If you are a woman “of a certain age,” then you know what I’m talking about when I tell you that life is one big change after another. One of the first phases in this metamorphosis of growing older is the graying of one’s hair, not to mention a myriad of other inconveniences that turns you into an “older woman” - putting it ever so mildly.
Growing old doesn’t have to be something to dread. More and more women are claiming that their senior years are the days when they are suddenly set free. No more having to look a certain way for someone else; it’s time to look a certain way for ME.
One such woman whom I really admire in taking a stand against ageism is Maggie Rose Crane. As a leading-edge baby boomer, Maggie is an expert on the subject and has written a book to help us put our fears of growing old aside and rejoice in the fact that we can finally be ourselves and not give a darn what anyone else thinks.
Amazing Grays: A Woman’s Guide to Making the Next 50 the Best 50 (Regardless of your hair color!), is a candid and inspiring guide for women on how to stay vibrant, engaged and joyful in the second half of life with tips on how to let go of the past, mindfully navigate the present and create a life that reflects the accomplished woman we’ve become.
I interviewed Maggie to find out why she feels growing older is not a death sentence, but a chance to really understand who we are today and who we will be tomorrow.
Thank you for this interview, Maggie. Exactly when did you throw down the towel and declare yourself free to be yourself, no matter the age?
Maggie: At age 55, I had an epiphany in a hair salon. As a result, I decided to never color my hair again. It was the process of going gray that threw me up against all my limiting fears, beliefs and expectations about becoming old. Rather than allow these fears to run my life from backstage, I decided to confront them head-on. It was a daunting process, but little by little I took back my power.
It was on the day when my hairstylist told me I had grown out enough gray hair for a short (but sassy) haircut that it really hit me. As I saw my artificially colored hair piling up on the floor I began to feel free of a part of me I no longer identified with. I was becoming lighter, more authentic, more me! It was very liberating.
Not all women will decide to allow their hair to go gray – but I think this moment of reckoning hits all of us at some point. We all have to come to terms with the fact that we are getting older, and that WE are becoming the senior generation. Once you embrace this fact, it frees you to rearrange the puzzle pieces and create a fresh start.
What are some of the fears you feel women have today about growing older and how should they release those fears?
Maggie: The questions abound…Will I continue to be loveable? Respected? Desirable? Important? Can I still make a difference? Will I become invisible? Why are my looks so darned important? Is everyone this afraid of dying? Who am I now that I’m no longer of reproductive age? Am I doing what I came here to do? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Is it almost over?
These fears must be confronted head-on or they will run our life from backstage. I recommend that women take some time to brainstorm every fear, belief and expectation they have about aging and write it down. Then, by asking some simple questions - Is this true? Who said so? How do I know this? – they can begin to question the truth of these fears.
I also recommend that they look at the fears they can DO something about, and determine an action they can take to alleviate it. The rest of their fears will most likely fall into the category I call “irrational” and are best dealt with by challenging the voices in our heads that keep insisting they are “true”. There is no easy fix, but oftentimes just naming these fears can dilute some of their power. Don’t believe everything you think.
The quality of our life is determined by what we pay attention to – so I encourage women to stop focusing on who they were and focus on the woman they’ve become. How can this woman make a difference in the world? How can we become spiritual midwives for a generation following in our footsteps? How can we give back in a way that feeds our soul?
In your book, Amazing Grays: A Woman’s Guide to Making the Next 50 the Best 50, you have a term I would love for you to explain. What is “Silver Sage”?
Maggie: While I allude to the Gallery of women (on my website and in my book) who have gone gray as “Silver Sages”, I don’t mean to imply that only women with gray hair are sages.
While I appreciate that wisdom often comes with age, I realize that sometimes age just appears all by itself! Most of us have garnered a lot of experience and insight along the way and have developed a perspective on life that often only comes from digesting the ups and downs of ones life fully. I believe we possess a wisdom that can benefit those who are willing to tap into it. Silver, in this sense, refers to age. Sage to the wisdom that often (but not always) accompanies it.
Is your book an anti-aging book?
Maggie: No. It takes too much energy to be against anything. The time and energy spent opposing something can be put to better use by focusing on what you DO want, not what you don’t want. We tend to get what we focus on. I encourage women to embrace some sort of mindfulness practice as a way to create less stress and more peace in their life.
While this is not an anti-aging book, it also is not just about hair color. It’s mostly about maturing women relishing their roles as Amazing Grays (regardless of your hair color!). It’s about challenging outdated expectations and living joyously, consciously and authentically. It’s about not wasting the precious time we have trying to recapture a life we’ve outgrown. I’ve attempted to use my own journey through midlife to shatter stereotypes about aging and then share my insights and research with women who are on a similar journey.
I have been coloring my hair for years, not to cover the gray, but to cover my mousy brown hair, now sprinkled with gray. What can you tell me to convince me to go au naturel and love it?
Maggie: I’m not about to convince any woman to stop coloring her hair. Frankly, not every woman looks good with gray hair. Actually, there is no such thing as “gray” hair. It’s really translucent and takes on the color of the hair around it. So, those with darker hair often gray beautifully, as the translucent hair reflects a silver tone. Those with lighter hair will often reflect a yellow tone, which can appear mousy.
My message is not about gray hair – but aging well. If you feel better coloring your hair – than I’m the last one to tell you to stop. I will say that I hope you are looking into less toxic hair dyes. Our scalp is rich with blood vessels and readily absorbs any toxins you put on it. The research I’ve outlined in my book is not 100% conclusive, but there is enough there to make one question the regular use of traditional hair dye.
Finally, what is the most wonderful thing about being a woman “of a certain age”?
Maggie: First, I’m grateful for having made it this far, because many haven’t. I love that so much of the drama is behind me – that I know and accept my imperfections and can love myself because of them, not in spite of them. For many of us, our kids are grown, our original careers are winding down, and we have a sense of what’s important to keep and what we can let go of. We can focus our attention on what makes us happy, and decide what we want to do with these next 50 years. We have an opportunity to reawaken slumbering dreams, spend time reflecting on who we’ve become and create a life that reflects the woman we are now. No one really knows the quantity of time we have – but by mindfully choosing to fill ones life with the people and events that bring a smile to your lips and a song to your heart – and living each consecutive moment as it happens in the now, now, now - it will seem like a looong time.
Thank you for this interview, Maggie. Can you tell us where we can pick up a copy of your book, Amazing Grays: A Woman’s Guide to Making the Next 50 the Best 50?
Maggie: Visit www.maggiecrane.com. I’m currently offering a Free bookmark with purchase of Amazing Grays. It features a wonderful quote for midlife women, affirming the powerful and amazing woman we are. After all, we become what we think about most!