As an older woman I am more cognizant of how precious time is and try hard to utilize it better
than I did at a younger age. I wasted a lot of time in my early adulthood trying to follow
society’s unwritten laws as they concern appropriate behavior. I never fully accepted those rules,
but they were in my face while living in the suburbs raising children. Some protocols assumed I
wear the right clothing for each season (no white after labor day), others demanded some kind of
religious affiliation (and appropriate attire for services). Conversation abounded, demeaning
other religions and nationalities. I incurred outrage, attempting to stop criticism of different
lifestyles. Most despairing was watching parents ghettoizing the minds of their children into the
same narrow world they lived in by telling them to be friends with only those of the same

To be sure, there are universal rules of behavior concerning empathy, kindness, generosity of
spirit, helping the poor and disenfranchised and consideration for all. Mores that judge issues
such as class, intelligence, ethnicity, preferences or economic status tend to interfere with the
benevolent actions. If we reserve our sympathies for only our own kind (whether age, race,
religion, gender, etc.) then we have limited our moral compass.

I am now trying to divest myself of a few of the imprisoning rules society inflicts on all of us –
young and old. It is especially confining when the roles are designated toward women. I don’t
believe in the term “age appropriate” even if I knew exactly what that meant. After making sure
my actions hurt no one and I’m receptive to other life choices, all else is out the window at this
advanced stage of life. I find it a fertile time for expanding my horizons. Time is running out and
I’m chasing after it.

When society’s rules are dictatorial I inquire about where they started and why they still exist?
Many unwritten (sometimes written) rules that apply to women have been designed by men to
keep women in place because women are often considered territory. Whether consciously or not,
we older women generally adhere to those restrictions in order to be liked and admired.

Women are told they are free, but the upkeep of those images of behavior we are beholden to
comes at a huge cost. It is emotionally draining when one is constantly trying to maintain a
prescribed face to the world while suppressing who we really are. We have an outside
appearance and a secret inside persona even though we might not see that on a conscious level.
The effort is harmful mentally and physically and dissipates our sense of humor, an invaluable
asset in the last roundup of life. We are prevented from laughing at ourselves or at many of
society’s institutions for fear we will not be considered ladylike or age appropriate.

Now, somewhat, unfettered of those invisible chains (although many have been grooved into our
minds from birth and will never go away), I now try to make decisions about my own behavior
without worry of criticism. One problem when criticizing other people’s choices is that you
become vulnerable to the same out-of-date comportment rules specified on that invisible tablet.

What I’m after, having done much soul searching, is to develop the ability to step away from
approved carbon copies of what is acceptable. Now each day of work/play is harvested with greater care, hopefully like growing full-bodied grapes that will make good wine. I’m
empowered to be myself and to confront problematic issues from my own point-of-view without
internalizing anxiety that I’ve angered anyone. I can even decide which tenets of society might
work for me that I wish to keep. Let us all pick and choose what best suits us.

I implore you oldsters to open your hearts and minds. I urge the young, old, men, women not to
knuckle under. Dig under the surface to your inner-self, and find the joys waiting to emerge
when you are unshackled. Find new ways of expressing yourself, and release your creativity –
write, paint, volunteer at urban schools to foster academic skills, make your own hippie clothing,
ride a motorcycle, seek romance – select whatever your heart desires, but get out there. You
might realize that you approve of fitting into a prescribed modality, but at least you will have
questioned it.

Become aware that there is no one size fits all in lifestyles and thought patterns. Focus on being a
citizen of the world, setting your ethnicity, religion, culture, or economic status aside. Think
about what has brought people to their particular stage of life and behavior. Find new ways of
thinking and squeezing fun out of every minute. And yes, we elders do have the same needs for
love, companionship and enduring romance. Same as the millennials. We might do it a bit better
now that we have the knack of not sweating the small stuff.

I have friends from all walks of life and am constantly learning from them. Many are younger
and in the arts and quite a few seem to have shed the oppression of “acceptability.” They are
mentally invigorating, share their thoughts and offer a vibrating energy that I absorb and apply to
my own life. It is about sharing ideas, humor, wit (and some wine, too). Inter-generational and
inter-cultural socializing is eye-opening for it teaches us new approaches to life.

If you don’t have a partner, then I encourage all you folks to know you can live quite pleasantly
alone (men seem to have greater difficulty with this so listen up, guys). There are many exciting
and enjoyable activities that you all can reach for. Learning new subjects, new language, travel,
visiting places you might never had dared to enter before, taking on a rescued pet, joining
organizations that protect children or animals and other more exotic activities. Why not buy that
black leather jacket with metal studs. It’s not the time to kick off our shoes and sit back.

My intent is to help liberate those who suffer the damaging results of self-inflicted repression,
that only grows mold. If there are negative reactions to the new you, so be it. Granted, we do have a limited time on this earth, but I breathe a sigh of relief every time I leave a funeral and am grateful that it wasn’t my time. As long as this body and mind work, I’m going to pluck the gems of life that are there for the picking. Go for it, despite any aches or pains.

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