Silence is truly golden

Today, one Woman at Forty candidly and humorously shares her thoughts on, well, sharing her thoughts…

tanya f Before, I felt it was my civic duty to right every wrong and stand up for every underdog there was.  I thought that I needed to voice my opinion and concern on every topic, argument and general discussion that I took part in.  Hell, I even butted into conversations because I KNEW my feelings and opinions were so strong and were so important to the world that everyone needed to hear them!  I was passionate; I needed to right wrongs and injustices. I needed to stand on my soapbox and shout to anyone who would listen about any topic that I was an “expert” on (trust me – there are many).  Maybe that’s why I majored in Political Science in college – to justify my arguing.  For years I gave my opinion, requested or not, positive or negative for everything and anything under the sun.   Needless to say (even though most advice was good, sound advice) I have stepped on A LOT of toes.

This year, the year of my fortieth birthday, I had an epiphany –  even though I think my opinions should be valued, the reality is that I need to shut the HELL up!!!  (Actually, I was thinking the F word).  I looked around one morning and realized that I am the oldest one amongst my friends AND because I live on a military base, most of the mother’s of my 2nd grader’s friends are at least 15 years younger than me.  When listening to them, they seemed opinionated and obnoxious. Also, in the 20 to 25 years that they had been alive, they knew everything there was about everything.  Regardless of the fact that  1) none of them had graduated from college; 2) none had worked in corporate America or the “real” world (outside the safety of the military base); or 3) none had never lived on their own –  they had done it all and then some.  There were so many things that I tried to discuss with them and tried to advise them.  I wanted to tell them and teach them about life, love, hard work, ethics, selflessness and proper planning.  Can you believe they didn’t need or want my advice? Are they crazy?  No, maybe I was the crazy one!  To them I was just the “old lady” that “didn’t understand what they were going thru” because I was so much older and times have changed since I was their age.  That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks – my opinions are and have only been important to ME!  I don’t need to make people see my point of view or change their minds on any subject or even persuade them to share the same views as me.  Wow…all these years and that never occurred to me.  I thought my opinion was the end all, be all and the day that I didn’t have a thought, opinion or suggestion would stop the world from spinning on it’s axis.  Not true.  The earth didn’t stop moving and the sky didn’t fall.  NOTHING HAPPENED!

The old me would have challenged those youngins!  The old me would bragged about all the places I’ve been and the experiences I had and everything that has made me the strong woman I am today.  I wished that someone would have warned me about half the s**t I know now.  But instead, I smiled and said “have it your way but HONEY…I have lived twice the life you will wish for.  Good luck”  Then I shut the F*** up and walked away.

I have officially retired my soapbox.  The only people that are forced to deal with my thoughts, opinions and suggestions are my daughters and my husband and I’m ok with that.  Instantly, my life was simplified because I wasn’t obligated to defend the masses and conquer the world.  Everything is much simplier with silence.


Photo: Tanya’s Good luck pose

When did you have the epiphany that the earth won’t stop moving and the sky won’t fall if you keep your opinion to yourself? I have to admit, I’m still working on that one.  Share your epiphany at forty in the comment section or on our Facebook fan page.

The best advice I ever got…

woman relax Ironically came at the end of a 15 year friendship. As our priorities shifted and lives changed, we grew apart. In the last conversation we would ever have my friend asked me why I was always angered and surprised by the things she did and said. After all she said, “this is who I am, and I’ve been this way for years.”

Talk about a light bulb moment. My anger and frustration immediately left me. I’ve since heard the expression said many ways, most memorable, “when people show you who they are believe them.” Anyway you say it, it rings true. That day I realized for the first time that I was being pushy and arrogant for expecting her to be a different kind of person just because I wanted her to be.

From friends, to family, to boyfriends and husbands, understanding who people are at their core is key to maintaining your own sanity. I liken it to women who knowingly begin relationships with married men, only to be shocked when they learn that that married man is also “cheating” on them with another woman. Yeah, the lesson I learned that day has saved me a world of hurt over the years, and because of that I’ll always consider it the best piece of advice I ever got.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? Was it a hard pill to swallow, or did you have a cloud clearing, light bulb moment like I did? Share your “best piece of advice” story here in the comment section, on our Facebook fan page, or tweet us @womenatforty.

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We’re more alike than you think: Five questions – Part 3

Friends working together We’re about a third of the way through our 100 women, 5 questions, 3 words or less Challenge. Thanks to everyone who’s participated!

If you’re not familiar with the challenge, it’s where we ask our readers to answer five questions. The challenge is two-fold. The first is getting 100 women to respond. The second, and even more challenging, is getting them to answer each question using three words or less (it’s not as easy as it sounds!) The goal is to see how much alike, and different, forty year old women around the world really are.

As you can imagine, the responses thus far have been really interesting. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that many of us list “finishing school” as the answer to the “Three 6 Mafia” question.  Whether it’s medical school or a bachelor’s degree, at forty, many women have their sites set on going back to school. For many of us, weight – or as Rachel put it, “my ass”  – is the monkey on our back we can’t shake (see “The life I’d Planned”). Relationships have simultaneously been our biggest regret and the thing we’re most proud of.  Whether it was the Greek, that first husband, or the three divorces, even at forty, wading through the relationship waters, for some of us at least, hasn’t gotten any easier. Other women listed their marriages and children as the thing they’re most proud of.

If you haven’t yet participated in our 5 question challenge, click here to include your answers (anonymously if you’d like) on our site. You can also add comments on our Facebook Fan page or follow us on Twitter. If you’ve got something to say and three words just won’t cut it, email us at We’d love to post your Women at Forty story on the site. Finally, if you’re reading Women at Forty from somewhere other than the U.S., here’s a challenge within a challenge for you – be the first Woman at Forty from your country to share your story with the rest of the world. We’d love to hear from you!

Here’s the latest sampling of responses to our “100 women, 5 questions, 3 words or less challenge”…

Continue reading We’re more alike than you think: Five questions – Part 3

You’ve come a long way baby: Rachel sends a message to her mini me…

Rachel and Roland I shared my letter to my former self, now Rachel shares hers…

  1. Older brothers, although loud, sweaty and annoying, will protect your honor, pave the way for you with your parents and one day become the men of whom you are more proud than you can express.
  2. When your grandparents smother you with kisses and hugs and fawn all over you… When your maternal grandmother crochets sweaters, scarves and blankets for you and your paternal grandmother teaches you to bake coconut cakes and takes you shopping at Bamberger’s… When your grandpa takes you fishing on the Vineyard and your Pop introduces you to the music of Miles Davis, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck… When they tell you the stories of your familial history and remind you how important it is to act with integrity and the value of your reputation—CHERISH those moments! You’ll find those moments comforting for the rest of your life and you will be eternally grateful for having had the privilege of knowing such interesting and honorable people.
  3. Define yourself; don’t let others do it for you. I assure you that in 10, 15, 20 years and beyond, you won’t really care who thinks you aren’t black enough or that you talk too properly or that you must be stuck-up because you don’t want to go to the party. In your 30s, you will not remember their names—until they request to friend you on Facebook and you end up having to de-friend them or put them on privacy lock-down because they are entirely too interested in the minutia of your life.
  4. Enjoy carefree summers on Fire Island or the Vineyard while you can! Soon, between global warming, UV rays and obnoxious tourists, the summer sanctuary of your childhood will become a very, very different place. Enjoy digging for sand crabs and poking jellyfish with a stick as they will become stories of legend you will tell your children, nieces and nephews.
  5. Know the difference between friends and acquaintances. Acquaintances are people you know, you speak to regularly and you hang out with occasionally. Friends are people who know you—warts and all. You might speak to them regularly, but even if you don’t, you pick up where you left off as though no time has passed. Every truly great time in your life included or was the result of one of your true friends. Oh—VERY important: relatives can be some of your best friends ever. Continue reading You’ve come a long way baby: Rachel sends a message to her mini me…

You’ve come a long way baby: 20 things I’d tell you now

baby grace cropped 20 things you need to know – Hey you, standing over there looking tough and cute the way little girls often do, it’s me, well you – in about 36 years. Some things haven’t changed much. With the exception of the ribbon, your hair looked a lot like that this morning, and that stance, you still got that. You often have that same ‘four parts curiosity, one part ‘what the hell are you looking at”  look on your face even at this age – And the legs…well, like I said, some things haven’t changed much.

I wish I could protect you from, and prepare you for all that lies ahead, but I can’t. No one can really. But what I can do is share some things that only I’ll be able to. Some people think the past, present and future are all happening at once, so who knows. I know you won’t understand everything I’m saying, but take notes, you’ll need them.

  1. Some of the people in your life will disappoint you, lie to you, hurt you. Some of them are just stupid. Others are just evil. Forgive them all, stupid and evil alike, and move on. Remember what they did and learn from it. Don’t hold what they’ve done to you against anyone else.
  2. That thing you want to do with your hair in the eighties. Don’t. You leave dozens of grease spots up and down the east coast because of it, and Chris Rock will mock it mercilessly in a documentary he releases in 2009.
  3. Try to get that eating thing under control early – believe me, you’ll be fighting that battle for years. In the meantime, live your life and do the things you want to do, regardless of what the scale says.
  4. You’re going to have several really great ideas for businesses. Instead of talking yourself out of it, just do it. You are smarter, stronger and more resilient than you know.
  5. You know how they said it would be too difficult to be a successful, black, female journalist? Oprah’s like the richest person on the planet now. Seriously. Don’t listen to them. Continue reading You’ve come a long way baby: 20 things I’d tell you now