Authenticity

midlife

An Insider Pass: Ruminating About The Instagram Circus With Jo

Once upon a time, a good friend shrugged and said, “I just don’t get that Seinfeld show—why do you think it’s so funny?” And I was like, “How can you not get it?!” It was the mid-1990s and it was a new format for TV: a show about nothing! 

Fast-forward, and now ordinary, slice-of-life quips are everywhere. People love them! And my Insta-friend, Jo Davies, deftly dishes up the best relatable observations in her Instagram profile, @midlifehighway.

Well—that is until she took an IG hiatus this summer. Where’d she go? Why’d she leave? When’s she coming back?? 🙆🏻‍♀️

I wanted the scoop on this brilliantly clever woman. So I decided to go straight to the source: While vacationing in London, I had lunch with Jo last month! That’s right, an IRL meetup with a virtual friend across the pond, imagine that!  

Naturally, we shared many laughs as we bantered about everything and nothing. It was a lovely, light afternoon filled with little bites, a little window shopping, and even a little Prosecco (just for me)—ahhh! 

Then in a very candid followup (via Zoom) a couple weeks later, I was privy to personal thoughts absent from her IG profile. Not a shock: who doesn’t have a carefully curated public image? Yet who doesn’t wonder about the private persona of those we follow and befriend on Instagram? 

~.~.~.~.~.~.~

Today’s #CoffeeBreakStory is the 6th in my #MidlifeStories series about Women Over 50 pursuing a life with curiosity and contentment.

Social media tends to be a highly filtered version of life.  

Like many of those on IG, I adore seeing pretty things, too. But there’s nothing like a shot of authenticity to dispel FOMO on what appears to be someone else’s fairy tale story! So this series pulls back the curtain to reveal everyday women living life happily on their own real terms. Which then reassures that our own lives are just fine!

You may want to grab a double shot ☕️ midway through ’cause Jo and I really dig into some midlife truths in this behind-the-scenes story! (5 minutes in length).

Right, let’s get this show started! 🌟

Instagram

The Instagram Spotlight

If you’re like most, a brief Instagram break starts with the best of intentions. 

M: Jo, what’s up, what’s up? inquiring minds want to know!

<😂 > Mary, I can’t believe anyone’s that interested, it’s gonna fall very flat. But right. I started off as just doing—like you sometimes do—um, just going to take a month off and have a break. 

It just becomes so time-consuming! And largely, because I’m such a terrible people-pleaser, I’m worried about what people think if I wasn’t replying to their messages or going on to people’s posts and commenting on everyone else and liking everyone else.

I found my screen time going up to 6–7 hours a day!😳

I know some people do this for a living, but if it’s not, that is not a way to live. It’s one thing in lockdown, but in everyday life? And having taken a break, I found it very liberating.

I started off just trying to make people smile. You know, give them a laugh. Then of course, you have to try and be funnier and funnier and funnier—and I’m just not that funny.

M: Not true! You’re very witty!

So the pressure…the pressure with what you’re putting out there, yeah! And it was just things I was doing in my every day. I would do the same things the following week. But you can’t write about it twice. And there’s only so many stupid things you can do in a week….

M: <😜>You did set the bar high! But there’s plenty of others you encounter to provide you with that relatable fodder, no?

<😅> Well yeah, there is! But also there’s that sort of tragic thinking: you notice how many people are laughing. You’d get people saying ‘that’s the funniest one yet!’ Then other times, you’d be down by 20-30% on comments, at which point I’d be going, ‘Oh, was it not that good?And then I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know any of these people. Why do I mind so much what they think?’ I mean obviously, I had some sort of regulars. <pauses> I don’t really like that term ’cause it makes me sound like some sort of sex worker <🤣 >

M: 😳 Jo, please, we’re not your Only Fans—don’t start charging us to see your feet! 

<😝😝😝>

And then, you know, I care what they think. But most of the people…and I don’t mean this disrespectfully…you only ever engage with them over Instagram. Most of them are all over the world. So unless you started a dialogue with them, your only interaction is, ‘great posts this week’ or ‘that’s really interesting’. So to have your whole day based on whether that person found you funny? I thought to myself, there’s something very wrong with this… <🤔>>

The shiny allure of social media starts to tarnish a bit when you’re primarily hanging in the real world…

How The Show Began 🎪

instagram

To be clear, Jo is naturally drawn to the whimsical.

She considers it to be an essential part of her life. Just look at the two tiny ceramic trapeze artists suspended from her kitchen ceiling! ⬆️ 

M: So how did Midlife Highway begin?

I’m permanently taking up a new hobby! I did a nutrition course and I thought I wanted to do an Instagram thing on nutrition, very naïve, because of course I didn’t really know enough. It was supposed to lead on to potentially advising people and helping people locally. But then it just sort of morphed into something else, the Midlife Highway: ‘So this is what I’ve kind of been doing this week and this is what annoyed me’.

But that wasn’t even my intention actually. I had no plan. And suddenly I had this thing that was never gonna make me any money. Just taking up all my time and sort of rather unhealthy in my desire for people to think I’m funny. You know, that validation thing. I’m looking for validation from people I don’t even know.

M: Yet I imagine you have a wide circle of IRL friends though, right?

I do, yeah. And actually, that was the other thing that was so odd. When I started the Midlife Highway thing, I didn’t tell any of my friends. You know what it’s like, Mary—you have all your friends you have a particular relationship with. In some relationships, you’re the strong one. In some, you’re the meek one, in some you’re the funny one. So I felt like everyone saw me in a certain light.

And the Midlife Highway was very freeing ‘cuz it was like, this is me. I am clumsy, I am dozy, I’m disorganized and everything else like that. And I felt I could write much more freely without any of my friends, you know, chipping in or saying, ‘that doesn’t sound like you’, or ‘that’s not the you I know’. Then actually, when they did start to find me, they all enjoyed it, too. It was silly of me to think, ‘I don’t want anyone to know I’m doing this’.

M: So it was fun until the time commitment became intolerable. 

Yeah. But I also have a very, very short attention span. I started off doing marketing when I left university. I’ve also trained as a personal trainer. I used to make trays with wedding invitations and photos and stuff in lading glass. I’ve trained as a florist. I mean, I can’t stick with anything! <😶🙄😬>

M: Wow! Lots of very different plates spinning in the air! 

My mother has a…needless to say…like all mothers, she has a theory. And that was that I did a career that I really couldn’t go back to. I stopped working when my second child was a year old. All my salary was paying the childcare so…<🤷🏻‍♀️>

M: A lot of women can relate to that!

Actually I wrote a post about this way back, which was, ‘where has my career gone?’ You know my mother said we actually gave things up when we had our children. If you gave up work, you were giving up a career. I mean, she gave up work when she thought my father might ask her to marry him! <😅> But yeah we have careers so giving it up is really quite a big deal.

M: Would you do it differently now, if you could do it all over again? 

No. I don’t regret giving up work. Maybe with perfect hindsight, do a career you can go back to is a useful thing. But I feel I was very present in my children’s lives. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I was working full-time.

The age-old conflict of trying to do everything…sigh! Let’s shift gears and lighten up ⬇️

This or That

It's Game Time!

Here is what I heard when I asked Jo which of two things she favoredthis 👍🏼 or that 👎🏼… 

Thoughts can take me down a deep and twisty rabbit hole at times so I decided to follow my feelings instead. What’s the worst that can happen? 

I passed with popping on sensible paisley pajamas; instead, I stylishly boarded the train in my finest chiffon nightgown.

As we chugged out of the station, I proceeded to regale the passengers with a recounting of my favorite True Crime stories. Those Hallmark heartthrob movies set my teeth on edge. 

During intermission, I strolled to the lounge car and selected the finest fruits (oh, happy days: persimmons and plums!) for my midday snack. Sensible, stodgy vegetables got a hard pass on this jolly day off.

Curiously, all my fellow passengers were loudly snoring when I returned. My lecture was over—sigh! In went my ear buds and I settled down for a podcast listen. Unless it’s Mary V’s blog, my eyes are ever drawn to the scenery around me. But gradually, they closed and I dozed. 

When the train braked hard for the next stop, I awoke to something cold and moist nudging my hand. Horrors! Is it a cat?? Phew— it’s just the nose of my seat mate’s dog, gently reminding me it’s time to wake up.

As I rise and exit for my guilty pleasure day at the shops (shhh, don’t tell the Mister) I can’t help but wonder: how would Freud interpret this mishmash of a dream …would it get his goat? 🧐

I was all on board until she later recalled giving the double 👎🏼 to bacon! I mean, you think you know someone … and then …. 🙃

instagram

What Do You Do?

So how has Jo been spending her IG break? 

Before I get into that, Jo shared a final, astute observation about how people tend to engage with one another.

I began to feel on Instagram (and I think I wrote another post about this), why do we all feel like we have to have some trailblazing career? When we get into our 50s, can we, taking aside the financial aspect of it which is different for everybody…can’t you just sit down next to somebody and when they ask what you do, say ‘Nothing. I’m a housewife.’

M: <nodding vigorously> Why does it even have to be the first question though, you know? I mean, it puts us in a box that we are our career!

Yeah, exactly! And they really ask it so you’ll ask them what they do. Then they can go on about that <😜>

M: What do you say now when people ask you?

Well, I say I do a whole load of different things. Just gloss over it.

But now I ask people, my first question to somebody I haven’t met before is, ‘what are you reading?’ That’s my new one. 

M: Ah, that’s a good one. I like that!

I think I just keep trying to fill the void. And actually, funny enough, the Midlife Highway thing is as close to sticking to anything as I’ve ever become.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~~.~.~.~.~.

Jo is busy with a mixture of activities, both new and old:

  • handcrafting jewelry
  • creating one-of-a-kind tabletop terrariums
  • occasionally selling said stuff at local fairs

She’s still heading out on extended pilgrimages along the famed Camino de Santiago. Jo has walked a few different routes and has more on the calendar for 2023.

But above all, it’s always family first. Official empty nesters with the graduation of their youngest this year, Jo and her husband still enjoy travels with their three adult children. The annual laid-back summer vacation in Cornwall continues to be a much beloved family tradition.

And for the record, her IRL friends consider her the Funny One Bossy One! 😈

The wrap with Mary V

The Wrap On IG Musings With Jo

🥁 Lastly, the burning question: will her @midlifehighway Instagram account resume anytime soon?? 🥁

Initially, I encouraged her to come back. Found myself offering tips for how to see only what she wants, how to make peace with what she has capacity for time-wise, etc.

But then—I stopped. It’s not my place to tell someone else what to do. In fact, I strive to offer advice only when asked. And she wasn’t asking. So I listened, instead.

I think the fundamental thing is I just want to be my authentic self. And that’s what I wanted to do on Instagram. And then I came off it because I felt I was no longer being myself. I was having to say what I thought other people wanted me to say or what was going to appeal to people. And also saying things for effect as much as anything else.

That isn’t what I wanted to do. And when I find myself being pulled in a different direction, I think that’s when I just felt I needed a break.

To be clear, Jo has a private Instagram account where she sporadically drops a post about her real life activities and loves. That may very well be the only way she chooses to share going forward. 

Although I miss her pithy “getting my goat” 🐐 observations, I respect that she is getting all the validation she needs In Real Life. Yet just like anything else, that could change, too…stay tuned!

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.

✨Remember who you are! Honor what satisfies your soul!✨

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.

 

credit: -some images were sourced from Jo’s IG snaps and stylized by me-

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shorties

3 Weekend Shorties: Words To Make You Pause and Smile

Today’s Shorties are not my own words but they spoke to me and so I’m sharing for your reading pleasure as well.

It’s Thanksgiving Week in the USA. We’re blanketed here with multi-layers of seasonal gratitude, family drama, and Black Friday sales notifications. 😲

So just like a couple of fish tacos washed down with a margarita would be a welcome respite after all the turkey and pumpkin pie, I thought these three Shorties would be a welcome break for your spirit! 🌟

The first one is a sweet reminder, the second is a soulful nudge, and the third? Well, it made ME laugh—so I say it’s a gentle chuckle! 😁

Refill your mug with your favorite beverage 🍺 (I won’t judge) —and enjoy!

shorties
los muertos crew | pexels

Shortie #1 | who are you really?

you are not a name

or a height, or a weight

or a gender

you are not an age

and you are not where you are from

 

you are your favorite books

and the songs stuck in your head

you are your thoughts

and what you eat for breakfast

on Saturday mornings

you are a thousand things

but everyone chooses

to see the million things 

you are not

you are not

where you are from

you are

where you are going

and I’d like

to go there

too

—mk | bella GRACE

shortie
fauxels | pexels

Shortie #2 | What Is Heaven?

Once upon a time there was a woman who longed to find out what heaven is like. She prayed constantly, “O God, grant me in this life a vision of paradise.”

She prayed in this way for years until one night she had a dream. An angel came and led her to heaven. They walked down a street in paradise until they came to an ordinary looking house. The angel said, “Go look inside.”

So the woman walked in and found a person preparing supper, another reading the newspaper, and children playing with their toys. She was disappointed and returned to the angel on the street.

“Is this all there is to heaven?”

The angel replied, “Those people you saw in that house are not in paradise, paradise is in them!”

—Edward Hayes, Feathers on the Wind

thanksgiving day funny
pixabay | pexels

Shortie #3 | A Pilgrim's Tale

He entered sheepishly and knelt at his wife’s bedside.

“Priscilla dearest, she meant nothing to me! Can you ever forgive me?”

She was flushed. “Yes, John. Love is forgiveness.”

“Angel!” He kissed her forehead, grabbed his musket, and left, slamming the front door.

Priscilla leaned over the bed’s edge to peer beneath.

“Miles!” she beckoned.

—Curt Homan, The World’s Shortest Stories

shorties

However you’re spending this weekend, take time to recalibrate.

It’s easy to get caught up in the seasonal hustle. Which is where these little Shorties, or #CoffeeBreakStories come to the rescue. Who doesn’t welcome a 1-2 minute diversion? 

Circle back here  or here to sample a few prior #CoffeeBreakStories. 

~.~.~.~.~.~.

Your turn:

  • Which was your favorite?
  • What’s going on with your weekend?

You can send your thoughts to me right here: maryv@shiftyourstories.com

…And thanks for dropping by! 🙋🏻‍♀️

3 Weekend Shorties: Words To Make You Pause and Smile Read More »

step

Stepping Back Can Be A Step In The Right Direction

#CoffeeBreakStory: Taking Stock When Stepping Back

Happy September! 🍁 Like our ever-so-cultured European friends, I was on hiatus most of August. Actually, I started stepping back in mid-July, when we packed the RV and headed North on a road trip to Colorado. We were seeking cooler temps and different scenery. Turns out, I was also ISO a mindset reset. 🤪

My mini retreat was overdue. Per usual, I was focused on lofty goals at full bore, until they felt elusive and too much to pursue. The thrill was gone. As my discomfort increased, I worked my way into a rut without realizing it until I got stuck.

So stepping back meant no writing and (almost) no social media. I amassed endless travel photos and videos out of habit but few made an appearance on IG. I just didn’t have the energy to post on the “TikTok Wannabe” platform. Infinite reels made my eyes cross and I resented the excess time needed to find familiar, friendly faces. I was likely hidden, as well, so why bother? 🤷🏻‍♀️ 

Time off was incredibly healing on a number of levels. Now I’m easing my way back in, even though what lies ahead remains somewhat undefined. However, just getting back into motion can be instrumental for landing on what’s next. And if nothing else, I’ve also sussed out some of what it’s not going to be, which is equally useful.

Today I’m musing about what prompted a pause. I’ll be sharing more in future stories about the revelations uncovered along the way. This story is a little longer than others but clarity of purpose is a big topic. That’s why I’m breaking it into a short series, to keep the #coffeebreakstory somewhere between a Short and a Venti ☕️. So freshen yours up and here we go!

stepping back

¿ Midlife Crisis Maybe ?

To be honest, it felt like a second “identity crisis” was unfolding this year. (Yes, overachiever that I am, one wasn’t enough 😅)

If you’re new, here’s a quick 1-2-3 recap: my first one descended at age 53 when an unexpected corporate restructuring set me loose in 2016. Ambition was engraved in my work DNA genes, so it was a rude awakening to figure out my next move.  “Lady of Leisure” was not the new role I sought.

First, I grappled with the realization that relocating for this consuming career had left me fairly friendless in my new city, as I shared over here.

Second, I eagerly accepted an invitation for a road trip (I sense a 🚘 theme here, you?) with my former interior designer. She wanted a companion for a consultation with a new client in Ojai, California.

We bonded famously with our dry wit, passion for home design, and taste for aged tequila. When we returned, we built a small business. Our downsizing service was a time and labor intensive model but it filled a serious gap in the older adult community.

Third, I ultimately shuttered those doors permanently on the heels of Covid-19. It was time to use just my words, from the comfort of my own home. Which meant I pivoted to virtual coaching. And then once more to publishing my first book! 📕

Phew–that was a busy time! 😤 

stepping back

Stepping Back Clues

While I learned a lot about myself along the way, my energy and enthusiasm started waning in 2022.

For me, the tell-tale signs for stepping back included:

  1. An infrequent sense of anxiety (Remember that feeling when you didn’t study for an exam?! 😨) 
  2. General irritability with both myself and others (Inner Perfectionist rearing her nit-picky head! 😈)
  3. Discontent with my until-now perfectly lovely routine (I need a new project! 😞)
  4. Uncertainty with what to do next (Imma stuck … 😣)

It’s so unpleasant to find myself at these crisis crossroads again. Just when I thought I had my life figured out —surprise, not yet! 🤡   

Sigh—back to the drawing board!

time to grow

Here I Grow Again !

A friend recently suggested my angst is perhaps because I’m turning 60 this month. Hmmm…🤔…don’t think so…

The decade that I dreaded most (so far) was turning 40. It just seemed to define “The Official Start of Old Age” 🤣. Little did I know at 39 that I would still feel vibrant and remain active 20 years later.

I’m actually thrilled that my younger self was wrong about 60. To be sure, I’m oldish and well past my halfway point but I don’t feel old. I mostly feel wiser. More comfortable in my own skin.

And I’m in good company, with all the “50 is the new 40” declarations which started circulating several years ago. For good reason, I might add: We have a “third act” waiting to unfold!  

A couple years ago, I envisioned my third act would be as an author. I’ve always enjoyed writing. Once I started, it felt quite natural. Even when it’s work to find the right words and the edits are endless, I love it. And out of all the people who say they want to write a book some day—I did it! 🌟 Go, me!

I’m thrilled that my book has enjoyed moderate success. 2021 was a whirlwind of sharing it on podcasts, in local newspapers, with book clubs and in little free libraries. It’s available in both E-book and paperback with major retailers. 

But for wider commercial reach, the self-promotion can’t ever stop. The show must go on. And on. Ohh, I hates that I do! 😖 So cringey for me. I got burned out. I stopped. Can’t I just write? (apparently not)

Also, maybe I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed with decluttering after all. Maybe it was all just a metaphor for clearing space in my own life. Making room for more changes. For something new. Maybe I’ll write another book about something completely different. Or not…whoa! 🤯 

And just like that, I knew it was time for a pause. Time to start pruning old branches for new growth to occur. 🌺

trimester

Prepping for What's Next

When one chapter is ending and another is waiting to begin, stepping back is how I re-discover relevancy.

Simply going about my ordinary household routine, I’m giving my overworked brain a rest. Repetitive tasks like laundry or meal prepping are mindlessly comforting. So is lightly decluttering closets and drawers (it never ends). Or puttering in my garden. Or playing my favorite daily NYT games and puzzles.

In fact, my right shoulder had been aching for some time, too. Sitting at my desk, hunched over my keyboard for hours was partly to blame. I also don’t discount the mental overload manifesting as pain in my body, as well. Which is why bingeing on streaming services felt entirely justified. Afternoon matinees 🎥 on the couch with my dogs dozing next to me? Glorious!

In other words, I leaned in and savored present day real life moments and tiny pleasures. I dialed down the incessant noise of social media. Sure, I continued to keep up with current affairs. But anything that urged me to Be Big, Be Busy or Be Known? Hard pass! 🚫 

I’m not saying I’ll never resume engagement with social media. But I’m not falling deep down that rabbit hole again. It’s too easy to succumb to its infinite demands on my time, energy, and attention. I’ve made peace with saying, “No, thank you—that’s not for me. I’ll pop on and off when it works for me!” 

Instead, I’m focused on how I want to show up in my third act. 🧐 Breaking the twitch with a corporate identity is quite an adjustment. It seems I’m a “leetle” hard-wired for productivity. 

Friends my age confide that they would love being home full-time if they didn’t rely on their current gig or paycheck. I’m blessed that I’m not tethered to that.

But I do need to be creating or building something. I’m not a “Lady Who Lunches” kinda gal. Which is why I feel restless. Redundant. I need more to justify my presence. 

And so I’m pondering how to wield my skills once again. It’s not about making money, It’s about making a difference. Being useful outside my household.  Connecting with others to encourage and lift each other up. This could translate into so many different things but you get the idea.

More to come!

clearing space

The Wrap on Stepping Back

I’m not yearning for retirement years filled only with leisure. I’m sure that’s ideal for some but I’m just not there yet.

Shifting into a new life chapter is not always an easy transition. It can take some kicking, resisting, and soul searching. Throw in some sleepless nights and general angst, too. It all makes sense, when you consider that there’s a change in one’s identity occurring, too.

But the older I get, the better I am with recognizing when it’s time for something else. And so far, it’s been my experience that a new life chapter is always worth the effort it takes to turn the page and start writing a new script!

Does any of this resonate with you? I’d love to hear…and thanks for stopping by!

Other Resources for your enjoyment

***A sublime meditative poem for your listening pleasure!

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mixing up midlife podcast

***Terri and Melissa, of Mixing Up Midlife are back from their own summer break! Head here to catch up!

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Stepping Back Can Be A Step In The Right Direction Read More »

authenticity

Authenticity Means Making Mischief, Mayhem, and Mistakes—Wheee!

“The authentic self is soul made visible.” —Sarah Ban Breathnach

authenticity
Author feeling frisky at Praza do Obradoiro, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

S.W.S.W.S.W.N.

Which means:

Some Will, Some Won't, So What? Next!

Mischief, mayhem, and mistakes: What could go wrong? How about what could go right!

authenticity
Mary V in her beloved Sonoran Desert, Carefree, Arizona

The Wrap On Authenticity

Browsing through my photos from a visit to the culmination of the Camino pilgrimage in Spain provided the prompt for this story. The combination of both sacred and playful moments on my journey was exhilarating!

For an approach I use to unleash courage and curiosity, try this.

Authenticity Means Making Mischief, Mayhem, and Mistakes—Wheee! Read More »

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