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On Age & Attitude


“She’s aging gracefully.”

This is a phrase I have heard so many times and until recently was always a goal of mine. It conjured up the image of Maureen O’Hara in the original ‘Parent Trap’ movie. She had it all going on over her younger rival, Vickie. She accepted the physical aging process, embraced her curves and laugh lines. She was not going to submit to brow lifts and tummy tucks. She would look good for her ‘stage in life’. That is what I always supposed the phrase to mean. I would be a woman who did that. I would stick to a skin care regime and religiously moisturize and exfoliate but I would accept that I was a woman of a ‘certain age’.

Lately, I have been thinking that there is an unaddressed subtext in this phrase that I bought into with full consent. Full consent because it was of my own creation. I assumed I would spend my empty nest years doing useful things for my community. I would join the church fundraising committee and attend all the meetings. I would be on standby at home in case any of the kids or grandkids got sick and I needed to pick someone up from school or run and fill a prescription. I would also, of course, dress and behave in an age appropriate manner befitting my station in life.

This is the life that I spent imagining for myself for all the years that I was busy raising my family. I imagined with delicious anticipation that there would be pockets in my day in which I could have lunch with a friend, go to the library sale or even jump on a plane and spend a long weekend with my mom. That was almost too decadent to say out loud though. I kept that one under wraps. It was the trashy novel of my imagined post nest years. I wouldn’t want my church friends to know I would actually leave my family and responsibilities for fun.

It’s not a bad life and I wouldn’t want anyone reading it to think that they had somehow settled and were missing out on something. I just began to think that maybe “aging gracefully” could mean something more. Maybe it could mean that it’s okay to take emotional care of yourself and be first for the first time in a long time? Maybe it could mean getting together for a weekend with your college roommates because you’ve only been talking about it for 30 years now? Maybe I could be a Girl Camper and a community servant? Maybe the “community” is not in my neighborhood? Maybe “aging gracefully” means finding that sweet spot of loving your family and honoring yourself. Being respondent without guilt to your inner inclinations and flights of fancy?

I decided on the new and revised version of “aging gracefully”. I know that if one of my children has a baby or a crisis I am a flight or days drive away. I don’t have to live in my kitchen waiting for the phone to ring. I’m not the Mom ‘doctor on call’ anymore. I don’t think my kids want me to do that either. The goal is to raise adults. Check! Now I get to go and be a kid. I want to pack up my trailer and meet my new friend Linda in the foothills of the Ozarks and see the Milky Way with her. I am going to stop and meet my new Facebook friend Debra on the way and talk her into joining us. I want to float on the Kern River with the Sisters on the Fly and go to Burning Man and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival and the Grand Canyon. I want to travel a piece of the Oregon Trail and imagine the women who traveled it with all of their hopes and dreams packed in their Prairie Schooners. In my own little prairie schooner, my 1966 Go Tag Along, I want to trace their steps and honor their courage. It probably won’t look very graceful though. Three-day-old hair in a baseball cap and jeans that haven’t been washed in two weeks usually doesn’t read as graceful but, it will be true. It will be a time for me to let my mind unfurl and learn to live in that moment and practice an appreciation for all that God has given me. I am ready to “age gracefully.” Let’s hit the road!


Janine Pettit is a ten-year member of Sisters on the Fly, her favorite Girl Camping group! She is the host of the podcast, Girl Camper on Itunes and Stitcher and a writer for Go RVing. She writes a blog at www.girlcamper.com where she encourages women to join the Girl Camping movement.

Showing 8 comments

  1. Oh, oh, oh!!! I am SO proud to call you my Sister/friend, Janine! You nailed it, you write beautifully, and…even though I have a few years on you, you are my mentor in so many ways! I am so proud to be your first Girl Camper Correspondent. I am in awe of your moxie!!! Go Girl Go!!!!!

  2. I love that you have such balance and freedom! I still have strong apron ties at home since I babysit my grandchildren during the day, but I have my ‘Sisters on the Fly” and “Girl Camper” dates scheduled that are just for me. I’ve also been looking for this type of balance. Go Girl, Go:)

  3. Excellent…I just finished a great book “This Chair Rocks” by Ashton Applewhite that supports everything being said in this SOTF article. Boomers are blazing another trail and redefining “successful aging” as we go, and it doesn’t include giving up or giving in. Let’s go, girlz!

  4. Where to start? This article addresses so many of the feelings that I’ve been trying to sort through as I turned 60 this month, July. I’ve been looking forward to hitting the “Launch” button but all manner of insecurities hold me down like a tether. Your article is such an encouraging help, maybe I can really do this too! Maybe all the “what if’s” won’t be so scary once I step out to connect with sisters like you. Thank you Janine!
    Martha Cruz Sister #3177

  5. Really enjoyed your words. After living my life a certain way and realizing I/it no longer ‘fit’the question …..where do I fit….what do I want ???? Had left me searching outside the box. I am so happy to have found this group. Thank you very much
    Mildred M

  6. There’s something very special about this group and the articles I’ve been reading in this section. I feel like the writers and sisters know me better than I do. So much is inside of me that I didn’t know how to express. I’ve been on a downhill slide thinking it was just too late to do the things I should have done when I was much younger. Not anymore. This group is renewing my spirit in the possibles. I’m getting excited about life and finding new adventures. I believe in divine intervention otherwise I don’t think I would have found this group or at least seen it somewhere and not followed through. I’m so very thankful but I KNOW that you Sisters know this already. Wow. Don’t know what else to say except thank you to each of you who have made this Sisterhood what it is today.

  7. I really enjoyed your blog and your attitude. I have been a sister for ten years, too, and it has really changed my life. Thanks for your fun and inspirational words. Jill Cocco

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