One of the things I love most about the work that I now do and the learning I do to support it, is that I’ve had the opportunity to develop deep and beautiful friendships with many amazing women of all generations. As I wrote in this post, I believe that we must all take responsibility for being conduits of this wisdom work – both receiving support and wisdom from women of older generations, and passing it down to the generations following us.
One of the women who has served as mentor and friend to me (and, truth be told, I have also had the opportunity to return the mentorship, so it’s a mutual benefit thing) is Margaret Sanders. I met her last year at a circle/story workshop, and I was drawn in almost immediately by the warmth and wisdom I saw on her face. She is an amazingly gifted educator, mentor, host, and wisdom-sharer.
It has become increasingly clear to me that we, as middle-aged (and younger) women, need strong role models in the generation ahead of us. We need women like Margaret who have forged a new path for women in leadership to support us, encourage us, and lend us their wisdom. I am grateful that I have Margaret in my corner, believing in what I do and challenging me to continue to move forward.
I asked Margaret to share a bit about her life as she steps into this new stage of “active wisdom”, and this is what she wrote…
I am a woman who turned 65 this year, and it rocked my world! Not just a minor tremor. It’s been a full-scale earthquake.
I believe there is significance in my story for others, because I have come to realize that I am at the front line of a surging crowd of baby boomers who are about to face the same thing.
This is my story from the front line:
I don’t see myself as a senior person, but other people do. The arrival of my Canada Old Age Benefit Card in the mail (seriously – who knew?) confirmed my new status as a person. Over the past year, colleagues who valued my presence in working with them or mentoring them have moved on in their careers, and that has caused me to question what I ever could do – or did know. I have been mired in the ditch of questioning whether and where I have value to contribute to this world.
I left my job as a school principal to care for my mother when my father died. She suffered from dementia, and needed “mothering” until her death a few years ago. I successfully reinvented my professional work to be able to give her the kind of loving attention she gave me all of my life.
It’s startling to realize that I am in this situation as a pioneer; I have no role models in my family history for what it means to be a professional woman. As a woman who has been successful and highly regarded for her expertise, who must re-find her place in the world upon seeing opportunities for paid “work” vanish, coincidentally, as the 65 year mark arrived.
Because I have been a new kind of mother model for my 40ish age children, they are extremely competent and confident professionals, spouses and parents who have no need of mothering. I’ve done myself out of that historical elder role.
I have Wisdom, expertise, energy and good health, and I am not sure what to do with those gifts in the currents of today’s world.
My views are broad, wide and long-term and I have come to see things in the way of Proust’s simplicity on the other side of complexity. Younger professionals are focusing on the absolute necessity of meeting today’s challenges. Their lives are frequently frenetic, and they have little time to “waste. ” [We live on completely different planes, and necessarily so – but my deepest instincts tell me that my wisdom has potential for changing their lives.]
I have lots and lots of things that I want to do to remain stimulated and independent and contributing over the next few years. There is a cost associated with all of these things. I want to continue to be paid for the value that I possess. I am trying to figure out how that might work.
So, I am at the point of reinvention again. Unlike all of the other transition points in my life where things seemed to resolve fairly quickly, it is taking a while to rebuild who I am and what I am about. But the good news today is that I know my experience is going to add up to something significant. And my reason for that today is that we have a new 46 year old premier-elect in Alberta, Canada and for the first time he is a woman. I am one of the shoulders upon which she stands. (Her mother died a few days before her election, and the one person she wanted to call first with the good news was her mother.) Invisibly, from behind this front-line head-line news, my experience and the experiences of the women surging behind me, enabled this new story to begin unfolding.
We baby boomer women have stories to tell, and our stories are changing the world. That may be where I come in …