In her new memoir Lots Of Candles, Plenty Of Cake, Anna Quindlen, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of six novels, recounts how she began working out with a physical trainer named Anita. Quindlen mentioned that she had issues with balance and strength. Anita replied: "That's just a little story you tell yourself."
There are many wise and inspiring takeaways about aging from Quindlen's memoir, but this is my favorite: Pay attention to the stories you tell yourself, and be prepared to re-write them. As she writes:
Oh those stories we tell ourselves. They make us what we are, and too often, what we’re not. They are the ten commandments of incapability, cut to order. I can’t cook. I’m not smart. I’m a bad driver. I’m no jock. … But as I assessed the bill of goods I’d sold myself over decades, it occurred to me that maybe I had reached a moment when I could stop telling myself old stories and start inventing some new ones.
I've always admired Quindlen, particularly in the mid-1990s, when she was on track for the top editor job at The New York Times, and walked away to write novels and work from home with her three children. For a young journalist, it was incredibly empowering to see someone at the top of the profession choose her own path.
In my late 30s, Quindlen's example, among others, gave me the courage to go my own way and write books from home when my kids were small -- at a time when I was desperate not so much for life balance (the kids had a competent stay-at-home dad) but to be present for the every day in that rich, lovely, messy, boring and often exasperating chapter of life. I'm one of those women who tends to "should" all over herself, and I am always grateful for role models who give me permission to pay attention to my heart.
Quindlen masterfully and beautifully sums up the best parts of aging: thoroughly knowing yourself, truly not caring what others think, and enjoying the confidence and courage that come with decades of practicing life and finding out, remarkably, it mostly turns out okay. Like the piece of music, plucked out key by key every day, that eventually crests into a sonata.
In any case -- I won't spoil it. Just read the book. And check out the interview below by The Huffington Post's Lisa Belkin -- whose own career in journalism was launched when she was hired by Quindlen to work at the Times.