8.04.2010

Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy the Ride


Recently, a young(er) woman of my acquaintance noted her "surprise at how little runway middle-aged women have left ahead of them". There was a collective sharp intake of breath among the middle-aged women in the room; this should have been what is known in the hostess biz as a gaffe, but the speaker seemed oblivious.

Okay then. After giving my eyebrows a bit of exercise, raising first one, then the other, I sailed off into a vaguely associative reverie of gaff rigging, if only to drop anchor in quieter waters...one more good yank on the throat halyard.... Days later, my phone was still crackling with incoming high dudgeon. What was she talking about? What did she mean? No malice had been intended, I'm sure. It just seemed such a sad way to think about navigating middle age.

The comment nagged at me for nearly a week. Now, whenever things are bothering me, I try to channel my friend Caroline. She has what is called An Excellent Attitude. She is invariably cheery, when she isn't inconsolable. She generally manages to look on the sunny side. Caroline once taught me a nifty trick of clenching my fists in front of me, fingers up, and then opening them slowly, stretching my arms away from my body, as if to release whatever I am holding on to. It really works; it generates this soothing, oh, I dunno, I give up, you take it, feeling. I pondered short runways while clenching and unclenching my fists. In the next few days, I sped through the five stages of mourning--mourning my lost chance at a witty repartie, that is--zipping from Denial (did she really say that? it isn't even true!) to Anger (how dare she! wait till she turns fifty!) to Bargaining (listen, how about I trade you a couple of years for some of my wisdom?) to Depression (oh dear, there are indeed fewer years ahead, how terrible, so much to do, so little runway...) and I emerged, the proud bearer of Acceptance.

It is true. We have less runway. And what's the problem? As we grow older, we don't need more, and we don't want that extra mileage. That's because we have gotten smarter. We finally know where we're going, without the endless taxi-ing, the wasting of precious fuel, the aimless shunting from one strip to another. Why, some of us don't even have engines; we're just gliding, silently and serenely, on whatever currents we catch. And we know better than to haul around tons of excess baggage; we've dumped it. We aren't piloting those fat old jumbo jets, full of irritated, irritating passengers; 757s can't get liftoff without miles of runway. We're in command of snappy little private planes. Passengers board by invitation only. We're traveling light, nimble and fast.

So, however many miles you have to go, I wish you only the best. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Those endless blue skies will forever beckon.

71 comments:

Cristina said...

(yet another) great piece of wisdom!

pve design said...

Wow - I feel like Snoopy, the red baron and in need of a white silk scarf and a pilot's helmet for a heady take-off, or better yet a convertible.
Great writing for a great ride!
pve

Dana said...

For me, James Taylor says it well:

"Well the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it,
There ain't nothin' to it.
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill.
But since we're on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride."

I'm enjoying the ride - sometimes it feels like I'm careening down that hill but more and more often life rises under my wings and my feet lift off the ground!

Ragland Hill Social by Gwen Driscoll said...

Thank you for this. Very appropriate for many things I'm feeling these days. Hope you are well.

yvonne@designvignettes said...

I like that, "gliding ... on whatever currents we catch." Makes uncertainty an okay place to be.

Tamra said...

Oh how silly things young people say. (Sigh)

froogal said...

We don't need a runway, we have already arrived at the gate!

virginia said...

i know plenty who slid off the end of the runway before they hit forty, so you never know...

she's been sheltered from too many storms, probably with a wallet.

Teresa Hatfield said...

No one knows how long their runway is. Only one knows that. Looks like someone was trying to do his job!
Teresa (Splendid Sass)

Madgew said...

I have often thought about how much time is left (I am 61) and realize the time is out of my control but the ride isn't. I look at the time as containing more possibilities now than ever. I am much more willing to let it all flow and enjoy the long, winding path and smell the roses. Thanks for the story this morning.

Christa said...

Beautiful. Thank you.

As I start my fiftieth year, there is no where I would rather be. Gliding, not caring if I am not in control of where I land, enjoying the ride.... it's all good. And no one ever knows how long their runway is....

Anonymous said...

Screw the youngins

dom said...

i've never felt as alive and vibrant as now..i'm 54 years young and happy to be so....
Doing lots of tablescaping and creating my own little world....
i think i'll go back onto your blog and read more posts of yours.I'm French and live near Paris.
see you.
dom (yes, my name is Dominique too !)

Väva! Veve! said...

You certainly salvaged your young friend's metaphor with very positive results! Nice save!

Karen said...

As always, beautifully stated! Thank you for sharing your thoughtful take on the silly words of the young.

SPLENDEROSA said...

Not only beautifully stated, but perfectly stated, as well. You totally rock, Dominique. We all love you!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I have to say, I really love being considered a "snappy little private plane". So much more appealing than a jumbo jet.

Or, even better, how about one of those bright red cardinals? Floating free on the breath of a breeze.

philosophotarian said...

as a young-un myself (I'm only 30), I feel a kinship with the author of that possibly un-thoughtful comment: to keep with the runway metaphor, it has only occurred to me (for example) that there could even be a runway, that I could possibly 'take off', and that the runway will indeed shorten: I'd better become the sort of craft that can adapt.

So many of us younger women have so few older (relatively speaking) women to look to as models. When the rare opportunity to meet and admire and learn from such women arises, perhaps we run at the mouths in wonder because we are able to see the possible kinds of lives we have ahead of us. It is exciting--and humbling--to think that the Rest of My Life is not some vast and scary void, but that maybe, one day, if I am very lucky, I can become a "snappy little private plane"

This was a lovely post, by the way.

Barbara said...

I started my blog to sort of ruminate about turning 60 this year, and now the deed is done. I think what got me most was realizing I was no longer 'middle aged', because even tho we're living longer, we're not living to 120!
But I can't agree with you more Dominique about 'flying' unencumbered! I have no time for things I'm not crazy about, or people who bring me down! It's good to be in a small private plane!
Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

Once again, your comments are spot on. Most of us wouldn't go back and trade our experiences for anything. I wonder what her mother would have said if she overheard her comment!

kelly said...

Of course, I love everything you write, but your reaction to the runway comment is one of the all time best!
Passengers boarding by invitaion only says it all.... here's to gliding and looking forward to many, many years of your glorious writing and musings which constantly resonate so strongly with me!
Kelly

mary said...

I feel exactly the same way. I do not need the baggage, unwarranted guilt, soccer, baseball, football, gymnastics, volley and track, other people's expectations (or any of the zillion of other things that I have finally outgrown). I am just getting into soaring states with my creativity. I really do not need much runway or anything to weigh me down. I am learning to be in the present moment--and it is so much better than EXTRA runway.

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

Your post is yet another gift. At "this age" it's freeing to state: come fly with me. Or don't!

Mrs. Blandings said...

I didn't really feel like I hit my stride until 40. I think, as well as a lack of tact, what is happening here is a lack of perspective. I do always find it amusing when women are worshipping at the alter of youth that it doesn't seem to occur to them that aging will happen to them as well. Like it's a bad choice the rest of us have made.

SweetRetreat said...

Mmmmmm ... that smarts, running out of runway. I'm 65, don't feel it, may look it, but never felt as liberated. We earned this place, long and often difficult the journey may have been. Now, just don't call me dear, or say I am cute ...


Jill

Barbara said...

I promise you, the young lady who made the comment will get to the "out of runway" age soon enough, and when she does, she'll feel very differently about it than she does now. And didn't most of us older people harbor the same feelings when young! I look at it as part of a process that everyone goes through. Most extremely young people assume that older ones lust after everything involved with youth. Not so! It's a trade through the years. Yes, you do lose a certain freshness and eagerness as you mellow and evolve, but this brings forth valuable characteristics that are not active in the bloom of youth. It's a story that has been playing for millennia and is on the agenda for many millennia to come.

Darci said...

Excellent reminder, Dominique! I love this post and I'm totally going to try the "clenchy hand" thing next time I get all worked up over something, that in retrospect, is silly. You can't stop people from saying stupid things, but you CAN control how you respond.

Tricia said...

Love how you capitalized on that comment to write yet another great post. I read each comment to your blog and nodded in agreement with them all,laughed in delight at some, and felt good about being 65 and in such good company. The wisdom of experience speaks volumes. I am finding these years soooo liberating.

Doug said...

It seems like one of the benefits of writing a blog is that you did get the opportunity to respond (with humor, grace and wisdom). Thanks for the post. I'm 61 and looking for authentic ways to reframe the aging process. You nailed it!

Flo Ingram/INGRAM DESIGN said...

Talk about a true "teachable moment." Your faithful readers such as I have grown to trust you to do this again and again, and today is no exception. Look at what you've spun together from a thoughtless, hurtful insult. But then you always seem to take up bits of daily thread here and there, stitch them together into a certain shape, then you gift us with a salutary way of looking at something anew. So many moments, and so few teachers with your gifts of expression. So thank you for organizing and maintaining this blog, it's wonderful. And so are you. F.

Tree said...

So very, very good. Here's to all the private plane boomers!

Richard Childs said...

Ooh, you've just given me my metaphor for competing against those younger in the job market.

Lindsay T said...

Oh, you nailed this one. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

One Woman's Journey said...

Wait until you arrive at 70. I love the life I lead and there is never a dull minute. At 50 you are a "youngster" :)

One Woman's Journey said...

Wait until you arrive at 70. I love the life I lead and there is never a dull minute. At 50 you are a "youngster" :)

LUCY said...

Hmmm...of course we've run out of runway if we have already taken off! The runway is just there to take a running start at flying. I wouldn't choose to go back to the taxi stage, waiting for someone to tell me I can take off!

Heather said...

You are one beautiful lady Dominique! Thank you once again for your eloquent and inspiring words.

OldWoman said...

Birds don't need a runway.

Anonymous said...

Some of us may even be in command of our own helicopter--no runway needed. Any launching point will do. Swift, skillful, and soaring new heights.

Jeanne said...

Traveling light, nimble and fast....love it!

Paula said...

First of all, congratulations on your book. I just read about it and you in my newspaper this morning. The article mentioned your blog so here I am. Hope you don't mind if I visit for awhile. It is beautifully crafted and I just know I won't get it all in this visit. I'll definitely come back.
Love the realizations you came to after pondering on the young girl's *runway* comment.
My thoughts...who cares about the length of the runway? In life, they are only for taking off from, to fly as long and as high as you can. Landings are for those who never earn their wings.

StudioCherie said...

I just wanted to say I enjoyed your post - every bit of it, and all of the thoughtful comments here. Bravo!

austere said...

Brilliant!

Happy to be 46. Wouldn't touch 30 with a bargepole even if you gave me cold hard cash.

Pragya said...

Great writing as always! Love stopping by here.

Pragya

Vivien said...

Once I was amused to hear two girls sitting behind me in a cinema, both about 18. One said laconically, "I mean, when you're 30, you've had it." The other just agreed - "Mm..." At 68 I'd love to be ten years younger, but my aunt at 85 thinks I'm really lucky!
Very good post - thanks.

Jayne said...

Well thought and well said! My gynecologist said to me this year (58) that I have a lot of good years left. I didn't know what to make of that remark and have been pondering it ever since. How does she know how many years I have left? How does she know if they'll be good? But I'm taking the positive outlook - how ever many years I have, I want them to be good.

Laura said...

You hardly need another comment, but who can resist thanking you for the metaphor and the reminder that runways are made for journeys and no one is better equipped for them than those with a lot of stickers on their luggage. Short or long, it's the attitude of the pilot that matters and we've finally learned to keep a steady hand on whatever controls we're allowed.

I loved this piece.

Kalen said...

Yours is one of my favorite blogs in my reader. I find that many of the "younger" bloggers put less care and thought into crafting their posts - even the young writers.
I'd trade you a few years for wisdom!

Streams Full of Stars said...

Bravo, Dominique! Standing ovation!!!
Interesting comments - it all makes for a great conversation.

William said...

Dominique,

I suggest you hop in an F16 and take off from a carrier deck and go blow up her long runway.

tdm said...

Hi Dominique,
Like you, I mulled over this individual's comment and wondered why it both irritated and amused me.
Surviving a chronic ailment which almost killed me, I find myself trying in part to understand 'Why, why am I still here?' The runway was much, much shorter than expected - in fact it ran out years ago!
With the support of loving family and friends, dedicated medical professionals, I've endured for much longer than I ever expected. Accepting that I would live has been curiously difficult and a cause of much soul searching. 'Learning to Glide' is an apt metaphor for my current existence. What does the future holds for me? A marvelous adventure I hope!

Anonymous said...

Bravo Dominique, greatest post ever, and it is "The Only Way To Fly". Hugs

Everyday Goddess said...

I love how you turned this around, so inspiring!

I gave you one of my weekly awards which you can collect if you like, whenever you like.

Snappy Di said...

Even our grown children are rarely invited onto our private jet. :-)

Sorry kiddos.

Di

TechnoBabe said...

My favorite line in your post is "Passengers board by invitation only. We're traveling light, nimble and fast." This is great reading. Written by a strong and healthy person.
Congrats on your POTW on the Goddess' blog.

Gaea Yudron said...

Little does that gal know about the pleasures of aging. I'm 69 and the past 10 or 15 years have been full of adventure, growth and yes, slowing down is part of the delight. Just finished writing a musical play on aging titled A New Wrinkle. It's about time for a new cultural view of aging, one that is more accurate and uplifted, reflecting the real depth and fulfillment of this phase of life.

KK said...

Loved Dominque's "enjoy the ride" piece. Love the snappy little private plane image. Only thing I missed: the evolved form of these snappy little private planes--it seems, if one looks closely, each of those snappy little private plans have wings that are more accurately beautiful, angel-winged hands that reach out to hold the winged-hand of another snappy little private plane. Together we glide, together we exchange our fuel of love and wisdom and insight and play. Together we make arches of beauty and mischief. Together we clear the air of tension and grief. Together we soar where no snappy little private plane could ever go alone. A charm of archangel aviators purifying the past and seeding the ground below with a reflection of its beauty. But perhaps that's too easy to miss while rattling along in a jumbo jet. Maybe not, maybe there is wisdom being realized right there in those crammed seated excursions. After all, it's everywhere.

PattiKen said...

I am here via The Everyday Goddess. Congratulations on winning her POTW award.

This is wisdom, pure and simple, and so inspirational. Thank you for posting it, and thank you too, Goddess, for pointing the way here.

Banno said...

I'd definitely want to navigate a snappy little private plane than a jumbo jet. You found the right note of acceptance. Anyway, don't you hate flights which circle around long, long runways before taking off. They always make me sick.

Amy said...

As a former pilot I'd say that we, at the mid-point of our lives, are living at "optimal climb". That's to say the point where a plane is climbing and gaining altitude, but at it's most efficient, given the plane's design characteristics and its energy (fuel) use. It's a case of not wasting resources, whatever they may be, and knowing what we want in our lives.

BTW, I love your blog, Dominique, and it's the only one I read regularly, given I live in a remote part of Chile with a VERY slow internet connection. I don't have time to read others!

Cheers!

Jacqueline said...

Living has very little to do with time.
I year of living, twenty times over, is still only one year of living.
It's not what you have...it's what you do with it!

Marci said...

Thanks for sharing this gem. Great post!

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Lisa said...

Well, I can't really speak for the previous 14 comments...ahem...but I too am pround to call myself a snappy little private plane!
Very nice story, very nice.
Lisa

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