When I closed my office door and began to dream of writing a book, friends asked, “Why”? Striving to be truthful, I answered, “To avoid becoming invisible.”
They objected, especially those who are younger, not wanting me to feel diminished by growing old. They tried to talk me out of having this concern. But they could not, for I’m a realist, and know that aging eventually brings a retreat from center stage.
One particularly close friend pursued the point, “Do you mean invisible as a woman or in a more general sense?” she asked.
“Both,” I said.
As women grow older, we accept a measure of invisibility. As we advance beyond the ever-expanding stretch designated as midlife, it threatens us in earnest. As we walk down a sidewalk, male heads no longer turn, no eye contact is sought. But with family and friends, and professionally, we can continue as vibrant, seasoned, and accomplished players years after feminine allure has faded. It’s not a bad trade-off.
Only a Pollyanna would insist that nothing has changed when the step slows and maintaining bone and muscle is an ever-greater challenge. We spend many hours developing future plans with the knowledge that even the wisest plan may go awry.
For me, writing keeps the stage lights on. And recalling memorable experiences, both personal and work related, exploring and crystallizing their meaning and crafting a story, offers a new role, a revival, a second act. Is this a universal dream for those growing older, to pass along what life has taught them? Is it a dream for the not yet so old?
To those dear friends who sought to reassure me of my continuing relevance, I’ve apparently failed to communicate that becoming less visible is not all bad. So here’s the good news for me, which will eventually be true for them:
I’m no longer burdened by ambition. Though eager to enhance my ability as a writer, I have no more mountains to climb.
The skills I developed over many years of professional practice allowed me to serve the needs of clients caught up in distressing times with calm assurance. Younger colleagues often seek my advice, and their expressions of gratitude warm my heart.
A new generation is coming forward to assume leadership of volunteer projects that remain important to me, permitting me to enjoy the role of valued advisor and engaged spectator, leaving me precious hours for my own design.
Never again will I wear uncomfortable shoes.
The clothes in my closet are classics, by my own definition. Being in tune with fashion matters not at all.
Without guilt, I no longer attend social events I think will be tiresome.
Responsible only for my own timetable, I can talk with a friend for hours, even in the middle of the day, should we both choose.
I’m no longer a consumer of anything other than consumables. Well, that’s not entirely true as I am part of the Apple world. But simplicity allows me to have greater focus and enough time to become technologically savvy.
I don’t have to pretend, so as to be perceived in a favorable light. I don’t have to hide who I really am. Invisibility has morphed into transparency and now, with publication this month of The Third Person in the Room, renewed visibility.
This has been an exciting and rewarding adventure, prompting me to turn to urging some other retired friends, male and female, to foreswear invisibility and get their feet wet in the publication waters. I know well the accumulated wisdom and insights they have to offer and they are significant. I would welcome hearing from others who may harbor the dream of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to share what they have learned over the years. I can offer some guidance, and from this task I will not retire.
As many of my readers already know, the paperback and e-book of The Third Person in the Room, Stories of Relationships at a Turning Point is now available on Amazon. Hardback copies are available at: nolankerr.com.