Earlier this week I had lunch with a new friend here in Woodstock who just happens to be from Annapolis. She and her husband moved to Vermont over ten years ago. It was surprising the way that we “met” them.
Bob was at the health club one afternoon and when he goes about mid-afternoon, there is hardly anyone there. One day, there was another couple there and they just started chatting with each other. Come to find out, this couple had moved to Vermont from Maryland, and at one time, the guy had lived just around the corner from us in Lutherville. Small world.
Bob was so excited when he came home that day. First of all, he was the one to make contact – not me. He always says that I could make friends with a door and that just about all of our friends have come from my connections. But here he was, in a new place and reaching out to others and making friends. Score one for Bob!
But back to the lunch the other day… it was a very cold day and Jenny from Annapolis and I got together for a bowl of lentil soup, some hot tea and homemade cookies – and, lots of talking. The conversation of meeting new people and being able to make connections came up, and I was surprised that she had encountered the same thing I have, and that is… nobody cares who are you were in a former life or what you did. They are more interested in who you are now.
Maybe after several conversations, you may get around to talking about what you “do” or “did” – but, it’s the “connection” on a different level that determines whether you’ll meet up again and possibly, develop a friendship. The questions that come up are more along the lines of… what do you like to do for fun?, what made you decide to move up here?, have you tried such and such restaurant?, are you interested in walking/running/riding in this upcoming race?, etc.
Down the road, the “what I do/did” comes up and sparks another level of conversation – flushing out further common interests. But, interesting to both Jenny and me, is the fact that it’s been an entirely different way of initially connecting with someone. Actually, more than refreshing.
Before we moved up here, I wrote about the dreaded question… “What do you doooo?” and how uncomfortable it can feel when you lose your identity. I was afraid that “exploring” wouldn’t suffice as an answer during this getting settled in time. But, it has sufficed and it’s been encouraged, and whether I was a radio host, investment banker or professional cat herder doesn’t really make a difference anymore. So, exploring what comes next is what’s on the agenda. And, it’s the answer I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with.
What about you? If you’ve gone or are going through a transition period, what’s your identity? What’s your comfort level with exploring? I’ve felt the entire spectrum of feelings, so I’ll “get” it.Painting – Chair Two Women Talking by Fred Bell
Five provocative questions answered by an inspiring and fabulous woman – a woman with something to say.
Meet Joyce Kramer
Joyce A. Kramer has reinvented herself a few times. She started her career path as a high school English teacher in inner-city Baltimore. After 25 years, she then became Volunteer Director followed by Public Relations and Development Director of a local HIV/AIDS organization and later held the same position with the National Association of People with AIDS. She has owned several businesses, including a plant store in the Fells Point area of Baltimore City, and a consulting business in communications, which led to work with many organizations, including the Voice of America and UNICEF in East Africa. With co-authors Renee Fisher and Jean Peelen, Joyce wrote two books about the challenges and joys of aging: Invisible No More: The Secret Lives of Women Over 50 and Saving the Best for Last: Creating Our Lives After 50. Joyce has always loved her work and enjoyed many opportunities to be in service.
People would be surprised to know that: When circumstances demand change, I can adapt quickly. As my consulting business dried up in the 2009 recession, I downsized, moved to Florida, and discovered a new way to serve others. I became a personal cook. I always loved cooking for my family but never imagined it could earn me an income. I love trying two or three new recipes each week and testing them on friends. I have fun and I get to stay active.
The WTL 5:
What’s the conversation that changed your life?
Although I decided in second grade to become a teacher and held that vision for myself all my life, when I was a junior in college with student teaching looming, I had no confidence that I could be a good teacher. Then I took a child psychology class with a professor who became my greatest teacher and mentor. The course was set up to offer every student the opportunity to excel at some project or task. I selected the task of teaching my psych class a lesson because it was the thing I most feared. Afterwards my professor gave me his evaluation. He told me that I performed excellently and that I would make a good teacher. From my conversation with him, I learned that I was capable, but, more, I learned how to enable others to succeed.
What are you most conscious of today?
I am most conscious that my life is winding down and that I want to make the most of this time. I still enjoy working, as well as walking on the beach, reading, socializing, meditating, and savoring my solitude, and so I am grateful to have lived to this age and remained healthy. I’ve stopped judging myself and discovered my true nature. Accomplishments, which I thought were so important when I was younger, didn’t help me become more conscious. Paying attention to my inner life and doing the work on myself has made all the difference. As I am aging, I relish the peace that comes from my inner work.
What part of you have you yet to give voice to?
The part that I haven’t given voice to is my artist. Although I create through writing and cooking, I have been blocked as an artist for many years. I gave up painting and drawing when I married because I compared myself with my husband who I thought was a better artist. I wasn’t good enough. Now I think I have fears about painting again because I haven’t done it for over 50 years. My head says it is not too late to give this part of me a voice. Yet I know I need to do some more work with myself to let the artist speak.
What’s the conversation women need to be having collectively?
“Feminism” is not a dirty word. Feminists have fought for equal political, economic, legal, and social rights for all women for hundreds of years. We must stand together for all women to improve lives, and thus our children’s, by making our lives healthier, safer, and economically sustainable with or without men. Instead of criticizing or de-humanizing feminists, we could thank all the women who came before us and fought for us, giving us new ways to look at our repressive society and helping us see the choices we have. The conversation needs to be: How can we work together?
What needs to be said bigger, louder, stronger?
Everyone has a story. The story can define us by the way we tell it. We have a choice: We can be victims, or we can liberate ourselves. We can put the past in the past. In order to free ourselves from the stories which have defined us, we must see the story through new eyes. Perspective is everything.
Remembering that everyone has a story, told or untold, can help us to be more compassionate.
Thank you, Joyce, for sharing your powerful voice
with WomanTalk Live