HELEN MIRREN MADE ME DO IT! | Celebrate What's Right With the World
by Tania Carriere
February 25, 2018 - 11:33pm

It was a normal enough moment.

 I was sitting at a Starbucks, coffee in hand, putting off some work for a few indulgent minutes of Facebook. I was robotically scrolling, only partially engaged with the usual mix of animals, self-help quotes and messages   from friends.

 That’s when it happened to me.

 That’s when this photo happened to me.

 I froze, my scrolling index finger mid-air. I was riveted. I could not stop looking. I felt like I had found something of importance. I looked at it and felt…. Awestruck. Not because of her beauty or her fame but because I didn’t realize until I saw this photo, that this is what womanhood can look like.

 Real, authentic, vibrant, strong. Bad Ass. Commanding. Awesome. And wrinkled.

 And something in me cracked open a little.

 I have just started to navigate the changes that come with age. I have gone through 4 different sizes in the last 2 years as my body decides what kind of metabolism it would like to have today. There are the reading glasses that I resisted for a year, the lessening of stamina, (staying up past 1 a.m. requires a day off to recover) and the new wardrobe that seems to have gravitated to tunics and flowing shirts to hide the belly fat and rounded hips that have appeared. I try and hold all these changes with grace and dignity, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having sat down on the little bench in the Nordstom’s change-room and cried with dismay at a body that I can’t seem to anticipate or understand.

I don’t mean to paint an entirely bleak picture. There are great things that come with age too, like no longer seeking “permission” to be the person I really am, giving up the need for people-pleasing, having enough independence of spirit to leave the house without makeup or shaved legs and knowing, exactly, how I like to spend my time. I am eternally grateful for those gifts and the ease that they bring. So it’s not so much that I am resisting the changes that come with age, I get that with the sagging bits comes the reward of newfound wisdom. It’s more that ageing seems to have landed me in uncharted territory. I don’t quite know how I am supposed to be in it.

 I am perplexed. I have achieved so much and I live a wonderful, expansive life. I have a delightful circle of loved ones. A wonderful career. I do the things I love; dance, travel, read, theatre. I cultivate relationships that charm me, I eat glorious meals that I delight in cooking. But there is unrest in me and perhaps, a little sadness? A part of me that struggles with a loss of vibrancy, a giving up of the coltish legged creature that once seemed fearless. I have a longing for the permission that I used to give myself to be glorious.

 I used to enjoy the attention I got for my youthful rendition of beauty. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy, just enough to fit the checklist that someone, somewhere decided was the definition of who I should be; thin, blonde, nicely shaped, long legged, exuberant, friendly and full of possibility. I excelled in my profession, got invited into the big meetings, was offered top tables in restaurants and skipped the lines. I travelled, bought a house and stood as a vibrant example of thirty something femininity. I was used to the attention that my confidence gave me. The world was mine to conquer, to delight, to engage. Yes, that confidence came at a price. I bristled at and occasionally faltered under at the demands of perfection and got lost in the dark world where self-worth equates body image, but I got noticed. I was a part of those who had the right to be vibrant and boldly stride into whatever lay ahead of them. No matter what, I could count on being seen. At the interview, at the audition, at the first date.

 And then suddenly, it seemed almost overnight, I was unseen.

 Not rejected, just unseen.

 I am no longer in the world of 30-something-vibrant-flat-stomached-world-achievers (heck I am about to enter the world of 50 something) and suddenly I do not register in people’s awareness as I walk by. I am no longer the sassy upstart that people used to see when they looked at me. 

 And that’s the problem. I am not sure who I am at this age and I can’t seem find the checklist for a powerful, vibrant, sexy woman of 50+. I’m standing here with the old checklist and it is not working. I know I don’t want to look like the botoxed version of Barbie, but I also don’t want the diffuse, shrinking energy of a woman who is no longer in command of her vitality.

 But where is it to be found? Where are the examples of women who wear their years, their experience, their glorious ways of being with pride? Women who still exude vibrant possibility. Women who have created a whole new phase of being that lies between Nymph and Crone. Women who leave you enchanted, wondering, longing and are over the age of 50?

 When I saw this picture of Helen Mirren I became curious. I stopped and looked. I mean, really looked. And then I became envious. Can you believe it??? Envious! The last time I felt envious of anyone older than me I think I was 16 and wishing that I would be a very gown up 21. But look at her – the command of her space, the energy that just leaps out at you, the defiance in her tattoo and her exposed cleavage that just takes the whole notion of being matronly and flips it the bird.

 Oh, the stories that she has to tell.

 What I would do to pour her a glass of wine (or better yet, a whiskey) and get down to a long talk.

 It’s not that I want to be her. It’s that in seeing her I realize that I don’t have a vision, a mentor or a knowing of who I want to be. I instantly loved this photo, and strangely enough I think I fell in love with myself when I looked at it. The old choices society wants to offer me just don’t cut it. The blessing of age is that I can see that they never did. It’s high time that I decide how this next decade or two (or four) are going to look and feel. I’m Re-Imagining myself, finding the new markers for MY new definition of this Self. I'm erasing the page and creating space to be the kind of woman that I would envy. 

 And if someone asks me about a new sizzle in my responses, the reappearance of my coltish legs from under the tunics, the haircut and the sultry attitude I’ll just respond….

 Helen Mirren made me do it.

 And pour myself a whiskey.


 Dewitt and Tania are teaming up again in The Re-Imagined Self; a mini-sabbatical, where you leave the everyday behind, drop into your dreams and desires, dare to break the rules and find your voice and the courage to celebrate the glorious woman you will know yourself to be.

These 7 days in Hawaii, in the company of a small group of like-minded women, will rejuvenate the creative spirit while exploring what makes yours a life well lived. Dewitt’s photos and words will be the backdrop for our discoveries as we reframe, refocus and reclaim our own power and right to define beauty, power and possibility.

Applications are now being accepted. There are only 15 spaces. If not now, when? http://www.advivumjourneys.ca/retreats

Pietro J Spagnuoloon February 26, 2018 - 8:08am

I read this and came to the realization how we are so focused on what other people think....I am hear to tell you that what other people think about me is "None of my Business"...So enjoy life! and as our moderator so wonderfully presents to us "Celebrate  What's Right with the World"...by the way this post is from a 80+ year old man with a beautiful 79 year old wife who like a good wine, "She gets better with age"

thanks for the inspiration Pietro! All the best to you and your wife who are living life fully and reminding the rest of us to be vibrant!

Cathy Drewon February 26, 2018 - 9:32am

Helen Mirren made me do it, too!  She reawakened the sagging, dimming me who was beginning to lose touch with the me who is full of juice and jazz and joy no matter what the shape and size of my body or my life are today.  So, my dear friend, we journey together back to our bad ass selves!

Cathy!! What great news that we are in the same tribe of bad ass sisterhood! thanks for reaching out! So good to know that these vulnerable words are echoed in other people's experiences!

Melonyon February 26, 2018 - 2:25pm

Fabulous and CELEBRATE it all- everyday!

Thanks Melonyon! Everyday has a moment of celebration in it, doesn't it?

Steve Bundersonon February 26, 2018 - 2:56pm

Thanks so Very much for this post. As an “older” fashion and advertising photographer  I admit that getting old is not for the faint of heart. I notice how both men and women deal with the “strange effects” age does to the body and mind. But I applaud those who handle these changes in wonderful and remarkable ways, as you and Helen Mirren have found.  I smile at how a woman over 50...or even 60 can still look appealing, very sexy, and yes even bad-ass.  As someone who is very close in age to Kahuna Dewitt I try to deal with age and changing courses in my creativity....in slower fashion. But damned determined. Thank you for sharing your insight!  You made my week.


And you have made mine Steve! What is so remarkable about this experience of sharing this vulnerability is the connection with people like yourself who say "yes!, me too, and ROCK ON!" Perhaps the greatest gift of ageing is the lesson of continually staying present with who we are and HONOURING ourselves in each moment. If we accomplished that, we would create the peace we so long for in our communities. Have a great week!! T

Estheron February 28, 2018 - 2:03am

Tania, you made me realise we  are all unique but share the same thoughts and feelings. Your words are universal and make me feel deeply connected to you and woman all over the world. Life's to short to be fretting about the effects gravity has on our bodies. It's time to celebrate everything right in this world, and that includes our beautiful matured bodies and the wisdom that comes with age.  Thank you Tania! 

RAMon February 28, 2018 - 6:48pm

sad, so sad to be so wrapped-up in one's external self as to miss life. Please open up to others and what is happening right in your own neighborhood. you will meet people who do not give a tinker's damn about your externals but treasure other gifts that you will be surprised to find that you have  to offer. But you have to not only offer them; you have to produce. Trust that you will discover how easy it is.

My wife just turned 84 and is involved not only with her family, but also in coordinating a women's running program and helping others in many ways. She is too busy and involved to worry about herself. From my perspective, she is beautiful at any level i can conjure-up.

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