the next 50 needs more independence (of thought)

  American flag at my local post office, Houston, Texas, USA -- June 2013

American flag at my local post office, Houston, Texas, USA -- June 2013

It's July, which is my birth month -- and this year is a big one, I'm turning 50!  Because I swim in a gene pool shared by long livers (three of my grandparents lived past 95, and one lived until 102!), I figure I'm only halfway done.  So to celebrate my birthday, I've decided that for every day for the first two weeks of this month, I'm going to share images and words representing what I hope the next 50 years will have more of.  Time to say it and claim it, by gum.  And maybe, if what I say resonates with you, you'll be inspired to get more of these things for your next 50 years, too.

True elegance for me is the manifestation of an independent mind.

~  Isabella Rossellini

Because of the Thrive Portrait Project, my new book Make Light and, most recently, the Portraits of Style series, I've had a lot of opportunity to speak with dozens of women about their experiences with getting older.  The women I've talked to have varied from age 40 to age 70, and while all of them have loved getting older, they've all had different life experiences along the way.  And yet, do you know the one thing that almost every single one of them has said to me?

"The best thing about getting older is that I no longer care what anyone thinks.  I can do what I'd like, how I like, and other people's opinions just don't matter.  It is incredibly freeing."

I have to say that I, too, join this chorus.  About a year ago, I was speaking with my dear friend Addye, and I said, "You know what is a little frightening? As I approach my 50th birthday, I realize that I am rapidly running out of effs to give."  (Except I didn't say "effs," but this is a PG-rated blog.)  "I have very little tolerance for nonsense," I continued, "and if folks have a problem with that, well, that's on them.  As I get older, other people's opinions about me mean less and less."

To be very clear, this doesn't mean that I (or any of my friends, for that matter) care less about other people, or showing love  -- to the contrary, if anything, they matter more.   As time goes on I find myself becoming more politically active, more mindful of caring for people in my community, more concerned about how I can leave the world a better place then while I'm in it.  More focused on looking for light.  But where someone might say something bigoted and in the past I might have smiled patiently and explained why what they'd said might be a little off; nowadays, I might not smile at all anymore, when I tell them what's what.  When someone looks at me and voices an opinion about the way I am dressed, or how I'm wearing my hair, it takes every fibre of my being not to respond, "I honestly don't care," because I mean it -- nothing personal, you're entitled to your opinion, of course, but it really doesn't affect me -- but I suspect they wouldn't believe me, even if I smiled when I said it.  My friend Brené often says that the number of people whose opinions matter in your life should be a very small number indeed, and I couldn't agree more.  Love everyone you can, but curate the folks whose opinion matters to you -- and they should be folks who have your back in deeply loving and generous ways.

Of course, the freedom comes when you've done this curation, as well as become clear on your own values.  Because then, doing what you love, how you love, when and where you love becomes almost limitless.  Then, you can really think about how you can serve, and create legacy work that you can be proud of.  And now that I'm clear about this, I hope the next 50 years, I live this -- that I live with more freedom and independence of thought.  Because there's so much good I'd like to do, without having to worry about whether other folks think I'm doing it right.


Soundtrack:  Grown woman by Beyoncé

Also for my birthday, I thought I'd give a nice, deep discount to one of my most popular online courses, GLOW:  a 21-day ecourse for claiming your light!  So if you'd like to get more light in your life, enter coupon code WATCHMEGLOW for 30% off the course.  It really is a great course:  one participant said she was so happy to rediscover "how blessed I am in my life";  another said, "GLOW came into my life at the perfect time. It is slowly changing my mental state and I have been focusing on the positives for the first time in ages."  So join me.  It's a wonderful way to get clear on your values, and manifest an independent mind.