
    I hope you have a big celebrations planned when you complete this wonderful blog of yours.

  9. Bonnie, I have only recently come to discover your WOW blog but have enjoyed reading and following.
    My interest in “Wisdom” was opened up to me while attending a retreat last year in El Pescadero, Baja, facilitated by Chip Conley. He created the first wisdom school for navigating transitions – “Modern Elders” can contribute to society and the younger generations.
    Wish you well on your new transition.

  10. Oh! dear Bonnie, I’ll miss your blogs. I so valued being in your writing class in Taos, and I have another little book which I can send to you if you like. You make/have made such a contribution to our lives. THANK YOU!
    I’ll be 89 in October, looking forward to 90. George died in July at 94. I’m keeping busy. Maybe, if you take a break, you’ll see what needs to be done next–for me it’s the November election!
    Much love, Marge

    1. Dearest Marge — How wonderful to hear from you and to know you’re doing well at almost-89! Brava! Yes, I would love to see your new book. Do you have my mailing address? We’ll always remain in touch. Much love to you, BB xx

  11. Oh, Bonnie, so much of what you say here resonates with me. At eighty-two, I “think” I’m still going strong, but sometimes I sure don’t “feel” that way. I’m more tired at the end of day, more news-wary as the world seems to be spinning in tragic directions I cannot control, and as you so aptly point out technology is advancing so fast one cannot keep up. I don’t want to spend so much time on my computer though I love to write; the writer is compelled to use Word or some other “app” like Scrivener, a whole new learning curve. The yellow-lined pad and a pencil, like we used in the past is my preference. So, though I am in relatively excellent health, I feel sometimes the way you do.

    Living long and remaining in good health does give us the time to do a lot if we’re engaged and interested in life and the world. I have traveled to many countries, been a jewelry designer, artist and art teacher, a business owner, started an NGO helping migrants, and written four books. I’ve loved every bit of it. Now, I’ve been told I have to do more “to market” my books and I revolt some days and just close the lid to my laptop and retire to my soft spot near the fire and read! It feels good! Thoughts of returning to wonderful San Miguel de Allende where I lived off and on for over ten years linger in my mind. You are so right, we WOW (women of wisdom) don’t seem to be respected much here! Was it always that way?

    1. Thank you for this, dear Sher. All so true — and thought-provoking. You ask, “Was it always that way?” My answer is, Yes, I’m afraid so — for as long as men have been “large and in charge.” (SIGH)

    1. Thank you, dear Barbara. I’m hoping that old posts will still be available to readers online. (I must discuss this with my new computer guru…) We’ll see! — I hope you are well and we can stay in touch. — BB xx

  12. Thank you for sharing your own insights, in a style that is beautiful, always; including even this bittersweet

  13. Thank you for your beautifully expressed comments and insights. Many times finding your most recent blog was the highlight of my day, the gift of reflected wisdom, just as you intended.

  14. Dear Bonnie, I am so grateful for all the wisdom you have shared all these years and for including me in your “wise older women” interview league. I have also been awed by your discipline, setting personal time for writing and strict deadlines. You’ve certainly deserved a break, a lighter work load, and the privilege of doing only what brings you pleasure. Take a vacation, in May, but never say never. Who knows what muse may emerge from nowhere, some unexpected inspiration? We’re all looking forward to seeing more of you and what comes next. — Catherine Marenghi

  15. I hope you have a wonderful retirement. Your blog is wonderful to read, but sometimes we need to move on to something different. Take care–Love, Joanie

  16. Dear Bonnie — Like so much else from your mind and … can we even say pen any more?… this post is so eloquent and full of ideas. I certainly understand feeling tired and written-out; but I hope you won’t stop observing and writing and posting your thoughts, even if you DO allow yourself to do so only occasionally. Much love to you always!

    1. Thank you, dear Amanda. Yes, pen. I write my heart out every morning in my journal, using a black Pilot pen. This practice has been my salvation. (Then sometimes I gather whatever kernels there might be among all that chaff and type those up, to be shared.) Writing has become like breathing to me, so I guess I’ll keep at it until I (or my mind) shuffle off! 🙂

  17. I’ve just discovered WOW and have started, with pleasure, to tip-toe back through your archives — with delight. I’ll turn 80 this year, and although a four-decades-long Canadian snowbird wintering in this beautiful and inspiring town, I’m now newly exploring life in Guadalupe as a widow. I’m a writer by vocation, an artist by temptation, and feel that maybe, just maybe, my best years lie ahead.

    1. Thank you for sharing, dear Sandra. I LOVE your last line, “a writer by vocation, an artist by temptation…” Yes, I’m sure your best years will lie ahead.

  18. Dear Bonnie:
    You have given so many of us a gift each week as we have become yolder (a 21st century term meaning “young older” as contrasted with the “old olders” of yore.) So many women here in San Miguel are an inspiration and you, Bonnie, have introduced them to us through your blog. Hopefully their stories will remain for us to revisit.
    I remember what an honor it was to be included in your “waiting in the covid vaccine line for seven hours” edition of WOW. Thanks for including me. It surely made time move faster that day and it was an opportunity to learn more about you. Whatever you decide to do, it will be wonderful.

  19. Dearest Bonnie, you are right in the middle of my heart also! And here I must confess that I missed your post asking for your readers’ comments on what they have learned about aging in the last ten years. I shall go and look for it this very minute, because I have a few things I’d like to comment.

    1. Thank you, dearest Ana. I must clarify: I’d asked the women whom I’d first interviewed — in 2014 — to share their thoughts about aging over these past ten years. So you won’t find this question in any previous WOW post. BUT! Please share your thoughts in another comment! I welcome your input — and all others’. — BB xx

  20. I adore your WOW blog and actually didn’t want to overwhelm you with my comments, since we have never met. I found your site via the Facebook Peace Corps 50+ page. I had the pleasure of visiting San Miguel, inspired by you, and will be forever grateful. I plan to come pack, when I retire (I’m 66 now), to take a Traditional Mexican Weaving class at the Instituto Allende (or volunteer somewhere I might be useful). Good luck on your next writing adventure. I hope you check-in and post beyond May from time to time.

  21. Hi Bonnie, I can understand your need to stop, or change, but I do want to say I have been enjoying your WOW blog and especially your sharing about how older women are respected, and cared for, in Mexico. If I weren’t already almost 78, I would move there after having visited for a month this February and a shorter time last year. So many thanks for your thoughts on aging, and also your writing about La Candelaria and other San Miguel events. All the best as you transition!

  22. Dear Bonnie, I admire your ability to reinvent yourself again and again. For me, you are certainly a model of a woman. I wish you lots of rest, may the little things in life fill you with love, freedom and wisdom. As you have given us through your enthusiasm and writing.

    1. Querida Katya — SO good to hear from you! Thank you for your lovely words. I hope you’ll return to SMA one day so we can meet again and hug. — Abrazos fuertes, BB xx

  23. Oh, Bonnie, how I share your sentiments. Could it be because we come from the same NJ town and we were born some three months apart? How fortunate that we met again in these ‘wise’ years in San Miguel! Often I sit on my roof terrace towards the church domes of Independencia and I imagine you doing likewise from your patio. Aren’t we lucky to have renewed our friendship in these years? Aren’t we lucky to have landed in this magical place? Lucky or wise? Hmmm.

  24. Dear Bon,
    I congratulate and thank you for all the hard work it takes to create this amount of thoughtful, engaging content each week. To do this for ten years is a great achievement. It has been a delight for me to have your blog to visit with you each week. Your strong voice is in everything you write, and reading your prose allows me to feel that I’m with you. You shined a light on women who do amazing things, and they have revealed their humanity to us in a beautiful way. You have met and surpassed your goals for this blog, and that is success. Whatever the next chapter is, I know the writer in you will continue to speak.

    1. Dearest Paul — I think I’ll reread this comment from you every morning for the next ten weeks, as I close up this WOW shop. Your words are so uplifting to my heart and mind and spirit. Thank you, dear one, for being such a faithful WOW reader for all these years and for being my dear, dear friend since Bonnie Fare Catering. When was that? A hundred years ago? 🙂 LU, BB xx

  25. Bonnie querida, mucho amor and fuerza for you. You are a role model now for so many of us!
    I can’t wait to see what is bubbling up because you are such a creative person that I can’t imagine you sitting there doing nada. No, that’s not la Bonnie!
    If you do close the blog, I will do like Michael, go back and reread all your previous posts because they are so inspiring. And I hope you will continue to share your wisdom in some form!

    1. Dearest Te — You are a darling. I think you deserve a prize for reading and commenting on every post I’ve posted in these past ten years. Amazing! Every blogger needs readers like you. Thank you for your steadfast amistad. We’ll always be in touch. — Abrazos fuertes, BB xx

  26. Dearest Bonnie, I’m grateful I stumbled over your blog in your tenth year and its made me review and think many subjects that would normally not reach my purview. I have always thought that people cross our paths then move on for a reason, one of them being that they have absorbed their “lessons” and now it is time to learn new things with different people, and in a different way. I’m sure you’ll still stay in touch with those you want to hold onto, anyway.
    Your WOW idea was fabulous and still worth pursuing. Maybe someone else will take up the baton?
    Wishing you many blessings!

    1. Dear Loula — And I’m so very grateful that you happened upon my WOWs this past year! What a joy it’s been to read and share your comments and to get to know you. Yes, I definitely will stay in touch! I try never to let friends go. — BB xx

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