Magnificant Midlife Interview (Part 2)

I hope you enjoyed part one of my interview with Rachel Lancaster, and here is part two.

What do you love most about the age you are?

"Ageing is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength," Betty Friedan.

True isn't it? Being this age is liberating! How did I get here when I still think I'm in my thirties? Time is passing all too quickly. I love being 60 because what's the alternative? I know far too many people who haven't made it this far, be it through illness, accident or suicide. So I'm grateful for the life and energy that I have. Besides, I don't feel 60 and have always had a young at heart approach to life.

Each decade brings it's own dimensions and challenges ~ positive and negative. I wouldn't be twenty again if you paid me. You think you know it all but really you haven't even started to make sense of the world ~ that's the confidence of youth, if only you knew it at the time. Without youthful arrogance though, we'd never move forward in life.

Being 60 today is not like it was for previous generations of women. It's not perfect by any means, but our lives today are full of opportunities and choices beyond our grandmothers dreams. There is so much to do and celebrate ~ my life is nowhere near over yet. Older women should be able to see ourselves as part of the wider societal mix. We have the wisdom of our experiences, and the will and confidence to 'go out there and do.' I've become more chilled and no longer worry what others may think of me, you just have to be yourself. Not everyone is going to like you, but you know what? It doesn't matter.

We are pushing back the boundaries of what it means to age well. I think we're taking better care of ourselves and it's never too late to undo bad habits. A tip would be, if you haven't already, find a form of exercise that you like doing. I've discovered running (I use the term loosely) and found a lovely country park with trails clearly marked out through woodland. I lay my exercise clothing and running shoes out the night before, ready to go 'first thing,' before my brain and body realise what I'm up to. It's then done for the day, feeling smug I've completed my 5k. It's good for the soul and clears my head ~ its energising. Although I prefer to run solo, going at the same time each day I'm likely to see the same folk, dog walkers, to say hello to. I don't go for a PB as I keep stopping to chat. I use the 'map my run' app to log time and distance.

Could I loose a little weight? Probably, though I'm happy in my skin (and that took me a long time to achieve). Please don't wait until you're slim enough, or whatever, to wear bright colourful clothes. I spent my life in uniform or an informal uniform of black trousers and a tee shirt or blouse, that morphed into my off duty clothes as well. My wardrobe was permanently waiting to go to a funeral. Never again! Wearing dark clothes doesn't do much for a positive mindset either. My friends now seem to take the same approach. I have a friend who totally rocks green hair. I mean, if you can't experiment at our age with trying something different, when?

What I dislike is the focus on youth culture and the anti-aging philosophy. As though being older, or more to the point, being seen to be older, is a sin. Really? I believe we are positively changing the idea of what it is to grow older but not to get old ~ there's a difference. We must avoid the stereotype pitfalls. Women of our age can be overlooked, although I think that perspective is gradually changing. I don't think we are being put out to graze as such as often as perhaps we might have been. Besides, what's wrong with appreciating the decades and the wisdom we've garnered as wrinkles or a little sagginess? 'Don't judge a book,' as they say.

The notion of having to wear 'age-appropriate' clothes ~ what does that mean? I hate to read articles about what I should or should not be wearing at my age. Or the way I ought to do my hair. For me it's about, does it look good on? Does it make me happy? Ignore the numbers (age or size). I have a fantastic (younger) hairdresser who 'gets' where I'm coming from ~ very much on my side. My least favourite word is sensible, more so than ever. As some of you may know, I have a pair of floral DMs, and a sparkly pair for winter. Take that attitude into the world at large!

What do you know now that you wish you had known in your twenties?

So many things! Don't sweat the small stuff, because it doesn't matter.

Not everyone is going to like you, regardless ~ it's about him or her not you.

People cross your path in life for a reason ~ even if they don't stay in your life. They teach you something about yourself or the world at large, a lesson of some sort. Maybe it's how not to be a certain way as a person, to be yourself. It's okay to cut people out of your life if they are not nice or toxic even. Don't let your mental health suffer because you want people to like you, or to be popular ~ it's never worth it.

Trust your intuition ~ its embedded experience after all. The times I've ignored that little voice in my head, it's always had a negative consequence.

Be true to yourself, you'll earn your integrity 'badge' as time goes by and respect from those who matter.

What are the most important business and / or personal lessons you've learnt along the way?

Be true to yourself, and know the qualities you value in yourself and in others. I place great importance on integrity, honesty and kindness. Sometimes, as I've found to my cost, this has put me on a collision course with other people. I once had to undertake compulsory psychometric testing at middle management level for some restructuring process or other. The test uncovered many positive things about me, but also that I wasn't ruthless enough for the posts they had in mind. I cheered, even though it was the 'wrong' response. I didn't care. I didn't want to pretend to be that type of person they were looking for. Needless to say, I moved on to another post more to my liking.

Be it work or relationships, know when to stay and when to move on ~ it's not failure to say, 'this isn't working for me,' and learn from that experience.

Nurture / mentor other women ~ offer a 'hand up,' to women coming up behind you. I had some amazing women who were generous in providing support and encouragement. Work / life is hard enough without worrying about obstacles. Pay back! Be a grown up and, unless it's sport, don't be competitive with other women ~ it really isn't necessary.

Be kind ~ always. It's not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength, especially in adversity.

Value your time and take care of yourself ~ don't learn the hard way. It's difficult but not impossible to undo bad habits, and it's never too late.

Do you have a mantra that has guided you more than any other?

Tomorrow's never promised.

Also, if you be anything in this world, be kind. Kindness is everything.

Which women do you admire and why?

An impossible question and just as impossible to choose one woman, so here's a sample:

Iris Apfel, in her eighties I believe, and just rocks fashion. Or should I say, dresses uniquely in a colourful style. We could take a leaf out of her book. Lets not forget our own Suzie Grant, who not least, has got me wearing headscarves again.

Tracy Emin, an artist from Margate in Kent, who has pushed the boundaries in the Art world. Fearless it would seem in exposing her vulnerabilities and unafraid to be herself. You with either love her or loathe her, but she can't be ignored.

Dawn French, Helen Mirren, Judy Dench and Julie Walters, I mean, come on! What role models for women ~ growing older with attitude and spirit.

My friends who weather life's storms, like a lifeboat on the high seas to their friends and families. They are supportive, witty and funny. I continue to learn so much from them.

The many other women out there in the world, too many to name, who are able to push the boundaries in their field of expertise. Or are unafraid to speak out or be different in some way, showing strength of character in the face of opposition, or immeasurable grief. They demonstrate the many sides of womanhood and what it means to be female.

Is there anything people consistently misunderstand about you?

That I'm standoffish when in actual fact I'm shy. I have one of those faces if I don't smile I appear grumpy and bad tempered. So not true. Once you get to know me I can be the life and soul.

How can (the Mutton Club) readers find out more about you?

My website / blog

Twitter @nearthetown

Instagram writerintheattic

Thank you for reading!

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