Aging gracefully, not quietly.
“The most important thing I can tell you about aging is this: If you really feel that you want to have an off-the-shoulder blouse and some big beads and thong sandals and a dirndl skirt and a magnolia in your hair, do it. Even if you're wrinkled.” - Maya Angelou Find gratitude Here’s a thought about the inevitable process of growing older. You can spend the day recounting the difficulty you have with the parts of your body that no longer work as well as they used to or be thankful for the ones that do! I find that when I approach each day as a gift my reality continues to evolve rather than stagnate. I learn that the older I get, the better my life becomes. Every day can reveal new aspects of a beautiful life and that is key to my understanding that beauty is difference. What do I mean by that? When I have the self-confidence to honour myself, and others, the nonconforming and the unconventional - my life becomes richer through knowing in my heart that everybody is beautiful and it is our very differences that define our individual beauty. Don’t let perception become reality Perception can be our reality if it reflects what we genuinely believe. I believe aging can be a beautiful process and one which can deliver great depths of joy - mostly about how you feel and think and less about how you look. Gravity happens. Wrinkles appear. These are the marks of experience and a life well lived rather than burdens we must bear. I choose to live in constant gratitude for the gifts I have been given rather than lamenting those things I’ve lost. I know I’m not alone in this thinking and my hope is that by growing a community of people who think similarly we will all approach our coming decades with hope and a spirit that welcomes the opportunities put right on our doorstep. You have a voice and a gift that comes with aging gracefully You have a voice and wisdom that comes with age. Every year you are on this planet is a privilege and your wisdom should be shared with others. I write more about this in my free guide How to Find Your Voice. And, while there are cosmetic things we can do (see what one of my mentors Iris Apfel has to say about this) most of the positive development comes from within us. People will tell you…don’t judge a book by its cover and that’s good advice. However, we so often form opinions about people based simply on how they appear to us. Our society is obsessed with traditional interpretations of beauty. What is important to acknowledge though is this - if someone’s soul is hollow, no amount of good looks make them true beauties. Inner beauty can be described as a blending of intelligence, elegance, personality, integrity and other characteristics. It is who you are without any layers of makeup or false presumptions. “Aging gracefully is about no heavy makeup, and not too much powder because it gets into the wrinkles, and, you know, to not get turtle eyelids and to not try to look young.” - Iris Apfel Audrey Hepburn, one of the great physical and spiritually beauties of our time commented, “The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.” While it may be presumptuous of me to try to improve on what she wrote I would say that this applies equally to men. In fact, one of the most relevant comments on this was written many, many years ago by George Bernard Shaw. “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” It all comes down to a matter of choice. If we can’t completely control our destiny we can acknowledge that it is not a matter of chance. We have a choice and living your life well at all stages is not something we should surrender to others. That’s part of the reason I wrote How To Find Your Voice. I am determined to help others in their quest to embrace the beauty that is aging. In it I share how to make your voice heard and how to tap into the confidence to raise your hand. You can download it by visiting the Begin Here page on my new site. Love and gratitude Xo Vita
Gisela Nachtsheim, my mother and my inspiration. Today marks the beginning of another chapter in my life and it is one I never would have imagined. But isn’t that one of the great aspects of living - embarking on adventures you hadn’t anticipated? Today I publish my first-ever post to my new site and blog. As I was preparing this piece, I was determined to offer you a believable and authentic reason to spend a few moments sharing your time with me. What could I share with you that will engage your curiosity and deliver some thoughts that might be relevant to your life? How and why could we benefit from this new beginning? “All achievements, all earned riches,
have their beginning in an idea.”
- Napoleon Hill Throughout my life I’ve been a curious person. Some of my earliest memories revolve around my Mom, Gisela Nachtsheim. And, although she passed away 18 years ago she remains a constant presence in my life. My mother was my inspiration. She taught me the value of honesty, caring and how to love life. Mama was my hero, who showed me her strength in the weakest moments. She was a free spirit who loved a vanilla ice cream cone. She wore her blonde hair in a bun with a red bow and bright lipstick as her trademark. As a teenager in Germany she rode her Vespa in sexy short shorts, low cut V neck top. There was nothing shy about how she presented herself and while she had the appearance of a movie star her inner strength and her heart were her best features. She was a warm-hearted loving soul. Her passing heightened my awareness that we must live each day to the fullest - tell the people we love that we love them, don’t hang on to regrets and embrace the joy that comes from beginning each day as if it were your first and last. From her I gained the confidence and self-belief to launch my life in directions that in some ways seemed foretold and in others that came as a complete surprise. Another beginning - My first makeup table, Christmas, 1966 My mother set me on a course to explore life to its fullest and to keep a sense of wonder at the forefront of my mind. That’s also at the heart of my reason for creating this blog and what will be my focus - to encourage each of us to be constantly aware of the wonders that surround us. This will be a journey where we embrace humans united by their individualism and their own beauty. People who raise their hands. People who declare through their actions that it's OK to stray from the path. People who acknowledge that beauty is difference. That's where I live. These are my people. From them, I derive my power and belief that I can and will influence change for good. I am so delighted that you’re coming along with me. “To love oneself is the beginning
of a lifelong romance.”
- Oscar Wilde Love and gratitude Xo Vita
Anti-aging stops here. Words are powerful.
I need your help and it has to do with the power of words. We need to use and choose them wisely. I am creating a culture shift in our workplace to abolish the negative words that have been common place until now. Anti-aging, growing old, getting old. It is actually coming from you, my friends. You are telling me and guiding me to the conclusion that we need to stop complaining about the “getting older issue.” Count your blessings that we are here, in this moment right here, right now. Welcome each day we are given. We have to change the culture and marketing of growing old. Perhaps just growing. We can change the dialogue and I am starting right now with baby steps. I think it will have a profound effect on the people we work with and our customers. I want to change the conversation in our workplace. Four years ago, we had a lipliner called Indian Red. Today I cringe that it was ever considered politically correct, but the world has thankfully changed to encourage us to look through a wider lens. This lipliner is now called Flame. All our product names are being revisited to make sure the words used will represent the positive images we wish to encourage and portray. Our images on our campaigns have always been inclusive, all ages, genders and skin tones. We have been doing this since we began in 1987 and we will continue to expand and explore new territory. Here is where you come in. I have this skin care moisturizer. It needs a new name. Currently it’s called “Anti-aging” moisturizer. It suggests you can stop the aging process if you use this cream. That’s not true. Yes, it’s a gorgeous cream that contains ingredients that will do your skin good but I want to change the conversation. Please send me some names you want us to consider for the moisturizer formerly known as: Anti-aging. If we pick your name, I will send you some product for your effort. Now to the bigger picture. I want to encourage only positive images of every day. We are not old or aging. We are nurturing and whole. We are stepping into our power. We are following our internal North Star. I was reading something this morning that really speaks to me. "What you see every day becomes your reality.” If we are constantly seeing images of strong, vibrant, powerful women than that's who and what we aspire to become. The flip side is if all we see and hear is mature, frail, women presented in a diminished capacity and that growing up is not to be embraced and something we are excited about, then that is also what we become. Let us say what we mean. Use our words to encourage powerful strong images to propel us forward. Love and gratitude Xo Vita
We Are Not Invisible
We are not invisible - we make that choice. The reaction I get from getting on the elevator first thing in the morning going out for my morning walk - wearing my sneakers, sweatpants, visor and sunglasses with no makeup - are very different from when I am going to work a few hours later in dress shoes, work clothes, washed hair and makeup. Completely different interactions, conversations and responses. Going for my walk I am looking for quiet and time to be alone. I exude that energy and that’s exactly the response I get. However, I turn up the visual volume when I go to work. I am ready for attention and I am louder and brighter, all by choice, because I choose to be “on”. My energy shifts. I draw the conclusion, I choose how I want to be treated. So knowing this, I question the belief that we become invisible as we age. Really? I think we choose. And it has nothing to do with age, but our own choice. I believe we have the power of being noticed or being visible if we choose. It’s also not about how we look. It’s how we feel. We make a choice every morning when we go out into the world. To shrink or stand out. Just today, moments before I was about to publish this post, I read an article from the Times of London featuring Paulina Porizkova who was during the 1980s the highest paid model in the world. I wouldn’t have immediately thought that she and I had very much in common but read what she has to say here, “We need to stand up and insist on not being invisible. I wish there were more women who left their marionette lines [which run down from the corners of the mouth] and forehead lines and crows’ feet. I wish there were more women who dared to age.” And what about Iris Apfel? She’s 100 years old and she’s still rocking it with bangles, brilliant lipstick and oversized glasses. Want more evidence that we are not alone in our refusal to fade into the background? How about the reboot of the ‘girls’ from Sex and the City now featured in And Just Like That? The new series revisits Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte - now in their 50s - to explore their now more complicated lives. They are most certainly not fading away. Here’s what I know - we are on to something and we are not alone! The question of being invisible or not being invisible after 40 all revolves around a concept that suggests we disappear into the ether slowly while losing our value and beauty every year. Really? The vibrations are getting very strong, the noise is getting louder and we’re repeating a resounding NO. We need to take a look at how we want to be perceived with each year, and how we will march forward knowing that each year is a blessing not a curse and the more years we accumulate the better life gets. As you can clearly see I, and countless others, are starting to speak up to challenge the ludicrous thinking that we have accepted. I need some back up here. No one person alone is going to get this moving in the right direction. It will take many drops in the bucket. I am convinced that the shift is on its way. Let’s change the mindset together. Ask yourself this - how do you want to be received? Our appearance doesn’t diminish, it changes, that’s all. Our voice doesn’t fade. The words become more clear and powerful. I don’t believe that the older you get the more you fade away. It’s up to us if we want to pump up the volume. My burst of positive thinking and my conviction that life is better with each year and the best is yet to come, comes from looking and finding others who crack the mold and live to be their truest and most authentic selves. We can choose to fade away or we can choose not to. You can be anything you choose. Just please don’t say you're invisible unless you want to be.
Motherhood: taking a different path
Why motherhood is an attitude not a biological necessity. Anyone who is close to me knows this - I trust in life’s plan. Some say the universe, some say God. Whatever you call it I believe that your story has reason and purpose and where we are in this moment is part of a bigger plan. And that there are no mistakes. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I choose to believe this for many reasons. Mostly it allows me to not second guess every action or thought. I try hard to listen to my intuition, gut feeling and inner voice. My voice never lets me down when helping me choose right from wrong and keeping me on my true path. Having said all of this, I am at peace with my choice not to have children. It is actually a decision that evolved over time and when push came to shove, the decision was made for me. Every girl and woman grows up thinking or wondering about being a mom. When will I or should I have children? No escaping the question. You either ask yourself or others certainly will. I grew up thinking that when you find the right person, you will eventually have children. I remember friends getting married. Most started having children right away. I was a few years younger than my friends so I didn’t feel like I really had to address the question. “Oh, don’t worry. You will know when you’re ready.” I waited and waited. I found the right person at the age of 27-years but thought, ok, maybe I am a late bloomer. When does the desire to have children arrive? Because I am not feeling it. What I was feeling was a stronger pull to have something of my own in life that I could create and love and take care of. It turned out it would be a business career. A cosmetics business. I always loved makeup and my path led me to a different type of motherhood. I also gave myself the out that once the business was up and running, perhaps I could do both. But as the business took over my every moment, years passed and it became obvious I could not nor would not be able to be good at both. I am in complete awe of the women who succeed in both. Career and motherhood are BIG. Only you know what you can handle and take on. I knew it was one or the other. The choice was easy for me, because that “feeling” never came until I was 40. I was lifting my head out of the clouds long enough to deal with the big question every woman needs to finalize. Am I going to have children? More important, I had to ask myself - am I going to be a mother? And as it turned out life had taken me to the place I needed to be. I was already a mother. I have 2 beautiful children from my husband’s first marriage. I have nieces and nephews whom I love to my core. I realize it’s not the same as going into labour myself however, being a mother and having children are two different things. I feel more love to my cat Sam than I could ever describe. He was and is my baby. Interestingly, when I was 41, I found out that I was not going to be able to have children, but I had made the decision myself, before I found out. I thought what a blessing for me to have come to my own conclusion, instead of finding out that I couldn’t and pine for it. I say all this, because it is such an incredible honour and gift to give birth and be a mom. I do not know this physically but I do know that there is no other love, like a mother’s love. We collectively have this one fact in common - to get into this world we had to have a mother. No other way. There is no higher honour. But (there is always a but), you don’t have to give birth to be a mother. I am a mother to many and this fills my heart. We are all different. That’s what’s beautiful. There is no right or wrong. It just is. Love and gratitude Xo Vita
Letting go of the need for approval
I was at a virtual funeral recently. I did not know the woman who passed, but I am close to her daughter. COVID meant that even the virtual turnout was small but size did not take away how powerful it was or the impact it had on me. I did not know what she looked like other than one picture on the mantel. However, the picture in my mind from the description of the details of the life she led are etched in my mind. I did not care if she wore beautiful clothes or followed the latest trends. If this mom wore lipstick everyday or coloured her hair. Did she drive a new car or take the bus? Did she go to college or university? These things did not matter. What I did learn was this woman loved her children more than anything. She loved her home, it was her safe place. She loved to dance. She was married 64 years to a man who loved her back. They knew what was important in life and shared great meals with grandchildren who all spoke at her funeral with such love and grace. My eyes were teary throughout. This woman left a legacy and taught the closest people in her life that all that finally matters is unconditional love. I left the funeral wishing I had met her. I do though feel grateful to have been there to reconfirm that her legacy is in her daughter and son and grandchildren. I thank Norma who lived life on her own terms, who danced to her own song, who spent a lifetime loving and being true to her self. It was her funeral I attended. It is never too late to readjust our thinking or our view on things. As I reflected I again wondered about why we care about what others think? The answer may very well be the key to complete freedom to live our lives without regret. When we don’t seek the approval of others we are at our most powerful. Whether you call it approval or validation it doesn’t really matter. I think we give our power away when we are overly concerned about what someone might think when in actual fact they are not thinking about us at all. Eleanor Roosevelt, among others, said, “You would be surprised at how little people really think of you.” A powerful thought. I would love to pave the way to a place where the most important question is - Am I good with this? If the answer is yes, then that is all we need. We do not need the approval of others. As always, I wonder what your thoughts are. How do you approach letting go of relying upon the approval of others as you make life choices? Love and gratitude Xo Vita
How to rewrite your script
I have been chatting with a friend undergoing some personal challenges and perhaps facing an alternative path in life. The question came to me, why are we hesitant to change our life’s plan? Our circumstances change, why shouldn’t our script? Let your life speak In my early years I spent time telling life what I wanted. Now, I listen to what my life wants me to do with me. I have a different perspective now on things. In my early years , I had a clear outlook on what I thought was important: - rent an apartment - buy a used car - get a job - buy clothes After I was married the list started to change: - save for a house - climb the business ladder - take vacations away - buy a new car - still buy clothes, but with matching shoes! In my 40s a shift started. The closet is getting full of clothes. Our house is decorated. My parents health is starting to decline and there is a huge priority shift. Things don’t have the same sparkle. Time is the golden nugget. The prize. Time with the family, time with loved ones, time with friends. But there is no time available, because I am too busy trying to maintain the things. The lightbulb moment arrives: What if I re-wrote my script or the list I had created? Life is now whispering to me a deeper meaning. A purpose. The voice is coming from inside me. That’s the clarity that comes with time. Self and service. The place where your joy and need meet. You know in your soul when you’re in the right place. When you connect with this feeling, the magic begins. It’s effortless. It feels right, there’s no pain, it expands. When you’re on the wrong track or in the wrong place your soul reacts. If you listen, it’s agitated, and if you’re still, you hear it and feel it. “Be daring be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imagination vision against play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
- Cecil Beaton I’m here to tell you, you can, at any time, rewrite your script. Here are a few of the items on my list: 1. Be still and really listen. Your gut and voice already know. 2. Be aware of discomfort. When things are right they are effortless. 3. Time is the one thing you can not buy. 4. It’s never too late and it’s never too early. If you're interested in the full list, watch out for 50 Ways To Rewrite Your Script coming in February. Love and gratitude Xo Vita
The moment my life changed
Each one of us has a defining moment in life. One that puts everything in perspective. If we are lucky to live long enough, we have many defining moments that allow us to live our life with purpose and meaning and end up exactly where we are supposed to be. It is with time and reflection that we can learn and go "Ahhhh! That’s why this happened." My defining moment was looking in the mirror at 42 years of age and no longer recognizing myself. I realized I had crossed a line and knew I needed help. This was my wakeup call. I had just binged again but, this time, I couldn’t keep it in … I had to throw it up. I was scared, this was different. With all the other emotions shame and feeling really empty came and sat right beside me. How could I have gotten to this stage? If I may, let me share my story. Growing up middle class I thought all was well with all my needs met. I had a mom, dad and brother. My father drank too much. My mom was ill for months at a time but I never thought it affected me. I didn’t realize that it did and my comfort to deal with the turbulence would be food. It was a reward, for something good. It was a comfort when things were not. Food, never let me down, until I started being teased because I turned out to be the chubby kid in grade school. Kids have no filter, they call things as they see it, and I was fat. I was bullied, pushed, even had my name spray painted on the school walls saying, “Vita is fat” and "Vita is a pig”. Not easy to handle at 10 years old. It only made me want to eat and console myself more. This rollercoaster continued until I was 15. I was 50 lbs overweight and miserable. And so the ride begins. I stopped eating. Slowly the weight came off. Over the summer holiday I lost 30 lbs and I was about to enter high school. People started to notice that I looked different and I got compliments on my new look. And by the end of the year I was 50 lbs lighter. By the time I was in grade 10 I was looking like the other kids and the kids who teased me treated me differently. I was one of them. Interestingly, I knew I was the same person and it was they who lost their lustre to me. This was the most valuable lesson I learned at an early age. I was the exact same person, yet, how I looked dictated to others how I should be treated. I also learned another not so positive side effect ... I thought ... If I am accepted at this weight, maybe if I lose more, I will be loved more and THAT is the slippery slope. When is thin, thin enough? The magazines, tv, models all told me that thin rules at any cost. And it did cost me. My only thoughts revolved around how many calories I consumed. What new diet could I try? How did my clothes fit? It was a constant judgement in my every waking moment. I started to run and exercise to the extreme. The calories had to be calculated because my worth was wrapped up in these numbers. I am sad to say, this went on and accelerated until that day I turned 42. I never spoke of this to anyone. It was my secret - one filled with shame. I speak now of silver linings in everything so let me tell you - this story has many silver linings. I now realize that I was not ready to deal with my emotions or my eating disorder. I never even really thought it was a disorder, because society suggests that skinny is the only acceptable way to be. All of this happened to me and for me so that it would bring me to this blog. To share my story and be honest and open. So I can move forward and do what I am supposed to. To bring us together, share our stories and learn from each other honestly and openly. We are more the same than different. That is what I know for sure. Whether it is a drinking issue, eating issue, gambling issue or drug abuse we are all flawed, but it is these flaws that bring us hopefully to some common ground. As with any addiction or illness the scars remain as a reminder of where we have been. It’s not a judgement. I consider my eating disorder a badge I was given. To make good of and to learn to live with. It’s something I am proud to say does not define me. I have through therapy and hard work learned why this happened and how to put it in its place. It no longer rules my life. I can say that I have great respect for the power we give away when we try to control. When we surrender to the weakness that is where we can find our true self and our purpose. This is my fuel now. I have little shame of what I went through now, because, I am going to use my voice to allow perhaps maybe one little kid to avoid the pain and focus the good on the path you’re on. It all intertwines into beauty is difference. It’s the differences that we need to really wrap our heads around. If we can start to take small steps to catch ourselves when we make a judgement on the difference - fat, skinny, black, white, old, young, rich, poor, smart. And it is with time I now realize it to be the blessing it was meant to be and has brought me here, to write these words and share my experience. Love and gratitude Xo Vita
Why there is no timeline on beauty
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”
- Coco Chanel There is no clock ticking, no race to win, no finish line to cross. We can all take a deep breath, a collective sigh. There is no timeline on beauty. How light would it feel, and how much more space in one's mind if we all came to the conclusion that there is no envelope of time when we are beautiful? There is no expiry date. We are beautiful at every age, every stage. It's just all variations of beauty, Not just one cookie cutter version. What a relief to finally believe in your core, that in 5 years you will be beautiful, and in 10 and in 15. It doesn't stop, but it certainly changes. The trick is to change our perspective of what is beauty. No small feat, but I am up for the challenge. If we were to widen the scope and be more inclusive, that would be a start. And this is the change that is starting to happen, however, it's only effective if it is repeated and repeated until it is natural to look at one’s image without judgement of what we currently call a flaw. “You define beauty for yourself, society doesn’t define your beauty."
- Lady Gaga It just takes a moment. It can all change in an instant. But you have to be present in that moment. For me it started 15 years ago. Jamie Lee Curtis posted a picture of her 47 year-old self. She had no makeup, wore a pair of shorts and the caption was: 'This is what 47 looks like' She showed what a REAL 47 looks like - softness and imperfection that I could finally exhale and feel a deep connection to. It was not photoshopped and it was a game changer. She was considered brave, But it was really just being honest. “The chain starts with one link.” I like to think of it as reinventing yourself. What an opportunity! With every day, month and year we move forward and accumulate knowledge, love, strength and hopefully clarity. It shows up on our physical side like we get a chance to press the reset button. You can not possibly expect to see your 20 year-old self in the mirror, nor would you want to. When I started this journey, I wanted to tell women in their 30s and 40s to not fear time. The best is ahead. It does get better with each day and year. We need to focus on what you gain, Clarity, strength, your voice, love of self. You continue to gain with each day. There is more to the story. You don’t lose anything. You don't lose your beauty. It's just perception. So clearly we have to change the perception of beauty. What if the grey hair, soft line and body changes became beautiful and it was a gift? Then it’s a win win, and it really just gets better with everyday forward. Nothing to fear. Everything to gain. Moving forward that is how I plan to imagine my life. If we make little adjustments in our perception, it can take us to a new level of thinking. There is no timeline on beauty. Love and gratitude Xo Vita
Age-appropriate boundaries? No thanks.
I remember this moment in 1994 like it was yesterday. I am in my favourite clothing store where I’d been shopping since I was 16. I entered the change room armed with a few exciting new pieces to try on for the coming summer season. I am feeling a slight shift in the store atmosphere. The music is louder. I no longer recognize the songs. I think it's rap music, what happened to The Rolling Stones? I tried on a few skirts and wonder - did they get shorter or is it my comfort level that is no longer feeling this short-short look anymore? The sales clerk is younger than me. I was always the youngest in the store but no more. I am 32 and feeling like I am a totally different generation. I had an a-ha moment and not a “yippee” a-ha. It was an “oh no”! At the ripe age of 32, I was no longer feeling young enough to be buying my clothes at this store. Was it the store that changed or was it me? And so, my first experience, of what I think is termed, “age appropriate.” Here is the funny thing. Now, at almost 60, I reflect and think what a ridiculous thought. WHY? Because I now know that there is no such thing. Like everything else in life, it is really up to you to choose if anything is appropriate. If you feel good and your heart is in the right place then I say, have at it. Today if I want to wear that short-short look I will, but only if I feel good about it. Thankfully, I have moved into a place that comfort and style are far more important. I have had many encounters with trying to do a trend or style that perhaps were not in my best interest. Case in point. In my 20s and 30s I had fun dressing for pleasure and trying to find my sense of style. We want to be different but we want to fit in as well. In reflection, I now see if we don’t know ourselves well enough, we allow others to dictate how we do things. This can be a slippery slope. I did not have the money or interest in designer labels. It was not even on my radar. Then it happened. In the mid-‘80s the trends demanded a logo on your purse. If you were someone, you had to claim the status of a $1,000 purse! I didn’t have the money so I was OK with not participating in this trend until I became friends with someone who did. In her culture, status demanded ownership of a Gucci, Chanel or Louis Vuitton purse. I had my $25 animal print bag and I loved it until I allowed myself to feel shame. I ditched my $25 purse and went out and on credit got myself a designer bag. Yes, it was fun, until it wasn’t. I was doing this for all the wrong reasons – attempting to get external validation through the display of merchandise! It may sound like I have an issue with designer labels. I don’t but isn’t it a little odd that in the clothing arena, we feel the need to pay inflated prices for pieces of clothing that are designed mostly by slightly overweight men who don’t have the bodies they design for? The designs are created for size 4-6 women. Recently, I learned another important lesson when I was out for dinner with friends. When I pulled my ‘dollar’ readers out to read the menu, I heard “Vita! Really! You can’t wear those.” Now my 60-year-old self said, “Oh yes, I can!” I felt no shame. In fact, I was proud that for one dollar I could own 25 pairs and have one in every purse and room. I purchase items because I like the style or shape or because they speak to me. If I like it - I buy it. Not to impress but because I like it. Listen, we all have growing up stories and I would love to hear yours. So, to put a ribbon on this age-appropriate thing - I believe there is no such thing. Please let’s start to break down these false rules of what to do and what is acceptable. Allow ourselves freedom to be who we are meant to be. Different from each other is good. If we can learn to embrace each other for who we are it’s a step in the right direction. If you want to wear short shorts, please do so. If Doc Martens are your thing, go for it. “A woman who feels good about herself is invincible. On a good day, when you feel it’s all working it’s like - get out of my way because it’s going to happen today. I feel great.” - Norma Kamali Love and gratitude Xo Vita
Are we old now?
Looking at Rick across a large oak table covered by architectural drawings of our dream beach house, I was forced to confront that jarring and surreal question. I’m 60 and Rick is 72. Our ages never really mattered to us. It just wasn’t an issue, other than hearing the odd lighthearted joke among long-time friends. But looking across those diagrams, we knew the punchline had become a headline. Concerns about the age gap were suddenly tangible, suddenly real. Rick and I met when I was in my 20s and he always shrugged off the 12-year difference by literally saying, “I’m your age, so it doesn’t matter.” Together, we spent decades pouring all our time and passion into building a successful cosmetics business. In the last few years I realized I wanted a gathering place for my friends and family so we could finally set aside the grind of being entrepreneurs and enjoy the companionship of our loved ones in a relaxed and beautiful space. We’d earned it and I’ve always wanted a beach house. The lots on Georgian Bay are narrow. You must “build up” if you want more square footage, so naturally our plans called for a 3-storey home. In the moment that changed everything for us, we were pondering where to put a bathtub. To my surprise, Rick was the one who unwittingly shattered my age bubble when he said, “If we can’t climb stairs anymore, the guest room on the main floor can become our master bedroom.” Pardon me! As I stood staring at the drawings, I couldn’t process the statement. My instantaneous thought was: “I’m always going to be able to climb stairs so what the hell are you talking about?” Today, when I think of “old” I think of someone who’s 90 or 100, but not my husband’s age. Yet here HE was, my youthful husband suddenly being Mr. Pragmatic after 30 years of zestful living. I remember when I was a kid thinking that my grandmother used to look ancient to me. Back then, everyone thought that once you turned 65, you retired and you're dead. That’s what kids assumed, or at least I did. So here’s me, now in my 60s, listening to a benign discussion about a main floor guest bedroom escalate into a crisis that was about to get even more out of hand. Cue Rick again - “Maybe we need to plan for an elevator,” he casually asserted. REALLY!?!?!? I wondered if I was witnessing my loving husband surrender and give up the bubble of invincibility that had insulated us for all these years. Then again, it’s also Rick being his pragmatic self by displaying his adorable wisdom. Or…are we actually old now because our conversations revolve around future challenges presented by stairs and whether getting an elevator is simply pretentious or a smart decision? It was a jolt like I had never experienced. Thing is, the questions were logical, but my reaction was all emotion and bereft of logic. I started doing more math and quickly added the years it’s going to take to complete plans, get permits, and construct the beach house because of COVID delays and suddenly Rick is 75 and I’m 63. Sigh. I’ve always believed aging is a beautiful thing, even if you don’t resemble the indomitable Maye Musk. My motto is “beauty is difference,” and I mean that with all my heart. Age has brought me confidence, experience, strength and resolve. So, as I gaze at Rick with a measure of disbelief at his utterance of the word “elevator,” I also know that I love him even more at that moment…and because of that moment. As always, he’s looking out for us by being proactive and positive and hopeful of the many years we will share on the beach with our family and friends. Now, when we show our friends and family the plans for the beach house, we silently giggle a bit as we explain that the main floor guest room might become our master bedroom. Everyone understands what the admission really means at its core. Yes, we are getting older. But that doesn’t mean we are old. In the end, we decided against the elevator. We need the space for a workout room and wine cellar.
Can we create a new definition of real beauty?
Welcome to December! A glorious month of celebrations to witness the beauty of our changing seasons. This holiday season may not be the same normal, although it may promise a new normal. If we are open we can and should embrace it for being different. This leads me to the discovering beauty in being different. Don't impress others with what you have.
Impress them with who you are.
- Robert Tew We call people who are different outliers. Are we not all different? And if we are not we should strive to be. "Dare to be different” is a favourite expression of mine. I have always considered being different or an outlier a compliment. What if we approached our lives as if there was no standard of beauty? What if we could redefine our image of beauty? We have examples all around us, if we just open our minds and eyes. As a young girl of 10 when I was admittedly a bit on the chubby side, my early observations delivered a very narrow vision of what was beauty. The only teen magazines available showed girls who were tall and thin with straight blond hair and blue eyes. It shouted out loud that if you were not that, something was wrong and you just didn't add up. The images were everywhere and I didn't fit in. And then I began to see alternatives. I now realize what a gift it was to have my childhood girlfriend, Joycelyn. As children together we never saw colour between us. In grade three, Jocelyn gave me unconditional love and friendship. I was blessed to be exposed to her family and Indian culture. I was introduced to a culture of spice, colour and celebration. I witnessed the ceremony of dressing in a silk Sari and the meticulous application of henna as they adorned themselves for a wedding. I was exposed to music I had never heard and tried foods that would never have crossed my palate. Jocelyn showed me how to celebrate life and see beauty in a very different backdrop than mine. I feel a quiet storm brewing. I can hear a movement whispering in my ear that change is on its way and its BIG.
- Vita Later in life, I developed a friendship with Bunch who was a bald beautiful black woman. She introduced me to a culture that embraced curves - not skinny; eating spicy, - not plain; engaging in conversations that were loud and passionate - not quiet and polite. Everything other than boring. Bunch proved to me that it was a choice to pursue a life that was not dull. She was an extraordinary ordinary woman. You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don't have to do anything to earn it.
– Ram Dass Now, as I am maturing I continue my search for a broader vision of what is beautiful. Can we redefine the cookie-cutter limiting view of what we are told is beauty? We spend much of our life attempting to live up to these unrealistic expectations and I believe freeing ourselves from these is why I am doing this. To help redefine our vision of beauty. To widen the narrow lens through which we view life. We do not have just a small envelope of time in which we are beautiful. We have our entire lives. Can we learn to accept that beauty comes in different stages and different ways? That is why it is so important to have an eclectic vision of beauty that exists outside of the mainstream. Let us think outside the box or perhaps remove the box completely. It starts with extraordinary ordinary people. Love and gratitude Xo Vita