A Glorious Freedom!

author picture
Meeting Lisa Congdon at her book-signing in Seattle!

When I heard about the new book, A Glorious Freedom Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon, I was really excited. After all, it is one of my favorite subjects, and written and illustrated by a favorite artist and writer! She is not a personal friend, but I did get to meet her at her recent book-signing event at Elliot Bay Books (she is every bit as delightful as she seems in the photo!)

I pre-ordered the book, so I’d receive it on publication day, and I was not disappointed. It is a beautiful book, illustrated by Lisa with portraits of many of the extraordinary women in the book, as well as her own distinctive illustrations and graphics.

She chose to write the book because she is a “self-described late bloomer” who didn’t begin her illustration and writing career until she was 40. She is now 49 and has published 7 books, her 8th book is coming out next year. It takes courage to begin a new path at 40, or 50 as I did, and some of the women profiled started even later. This book explores the courage and resilience of women who either started “late” on careers or redefined their careers as they aged.

The women profiled are a mix of contemporary women and historical figures. Some are interviewed by Lisa, the stories of others are essays by the subjects themselves or by Lisa. This makes for a nice mix of style in the text, and every woman profiled made me hungry to learn more. I jumped to my laptop a few times to look up artists previously unknown to me, especially a collage artist named Della Wells. She is now a favorite, not only for her own amazing story and work, but for her work supporting and promoting other artists in her city.

The women profiled are not all well-known, nor are they all artists–there are athletes, scientists, authors, and business people. I think one of the most fascinating interviews is with Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest national park ranger in the US who is still working at the age of 95 as a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, CA.

She is a very articulate and thoughtful woman, and does a tremendous service telling the story of the war experience of women of color, highlighting how much social change has occurred since 1942, the remarkable thing is that she is telling the story from her own lived experience. It is no wonder she received a commemorative presidential coin from President Obama in 2015.

I love this book, and it’s subject is completely in line with my purpose writing this blog…it’s never too late to live your life with courage, creativity and wisdom.

My favorite quote from the book is from the interview with Debbie Millman, host and founder of the longest-running design podcast, Design Matters. Asked by Lisa to elaborate on her opinion that confidence is important, but courage is more important, Millman says:

“I think confidence comes from a repeated effort that continues to go well. so if you try something and you are successful at it, you feel that if you do it again you will be successful again. And that repeated success breeds confidence. I think it’s actually more important to have courage, because you tend to be more afraid of doing things that you’ve never done before and through which you have no previous experience of success. Courage is more important than confidence because it forces you to try new things, to move outside what is comfortable.”  (emphasis is mine) page 126

Reading that paragraph made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I have not always been courageous in my life, not by a long shot, but being courageous is one of my core values as I age.

This is a terrific book, and I hope you will find it, read it, and try something new in your life. After all, it is never too late…

 

 

 

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Why a (Wild Girl)?

 

paperdoll collage
be a good girl…

The tagline for my website is “It’s never too late to be the (wild girl) you might have been”. I put “wild girl” in parentheses because being wild may not be your goal, and you can fill in what your long held desire is. For me, the wild girl is what I imagine I would have been like if I had not been raised to be a “good girl”.

Growing up in the 1950’s and coming of age in the 1960’s was a massive contradiction. I rebelled in the ’60’s but unfortunately (and also fortunately!) I had the “good girl” model pretty deeply ingrained. I think most of us roughly my generation were raised to be “good girls”. Good girls didn’t rock the boat, they were good examples to their siblings, they didn’t talk back, and the strong opinions we formed were often kept to ourselves or only shared with each other. We put up with a lot, and voiced our true thoughts and opinions at our peril: the peril of losing our jobs, the good opinion of our peers, the affection of boyfriends and spouses.

A year ago when I was planning ideas for this website, the image of my wild girl was an artist who followed through on her desires to be creative in all aspects of her life; hair, clothes, lifestyle, all forms of expression. I still feel that way, but I have had to add the image of using my voice and my actions to really show up in the world to make a difference.

I know I am not the only one, there is a lot of simmering anger or at least frustration in the women of  my generation for not being a little more wild, for putting everyone else and their feelings ahead of their own feelings and desires. We may feel like we have missed out, and wonder if it is too late to BE what we always have wanted to be.

I think the 53% of voting white women who voted for Trump in the last election are also full of simmering anger and frustration. I wonder if they are so lost in good-girl world that they voted to keep the status quo? I don’t know.

I don’t believe it is too late, I don’t believe it is ever too late to be what we might have been and to explore new territory. I want to write about all the reasons opening up to our creativity and being even a little bit wild will make us all healthier and happier and save the world for women and men. I lost sight of the vision I had for this blog when I started it last year, wallowing in the insanity of the last 10 months. I forgot about becoming a wild woman. I forgot that being who we really want to be will allow us to live with courage, creativity and wisdom. I forgot that this is what the world needs, and if we as women accept and embrace that, we will help bring about a courageous, wise, creative world for all.

 

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Post-election Reflections

It helps to write it out...
It helps to write it out…

I had planned a very different post-election 2016 post, I allowed myself, in the last couple of days before election day, to get excited and very emotional about a woman president.

But, here we are, four days post-election, and I am still emotional but not excited. I’m not going to write about all the reasons I’m not happy with the result, but I do want to point out the most discouraging statistic, for me, from the outcome:

53% of white women voted for Trump. This statistic lifted a veil from my eyes. We still live in a white supremacist patriarchy, and the majority of white women voters are ok with that.

White women voted for exclusion against inclusion. They voted for a person and a party that are eager to shut down what little progress has been made for women’s reproductive choice, for equal pay for women in the workplace, for basic dignity rights for women not to be sexually harassed in the workplace or elsewhere. They voted for a system that has children of immigrant parents, and black and brown children waking up afraid and being bullied at school and in the community because of hate speech practiced by the candidate for whom they voted. As a woman, mother, grandmother—HUMAN BEING, I cringe and cry for these children and their parents.

What I have decided so far with this election I am so opposed to is this: I am still passionate about working with creativity and I believe that art saves, art illuminates, art opens our eyes–I am more dedicated than ever to my own art-making AND to opening the eyes of all of us through creative expression.

I hope you’ll join me. Make a journal page that expresses your sadness, joy, anger, fear and transform your feelings into a message of love and action. Write out your anger, fear, sadness and what you can do about it, figure out a way to dress that expresses your solidarity with those who are afraid or being harassed. Make dinner for a neighbor family. March or show up at a demonstration, raise money for an organization that’s threatened and/or working for change.

My hope for this website and for the classes I will teach in the future is to help people find a way to express themselves through art and through that process, define themselves and make changes to live with courage, creativity and wisdom. The world needs women and men of courage acting with deep wisdom more than ever. I truly, truly believe tapping into our innate creativity is how to reach that courage and deep wisdom.