I have not written for a week and it is because I decided to immerse myself in what at one time in my life was an interest. I am exploring with the hopeful anticipation that perhaps Painting might be something that ultimately replaces my job in Health Care. Accordingly, I have signed up for the Haliburton Arts Program in Haliburton Ontario. I am spending a week in the country, housed in the local motel-without-a-view, and attending a program from nine to five. Along with me are several hundred mostly women, many of whom are middle-aged and are on their own quest…of sketching, painting, jewellery making, sculpture etc.
This is wonderful. I am at an adult camp for the arts and I am fascinated. From a sociological perspective there is “a look” of my new-found best friends. The average woman is 50 with short gray hair and long swingy earrings. Many are wearing over-sized T-shirts and capris with their “Birks”. I love it because make-up is totally forfeited and instead of on their faces the paint is on their canvases.
Immediately, I realize that there is a pecking order of the more serious committed artists who are here for their 6th and 7th summers. They come from all over and for the most part are very committed to their art. They know the instructors at the school, having studied with them in various other programs, and some of my fellow students, as repeat customers, sell their creations privately and at galleries. Most importantly they critique and respect each other’s opinions and ideas. Oh boy am I out of my league.
I immediately bond with an over 80 chain-smoking grandmother who is just having fun. We step back from the competition and smile. Through the week I gain in skill and confidence and by day 5 I feel like I am an independent painter. This has opened many doors for me because we have all discussed other available courses and teachers throughout the week. I return home with 4 paintings that I have created and am proud of my work. As well, I return home with three extra pounds around my middle that I have gained thanks to Kawartha Dairy’s “Moosetrack” ice-cream. I have grown in skill and girth and learned so much…and still am no threat to the painters of the world. It was wonderful.
I am suspicious. This quest reminds me of a children’s story where the chicken asks the cow “AM I ENOUGH?” and the cow says “Let’s ask the pig”, and they go down the road asking each successive animal on the search…only to be eaten by a fox or to have known the answer all along. So I am on a search without trekking to Nepal and without prayer or psychoanalysis. I only know that I keep finding other women who have raised their families and completed their professional careers with dignity. They now watch their husbands languish on the golf course or disappear into the ground or with their secretaries. These women need to redirect themselves because the social groups and rules have pushed them into the abyss.
Unlike our mothers (whom we are terrified of becoming like every generation before us) we do not want to expire on the sofa watching the door. We want to have a home in our souls to return to but we want to be part of a busy exciting world. We always have been. To sit patiently waiting for the rest of life is a death knell in itself. We give our power away: to our children, our friends, or passing strangers with promises of fitting in or being needed.
This blog is for those of us who have recommitted the last third part of our lives to our grandchildren, our sports, our arts, our volunteer work, our new jobs, our travels… OUR DREAMS. So let’s explore.
When I turned 50, the message was clear: save your body and face, use a trainer, spin, pilates, botox, restylene or Olay. It kept me busy for 10 years.
Now that I am in my 60’s and have buried one husband and walked out on a second, and my children are grown educated and independent, Paul McCartney’s song haunts me. I am 63. I no longer care if anyone loves me. I no longer care if anyone needs me. I am trying to become the sole love of my life at 64. Problem is … I don’t know who I am, or if I even like myself at 63. The reality of 64 is creeping up, and having devoted my whole life to others, IT IS TIME TO BE SELFISH AND TO BE ENOUGH. IT IS TIME TO BE 64.