OPINION: ‘You’re never too old to be bold' is a great motto to live by
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Last week, I read an article about a woman who had always yearned to travel the world but never had the opportunity. One day, once her children were grown up, she decided to turn things around. And she did. On her 60th birthday, she qualified as a flight attendant and now spends her time flying to far flung places.
Her tale reminded me of a client I had, probably 25 years ago, whose determination to shake up her own existence is something I’ve never forgotten because it was utterly inspirational.
So, because a bit of inspiration is always good, I decided I’d devote this column to her story, in the hope that it might kickstart some similar sort of transformation in any reader who has ambitions to be different.
Belinda, (not her real name), came to see me after her husband died. She had lots of very conflicting emotions because the relationship had been unhappy and unfulfilling. Despite that, they had stayed together, and jointly run a successful business and brought up three children.
Now though, she was angry. Also, she was regretful that she had lacked the courage to leave, even after her children had flown the nest. Most of all, she was distressed that she was now 58, and had never lived the life she wanted.
All these were very difficult feelings. But gradually and tearfully she began to put the past behind her and identify what changes she could make to go forward into an era that would be more fun and meaningful.
She decided to downsize from their large, rambling old house into a modern flat that would need no maintenance. She planned to buy furniture that would be light and modern, in contrast to the heavy, solid and very old-fashioned tables, chairs and sofas that her husband had favoured. She resolved to get rid of all the clutter he had insisted was necessary, and live a cleaner, tidier and simpler life.
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Her adult children lived nearby so she decided to stay in the seaside town where she had lived all her married life, but to move within it to somewhere with a sea view. She was also keen to be right in the centre so she could walk to important destinations like the station, doctor’s surgery, parish church, a chemist, the theatre and cinema.
Once she had her aims, she started work on them and came for therapy weekly to discuss her emotions that, not surprisingly, remained troublesome for a while.
Her progress was not constant. Progress rarely is. Some weeks she felt she was too old to change and that she had left it too late to achieve anything new. But she stuck with her ideas and tried to make them happen.
Suddenly, her moods improved and then an almost brand new flat came onto the market which was everything she had dreamt of. It faced the sea and was decorated in sandy yellow and grey-blue, to blend with the colours of the landscape outside. There were mirrors everywhere and the rooms were light and airy. There were also white sofas, pale wood venetian blinds, dramatic lamps and a series of large, contemporary seascape pictures on the walls.
‘I get the sense,’ she told me, ‘that the owner likes to do up properties and then move on. So, I asked if I could buy everything in the flat as well as the property itself. And she agreed’.
‘I didn’t hear from Belinda for several weeks because she was so taken up with the move, but when she came to see me again, she had had her hair cut into a stylish bob, lost a bit of weight and swapped her somewhat matronly clothes for an outfit that was sassy, younger looking and pretty.
‘You’re like a new woman,’ I said.
‘I know!’ She beamed at me. ‘I adore my flat. I sit there on my white sofa looking at the sea in one direction and the art on the walls in the other and I think ‘God I’ve changed – and I love it!’
And the changes continued. She took up tap dancing and walking and volunteered at the local library – and felt happier than she ever had.
Belinda stayed in touch with me for years after our sessions ended. And so I know that she went off on a singles cruise and came home with a new man called Mac. Someone, as she pointed out, that her late mother would have never approved of! He was a wild-haired Scot who played the saxophone and had lived a very colourful life. But they made each other laugh and they had the sort of love life she had longed for but never expected to have.
Mac was 12 years older than her, but they stayed together till his death and loved each other with passion and joy.
Belinda had spent decades feeling held back, timid, unremarkable and diffident. But she broke out of that mould and embraced life in a totally new way. Her motto became: ‘You’re never too old to be bold.’ A very good one to have.