Helen Mirren

Answering the “What Have You Been Doing Lately” Question

At dinner last week with friends, I was asked an easy question… What have you been doing lately?

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an easy answer.  What had I been doing lately?

As I thought about how to answer, I was actually asking myself a different question: Had I done anything exciting or productive lately that is worth sharing?

These friends had just told us about their recent trip to Spain, followed by their successful business trip to New York City.  They are in their 60’s.

I finally mumbled something about enjoying fall in Asheville and changed the subject.

Other friends have asked similar questions. Planning any trips? Working on anything new these days?

I know that these questions aren’t meant to make me uncomfortable, but sometimes they do. I find myself feeling guilty for not doing anything important or boring for not doing anything exciting … or both.

In my late 60’s, I’m actually quite happy with my life.  I am staying healthy, keeping active, enjoying my home and my canine companions, and spending time with friends.  I’m also living with a fabulous husband who enjoys the things I enjoy, including music, good food and great wine.

But I’m not doing anything especially thrilling and I’m not “working” anymore, either.

I think I may find these questions uncomfortable in part because of the way I lived my life in my 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  In the mid-1970’s, I chose to pursue a business career. As I got older, a lot of my identity was tied up in achievement and success.

Remember what was happening for women in the mid 70’s? Here’s an excerpt from an article about those days:

Women as ‘Man of the Year’

Mid-decade, the women’s liberation movement had inundated America. The changes were so rampant that TIME awarded its “Man of the Year” in 1975 to “American women.” Their article “Great Changes, New Chances, Tough Choices” from January 5, 1976, reads:

“They have arrived like a new immigrant wave in male America. They may be cops, judges, military officers, telephone linemen, cab drivers, pipefitters, editors, business executives — or mothers and housewives, but not quite the same subordinate creatures they were before. Across the broad range of American life, from suburban tract houses to state legislatures, from church pulpits to Army barracks, women’s lives are profoundly changing, and with them, the traditional relationships between the sexes. …1975 was not so much the Year of the Woman as the Year of the Women — an immense variety of women altering their lives, entering new fields, functioning with a new sense of identity, integrity and confidence.”

That was me.

When I started my own company at the age of 44, it was a continuation of my career drive.

I was busy, busy, busy… all the way through my 50’s: Traveling for business and pleasure, meeting with clients, presenting at conferences, heading up an industry association and more.   It was quite easy to answer the question…  “what have you been doing lately?”

Then, I gradually pulled back from the business in my early 60’s and worked on becoming “retired”.

Another reason I may be feeling like a boring person these days is that many well-known people in their 60’s … and even into their 70’s and 80’s … are doing things that are interesting, exciting and in the headlines.

We have a 71 year old president and the woman who ran against him is 70.  Tony Bennett is still performing at age 91. Women in their 60’s and beyond are still going strong in the entertainment and business fields:  Helen Mirren (71; actress), Annie Leibovitz (67-photographer), Jane Goodall (83-animal expert), and Christie Brinkley (63 – business women) to name just a few.

And then there are some of my friends. My same-aged blog partner, Patty, is launching an online coaching product.  Another friend – age 60 – is starting a fashion design company. Another is consulting with owners of start-up businesses. And another is writing a memoir and taking horse riding lessons.

And here I am at dinner with friends being asked what I’ve been doing lately.

So, do I want to live my life differently?

Apparently not, or I would be living my life differently, or so the motivational gurus tell us.

I could, of course, change my mind and design a new app, learn to sky dive, become a business consultant or open a new brewery (I live in Asheville, after all).

Or, I could just come up with a way to answer the “what have you been doing lately?” question truthfully, without guilt or embarrassment.

Maybe something like this:

I’ve been living a great life and enjoying every minute. How about you?

What do you think?  Will that work?  Or should I sign up for some sky diving lessons?

Cathy Green

October 2017

Holiday Revelation – Who Knew?

Can we believe Thanksgiving has come and gone? Went to the dentist yesterday and their tree and various holiday decorations were everywhere. And yes, we have already gotten two “holiday letters” – both from sweet wonderful families who knew enough to keep the details brief and the photos beautiful. Please take their modeling if you are so moved to write such a year-end letter.

Many of us describe Thanksgiving as our favorite holiday. Fabulous people know well how much they have to be grateful for even if the world with ISIS and various other disturbances (don’t worry, I won’t even mention politics and the 2016 election) has become more frightening. Just read the quick summary of climate change – a short guide for those that have missed what’s been happening and thought: OMG, of course I knew about climate change – but I really didn’t KNOW IT.

That “lack of really knowing” has been a theme for me so far this holiday season. Sadly, I (in a not so fabulous way) have started to do the “older person discussion shuffle” – that dreaded description of “the young” as “having no idea about blah blah blah”. Blah blah blah being whatever we went through when we were their age – this of course being completely reedited for prime time.

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While of course we won’t repeat our parent’s favorite litany of the great depression (1929 not 2008) or talk about WWII (the big one); some of us are starting to recap our early feminist battles or our being the first/fifth this or that woman who did whatever. We got so sick of hearing about the great depression we dismissed its lessons. We were all pretty sorry we did that when 2008 came around. Let’s not tell our adult children or our grandchildren we did this, that and the other wonderful thing because they might do what we mostly did: ignore the real important messages. Talking too frequently leads to deaf ears.

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Continuing this theme of not really knowing I/we saw several movies over the Thanksgiving holiday – both about things I thought I knew all about. Spotlight (trailer below), about the child molestation scandal in the Catholic Church in Boston; and Trumbo (trailer also below), about people being black listed in Hollywood back in the day when fear of communism was racing across America. Being a history bluff I wondered if either were worth seeing – what of course drew me/us in were the amazing casts in both films, and of course the out of this world reviews.

In both cases I realized I had about 20% of the story. Remember Hedda Hopper? Now we were a little young to read Hedda Hopper’s columns but most of us vaguely remembered those hats she was famous for. Well hold on to your hat when you see and experience Helen Mirren’s portrayal of her in Trumbo. She was essentially, absolutely NOT fabulous – despite those amazing hats. Won’t say more – don’t want to spoil it for you.

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Watching the “action” in Spotlight is electrifying – and reminiscent of our work days pre-technology. Old fashioned researching, digging, and reporting reminds us all that whether you are a media/newspaper fan or not, we absolutely need investigative reporting in this fabulous (but flawed – kind of like us no??) country of ours. Of course we still have it. Many of us are aware of how the video of the shooting death in Chicago a year ago was brought to light – by yes, investigative, newspaper journalism.

So we don’t know lots. Even personally – my sister told me a story about she and her late husband that shook me up a little (my lips are sealed). Thought I knew… clearly I didn’t.

So it’s the holidays. Let’s try to stay fabulous by not being so damn sure we know it all about everything from decorations to family recipes. Let’s listen more than talk, go to the movies and learn something, and throw ourselves into the season promising to do new, fun, different AND traditional things. Be fabulous enough not to need to remind people of how you got so fabulous. Actually it doesn’t matter anymore – fabulous is having high integrity and being our best in the NOW. So happy holiday season fabulous sisters – keep up your own good work.

Patty

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