…dream a little before you think.
Toni Morrison

Spring is here. The time of beginnings. A door opening to something new. But opening to what? Maybe it’s a fervent hope that something better is ahead (notwithstanding fringe politics, Omicron subvariants, Ukraine, and the world in turmoil). 

After more than two years of living through various forms of hibernation, it feels like any dreams I had circulating in the ether were lulled to sleep while sheltering in place. It’s time to prod myself out of my comfortable chair and do something bold.  It’s time to think about a grand ambition. * But what is that? 

I am full of admiration for those who know.

Two women I know are travelling on their own to far away destinations. Two other women in their 60’s have recently started new work ventures completely unrelated to what they did before.  Bold brave steps from the heart that may involve planning, but I suspect not much overthinking.

We are living through much angst, and I wonder how we will get through it all.  Thinking about dreams, if I even know what they are, feels like an indulgence.  How would I begin to make dreams happen? Can grand ambitions be realized in later life?

Perhaps some reimagining is called for.  The notion of a grand ambition suggests wildly impossible dreams associated with a certain amount of recklessness. Something other people do. And yet maybe a grand ambition is simply that which propels me out of bed in the morning when I can’t see my way through the cloud of unknowing and doubt.  It may feel unreachable, frivolous, and a challenge to the coveted ordered life, but somehow it matters.

It’s a bold and radical act to imagine the improbable and decide it is possible.

There are people out there who seem to know with certainty what they are called to do. Their clear sense of purpose drives their lives. That’s not me so much. Sometimes I have a glimmer of an idea that is difficult to express but which I hope will morph into something coherent.  Changes can unfold unevenly as I figure out a path to take.

My journey from registered nurse to writer has been like that. Writing gradually occupied more space in the week and I realized my priorities had shifted.  It wasn’t a matter of adding another thing to the to do list.  It’s been about transitioning to different work with the help and encouragement of others and realizing I had made a significant change. Part of the process has been discarding unhelpful beliefs including the one that real writers are only certain people who write best sellers. Not true!  If you write, you’re a writer.

My re-imagining of grand ambitions has opened my eyes to the following:

  • Ignore that pesky voice in my head that says it’s too late to do something new; the voice that says to wait for the right moment when all my ducks are in a row. There is no right moment.
  • There is often more than ONE grand ambition. The small but worthwhile ideas that capture my imagination can be missed if I’m distracted in trying to find #ONE.
  • There may be times when we need to leave familiar surroundings, but life is not necessarily grander somewhere else. I fall into the trap of thinking I must go somewhere (and call it travel) to find the dream that may be right where I am.
  • Avoid getting stuck on details of planning:  what to do, how to do it, and the precise outcome to be achieved.  Fretting about details can sap the energy out of a good idea.
  • Resist other’s definitions of a grand ambition.  Easier maybe, but not necessarily better.
  • Not all ideas come with fireworks and a marching band. Some quietly reveal themselves in chance encounters and some may be disguised as obstacles.
  • A grand ambition may call on us to undertake something new, involve some degree of risk, or leave us vulnerable. We may be called to resist the easier choice in life.

Grand ambitions are not the purview of the young. The Third Stage of Life is a perfect time to entertain wild ideas, large or small.  Our wealth of knowledge, skills, and wisdom accumulated over our lives could move a mountain.

Where to start? Conventional wisdom suggests trying something new; offering service or help of some kind to others; or focusing on something that matters to us. Passing fancies or recurring imaginings that bubble up in our thoughts may offer a clue. There’s no end of stuff.

What’s my grand ambition?

Writing is one, but a deeper dive into what prompted me to write was a wish to celebrate and give voice to the power of older women. So many are underestimated.  So many contributions are not fully valued. So many women feel a sense of invisibility associated with aging that is supremely frustrating. It certainly is to me. Writing is one way to articulate the opportunities and gifts associated with aging.

And yet I know I desire something more than scribing away on my own. It would be great to explore Third Stage life issues within a community.  Having an ally or allies is the incubator for good conversation, sharing ideas and hopes, and having a forum to raise questions and figure things out. All of it can be contained within the safety net of those who admire you for bringing your ideas forward, can respond without judgment, and are willing to share their own dreams.

Think what a collective of engaged older women could accomplish in realizing grand ambitions large and small, knowing others have your back. A collective with the muscle to change the story about older women to a vibrant bolder narrative that forever keeps us relevant and visible.  Imagine what we could do! Think of all the fun we could have and chocolate we could eat along the way.

An idea born of the conviction that what is possible, becomes inevitable.

What do you think? Older women doing great stuff fully expressing ourselves in our own unique way.  We just have to begin somewhere. If you want to be a dancer, you start by dancing.

It’s time for me to step into something new.  Maybe a grand ambition could begin with a conversation about women and community. Imagining a grand ambition is being awake to what is already before us and discerning when to take that risk and step into unfamiliar territory.   It’s bringing love to everyday life. In so doing, we clear a path for a grand ambition, however improbable, to reveal itself. It’s inevitable.

My thanks to SaSaFit (https://www.sasafit.com/) for permission to use their image about a dancer’s body.

*I would like to thank Kristine Oller for the term Grand Ambition. This post was also inspired by the writings of Jonathan Fields who talks about the inevitability of plans and Tara Mohr.

4 thoughts on “Realizing a Grand Ambition

  1. Hi Audrey. Wendy (your cousin) here. Have you thought of perhaps hosting a zoom get together of women, who, like you ( and me), believe that the possibilities of joy and fulfillment in our senior years are endless.
    A platform to periodically share stories of experiences and feelings from fear (what is stopping us) to exhilaration ( pushing through to the accomplishment of our heart desire) ……..anyway, just a thought. 🤗


  2. Congratulations Aud on realizing your grand ambition to be a writer !! You’ve made it and no doubt more paths along that journey will continue to reveal themselves to you. Your determination to keep going step by step has been an incredible inspiration to me!


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