Close your eyes and imagine what your 80-year-old self would be like if you continue to live how you do now. Do you like what you see? In this episode, Jen Vertanen explores a powerful exercise that invites you to find joy and fulfillment in every moment of your life and to tap into the wisdom of your 80-year-old self. She guides you on a journey to connect with your future self and gain clarity on your life compass. Jen also explores the importance of embracing aging and overcoming our fear of getting old and dying. She discusses how to help your body age gracefully, and why you shouldn’t be sad or ashamed of your gray hair. Jen delves into the experiences of women in their twilight years and explores the challenges and opportunities of midlife and old age. Tune in and discover the lessons from your 80-year-old self that can transform your life today.
Listen to the podcast here
Lessons From Your 80-Year-Old Self On Finding Joy In Every Moment With Jen Vertanen
As often happens on the show, I’ve been having a wonderful pre-recording conversation with our guest named Jen. I’ve also been saving something to discuss with her and share with the reader because I felt like it’d be a fun thing to do in real-time. I took Jen’s quiz on her website and this is what it says, “You’re taking the quiz. It’s meant to be fun and playful but the real fun begins when you’re creating a relationship with your future self because she has so much wisdom to share with you.”
Betty here is holding a mug maybe of tea but if it were my 80-year-old self, I imagine I’ll still be drinking lots of coffee at that period of my life. She’s got a nice smile and warmhearted, joyful, accepting and loving eyes. That’s what I noticed. I was very excited for that to be my result. I’m curious for you to elaborate and share more with me about who this Betty woman is and how you developed her.
I love 80-year-old women. I love stories of women in their 80s and 90s writing their first books, going skiing and all of that. When I sat down to do my quiz, I thought of much like archetypes. I thought, “Whom would these four personas be?” I could have done more. I’m like, “We’re going to stick with the four.” Betty is the warm and cozy grandma. She exudes nurturing energy but she never sacrifices herself for the sake of her family. That’s the key here.
She is driven by being there for her family, being this warm, compassionate, safe person for others but never for the sake of losing herself. She carries peppermints in her pocket. I think of my grandmother who in the church would give me half a stick of double mint gum. She’d tear it in half. Betty’s baking pies and cookies. She’s the quintessential grandmother. You want to rub her rosy cheeks.
That sounds like something great to aspire to. I also want to hear about the other three women because those that are reading may align with that, although I encourage them to take the quiz. I was excited about Betty because she reminds me of at least one of my grandmothers who passed away in 2012. She was that warm, fuzzy person. She was so nurturing. That’s a great word for her. I was looking at a picture of her. I hadn’t looked at her in a while. I remembered the way her body felt and the way she smelled.
I was transported back in time to that lovely woman that she was. I felt she was always caring for me and she was someone that would always have candies around. She was food-centered. She was extremely concerned when I became vegan because she didn’t know what to feed me. Every time I went over to her house, she would panic like, “What are you going to eat while you’re here?” She wanted to take care of me that badly and I was like, “I’m okay. I can bring my food.” I would like to be that caring person.
I don’t know if my other grandmother fully was emotionally or mentally able to be that present, although, in the short time we had together, I do remember feeling deeply accepted by her. She was one of the first people I talked about sex with, for example. Being able to talk to my grandmother about sex was in your quiz. I love that you added the sexual dynamic of our lives into thinking about our future. I remember being able to talk about this taboo subject as a kid with my grandma and feeling like I could ask her anything. That was important to me too. I would like to be that way for my whole life, especially for my 80-year-old self.
That’s what the quiz is meant to do in a fun lighthearted way. It’s not that you’re going to be exactly like Betty. You’re going to be like you are at 80 but it’s the energy. What energy do we want to bring into our here and now? If we look forward, let’s say, you got Betty. I get Edna but I’m a spoiler alert, a blend of all four. Am I living life in a way that my inner Edna who is feisty and fabulous is going to be happy with? Is my 80-year-old self going to be happy with the decisions and how I’m feeling? If not, it’s data. It’s not good, bad, right or wrong but it gives us something to start looking at and peeling back the layers on.What energy do we want to bring into our here and now? Click To Tweet
That’s so helpful. People love taking quizzes and having frameworks for life and also being reminded that it doesn’t have to be rigid and perfect. Even when you’re answering the questions, this is not a perfect assessment but knowing it’s giving you guidance and some clarity. We’ve learned about Betty and Edna. Who are the two other types of 80-year-old women?
There’s Dorothy who’s the life of the party. She’s the one getting in trouble at the nursing home. She has almost been kicked out a few times. She loves telling inappropriate jokes and making people laugh. We then have Gigi who is the hip, viral granny. She’s viral on TikTok and the kids love hanging with her. She knows what the acronyms mean. I don’t know all the acronyms my kids use. Gigi’s got one up on me. I identify with all four of them and that’s why when you take the quiz and see the results, you can click on the other ones because we’re probably all a blend of them.
What if you are not a woman or you don’t identify as a woman? Is it accessible to other gender or non-binary people that might want to take this quiz and get some guidance?
It is very women-centric.
That’s important to clarify too. With your work, what is it about 80-year-old women that have been such a big part of the work that you do? How did you even end up focusing on that?
This is where we get into a bit of my sad story. I’ll touch on it briefly here unless you want to go deeper. I think of it as pre-2015 me and post-2015 me. I had two things back-to-back that rocked my world in 2015. Pre-2015, I was fairly bitter, resentful and ungrateful. I found ways to escape my day-to-day life in unhealthy ways. I put my family at financial risk so that I could go be selfish. I didn’t like myself. There was a lot of self-loathing. I would lie in bed at night and worry about my 80-year-old self being this bitter resentful woman who when she died, no one would show up at the funeral and my family would be so embarrassed.
That’s how real it was to me. Not to be dramatic but that was a fear of mine. I’d had enough glimpses of this other Jen who was vibrant, lively and felt connection and love. People gravitated towards her. In 2015 when my world was rocked, I was left with a choice. Do I continue the path going down, which is this bitter old resentful woman or do I do the work to become more of that vision? I don’t know how I made the decision but it was like, “I’m going to be the Edna, the Dorothy, the Betty and the Gigi who are living and loving their life. They’re excited to learn and grow even in their 80s.”
That is such a cool thing to think about. I don’t think I’ve ever done an exercise quite at that depth. I went to a several-day-long workshop. We did an exercise and imagined ourselves at different stages of life, past, present and future. That was neat. I remember I was thinking about my grandfather, the one that the first grandma I mentioned was married to.
He passed away and losing him was raw for me. He was someone that I felt so comfortable with. I cherished and kept thinking of him. I wasn’t thinking of myself at an older age. I was thinking of what he was like. It’s interesting where our minds go when we think about the future, who we’re going to be and whom we want to be like.
Often, those future self-exercises will have you go 3 to 5 years in the future. I have a hard time visualizing that. I’m like, “I’ll be me 5 or 6 years older. I’ll have the same career.” At 80, you’re winding down your life. Most people in their 80s aren’t working any longer. How are you spending your day? Who are you spending it with? How are you still engaging your mind? That was a vision that was very clear to me.
I’m curious to hear more about what that experience was for you. I see the four different versions of yourself and the combination. Was that what you saw? Did that person have a name before you separated into four different women? What was that like?
It didn’t have a name other than my own. When I imagined this vibrant version of myself, she was wearing a lot of colors. I’m wearing black and white but I have started incorporating more color into my wardrobe. I bought fuchsia Dr. Martens boots because my 80-year-old self is wearing those boots. I was like, “53-year-old Jen is going to wear those boots too and they’re going to last for 30 years until my 80-year-old self.” You do the math. That’s how I use her. It’s helping this compass that orients me to, “Am I living in a way that makes her a reality for me? Colorful, vibrant, still cracking inappropriate jokes, laughing hilariously at the stupidest things and surrounded by people whom she loves deeply and loves her deeply.
When you’re sharing this, it almost goes against the grain of what society believes 80-year-old women are supposed to be. Is that how you felt too?
Yeah. I’m 53 in 2023. I’m loving the aging process. I was talking with a girlfriend. The skin on my body is starting to change and that freaks a lot of women out. It does. I’m fascinated. It sounds so weird but I’m like, “What else is my body going to do? Are my knees going to be super droopy?” I started going gray in my 30s and I stopped dyeing my hair when I was 40. I’m embracing aging.
Life isn’t done. I have decades in front of me and I’m going to grow old powerfully and gratefully. I’m not going to go off. I’m not going to be invisible. I refuse. There’s a woman whose name I can’t remember but she wrote a book when she was 80 called Cat Brushing. It tells stories of women in their twilight years, eroticism, pleasure and sex lives. I’m like, “Why not?”Life isn't done. I have decades in front of me. Click To Tweet
That question, “Why not,” is a great one and why is one of my favorite words.
It makes sense. You and I have so much in common as I learned talking with you for 45 minutes before we started the show. It’s so wonderful when you have someone you can relate to and who is on the same page, especially when it comes to something that feels a bit unconventional. You and I both have been self-diagnosed as neurodivergent. We’ve been exploring that in our lives. We both explored it later on in our lives. It wasn’t something we discovered in our youth.
As we are discussing around that, sometimes you have to understand yourself so that you’re not stuck in that comparison trap and shame like, “I’m not good enough. I don’t fit in.” To me, having this realization about how my brain works differently has been so empowering. I’m able to say it’s okay that I’m different and I think differently. It’s okay that I like to ask the question, “Why,” and that irritates people. It’s okay if I want to not dye my hair.
I’m glad you said that because my hair started going gray more intensely in 2020. Perfect timing with everything going on in the world and stress. I have spent the last few years contemplating it because I don’t want to dye my hair. That’s the truth. I feel there’s societal pressure as a woman to dye your hair. It’s so commonplace. It feels uncomfortable for me to be around other people sometimes. I’m wondering, “What are they thinking about the gray hair?” I’m curious about what your experience has been since you decided not to dye your hair. What was that journey like?
I used to be called the silver fox. That was in my 40s. It’s something that coworkers and some friends did. I would get a lot of compliments on it, which would help. It’s to go from dyeing your hair and covering the gray to, “I’m done with that.” There’s some trepidation. “Who am I to do this? What will people think?” I got such positive responses. I’d have men and women come up to me and tell me how gorgeous my hair was.
I’ve had women thank me for being an example. Gray doesn’t necessarily look great on everyone. I always say it’s someone’s choice, whatever they’re comfortable with it. It hurts my heart when I see on Facebook someone saying, “I’m going to color my hair until I’m 98.” You do you. That is fine. If you’re doing it because you feel like you’re somehow less than others because you have gray hair, that’s what makes me sad.
That’s how I feel as well and that’s where it becomes confusing. I have those fears. They’re still within me. I’m sad for myself because when I am thinking about my future self and doing that exercise, going through your quiz, I’m thinking, “What will I be like at 80? What am I going to look back on? What am I going to wish I had done and not done?” A lot of that centered around my physicality and the concerns I’ve carried with me throughout so much of my life, worrying about what I look like and how other people perceive me. I wonder with your work, is it common for that to be a regret that women spend so much time worried about how they look to others?
I’ve heard that from many clients but not all of them. It’s tough being a woman. The messages we receive from an early age, I’m sure it’s hard. I’m sure for guys too. We all have our hardships but I can only speak to my experience. I’m way more than I would like to than what’s comfortable for me. It’s not about the weight. It’s about how my body feels and now, my body feels stiff.
That’s when I think about my 80-year-old self. I have this vision that if she wants to, she’s jumping out of an airplane. She is full of women’s vigor. I need to be doing the work now and I’m not doing it to help my body age. My journey is doing the work around, “Why am I preventing myself from doing something that I badly want?” I don’t have answers for that but that is the work.
I’m right there with you. It’s another thing we have in common because I made the decision to make some shifts to the way I’ve been eating. It wasn’t about the number or how much I weigh. It’s that I felt physically uncomfortable. I still do. I imagine it’s going to be a long journey. I was resistant to it for a while because I thought that I was wanting to change my body because of external. The more work I did on the internal, I realized I don’t feel great. Every day, I feel physically uncomfortable with the way my body is.
It’s worth making changes to the way that I’m eating, moving, sleeping and everything. It started to become empowering versus limiting. Whereas in the past, I might diet and do crazy things to try to lose weight and that felt restrictive. Now, I’ve shifted that to how empowering it is to make all of these little shifts like drinking more water. I’m drinking so much water every day. I am prioritizing how much I sleep in a way. I don’t think I’ve ever done so consistently reducing stress.
Every factor including food has been shifted and I’m recognizing it’s going to take a while. That was a shift too. We live in a time that rushes through things so fast. In your work, Jen, what is the rush all about? Does an 80-year-old look back and say, “Why did I rush so much? Why was I trying to fill up my schedule and be so busy all of the time?”
I’m going to take that back to women in midlife. I don’t know your age. You’ve reached this point in time where the kids are getting older. They’re less dependent on you. You are at a point in your career where you’re like, “I don’t know if I have another ten years in me.” You reach this point in time where you question, “Who am I really? How do I want the rest of my life to be?”How do I want the rest of my life to be? Click To Tweet
It’s this introspective time that not all but often, you hear middle-aged women going through and that going back to rushing, it’s like, “Why have I done everything right and I still feel unfulfilled and discontent? I climbed the ladder. I did all the things. I rushed my way through to maximize my life and I feel burnt out and disenfranchised.”
That point comes up so much on this show. When I first started this show with my former co-host, we addressed that so much because both of us had experienced going after things, climbing the ladder and hustling all this stuff, which I never liked. That burns me out to no end. I was so grateful when I gave myself permission to not try to hustle every single day. I don’t want to hustle at all, to be honest. I also realized in addition to being burned out, the results of all of that work and the quick pace were not worth it. More and more, I realized I like a slower pace. I want to enjoy every day. I don’t want to rush toward 80. I want to savor every age that I am.
I don’t want to rush my first cup of coffee. That is sacred Jen time and all the senses are invoked. I like to think that life is made up of minutia. If we can make our mundane day-to-day as joyful, as supportive, as nurturing and as wonderful as we can, imagine how the world would be if more people were less about the hustle and more about being intentional with how they feel and how they interact with others.
I was in Target and I’ve been guilty of this too. Everyone is on their phone and I’m not here to be like, “Stop using the phone,” because I do it too. The little kids are trying to get their mom’s attention and the mom is scrolling. I’m like, “You’re missing this connection time.” I’m not here to judge. Maybe the mother needed that moment. I don’t know her story but you see it all around you. Slow down and savor.
Relative to when this episode comes out, in early March 2023, I put out an episode of this idea around distraction and focus and how a lot of us feel like we need to focus more and we take it in. We feel like it’s our full responsibility. Part of what you’re getting at is there’s also the world around us. When the world around us is distracted, unfocused and rushing through everything, it’s hard to break away from that and do it differently.
Much of our lives are interconnected with other people. If that person you’re relying on, dependent on, collaborating with and want to be with is distracted, unfocused and rushing everything, how can you slow down? Even as a kid, a helpless little child, what are they to do? They have to accept that their parents are acting that way.
I have a unique parenting perspective on that. I became a mom at 20 and the last time I gave birth was at 34. I was a young mom and then I was a slightly elder geriatric. I’ve seen the full gamut of raising my kids with parents.
Maybe it was related to being a distracted parent. You had mentioned being on the phone.
I would observe these parents who would have their children in all different activities. It’s not to judge but often, these children would be burnt out. They would be on an emotional rollercoaster, couldn’t regulate their emotions and are needy. You could tell they weren’t happy. The parents thought they were doing the right thing by giving their kids what all the other kids were having. Just do.
By the time you get into high school, not everyone but often, they’ll stop doing the thing that was so important to their parents. They’re like, “I can’t do it anymore. I’ve lost the love.” We decided not to do that route with my daughter, my youngest one. There were times she wanted to be involved. We let her be in a few things but she wasn’t scheduled all day every day. She wasn’t an exhausted child. We gave her time to be a kid, let her tell us what she was interested in and put her in those activities but with limits.
I’m not a parent but that sounds wonderful. Parenting sounds so complicated. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Despite all the advice out there, parents are a little bit different. That sounds like an incredible gift because it allows the child a choice. From what I’ve observed and also researched about parenting, the more recent generations of parents have been a little bit more helicopter. They want to provide everything. They don’t want their children to have any disadvantages or struggles at all, if they can.
It depends on a lot of privilege too but in circumstances involved. It seems as a whole, children have been overscheduled. I wonder, is that going to lead to that younger generation continuing to be overscheduled? Are they going to go the opposite and say, “I want to have a life that swings in that opposite direction?” Maybe it’ll be beneficial for our society to have a generation if it turned out that way that didn’t glorify busyness anymore. That’d be lovely.
One of the hills I’m willing to die on is it’s quite selfish to not put yourself first sometimes and get your needs met, to show up as this burnt-out, overworked, overscheduled, chaotic person. Our younger generations are watching us. It’s our moral responsibility to say, “This ends. I’m going to model a more emotionally healthy way to be.” That might be an unpopular opinion but it’s a hill I’m willing to die on or stand on. I’m willing to stake my flag in the ground.I think it's selfish to not put yourself first. Click To Tweet
That’s a good hill because the things that we are desiring someone else must desire too. Even if it’s unconventional, perhaps it’s being that role model like the gray hair side of things. Going back to that, I get so excited when I see women that have gray hair truly because I haven’t seen a lot or haven’t noticed until they started to come in more frequently for me. Before, it would wash over me. I might notice a little bit but in the last few years, I’m desperate to see other women who haven’t dyed their hair. I want to see women of all ages with gray hair. There’s a trend for people to dye their hair silver even when their hair isn’t naturally gray. I’m like, “Great, that’s fine too.”
You can’t see it but I’ve been washing my hair with this pink shampoo. I want pink hair. My 80-year-old self will have pink hair. It’s just the colors are not depositing on my hair now. Going back to it, we each get to decide what we’re comfortable with. My message is to do what you want to do, not what others want you to do. I get that it’s easier said than done but the more you can practice that, the easier it becomes.
That does require so much of that inner work to even figure out what your boundaries are and what feels good versus what we’ve been conditioned to believe feels good. Even going back to the sexuality side of it, these myths that we hear about sexuality are in different stages of life. I had a guest on the show, Susan, who is a wonderful example for anyone who wants to learn more about sex in all different ages, especially. She covers midlife and older. She was such a cool woman.
I remember how she felt so sexually liberated and empowered. She was able to show up and model that. I felt like that was so great because I don’t see a lot of women even talking about sex that is maybe 20 or 30 years older than me. I would love to hear people of all ages, not just women, and feel like it’s not taboo. It’s okay. It’s natural and it’s the human body. That also leads me back to the limitation side of it. I’m curious about your thoughts on why you think there are so many cultural stigmatisms, taboos or limitations that we place on age. Why is aging seen as something awful and something that you should try everything to avoid even though you can’t avoid it?
As a culture, we are so afraid of dying. It’s something to be avoided at all costs. Maybe in New Orleans, they have their celebratory processions for the dead but as a whole, celebrating death sounds weird. I get that but hopefully, you know what I mean. It brings me back to years ago. My mom got the news that she had about three weeks left to live. I put everything on hold and rushed to the nursing home to be with her in her final days. It was such a beautiful and brutal experience to go through. The word that I came up with was brutiful.
I was so honored to be there for her passing, reminisce with her, try to make her comfortable and let her know how much she was loved. Even though we had a difficult relationship for most of my life, she was a scared human being who got the word that she was dying and my role became nurturing her and not vice versa. I wish more people had that experience because it was hard as hell. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it was so beautiful to witness this person ending her life. That got dark fast. Going back to aging, we fear death and aging means we’re getting closer and closer to that time.
What you shared about your mother is so beautiful and important. I’m curious if you’re comfortable talking about that a little bit more. I would love to know. Did she share anything with you at that time in her life that shifted your perspective on what it’s like to get old and die?
My mom was such an interesting person. Admittedly, she was not a good mother. She would say that too. I’m not breaking her confidence or anything. She loved books but she owned a plant store when I was eight years old. We moved to my small town and she was a hardware store clerk. She then was a clerk at the post office which was very male-dominated in that day and age, especially in a small town.
She worked her way into postmaster. She retired from being a postmaster in her late 50s or early 60s. She then became a pastor of not 1 but 2 churches. In her late 60s, she retired to the mountains of Ecuador. This is a woman who was abandoned by her dad when she was three, was with my mentally ill and also abusive dad, her husband. She had years of that. She was bitten by a brown recluse spider in her 40s, which shut down her pancreas, which gave her Type 1 diabetes and then all the complications that came from that and then having to be on dialysis for the last three years of her life.
What I love about this story is that she had such perseverance and resilience. Her life was pretty hard but she never stopped looking for her happiness. She finally found it in the mountains of Ecuador. She finally found her people to connect with. Even if it was only five years, she was able to live this wonderful life. Sorry, it gets me a little emotional but I love that story. It’s like you’re never too old. It’s never too late but you do need to get going.
Thank you for sharing that with me and the reader because it’s so touching, inspiring and complicated too. As you said, it’s brutiful.
She had a rough life but she never gave up, even up to the end of dying as gracefully as she could, going out in her way.
What was that final time like if you feel okay sharing that?
I am comfortable sharing it. Thanks for checking in on that. I’ve heard that story. She was so stubborn that she refused hospice until the day before she died. She could have been made more comfortable but that was her being stubborn and independent like, “It’s my way. Cut your nose off despite your face.” She didn’t accept that she was dying until the end.
You could almost see the acceptance come over her in her demeanor and it was when she wanted hymns being played as she was in her final hours, being surrounded and having pictures of grandkids and family on the wall so she could look at them. I’m so honored again that I was able to be there. I wasn’t there when she passed but I was able to be there for most of those three weeks.
That is such a gift to witness someone at that time that that’s truly the most vulnerable time of our whole lives.
Going through, wrapping up a life coming to an end. I’m sure this is a hard subject for folks reading so make sure you take care of yourself. If it’s hard, show yourself some love.
Thank you for that too. That’s such an interesting element of doing a show like this. For some people, it’s uncomfortable to talk about these things. For some people, it’s not. Some people want to learn about it. Some people don’t. Everybody’s got a different relationship with the hardships of life, especially death, whether it’s your death or somebody else’s. I’m wondering if that is part of the reason why you chose 80. We never know what age we’ll be but 80 is one of those ages where it’s getting towards the end of your life. You’re wrapping things up but there’s still so much life within you if you’re in good health.
You might have twenty years left. You don’t know. You could live to 100 or 106. Why would you sit back and be like, “I’m done, just buying my time now?”
The former co-host of the show, Jason, had a television show called How to Live to 100 and his work for a while was around longevity. I remember when his show came out in 2013. Some people online were complaining about the show and they were saying, “I don’t want to live to 100. Who wants to live to 100? It sounds awful.” I was so shocked at that response. Why are some people not interested in living that long? Is it because life already feels hard? Is it because they associate old age like 100 with misery? Is this something that you learn about in your work? What is this fear? It’s not the fear of getting older. It’s the fear of the experience of being old.
When you ask that question, it makes me think of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset, I’ll take my mother-in-law, for example, the world conspires against her. She has been old since she was 48 when I first met her. Maybe she was 52. Her thoughts and beliefs are very fixed. Someone who is in that fixed mindset is going to gravitate towards, “That sounds awful to be old and 100 years old. I’m going to sit in my chair and time’s going to pass me by.” Versus the growth mindset of, “I want to learn and grow. I’m not done experimenting and living. I’m not done experiencing all that I want to experience.” I’m loving the aging process. Do I want my 80s to be tomorrow? No, but I’m also not going to be afraid of it.
I’m on the same track. I also wanted to go back to what you were saying about savoring the coffee. I love my morning coffee. It’s something that can feel hard sometimes. I could brew it up real quick. I go all out with my morning coffee. I have the luxury of having a lot of time perhaps because I’m not a parent. It’s just me to take care of and my dog. I also have all this equipment I’ve bought. It’s a little side passion of mine.
The process of having a very detailed coffee-making process slows me down because I can’t rush it with my equipment. I have a number of tools. If I needed to rush it, I could do some things in advance or use my less exciting coffee equipment. My day-to-day coffee equipment takes so much intention. It takes fifteen minutes to warm up. I have to count that in. I wake up. I turn on my coffee machine. I have my fifteen minutes of pre-coffee making.
I brew it up. I have gone and learned all these different coffee techniques and it takes extra time to apply them. It’s the intricate details. I have this one tool for any coffee geeks out there. It’s called a WDT tool. It’s these little pins that you press in the espresso machine to make sure there are no clumps in your coffee. It’s one of my favorite things to do because I’m staring at this ground coffee and pricking it through and it takes focus.
That would be so satisfying too to find a clump and break it up.
It also changed the result too. It’s well worth it. All these little things I learned made my coffee taste better but they slowed me down so that it wasn’t just pressing a button, brewing the coffee and drinking it. I have to slow down to make it. The trick is then slowing down to savor all my hard work. For some reason, that still feels tricky. I have this beautiful intentional cup of coffee and yet some mornings, I don’t even remember drinking it. Next thing I know, the cup’s empty and I’m thinking, “Where did that go?”
Time is a privilege and a luxury. I think of, let’s say, a single mom who is working at least two jobs to make ends meet and has to do the daycare run and all of those things. She might not have the time to savor the coffee in the morning as you and I do but that doesn’t mean she can’t wake up in the morning and before she gets out of bed say, “How do I want to feel today? What energy do I want to bring into my day?” Take little pauses throughout the day and be checking in, “Do I need to shift my energy a bit?” I don’t want to gloss over that time. It’s very much a luxury and privilege. If you have the time, which a lot of us do, if we’re being honest with ourselves, do the work.Time is a privilege and a luxury. Click To Tweet
That’s an interesting and helpful thing for me too, Jen. Inadvertently, I don’t know why this started happening. I started doing that at night right before I went to sleep. I would think, “How was this day?” Part of me felt like I wish I was doing this in the morning because otherwise sometimes I review the day and if it wasn’t the day I wanted, I go to bed feeling a little on edge.
The day gets away from us.
It can but maybe it’s that intention and I could turn this into my coffee routine. Maybe while I’m poking around the lumps of my ground coffee, I could be thinking, “What do I want this day to be like? How do I want to feel? How do I want to show up?” That only takes a few seconds to ask yourself those questions. You could be thinking about them for hours but the intention of asking yourself is wise.
If you have a particularly sticky conversation or a presentation that you’re maybe not super confident in yet, it’s that pre-casting of, “What energy am I going to step into when it comes time?” Maybe I don’t feel confident now but what do I need to tell myself so that I bolster myself up? If I have a sticky conversation I need to have, I can’t control the other person but I can control the energy that I bring. How am I going to show up and not get activated by what the other person does? I’m going to show up and be my calm, centered, grounded self regardless of the energy they bring to the conversation.
One thing that comes up as you’re sharing that is perhaps using a little bit of a mantra. I don’t know if it’s the right word for this but growing up, I remember there are these bracelets you could get that said WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? Do you remember those? Do they still make those?
I remember there was a big phase and they were all over. What if you took your quiz and you found out your quiz result? Instead of, “What Would Jesus Do,” it could be that if you’re religious or a believer, that is a great term for that, but there’s also the shift or the addition of, “What would your 80-year-old self do?” For me, with my result of Betty, I could ask myself, “What would Betty do in this situation?”
That’s exactly the relationship I’ve developed. I get that it sounds a little out there but I think of my 80-year-old self. When I have a big decision, when there’s something that I don’t want to do but I have to do, I channel my inner 80-year-old self. How do I make her as happy, vibrant, alive and joyful as I possibly can? That’s where I said adding color to my wardrobe.
When I asked her, she said to me, “Jen, wear more color.” She was very adamant. That sounds weird, voices in your head but it is what it is. Go with it. I have bright yellow tops. I bought a vintage hot pink embroidered robe that I’m going to use for a photo shoot coming up. I’m having fun finding different ways to add color even though I do have black and white on. The humor does not escape me.
Although it is in your glasses. Your glasses are a beautiful shape.
My red glasses, yes.
I have pops of color because I’m very drawn to black. I bought this black shirt and it’s my probably fifth black t-shirt. I would wear black t-shirts every day. Maybe I will. Sometimes, it’s a little bit of both. It’s giving myself permission to wear a color I enjoy but maybe getting a little outside of my comfort zone and wearing a pop of color, a necklace or even shoes or socks. Socks can be fun to get in some color.
At first, wearing a yellow top felt uncomfortable. I was like, “Everyone’s looking at me. I feel so dumb.” Now I’m like, “I’m wearing it. I feel good about it. I love the bright pop of color.” Nothing is wrong with black. I love black. It will always be a part of my wardrobe but it’s those pops of color, a scarf, glasses or a pair of shoes. Sometimes it is the bright yellow sweater that hurts your eyes.
It’s such a great conversation piece too. We might lose sight of something like that because we get concerned about the judgment. What if it’s the opposite? If I were meeting you, I could comment on your glasses because they stand out and they’re interesting. I usually don’t like to draw attention to myself in that way. What if instead of thinking about drawing attention or being judged, I shifted my mentality to this gives us something to talk about?
It could be one little thing. Some people will talk about my headphones, which are orangey pink. I love these headphones. They’re my little pop of color every time I record. I’m not even trying for it to be that. They also allow people to ask me about something and for us to break through some small talk and learn something about each other.
I think of permission, not that that’s what I’m setting out to do but it’s a byproduct. I’m a heavier middle-aged White woman with my zebra hair because there’s a lot of brown and black in it too and white and silver. It’s my zebra hair that has the pop of color and the funky shoes. It’s like, “If she can do it, I can do it too.” If people are looking for permission to go against the grain a little bit or be more of themselves or who they envision themselves to be, if I can be that for someone, I love that. I certainly have my people that I look to that I’m like, “I wish I could dress as funky as you do but I could never do that.” I’m like, “Maybe I could.”
You’re doing such a great job of that because I feel that way, having talked to you. The gray hair thing is a big one for me. The way that you have talked about these things has gotten my mind rolling. I want to think more about my 80-year-old self. I want to think more about how I wear color. All of these little exercises or giving ourselves permission because somebody else has done it in such a confident way. You show up with natural confidence and approachability. You feel that genuineness that I crave in other people. Jen, it’s been so great talking with you.
I loved our conversation. The pre-conversation and the recording, I loved it all. You’re a wonderful host.
I could feel that in your email communication too, which is rare. I mentioned this to you already but I’ll say it again for other people. Thinking about all the little moments, the opportunities we have to show up as our fullest selves and be genuine and connect with others can make other people feel so good and have that ripple effect that we’ve mentioned. It’s sometimes a hard exercise because a lot of life seems to be about putting people into boxes and conforming. Most of us don’t want to do that. You’re reminding everyone that there are different paths we can choose now as well as in the future.
That’s the core of it. Your life doesn’t end when you’re 50, 40 or what have you. Your life doesn’t end until it ends. What are you excited to learn about in your life? Go do that. Be the person you want to be. It might take some work to get yourself there but it is so worth it.Your life doesn't end until it ends. Be the person you want to be. Click To Tweet
I couldn’t agree more. You have such a wonderful starting place for somebody that’s enjoyed this conversation. They want to tap into their 80-year-old self. I love the quiz. I’m not usually a big quiz taker but when I went to your website, I was like, “I want to take this. I’m curious about this.” It was a delightful experience that led me to your newsletter. I also love how your follow-up email says in the subject line something like, “I want to hear from you.” That was so cool.
I genuinely do. I love connecting with people. For someone who had heartbreaking loneliness until 45, I love connecting with people.
Other people want to connect with you and they sometimes need someone to say it first. You did with your email.
My company is called Socially Awkward Since 1970 for a reason. I’ll do the thing that everyone wants to do but they’re like, “I can never have that. I’ll do it.”
That’s an amazing quality. I’m drawn to people like you. Sometimes, I’m in the leader role but oftentimes, I’m waiting for one person to do something ahead of me and then I’ll have the confidence to go next. You do a great job of showing up that way in your work. It’s been so lovely. Thank you for being on the show, opening up this conversation with me and the reader and for all the great work that you do. For anyone who wants to take the quiz, learn more about Jen and tap into their 80-year-old self, please check out Jen’s website. I hope you’ll check out Jen’s work after reading this. Thanks again for being here, Jen.
Thank you so much.
- Jen Vertanen
- Cat Brushing
- Susan Bratton – Past Episode
- https://JenVertanen.com/Who-Is-Your-Future-Self – Take the “Meet Your 80-yo Future Self” Quiz
About Jen Vertanen
Jen Vertanen, Certified Life Coach and creator of the SELF Method, is on a mission to help unhappy-ish women (typically 40-ish+) STOP asking if this is all there ever is and START living a life that has you jumping out of bed excited to do it all over again.
Jen has been on the frontlines with her own personal transformation (from loneliness and self-loathing to not only loving, but liking herself and her life) as well as the thousands of lives she’s helped through coaching and podcasting.
Using her signature candor, humor, and unique approach to “doing the work”, Jen wants the world to know it’s never too late and you’re never too old but you do kind of need to get going.
When she’s not coaching or thinking up new exercises for clients, you can find Jen unwinding at the end of the day curled up with a glass of dry red and cozy blanket bingeing episodes of Ted Lasso with her hubby and newfs in Saint Paul, MN.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the This Might Get Uncomfortable community today: