When tradition no longer serves you

self-discovery, aging, tradition, aging unapologetically

When tradition no longer serves you

What do we do when tradition no longer serves us? When, as women, we find ourselves hampered by tradition and its teachings? These are the questions I’ve been thinking about lately.

I drew the The Hermit card the other morning, part of my morning ritual of journaling.  According to the interpretation I was reading the card suggests a period of being single or a time to focus inward. It may also indicate a breaking with tradition.

Tradition. That one word not only gave me the morning’s writing prompt but it also led me to put a name to what I’m bumping up against these days—in my personal life and in my work with older women around aging and sexuality.

On the surface I would seem to be living a pretty traditional life. If I had a few cats I could easily transition into a cat lady. But there are no cats and my sofa is newly reupholstered in fuchsia and my watercolors of nude women are tacked up on my office wall. In other words I’m shedding the old me. If not for the home owners association the front door would be a deep rich purple.

Tradition no longer serves us, as women. Maybe it never did? When I view my life through the traditional lens, I realize I’m breaking the mold for older women.

The more I follow my own path the happier I am

How do we fall into traditional lives? Is it by choice? Is it foisted upon us by parents and teachers and society? I have traditions, ritual observances, my family and I enjoy–they tend to be centered around celebrations and holidays. It’s the traditional ideas of how women are supposed to act in society I find problematic. The expected role for women is often restrictive, one that relies on us keeping our place—subordinate to men.

I played along for decades, having bought into my mother’s warnings that my talkative and assertive behavior would make me unappealing to men. Finding the right man was everything. That meant wearing makeup and being pleasing and not speaking up for myself.  Every time a ‘relationship’ didn’t work I viewed it as my own fault.

Those days are over for me.

But they’re not over for the vast majority of women. Today women are still chastised for daring to step out of line. We are threatened, assaulted, trolled, or shut down. We inwardly berate ourselves while trying to perfect that role in order to have the success we’ve been promised for following traditional roles for women our age.

It’s long past time for me to ignore expectations and public opinion and doing whatever the hell I want.

I don’t think I’m alone here

The area that has been most problematic for me has been dating. In one sense you might say I have been unsuccessful–after all, I am still single. But that would be to deny the great men I’ve met and the interesting experiences. Some of it material for a book I’m writing. I’ve made some friendships along the way and learned a lot. Admittedly I often felt as if I was failing at ‘womanhood’.

Part of my sense of being a failure was tied to the beliefs I internalized about how I was supposed to show up as a woman.  I focused more on the oughts than how I wanted to show up. The risk for me, and for many of us, is that we ignore or negate those parts of ourselves that don’t fit the mold–often at our own peril.

We can’t deny who we are. In doing so we belittle ourselves, denying our gifts and talents and fearing that we aren’t enough.  We put on a mask for the world, because it’s scary to let ourselves be seen. To embrace the current version of ourselves is to challenge the common belief that old is bad.

The struggle for me wasn’t as much about looks and aging as it was about being “unsuccessful” in marriage.  I was still struggling with old stories, which implied that being single was a bad thing. I was being measured on my ability to catch and keep a man (and yes, I’m exaggerating a smidge).

The journey to let go happens step by step. We can choose to live life on our own terms. We can challenge the notion that older women must quietly fade away. The part where women feel a bit colorless in their lives. Sex-less. Desire-less. Ambition-less. I want that for myself and for you.

What do we have to lose when we decide to live life for ourselves, on our own terms?  Some people won’t support us. Others will be uncomfortable with our freedom. And some of those will be women. Those people want to push us back into our boxes—not for our benefit but for theirs. It becomes our job to let go of people who aren’t willing to support us.

In retrospect I’ve been on this journey now for several years. It feels good. And it feels right.

My work is expanding as my awareness about aging evolves. I love talking openly and freely to women and men about sexuality—urging folks to find more pleasure in sex. And more general desire in their lives. And whether that’s local or in New York City or LA or points in between I love breaking the rules that restrict older women.

 

 

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

8 Comments
  • Carol Cassara
    Posted at 12:34h, 08 August Reply

    Thought provoking post. I do think tradition has its place, but I’ve never lived a traditional life or had traditional attitudes. I’ve been a serial monogamist for the most part and that’s worked for me. I find that showing up as me seems to work with men but not always with women, maybe because I’ve got many traits that would be considered masculine. In the end, though, I can only show up as myself so I don’t spend much time worrying about it any more. That’s not to say that I don’t wonder WTF when I am ghosted by women friends, which has happened a few times in recent years. Still, on balance, I know that I’m just where I need to be.

    • Walker
      Posted at 13:15h, 08 August Reply

      I agree, there are traditions and then there is traditional thinking! I love some of the family traditions we have made or adopted over the years. YOu’ve expressed what’s key to being happy with where we are in life–being right where you want and choose to be.

      • Sue Fogg
        Posted at 20:31h, 14 August Reply

        Great distinction of traditions vs/and traditional thinking. Definitely food for thought. I really liked this post and hope many women and men get to read it.

        • Walker
          Posted at 09:46h, 16 August Reply

          Thanks. It is an interesting distinction–what we take on as tradition that doesn’t necessarily serve us and what those traditions are that we can embrace and continue in our own lives.

  • ME Sims
    Posted at 12:50h, 08 August Reply

    Good Morning Walker,
    I really enjoyed your blog this morning. In reading your words they mirror mine and my journey. Even though the life I wanted didn’t happen, but I have never been happier. Thank you, ME

    • Walker
      Posted at 13:16h, 08 August Reply

      Thanks for popping over and reading. Glad to hear you’re in a good place–so crucial to our emotional health.

  • Jacqueline Escolme
    Posted at 05:21h, 09 August Reply

    Well put – vocalising what we’re all feeling. The paradigm has shifted and we’re no longer afraid to speak up for who we are and what we want 🙂

    • Walker
      Posted at 06:44h, 09 August Reply

      Thanks Jacqueline–I think it’s so important for women to speak up about their lives.

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