Aging Disgracefully

Laughing way too hard to be acceptable with my friend Randy

Laughing way too hard to be acceptable with my friend Randy

My friend Evelyn Hannon (of www.Journeywoman.com fame) and I have both pledged that we will grow old as we have lived life: on our own terms, in our own way, and with great joie de vivre. No growing old gracefully for us.

In my case, that has involved a return to the world of dating and an active, if somewhat sporadic, sex life just as I began to collect my Old Age Pension. And as so often happens to me, my life’s experiences end up becoming the next unfolding of my work.

My sexual reawakening and the many, many conversations I’ve had with men in all corners of the world as I’ve explored the post-modern freak show that is on-line dating have drawn me to explore the topic of sexuality and aging. I am now well into the process of writing a book on that topic.  I’ve been involved in exploring conscious aging for some time now, and through developing a TV series with a colleague, became aware that the topic of sexuality and aging was one that many shied away from.

Seeing yourself as a sexy woman again can be a great challenge!

Seeing yourself as a sexy woman again can be a great challenge!

I’ve always been attracted to topics that skirt the edges of acceptability in society: whether that be about being fat, off-the-beaten-track travel, alternatives to ‘retirement’, social business, death and dying, late life divorce or other topics that make many people squirm, I quickly realized that few were discussing sexuality. Sure there is some discussion about sex and the elderly, but most of it is medically based. For me, sexuality is such a broader, more compelling topic. Sexuality is about how one feels about being a sexual entity in an aging body, whether actively having sex or not.

It has been such a delight to read books and articles on the topic, to talk with all types of people of varying ages, to see the look of delight, shock (and occasionally horror) that passes across peoples’ faces when I announce that my book will not only talk about sexuality and aging but will show photos of ordinary people nude or semi-nude in sexualized poses. I’ve discovered that it is one thing to talk about sexuality and aging, it is quite another matter to show pictures of the beauty of wrinkled, naked flesh in a sexual context. I can’t wait.

I’m still looking for stories, by the way, of people between 55 and 75 about their experiences of sexuality. I’ve got a standard questionnaire that I administer by phone or Skype, offer people complete anonymity and will provide a free copy of the e-book version of my book once it is published. Let me know if you’d like to participate. Also, if you are interested in posing for photos, let me know. We continue to search for willing life models.

My own experiences have been very heartening and life affirming. I’ve met some utterly delightful men. I’ve had some fantastic lovers and have learned so very much about myself as a woman, a sexual being, and a person continuing to deal with the fall-out of some early life traumas. I’ve also discovered that as difficult as I always thought it was for us women to deal with our sagging bodies and flagging libidos, most men are in much, much worse shape emotionally and spiritually. The big factor for most men, I’ve discovered, is that as their bodies start to fail them, they don’t have the sisterhood of friends that most of us women have. They are alone in their self-doubt and misery. Guys just don’t talk in the kind of supportive way that women do. Their sexual challenges tend to get highlighted rather than normalized through the social isolation they experience around this topic.

Being playful on a Portuguese beach . . .

Being playful on a Portuguese beach . . .

So while I hold my sex life as in no way disgraceful, I do know that the fact that I talk pretty openly about on-line dating, about sexuality and about the emotional and physical issues many experience as they age is considered disgraceful to many. All the more so because I am not a licensed psychologist or medical practitioner. I am just a fat old woman who loves life and is committed to living it as vibrantly as I possibly can for as long as I possibly can.  Disgraceful, isn’t it?

The future is ALWAYS in today . . .

AmyGigiAlexanderwwwI follow this amazing woman on Facebook. Amy Gigi Alexander is an extraordinary writer and human being. So often her posts stop me in my tracks, inviting me to notice things about myself and my life that have been, to date, transparent to me. I say that as a woman who holds herself to be living a very conscious, aware and attuned life. I find these days that it takes someone with a very special perspective on life to get into the unexplored nooks and crannies of my psyche. I’ve come to welcome Amy’s posts for their ability to infiltrate unexplored corners of me and invite more Self exploration.

Today, Amy had a post about Glen Canyon, a place on the Colorado River that was dammed way back in the ’50’s. Bells immediately started ringing within me because Glen Canyon is a place of deep emotional significance to me. Not that I’ve ever been there, but I’ve had a small but lovely photo book on my shelf since the early 70’s that captured the beauty and mystery of this place that was flooded in order to assure ‘progress’ for industry. “The Place No One Knew” by Eliot Porter is filled with hauntingly beautiful photos of this magical corner of the world, allowing us access to beauty and mystery that no longer exists.

LoranBut beyond the stunning images and powerful quotations by many noted authors and poets, for me, the real power of “The Place No One Knew” is that it was one of the most beloved books of my late, first husband Loran Goulden. I remember us poring over its lush images and talking about Glen Canyon as an avatar for the destruction of nature’s beauty that was rampant in the late 60’s and early 70’s (as if it isn’t still happening today). We were young; we were idealistic; we were passionate that people like us could make a difference in saving our planet. Glen Canyon was one of the books that spurred Loran to change his path from photography to environmental science. He was living his passion and vision, working for one of the early environmental consulting companies, out counting Mountain Caribou in southern BC for input to a proposed oil pipeline impact assessment when he died in a plane crash on August 1, 1974.

ImageI read a passage from Glen Canyon at his memorial service a few weeks later. Amy Gigi Alexander’s post stimulated me to pull that small book from the shelf and then go on a up-lifting yet tear-filled trip down memory lane. As I searched out the passage I had dedicated to Loran nearly 41 years ago, I reveled again in the images and the array of powerful writings that accompanied them. Then I recognized the piece that I was looking for. And I was shocked. Shocked and amazed about the degree to which it still spoke to me after all these years. Amazed and inspired at the insight I had had all those decades ago . . .insight I didn’t know at the time that I possessed. More and more these days I am accepting and acknowledging that I was a much more intuitive and insightful young woman than I was willing to allow myself to claim back then.

Here’s that passage:

“I know that the word ‘miraculous’ is regarded dubiously in scientific circles because of past quarrels with theologians. The world has been defined, however, as an event transcending the known laws of nature. Since, as we have seen, the laws of nature have a way of being altered from one generation of scientists to the next, a little taste for the miraculous in this broad sense will do us no harm.  We forget that nature itself is one vast miracle transcending the reality of night and nothingness. We forget that each of us in his personal life repeats that miracle.” Loren Eiseley

I remember how powerfully these words spoke to me at the time. I didn’t realize, however, how they represented the essence of my worldview then and still all these years later. I didn’t notice that even at that tender age I believed that each of us is a miracle and that our very presence matters in this world. I didn’t recognize the power in understanding that the ‘laws of nature’ do, indeed, change from one generation to another. Not so much the laws themselves, but our understanding of them. I know that I did and always have been aware of how important it is for us to sustain ‘a little taste for the miraculous’. What’s different these days is that I claim its importance overtly. Back then I just sort of ‘knew’ it. I am extremely proud of the degree to which I have grown into that belief and how it has sustained me during the difficult times of my life.

IMG_0949That ‘little taste for the miraculous’ is the seed that has been Me always and that will take me into whatever future I want for myself. That seed has caused me challenges in the past because it has made me somehow quirkily different than most people. And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I now revel in my taste for the miraculous and know that it is what sets me apart in the most positive ways and allows me to live this gloriously special life I continue to create for myself. It keeps me wondering what tomorrow’s miraculous discoveries will be . . .

What about you? What’s your ‘seed’ that makes you different and will carry you into your future if you claim it and allow it? Have you owned the way in which you are a miracle? Can you even stand to know that you are a miracle?

Twitter has been very, very good to me

My top 10 benefits from regular Tweeting

 Many friends and colleagues think I ‘waste’ a lot of time on Twitter because I can’t claim any significant direct sales. And yet, for me, Twitter has been an invaluable business tool. I’ve developed an international network, gained significant exposure, begun to understand how new-to-me industries operate (social networking, travel, publishing) and built some great business associations.

 

Here’s a list of 10 specific benefits I’ve achieved over the past 3 years on Twitter:

 

  1. Guest blog posts – at least 6 covering various aspects of my interests. Guest blog posts are great for highlighting your expertise as well as deepening relationships
  1. Travel agent – found myself a travel agent to handle my client’s bookings
  1. Advertisers – found a woman’s travel site on which to advertise my retreats, plus a retreats site for highly targeted promotions
  1. I’ve been interviewed by several journalists and achieved increased profile for both my coaching and travel businesses. Great credibility builders.
  1. I’ve built in-depth relationships with around 20 specialists in Portuguese travel industry with whom I’m in regular interaction
  1. I’ve arranged free tour and travel opportunities with people I’ve met via Twitter
  1. I’ve sold copies of my Algarve Dining book to Twitter contacts
  1. I’ve obtained great ‘how to’ information about social media, the travel industry and book publishing/promotion by following links and downloading free e-books offered on tweets
  1. Twitter helped me discover a critically important industry conference that I now attend regularly
  1. I’ve been able to help many of my clients on a wide array of topics from articles I’ve read via Twitter. Allows me to offer serious ‘value add’ to clients without any appreciable additional effort or cost.

 

@gwenmccauley

www.algarveexperiences.com

www.ouicoach.com

Nothing to say?

My friends and clients would tell you that I am not a person who has nothing to say. So I find it interesting that this blog seems to have turned into an annual posting of where I’m at! Strange, that. So unlike me. But I continue to age disgracefully, doing things that older women aren’t supposed to, exploring life, living life large.

As I talked with a friend this morning it dawned on me that it would be more useful for me to take a few moments after I have one of my regular chats with my 3-4 very close friends and create a blog post about either what we talked about or what surfaced in my Self awareness during the discussion.

Today’s chat was interesting because my friend is someone who invests very heavily in traditional approaches to getting fit and losing weight and yet isn’t ever able to lose the weight that he lugs around. We share the fact that we are both overweight. But where he swims, walks, uses the treadmill religiously and heads off to one diet program or another each week (it’s Weight Watchers at the moment) his shape never seems to change a whole lot. He expressed his admiration for the fact that I do marginal exercise, don’t follow any kind of diet except for eating whole foods and cooking everything I eat from scratch, and yet seem very hale and hearty.

Indeed, that’s how I experience myself most of the time. I very seldom ever get sick, and when I do I’m not down for long. I take no meds other than a couple of vitamins and I’m still quite strong. Now, I have begun a regular stretching routine that I do pretty religiously because I was starting to find that I was ‘seizing up’ in the joints. I felt like my brain was getting as inflexible as my hips so that was a big incentive to return to some gentle yoga.

Chasing a good photo is one of my best invitations to get out and move! Here I am at Amoreira Beach, Algarve, Portugal

I could probably do more in the cardio department but I’ve discovered that I’m one of those people who respond better to having an active life than to doing exercise. In summers for me that means camping. Hauling my little trailer around, setting up camp, breaking down camp, going for walks, schlepping water all make a big difference. In winter I spend a lot of time in Portugal where I walk all the time. And when I’m in Nova Scotia during winter, I love to head out to its many wild beaches looking for beach glass, driftwood and other great finds. I’ve been amazed at how my body feels so much more robust with just those activities.

So I do have something to say today and that is that remaining active, in whatever form feels right for you, is important. Doing the traditional ‘fitness’ routine just about kills me simply because it is a ‘routine’. In part, I love my life because each day is different than the one before it. And having discovered that being active, for me, is my way of staying fit has been one of those small but important discoveries that shifts staying fit from being drudgery to being fun.

Too busy living life

A sunset to stir the soul

Well, even with the best of intentions, it has been months since I completed my initial post. My only excuse is that I have been too darned busy living life to take the time to post.

Yet as I wrote that sentence I heard a little inner voice saying “fibber. look at how much time you spend watching TV and just staring at the view out your window. You could be writing instead”. That little voice can take a flying leap. Because every minute I’ve spent doing those ‘wasteful’ things is time well wasted in my book.

I know that one of the reasons I’m as creative as I am is that I give myself permission to hang loose, do nothing useful, chill, drift off, waste time . . .take your pick in terms of your preference for how you think about idle time. I like to think that I’ve let go of my judgements in this department, but clearly I still have a little rule somewhere deep inside that holds unproductive time as a no-no.

So I’m once again reminding myself of the value and benefits of downtime. And while I gaze out my window at the lush greens that are developing on the hillside across the bay, I’m going to take a deep breath and let myself appreciate all that I’ve created in my life. I’m also going to mindfully acknowledge that these times of drifting away are important to to my well-being, to my creativity and to my vitality.

What about you? What are the ways that you take a break from your busy life? Do you have regular down time? How comfortable are you with ‘wasting’ a bit of time each day?

Living Life Large

This family of geese who paraded past my driveway one early summer morning seem to be the ideal metaphor for the idea of Living Life Large At Any Age.  They had left the safe confines of the lagoon that was home and gone in search of who knows what:  adventure?  fresh sights?  growth opportunities for the kids?  more, different, better food?  to get some exercise?  to delight in the sights, sounds and smells that world has to offer?

We will never know.  And yet there were two parents and 13 goslings moving with aplomb down a suburban street, regardless of the number of walkers, dogs, bicycles, cars or large trucks that they would have come across.  They were busily communicating with one another.  They seemed comfortable in exploring so far from home.  I’d lived in that spot for years and this was definitely not very typical Canada Goose behaviour.

It tickled my fancy to see this little parade.  This vignette reminded me of the big wide world that awaits me each and every day; it invited me to remember to live large wherever I am and whatever is happening in my life; to not settle for the quick, easy, routines of life; to always be an explorer in life.  This feels like an important message at this time of my life.  I’m an older woman, entering that time of life when most people think of settling deeper into the comfortable armchair of life, of giving up things that seem outrageous or at all dangerous, of being wise, decorous and supportive.  Bugger that says every fibre of my being.

Get out and explore.  Taste what life has to offer.  Test your limits.  Don’t settle for tried & true, easy and effortless, known and understood.  Keep growing, stay fresh, be interested & interesting.  As my friend Evelyn advises ‘age disgracefully’.  Yeehaw is my response.

This blog is my place to keep track of who I am always in the process of becoming when I choose to live large.  Because one thing I’ve learned is that if we don’t keep track of what is special in our life it is quickly forgotten.  I hope my thoughts, opinions and musings help to inspire you to expect and demand more in your life too just like this goose family inspired me.  I’m excited to see where it all takes me.