Today’s guest post in the Your Story section is contributed by lovely Lifestyle Fifty reader, Ruth Tearle, a dynamic change management consultant from Cape Town in South Africa.
What a wonderful gift, thank you Jo! A chance to reflect on one’s life and what it means to be over fifty on this wonderful blog for older women.
The Lifecycle of a woman and the Cycle of life
Looking back over the years to my childhood, I’m aware of the compression of time. So much has changed. And yet, so much is still the same.
From being in the dark, to understanding.
As a teenager, I always felt ‘in the dark’. I was told to trust what doctors, teachers or people in authority told me. And yet, I would often feel let down as I discovered that they didn’t really have the answers
I was brought up in an age where information was scarce. Information was power. Information was controlled by gatekeepers who didn’t want to share their power. And gate keepers abounded. On a national level, censorship meant that we only got to read what the authorities wanted us to read. My knowledge of the world was limited to a newspaper, the government controlled TV or a few magazines.
Being ignorant was sometimes the easy option
I remember how much it took to do research. Driving to specialist libraries. Flipping through cards or microfiches to find a clue as to which article may cover what I was looking for. Taking down the article’s location. Waiting in a queue to give it to a librarian. Waiting at a desk for the librarian to bring the article to me. Reading the article and discovering it didn’t cover what I was looking for. Deciding whether it was worth my while to go through the whole process again. Sometimes being ignorant was a far easier option.
Inspiration from my couch
I remember driving miles going from doctor to doctor trying to understand the cause of my short breath and sleepless nights. I regret the many days and weeks of my life I wasted trying out medication after medication that just didn’t work for me. I remember feeling too scared to challenge the doctors who weren’t helping me.
Learn how to overcome the things that niggle you
Today I have the world’s greatest authorities on any subject I can dream of- sitting in my iPad, in my lounge. Knowledge and even wisdom, is available instantly, 24/7. I am no longer in the dark. Although I still have many health issues and ailments, today I take responsibility for my own health. I research whatever is bothering me, and then have an intelligent discussion with my doctor. I finally understand what triggers asthma attacks and how to deal with them. I understand how to get and keep fit. How to exercise. How to overcome whatever niggles I have.
Things are easier today. I can find inspiration from my couch. I can sit in on lectures by my favourite authors using YouTube and my iPad. I can get instant inspiration. Instant information. Instant know how.
From isolation to connectivity
I grew up in apartheid South Africa. Apartheid means separation. As well as being separated from people of different races, sanctions meant we were also isolated from the rest of world. Our connections were with people from our own town, our own race and our own religion. So, as Kurt Vonnegut describes in his book “ Cat’s Cradle”, I tended to mix with “hoosiers”. (A hoosier is “a group of people who claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless.”) . Although I was surrounded by people, I was often lonely. I couldn’t relate to these hoosiers (people of my religion, culture and city) that I was told I should relate to. I just couldn’t see the world the way they saw it.
As a teenager and young adult, I felt lonely and disconnected as many of my friends emigrated to other countries. Keeping in touch by letters (which took 6 weeks to be delivered), resulted in losing touch with one another. Phone calls were too expensive.
Now I feel more connected than ever before
Today, with emails, Skype, and social networking, I can connect quickly and easily to people who share my values, my interests, and my world view. I meet many of them online, in discussion groups. Most of my connections today live in different countries, in different time zones, and have a different culture or religion to me. And yet, I feel more connected than I have ever felt in my life.
From being blinded by smoke screens to seeing clearly.
I have recently been reading many of Kurt Vonnegut’s books. Books I tried to read in my twenties, but couldn’t understand or relate to then. Although Kurt Vonnegut is a generation ahead of me, much of what he wrote about when he was in his 50’s in “Hocus Pocus” is something that hits buttons for me today.
Even from generation to generation, people rarely change. The games they play and the pretences they hide behind are as true today as they were 50 and even 100 years ago.
I no longer trust or believe that people in power, or authority do things because they are wiser or better than anyone else. I no longer stifle what I see, think or feel because someone more powerful tells me that I am unpatriotic, not a team player, or lacking in something.
I no longer expect some stranger to come out of the blue and solve my problems for me, or give me instant fame or success.
Create what you want to create
This has been the most liberating for me. I simply accept what is – and create what I wish to create.Because I no longer expect people to do anything for me. Instead of feeling disappointed by what others don’t do, I am often delighted when people do reach out.
Life will always be difficult.
M Scott Peck once wrote that:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
I no longer believe that life is easy, or will get any easier in the future. It is difficult to stay fit and healthy, and relevant – and as we get older I know it will get even more difficult.
But then… Nothing has changed.
What’s important is that we must make the most of each stage of our lives and learn from each of life’s new cycles.
Ruth Tearle is the owner of Change Designs a web portal filled with practical tools and articles to support people at work. She is the author of many inspirational books and cards. She lives in Cape Town, South Africa, and enjoys the wonderful outdoor lifestyle it offers. You might like to follow Ruth on Facebook or Twitter or Linked In
Over to you Lifestyle readers …
What significant changes have there been in your beliefs as you get older? Does anything in particular stand out? Why not tell us in the comments section?
(If you would you like to write a post for the “My Story” section on Lifestyle Fifty please feel free to contact me with your idea.)