Beauty With a Capital "B
Publisher Lori Ross recalls a recent summer trip, a cruise in which she and her high school friends celebrated aging with grace.
Nearing high school graduation, my group of close friends joked that if we ever got to 40 (because this would never really happen), that we’d find each other and take a trip somewhere exotic. We didn’t realize that we were destined to stay in each other’s lives anyway, but that planted a seed to have commemorative age-related trips. There have been several by now. This July we came together for “60” with a weeklong cruise from Boston to Montreal.
It took much longer than the vacation itself to get agreement from eight women on dates, budgets and destination. Stop and think of any eight women you know and the roles they play … caregiver, wife, mom, partner, worker, volunteer, etc., etc., etc. Then know it’s not complete if any of those eight have to pass … ALL must be accommodated. Each is important to the whole.
We unintentionally became a branded and much-noticed group on the cruise ship, more of an item of interest than I’d ever imagined. Some wanted to take our picture to spark their own friends into action. Others commented on the likelihood of so many friends staying so connected.
As an example, a beautiful, 35-ish lady from Shanghai was eager to talk with me. She’d noticed our laughing, easygoing comfort and wanted to know our story. After my explanation, she said we were captivating to her. She spoke English well but struggled to express the concept why … that in her culture, women like us on such a trip would not and could not exist, that by the age of 60, a woman has no “self” left. If one woman somehow did, statistically there would never be eight women with “selfs” left to take such a trip. I understood her to mean that’s a woman’s role is to serve others so much as to lose herself in the process over so many years’ passage. She said she wanted to be like us someday
I contrast that with something one of the eight said at dinner one night. Deb said that turning 60 really felt so different than when we turned 40 or 50 – that those didn’t really feel like milestones to her. Back then, we had to rush through a long weekend to go back home and resume the rush of responsibilities and work that came with those ages. At 60, with grown kids, we can take a full week, really kick back and be ourselves again. In essence, she loves this stage of life for the freedom she feels in addition to knowing what things she really wants out of life.
MORE APPRECIATION, MORE AWARENESS AT 60
Deb didn’t know about my conversation with Lady Shanghai. Yes, it was difficult to get us all together because of the mosaics of our families, jobs and interests that are a part of our formulation. Those things make our lives richer and better, yet somehow in our culture we are able to still preserve the sense of self.
Lady Shanghai took me a level or more deeper in appreciation and awareness.
For my contemporaries, not just the eight of us, life at 60 can be Beautiful. Imagine a mirror that could reflect back the inner “self.” What comes looking back now is a crystal-clear image as defined by our children, partners/spouses, friends, parents, siblings, society – but mostly from within ourselves. Contrast that with the fuzzy, undefined version of our teenaged inner mirrors’ reflection, filled with doubt and having no map of where we’re headed.
For that “self” to become so defined, as opposed to Lady Shanghai’s lost “self” is … Beauty with a capital “B.”