Friday, April 22, 2011
A year ago or so I was interviewed by Julia Moulden for her new book," RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50", the title of which I didn't know at the time. This week the book came out, and I was surprised to see a fairly large chunk of the interview, and was interested to see if I might have re-stated anything were I to be interviewed again today. Instead of writing a post this week, I am going to lift the interview straight from the book, because the truth of a year ago is the truth of today. Nice.
"I went to art school and became a clothing designer for large manufacturers. In the late '80's, when retailers realized they needed to start designing their own clothing, I launched an in-house design department for Eddie Bauer. I was there for 14 years and, by the end, was overseeing a huge team of designers (NOTE, the interviewer got this a little wrong, I was overseeing a huge marketing team when I left)
And then it all blew up. Business was terrible, I knew I was on the way out. I was 49, the sole breadwinner in our family, with a son in his junior year of high school and a daughter in the eighth grade.
I was recruited for two very different positions and chose the smaller firm. We moved our family from Seattle to California - from our dream home to half the house for twice the money. I went from running a department of 130 people to working for a company with 100 people in total. I turned 50 and hit menopause. Throughout, I was hell-bent on proving I could do it all.
The year I turned 55 brought more changes. I took an exit package, and my marriage began to unravel. I gave myself a year off. I'd been working since I was 19. Now, with no kids at home, no marriage and no job, I hit a wall. If a move title could sum up that year of my life, it would be "It's Complicated Up In The Air".
I went into therapy and began training for a three-day breast cancer fundraising walk that one of my best friends had long wanted me to do but I was always too busy working (to do). The group of women I trained with became an important part of my life.
All the soul searching made me realize I could seize my life - or drown. I told myself, "This is who I am, and I can't live with a fake version any longer".
I was recruited to this new role as CEO of Artful Home, an online company that sells artist-made decor and jewelry, and I'm the happiest I've ever been. I've come full-circle - it brings together my training as an artist and my experience in retail. And I feel like I'm just hitting my stride"
Yep, still true, and only getting better.
Friday, April 15, 2011
My friend, Peter asked me recently if I ever thought of myself as a kind of Carrie Bradshaw, albeit a 50+ San Francisco version, busily stumbling through a life which is exciting, maddening, lonely, romantic, yearning, lusty, sometimes stylish, with a healthy dose of sweatpants and hiding under the covers. Although I was flattered by his question (and certainly wish I had the shoe budget and collection of Carrie) and while I originally thought that there might be something publishable in my musings, I have come to realize that the blogging and its concomitant personal admissions have been a way of reaching out to others in search of connection and community.
The subject of connection fascinates me. I lived much of my life feeling like an outsider and have only recently knocked down that myth, understanding it was, in fact, a myth which served to shelter me from the potential hurt of connection/rejection. I looked for fellow outsiders, and together we often sheltered ourselves from some general world of others who knew how to "fit in". When another friend laughed in my face some time ago when I referred to myself as an introvert, it certainly caused me to stop and re-examine the myth. And when one of my closest people in the world recently asked me to advise a troubled woman on how to re-enter the world, I finally admitted to my stubborn self that, in fact, I have learned how to connect after all, and perhaps, do it pretty well.
In need of community after my marriage split open, after my kids became adults, after I dramatically changed my career, after I felt unmoored and emotionally homeless, after starting to date for the first time in 33 years, I wrote, and the writing (and the responses to the writing) has kept me in touch with others and has helped germinate new friendships. What I have found through my writing is that there is an unspoken support group in-the-making through blogging, a support group about just living. Living life in the open has allowed others to talk to me about common experiences and feel comfortable sharing, helping me, in the process, know that I, too, am not alone with the issues facing me.
What makes up support groups of any sort is common experience. Mothers groups can help fend off that feeling of bad mommy/isolation/where's-the-owners-manual-that -should- have-come-with-my-child feeling and help moms feel connected to their peers. Rape victims groups help deal with those feelings of shame, fear, helplessness and anger, helping create a community that wishes it never had to be formed. Weight watchers, AA, running groups, PTA are all formed around shared issues, illnesses, life-stages, and interests.
I don’t belong to a group, or at least to a publicly formed one. But this blog has given me an outlet and a strength to examine myself, or, as the same Peter says, “do” Lisa – not Carrie! In turn, I have found and formed a community, and for that I am most grateful.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I wear a lot of black. A lot. Head to toe, I have used it as my wardrobe solution and signature for years because it is easy, flattering, versatile, sexy and symbolic, (during my years in the fashion industry, it was the only color that any of us would dare to be seen in). My ex-husband used to laugh when he would watch me pack, wondering why so many pairs of shoes and pieces of clothing needed to be packed when they were all, after all, black.
I am not the only woman to feel and dress this way, and the term "Little Black Dress" (LBD) is a common one in the vernacular, shorthand for the go-to piece in a wardrobe which makes a woman feel fabulous in an instant. It is no surprise that the great Cynthia Ashby dress pictured here has been a huge hit at my company since it first appeared just a month ago, providing a mix of artful, sexy, and flattering
in one fell swoop.
And yet... I recently met a woman who is an image consultant. She advises clients on what to wear for their business and personal lives, helping them prep for media appearances, presentations and, yes, dates. Her advice to me, a single woman interested in meeting fabulous single men? Don't wear black. Men don't like black. Wear color. Wear prints.
My first thought was uh oh, no wonder I hadn't yet met Prince Charming. My second thought was F(orget) that! This woman(me) wears black. It is who I am, and if a man is not going to fall in love with me because of the (lack of) color of my dress, then he is clearly not my guy! Having worn many an LBD to many hot dates,it hasn't seemed to be a deterrent nor have I had to compromise who I am to satisfy some externally imposed restrictions. Long live the LBD!