As a woman, a borderline Baby Boomer, and a life coach, I’ve spent years being educated to what Life has to teach me. Like you, I’ve been influenced by world events and each stage of my life has had its challenges and its joys. In retrospect, my life centered on mastering three formative tasks necessary to lead a purpose-driven life:
- Trusting myself and trusting Life as a giant school for learning how to become a fully developed and loving human being, capable of living my life in such a way that when I die, I will have used up all the gifts I was given, and left the world a better place than when I found it.
- Being flexible and surrendering to life’s continual cycles of change in order to discover the unlimited possibilities for serving something greater than myself, and to realize such service is a key to happiness in life.
- Trusting the use of my spiritual intuition, an intentional collaborative energy, that wants only the best for me and for the world, and to remain open to playing in the field of possibilities so that the Greatest Good can be served.
In each decade of my life I have been mentored by life’s best teachers: direct experience; the process of overcoming hardships; facing fears; developing close friendships; serving others; and having joy and gratitude in simply being alive. I have been both a student, and a teacher, alternating between the two roles as I shaped my destiny. I acquired wisdom as I learned to intentionally spend time on being vs doing, and on receiving vs giving. I am grateful for my struggles and for my triumphs.
Everything came up for review during my fifties, and, with the impetus of a cancer diagnosis, I became determined to define what really mattered to me and what I wanted to do more of, and less of, in the coming decade. I intentionally chose to resign from a full-time job that was demanding, in order to create a new lifestyle that allowed me to engage in life coaching, while being able to spend time with my young grandkids, and help a dear older friend transition to assisted living from her home of 40 years. As I focused on being, rather than on doing, I found meaning and purpose to my life. I also was trained as a hospice volunteer, and that inspired more interest and training in death and dying. I began writing about grief and I began a Death Café in Carmel which I have facilitated for the past five years.
Entering my sixties as a widow, I chose to seek a life partner who would be my companion, my friend, and my ally as we faced aging together. I married again at age 64. My private practice as a life coach blossomed, and I wrote five more nonfiction books about topics that I found inspiring. I traveled, taking Bucket List trips to places like Paris, Vancouver, and Lake Louise. I began caregiving for my spouse which continues to the present time.
I have entered a stage of life when I choose to work only at what has meaning and purpose to me, writing a blog, writing for groups whose work I admire, and working collaboratively to achieve goals that can make a difference, such as philanthropy aimed at helping children globally; donating time and talent to supporting the needs of immigrants to this country; and volunteering in an NIH study of Alzheimer’s disease that requires periodic brain scans, memory tests, and physical examinations.
There are days when I am on fire with a book idea, or a new training class. Other days bring a quiet comfort when I attend a monthly gathering of women friends as we talk with and support one another. There are, also, times when it feels great to just walk my dog, noticing our environment and sharing some bonding time with each other. I savor each of the busy and the quiet days of my life. And I know that death comes to us all, and that I don’t have unlimited time and this informs my actions, rather than brings me sadness. I believe that life and death are two sides of the same coin, and so I consciously celebrate life each and every day.
Hearts on Our Sleeves is a coaching philosophy directly derived from my personal and professional experiences. It incorporates the many life lessons I’ve learned and now pass along to clients, family, and friends. As an older woman, and as a coach to women 55+, I stand for helping women transition from middle age to elderhood by teaching them how to build resilient responses to the challenges we all face.
This approach requires that we look at life directly and truthfully, and adapt to our changing circumstances, in order to navigate this stage of life, using appropriate strategies that help us grow, expanding our souls. It requires that we know how important our attitude is; on some days, it is all that we have. We remind ourselves that we can’t control other people, or events, but that we always have a choice about the responses we make, and that is our real and lasting power as older women. It is those choices that determine whether we stagnate, or grow more deeply into our authentic selves.
Some topics we will return to often during coaching include: learning to let go of the past; practicing forgiveness for ourselves and others; embracing change rather than resisting it; and coping with loss. That last task is significant because aging is so clearly associated with loss, and with loss comes grief. Eventually, we know that we will all have to say farewell to everyone we love and cherish and so we are wise to practice the acceptance of impermanence. My training and experiences in hospice care, grief and bereavement coaching, and forgiveness can bring useful insights and tips to help you shape a more serviceable perspective, one that includes becoming more gentle and kind to yourself.
Finally, I find that being an elder is not a burden, but feeling the impact of ageism is. We must remember that our culture is death-phobic, and worships youth, while it disowns elderhood as if it has little value to offer our society. Having silver hair, a few wrinkles, and a memory that is sometimes elusive, are made to seem unnatural and worthy of scorn. The emphasis on staying youthful looking has spawned a medical bonanza that contributes to the notion that women must remain as beautiful as they were at 21, and at all costs; yet, there are few alternative models of older women that are realistic and appealing. Magazines and movies still ignore, or stereotype, the images of older women that are shown to us. In reality, most women 55+ are far more interesting, more complex, and more passionate than most stories written about us would suggest. We rock! And we deserve respect and admiration from others, and from ourselves.
I hope to meet you, and to work with you on these topics I have touched on. I look forward to assisting you in becoming your wisest self and developing the skills of building joy, gratitude, and meaning into each day.
Elaine Voci, Ph.D., holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Behavioral Science; a Masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, and a doctoral degree in Human Resource Management. She has been certified as a Forgiveness Coach, and a Life-Cycle Celebrant, and is a member of the International Women Writers Guild, and a founding associate member of the Women Speakers Association.