Author Sue Brightman interviewed 100 women, aged 50 and up to discover what the keys are to consciously creating your life in post-career years. Sue collected the incredible wisdom of these women in her book, A Call to Further Becoming: The New Declaration from Women Over 50.
In our conversation, Sue and I talked about declarations she learned to live by, from pioneering a new path, to divining the lessons from our pasts. I came away from this conversation blown away by the wisdom that Sue and the incredible women she interviewed had to offer.
Emily Gindlesparger: I’m sitting down today with Sue Brightman, the author of A Call to Further Becoming. Sue, I’ve been so excited to talk to you about this book, which has so many stories of 100 different women that you interviewed. I’m just so excited to dig into the wisdom you have to share.
Sue Brightman: I’m excited to be talking to you about it. Actually, to be bringing their voices out into the world.
Emily Gindlesparger: Tell us a little bit to begin, what brought you to write this book? How did you know that it would be so needed?
Sue Brightman: It’s really because of my own life and where I found myself at age 55, 57, when I had experienced about 30 years of a wonderful career doing organizational development, both conscious business consulting and coaching leaders and traveling all over the world, doing work that I absolutely loved.
I had this sense, Emily, of my work coming to a very happy conclusion, not because I didn’t love it anymore, but there were pieces of it that I felt done with. I could just sense this conclusion that was beginning to happen. I was starting to scan the horizon for what I might do next, still just full of energy, full of zest, wanting to contribute to the world and wanting to keep learning, but sensing that it wasn’t going to continue being on this path that I’d been on for so long.
As I started doing a scan within myself about what did I want to do and what did all of this mean, I came to a place of, I call it in my book, a wilderness–that is both the excitement of not knowing what might be up ahead, but also frankly, some fear about the unknown. Because I’d only known myself on this career path that I loved so much and that I was so good at.
One of the things I did, which is I think what we do, I started to look at other women–other women my age, other women up ahead of me. What are women doing now in their 60s and even beyond? What might the new path be like for me up ahead? Where could I look for some signals? As I did that, I could recognize when I listened to other women, both clients of mine, friends of mine, women in my workshops, I would hear women at the same age and stage that I was asking the same questions and sometimes with a lot of concern, discontent and a lot of this fear that I talked about–who am I if I’m not doing this?
I took a deep dive into reading and listening to podcasts and doing everything I could to get a sense about what is happening for women who have been career women and who are entering this stage, where the word retirement, for example, has very little meaning to me and to many of us. It’s not attractive. The pictures of retirement as it used to be just don’t resonate for me, and I found for many of us.
That led me to the writing of a woman who was a cultural anthropologist, named Mary Catherine Bateson. I was absolutely blown away by what I read. She said in her book, The Age of Active Wisdom, for the first time in human history, those of us who are reaching the stage of 50 plus, she says 50-70, that there is a whole new stage of life that has never been present before, that in other words, we don’t go from childhood to adolescence, to adulthood to elderhood, but we go from adulthood one to adulthood two. Then she said, those of us who are in adulthood two are pioneering what it means.
I heard the word pioneering and light bulbs went on for me, because pioneering is that going where no one’s gone before with all of the excitement and also the dangers and the fears and the not knowing. What led me to interviewing 100 women is that I realized that where I was standing and what Mary Catherine Bateson was saying about us pioneering a new stage of life was true for millions of us. I wanted to know what it is that we’re pioneering. What are we finding as we’re carving this new path forward? Hence, I said, the only way I’m going to find out is to interview, at first 30 women. Then I said, no, it better be 50. Then I upped it to 100, because I thought by the time, I get done with 100 interviews, I will really be able to hear what the themes are.
Emily Gindlesparger: You describe in your book the research and organization process that you went through for figuring out the central threads in all of those interviews. That sounded like a massive, massive undertaking. Was this a research project you’d done before, or were you treading into brand new territory in how you were making sense of everything you were learning?
Sue Brightman: First of all, the word you use massive is right, that it was a massive undertaking. I knew it would be on some level. I knew it would be. It was even more so than I thought, because I felt that the integrity of what women were sharing with me needed to be kept so pure, that I listened deeply for what was being said, and made sure that at the end of the process of collating and reviewing and mapping their responses to questions, that I got, not only the actual words they were using, but the sense of what they were saying.
Fortunately, the other piece of your question about had I done something like this before, I had many times, but in a different way. As an organizational development consultant, one of the things I have done in the past is corporate culture assessments and reviews and interview processes, where I’m feeding back to a senior leadership team, for example, how things are going in the organization. Typically, it’s called, what’s the organizational culture? That will include things like, how clear do folks feel that communication is in the organization? How would they describe leadership? How fair do they think the policies are, the human resource policies, for example?
I had a lot of experience in doing interviews and surveys. Sometimes surveys were mixed in there too. I had a process developed for how to track what people were saying and roll that up into key themes. That came in very handy–you can imagine with 700 pages of interview notes from the interviews that I did with these 100 women.
Emily Gindlesparger: I love how that all comes together, that essentially it sounds like the professional work you’ve been doing over your entire career primed you to really find a systematic way through a pivotal point and a pivotal change in your life.
Sue Brightman: Yes. The other thing I found with this particular project, if you will, is as I would interview women and I would be asking them these questions, I asked every woman the same questions. As I asked them, they of course, were questions I’m curious about, that I would literally lean in toward the phone when I was listening, because the way that women talked about lessons they’ve learned and heartbreaks they’ve had, and how that has led to them being resilient, for example, and graceful, and what the things are that they’re just done with.
When I would listen to the different ways they would share these things, I was describing to somebody I was talking to once that it always felt like the room I was in got bigger. I would be done with a one-hour interview and I would sit in my office and just feel so much bigger from having listened about somebody’s life and the wisdom and the profoundness coming from a life lived 50 years, or 60 years, or 70 years. There was a special something about this particular process, because my own skin was in it too, if you know what I mean.
A Moment of Intuition
Emily Gindlesparger: Yeah. I want to back up to the moment when you heard that hit of intuition. In your book, you described how you were driving through Boulder, and I think you just stopped at a stoplight and you turned and look out across this snowy field and you get, as you described it, two revelations at the same time. One was that you knew you were done with your career. The second was that you knew you weren’t ready to hear that yet. That is so human, right? I loved that moment. I’m also so curious about what really happened next in that messy middle between hearing that hit of intuition and then finally coming around to realizing you could trust it or believe it.
Sue Brightman: Yeah. Even hearing you replay that back to me, it takes me right to that stoplight and right to the field I was looking at and right to the hit of intuition that I had. Of course, sometimes, and I think this is worth saying and it’s worth our honoring it as women, I think as men too, that when intuition speaks to us, it speaks sometimes before there is an action that needs to be taken. It speaks sometimes before we’re ready to hear it. That’s okay, because it’s speaking to us for a reason.
I mentioned in my book that many women, and I’m one of them, find intuition to be a friend. Although I got that hit when I wasn’t entirely ready to accept and take in all of it, it was still there as a gentle glimpse of what was to come and what I could welcome in a way that wasn’t going to shock my whole system, or disrupt, or distress me. I heard it and I didn’t totally hear it.
What happened after that was the messy process of transition. There’s a writer who talks about the phases of change and transition, that the first one is ending, or letting go. Then there’s this middle phase called the wilderness. Then there’s the next phase, which is a new beginning. William Bridges wrote a book about this. What happened to me, in answer to your question, is that I entered that messy phase of transition, which was not linear and didn’t happen all at once. That isn’t the way it happens.
For me, I had just been asked to do a pretty big piece of work for a large company, and I was asked to do several pieces of work training and some keynote speeches and things like that several times after I got that hit that day. Some of them I said yes to. Some of them I said no. The point is that it wasn’t as if all of a sudden, I just said, “I’m not doing this anymore.” Especially as somebody who I had my own business, my own company, so there isn’t a formal retirement process.
For me, as requests came in, I would evaluate each one and whether or not that was something for me to do right now or not. At the same time, and I think this is the important piece, this curiosity that I had about what was happening with women over age 50, that curiosity was bringing a sense of, I think I’d say, energy and attraction to me. I never thought it would come into a book. I didn’t think when I was stopped at that traffic light, maybe I’ll interview 100 women. I mean, it just didn’t come like that.
It was more that I sensed the completion of what I’d been doing, and I could begin to feel from that point what it was that was capturing my attraction and my attention. I couldn’t ignore it. It wasn’t sitting down and deciding in some strategic planning way that this is what I’m going to do next. It was really more paying attention to what I was curious about.
I could almost say I didn’t have a clue what I might do next. It was a little bit frightening for me to think about that, what could possibly lead to such sense of purpose and happiness and learning that my career had brought. I did know that I was very curious what was happening about women. When I landed on what Mary Catherine Bateson had written, as I mentioned, that we’re pioneering a whole new stage of life, I thought I wanted to know more about that. It was these little things that I would do. I started to ask questions of particularly friends about what was happening and how they were feeling and what they were thinking about retirement or not. One curiosity and one hit of energy and interest led to another and led to another.
I remember, Emily, being with a friend of mine at dinner and saying, “I think I should just formally interview some women to find out more about this.” I heard myself saying that. It was the most natural thing in the world for me to lean in even more to this curiosity. It was the path of curiosity and attraction that had me take a next step and then a next and then a next. At one point, I then said, “Okay. I’m going to interview 100 women.” To do that, I had to dial back on the corporate work that I had been doing pretty full time up until then.
Emily Gindlesparger: Yeah. I love how you describe that curiosity and attraction really being a guardrail, or maybe even a signpost on the path. You also write at one point, that a common link in these stories of women was that there was another guard rail, which is the things that they no longer wanted to tolerate. I love that. I’m so curious, what are some of the things you started to recognize that you had been tolerating that you didn’t want to anymore?
Sue Brightman: Yes. I have to say that was one of the most fun and also hard-hitting. I think I’d call it themes that came up that I just didn’t expect to come with such amazing clarity and strength from the women I interviewed. I have a chapter called Done With That. The whole chapter is about how we get pretty clear what we’re done with, even when we don’t know what we want to do next. That was part of the story for me as well and some of it is a little bit laughable. I mean, it might sound minor, but when I’ve told this story a couple times women have laughed, because I think we recognize ourselves in it.
That is that in my many years of consulting and teaching, I have done something I love, which is traveling all over the world and working with different cultures, lots of different buildings, lots of different cities, countries and many different training rooms.
One of the things I realized, and this was after I had that hit that I think the career path I’ve been on is coming to a natural conclusion, is I went and did a leadership program outside the country, my country, the US. I was in this beautiful room. I was looking out the training room window, while the group that I was working with was doing some written exercise I’d given them. I looked out the window and in the far distance there were mountains, but what I remember is that what I saw were the plastic mini blinds on the window. I said to myself, just this flitting voice that went through my consciousness, “I would be happy to never see any more plastic mini blinds on windows again.” I just felt done with that scene.
Now that’s pretty minor, but it was indicative of something that I had maybe outgrown. Not the clients I was working with who I loved and the content I was teaching, but lots of things go along with the work that we do. Sometimes, some of it begins to introduce itself as there’s nothing new in this anymore. I just don’t want to be in an air-conditioned conference room with plastic mini blinds anymore. That was one of the things that represented something larger.
A second one was had to do with travel, that I’ve always loved travel, but there were lots of pieces of travel that felt like they were overcoming the joy of travel–the time, the long lines. We all know what travel can be like, but it was getting to a point where I really felt strongly that I’m done doing that. It’s not mine to do anymore.
Done With That
Emily Gindlesparger: I loved reading that moment with the plastic blinds, because like you said, every woman, I’m sure every person has their own version of the plastic blinds moment. I reflected back before I became a ghostwriter and an editor and the role that I’m playing here at Scribe, I was a high school English teacher, and I remember looking around my classroom one day and just thinking, “Wow, these walls are ugly.” It wasn’t a space that I felt creative in or curious about. At that point, I actually started pivoting the curriculum in my classroom. We were supposed to be learning English, but we started doing all these visual arts projects, because I wanted us to be able to communicate in ways that created the environment around us.
Sue Brightman: That is such a perfect example. It’s a beautiful example, because we may be in an environment like you were and you recognized that was really hard for you to not only live with, but work within, and something in you had to and needed to change it and fit it more with the way you wanted to teach and what you wanted to be doing as a teacher. I think that’s wonderful in the way that we can take those messages and sometimes pivot what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and create changes. Also, there are times when we recognize that I can’t change enough of this and this is now confining what I’m doing and who I am.
It sounds like that’s a place you got to, and that to me is a done with that. The plastic mini blinds and that beautiful description of the walls in your classroom, those can also be, or the done with that as I call them, can also be very significant things, such as the types of relationships that we’re in and recognizing I’m done with doing that relationship. Or I’m done with working in a patriarchal organization, where my voice, as let’s say, a black woman, or a brown woman. I’m white, but I heard this from women of color who I interviewed and women in general know this one well, that we become done with environments, where we can’t live into all of our creativity and our expression of our talents and our intelligence, because some environments don’t have the walls, so to speak, that will allow that to happen.
The done with that can be playful little things that give us a hint. They can also be very significant systemic structural things that tell us about the power of who we are and of our voices now. Taking that a step further, what does it mean if women who have lived many decades and have worked in lots of organizations, women who were in their 50s, their 60s, maybe their 70s, who have lived that and know what that feels like and looks like and are saying, “I’m done with that. By the way, I don’t want other women who are working in the world to have to put up with that either.” We really become an important voice for what can be different.
I think that’s an important piece too that I heard in my interviews, is the messages that are out there for younger women and frankly, for all of us, about what’s acceptable collectively and what isn’t.
Emily Gindlesparger: Yeah. I am in my mid-30s and you couldn’t tell that this book is supposed to only be directed toward an older age group. There were just as many lessons that I was surprised and delighted by as I looked through your book, at my age, as I’m sure I will be equally surprised and delighted to continue working with them and rediscovering them when I grow older.
Sue Brightman: I’m so happy to hear that. I think it’s true that women that I interviewed when I ended up asking them at the end of every interview, what is the highest best that you think a book like this could do after I roll together all of what I hear from 100 women? One of the things that I heard over and over again is that we could convey messages to our younger sisters, so to speak, women like yourself, about what’s important, and not only what’s important, but about things that we as women of any age, don’t need to live with, don’t need to tolerate, and how important listening to one’s own inclinations and one’s own curiosities and one’s own inner voice and acting on that, how important that is for women of all ages.
I hope there are many younger women who read this book. That the women who are over 50 who were interviewed pass it along to whatever women can lean into its messages. Because you’re right, the messages I think are truths for women of all ages.
Emily Gindlesparger: The book is structured around 10 messages in particular. Ten declarations of different aspects that were common threads that you found women learning at these stages in their lives. What of those declarations surprised you, or maybe hit closest to home?
Sue Brightman: Oh, I love the question about hit closest to home. I’m going to pick up on that one, because I was delighted with all of them, but there was one that I was particularly delighted with, because I thought I was probably the only one. I asked a question of all the women. The question was what practices, structures, or rituals do you have that are non-negotiable that help you to be and do what you’re being and doing right now?
I use the words structure, rituals, practices, because those words resonate differently for us. Practices, that resonates for me, rituals doesn’t, but some women think in terms of rituals. It didn’t really matter which word resonated, but more that they were hearing the question about non-negotiable things that they do, that help them be and do what they’re being and doing. Non-negotiable is a really important part of that question, because if I asked you, what are things you do that help you be and do what you’re being? You and I could both laundry list a lot of things. Some of them are non-negotiable, though.
The thing that delighted me to answer that part of your question was that women said over and over again, “Oh, spending time in quiet.” Or they would use the word, “Oh, my solitude. I have to have time in solitude. I need that time to listen, to meditate, to think, to reflect.” There was one woman who I interviewed, her name is Katie. Of the 100 women, she is, I would say and I’ve told her this, the most extroverted of all the women I interviewed. Just fully animated and joyous and really extroverted in every way we think about that word. I said to her, “Katie,” and I asked that question, non-negotiable structures, or rituals, or practices that help you. She said, “Oh, quiet, quiet, quiet, and quiet.”
I wrote it. I took verbatim notes and I wrote it just the way she said it. The last time she said it, capital letters. Katie’s response was so reflective of what I heard from almost all of these women, that we have found that in order to be who we want to be and to do what we want to do, we have got to and we do cultivate time with ourselves in quiet. Now what we do in that time is slightly different, one woman to another. I call that the cocktail of practices that we have in our quiet, solitude time.
This is very different, by the way, than a lot of times a sense of loneliness, the word loneliness and fear of loneliness is thought of as part and parcel of getting older. This has nothing to do with loneliness. This had to do with one woman called it, luscious solitude, that we need it for balance. It happens to be one of the things that these women also said, they would urge younger women to pay attention to, because, and I’m going to say we now, we have learned how important it is to balance all of the doing. Especially as women, that we do so much for others.
If we have children, we do so much for children. If we’re in a partnership, in communities, in schools, if our children are in school, etc., etc. Coming back to the thing that surprised me, that was one of the responses that absolutely delighted me, because I carve out, every day, an hour and a half in the morning. I cannot live my life, I cannot be who I am without that time. It is absolutely non-negotiable. Absolutely non-negotiable. That was a surprise and a delight. It turns out that Brene Brown uses the phrase high saturation. Of course, she’s a notable author and speaker and a researcher. When she hits on a theme when she’s researching that just comes out over and over and over again, she calls it having high saturation.
This particular theme had really high saturation about the need we have for quiet time and solitude. Whether that’s walking in nature and listening and just enjoying, not thinking, but rather allowing thoughts and intuition to come to us, whether it’s a meditation or prayer practice. It might be reading sacred texts, or poetry, or journaling. That was one.
Speaking of high saturation and when you really know you’ve hit on a theme, I asked women what’s most important in their lives right now. After they would answer that, I would ask what’s not important that used to be? I heard the same four words over and over and over again. In fact, it almost got to where when I was on interview 25 and then interview 64, I would sit and I wouldn’t jump the gun, I didn’t know what they were going to say, but so many times I heard the same thing. What’s not important that used to be? Those four words were what other people think.
Talk about a resounding theme that it doesn’t matter to me, and I’m sharing the collective voice, or voices of the women that I interviewed, and also I’ll say this for myself, that what other people think is not really mine to consider anymore when I’m listening for what my calling is now. What’s right for me to do? What am I attracted to? What relationship feels right for my growth and for my spiritual expansion and goodness? What other people think is a weight–it’s a weight that is familiar to so many of us, and it’s particularly familiar to women. I think not only women over 50 who have lived with how it feels over the years to have that as a demand. I will say, it’s sometimes one we place on ourselves and it’s also suggested by our culture that we need to pay attention to it, but younger women also, I think still very much face what other people think.
Having lots of messages and images that suggest that it’s something we should calculate into the decisions that we make. Well, how about if we’re done with that? It doesn’t have to be with the sense of bravado, with a fist in the air. It can be more a sense of liberation, that that’s not something I’m factoring in, that this is what my intuition and my attraction is leading me toward, because attraction and intuition and curiosity are life. They have energy with them. They put wind beneath our wings. You’re curious about something, you’re attracted to something, it’s like you can’t help but go there.
What does it matter what other people think, if we are responding to that life-giving force that’s coming through us? That was another one that came out with such a resounding familiarity and consistency, was that we’re done with that and liberated as a result of being done with it.
Emily Gindlesparger: Yeah. That one resonates very much with me. I think a lot of the Lisa Nichols quote that has by now become pretty famous, where she said, what other people think of you is none of your damn business.
Sue Brightman: Right. That’s so beautiful. I mean, let them think it. Boy, if we’re starting to track that, then we’ve really lost sight of the plotline about our own lives, because that’s going to take us all kinds of places. I like that.
Emily Gindlesparger: With other people steering, right? That’s incredible.
Sue Brightman: Right. I might share this with you as well. This was not surprising maybe, but fun for me to put into writing, how to express this. That is that when talking about what we’re done with and my listening to women’s stories, I will say that some of the themes that came up were not necessarily direct answers to the 10 questions I asked. Actually, I think I asked eight questions. Rather, I asked women to tell me their stories and what key stepping stones have been in the stories of their lives, and listening to those stories, I also listened for what came up in their own words that were themes.
Speaking of the whole domain of done with that, I mentioned relationships and not done with relationships, but certain types of relationships. I found women talking about not being able to–I’ll use the word tolerate, not wanting to tolerate, not being able to spend time in conversations, or relationships that are draining, that are empty. This got expressed in different ways. One of the ways it got expressed was just spending time in friendships. Maybe they’ve been in friendships for a while, that they or I may feel that I’ve outgrown.
One woman talked about vapid conversation. Conversation that just is a downward spiral, and/or relationships where there is just not a sense of reciprocity. A friend of mine long ago, a male friend of mine introduced me to this concept of types of energy. I think this is a physics concept. The words are endothermic and exothermic. I had never heard these words before. They’re certainly not words that I had used. The notion is that when certain properties come together, if they are endothermic, the properties come together, and they get smaller. It literally sucks the life out of the properties.
Whereas, if properties come together and they’re exothermic, then they’re enlarged and there’s a spaciousness and an expansion. We know, probably you and I and other people listening to this, we know when we’re in conversation, or when we’re in relationships that are exothermic, because we leave that conversation over coffee and we’re just lit up. We have so much energy. We leave just feeling like we’ve got a wind at our back and we feel joyous and somehow, we feel expanded.
We also probably know what it’s like to be in a conversation, or in a group, or in a relationship where there’s something about it that when we’re done with that conversation or that gathering, we wonder why did I come? Why do I keep investing in this group, or in this relationship? Because I’ve left depleted. The good news about this is we begin as time goes on I think, we begin to pay attention to how do I feel and what has happened to me and my life and the person that I’ve been in that conversation with, or that relationship with, what’s happening as a result of our coming together? Are we expanded, or have we both left drained and dampened?
When we can recognize those differences, and I think we can. We intuitively recognize it. We may not act on it, but we can feel the difference. There are life-giving choices that then we have at our disposal. One of the done with that’s that the women I interviewed talked about was investing in relationships that, and I use the word, that are endothermic. We want to invest and jump into the relationships and friendships and partnerships that are life-giving, and where the other person is expanded as a result of who we are as well.
Emily Gindlesparger: That’s beautiful. Yeah, such a good reminder and a good practice, I think so many of us don’t–maybe not us. Maybe it’s me, don’t give myself full permission sometimes to really evaluate my relationships and decide which ones I no longer want to invest in. It can be a really scary thing to say that I’m done with this part, this era of my life.
Sue Brightman: Yeah. Well, you’re not the only one. There are a lot of us who don’t necessarily take time to do that or may feel some fear about doing it. There’s a way we disengage and move along in our lives, where it can be gentle too, and just realizing that was a friendship for this part, this time of my path. Yeah, doing everyone the favor, perhaps including ourselves and saying, “Okay. I’m going to expand now.” Just like that classroom you described, or the plastic mini blinds I described, where we say, “Okay. I’m getting gentle information here that I may just be outgrowing that.”
Emily Gindlesparger: Yeah. I love that throughout your book, throughout the way you’ve written it and throughout the wisdom that these 100 women have shared, it seemed like so consistently, the pathway through that was following curiosity and attraction. Like you say really in the end, it is a gentle process and a revolutionary one.
Sue Brightman: That’s so true. That it makes me think about something, a conversation that I was in online this morning. It was happenstance, but the LinkedIn network which I’m on, there happened to be a post and I responded and the person responded back. The long and short of that, this has to do with one of the declarations that’s in the book. One of the themes that came out, which seems like a really soft theme. I’ll say what it is and then the story I want to tell, but the theme is called inhabit beauty. It’s that we’re learning to be enveloped by the beauty that we see and that we are within and without.
That came about in the interviews when I kept hearing in different ways how women were paying attention and investing in and needing representations of beauty around them. Now sometimes that might be something simple. There was one woman I interviewed in St. Louis and she talked about how in order for her to do the morning journaling that she loves to do, she realized she wanted a view that would just allow her to be a little bit more reflective. She has a certain chair. She moved it by a window that looks out over the garden that she and her husband have. She bought a lamp that she just loves looking at. If it’s early in the morning when it’s dark, she’ll turn it on, and she described the soft light of the lamp that’s on when she journals in the morning.
I heard that as this sense of beauty that she knows she’s deserving of and that also just feeds her. It feeds us. I heard this in different ways. I myself when I was writing the book, I have a kayak and I have a lake nearby me, a reservoir. Sometimes the writing process is hard. It’s tedious. You can love it and it can be tedious at the same time. It’s a discipline. During the summer when the sun’s out and my kayak’s sitting in my garage and I’m writing and I’m writing and I’m writing, I would go out at 6 or 7 at night and I would paddle for maybe an hour, or an hour and a half and I’d be out there looking at the mountains and the sunset at the end of the day, and I wasn’t thinking about anything. I had to stop thinking and stop wordsmithing and stop writing.
I would go out, Emily, and I’d be in my kayak. Sometimes I put my feet up on the edges of it and the sun is setting over the mountains. The kayak is bobbing on the water and I am just in this place of receiving and being completely at one with the beauty, the stunning beauty that nobody orchestrated, that I didn’t plan. I didn’t know exactly what the sunset would look like that night. I didn’t know how rough or calm the water would be. Sometimes my kayak would bob a lot, up and down, and other times completely tranquil.
The point is that the beauty enveloped me. All of the, my shoulders that were tight from writing all day, or maybe things that were hanging over my head that concerned me about my children, or about the world, I was enveloped by the allness of this perfectly beautiful, peaceful scene, that somehow told me that there’s something higher going on here and there’s something that holds us all.
That sense of beauty, I heard other women talk about the beauty that they brought into or are entertaining in their lives that at this point, they can’t live without. I know I can’t live without that. I purposefully now go kayaking three times a week on that same reservoir, because I need that. Coming back to the story I started to tell, today I was in this exchange electronically with somebody who lives in the Netherlands. The discussion on his post was about feminine and masculine. He knows that I write about feminine wisdom. I think that men express feminine and masculine and I think we as women express both as well.
Anyway, he said none of it really matters, feminine or masculine, if we don’t take care of climate change. As if it’s an either-or. Let’s forget the importance of feminine and masculine and feminine wisdom because we’re not going to be here if we don’t address climate change. I totally think we need to address climate change and many of the women I interviewed feel strongly about that as well. This point about beauty and this is the point I want to make, this welling up, this sense of wanting and needing to appreciate and inhabit beauty and cultivate it and be in it and be moved by it, that sense that came out in the interviews and that I myself feel when I’m in my kayak out on the water, that is going to be expressed by us, by disallowing things like lots of plastic in the ocean.
You can’t love and appreciate beauty and throw a plastic bottle out of your car window onto the street. I mean, they can’t reside together. It isn’t just a soft, nice, feminine, light, airy, fairy thing about we love beauty, because beauty gets artificialized and commercialized in all kinds of ways, especially for women in our culture. This is talking about a soulful sense of beauty that represents something about the goodness and the bigness that we are all held in and it changes us. That will take form in action about climate and about local lakes and about the paths that we walk on and about maybe making sure there’s green space when new apartments are built.
There are all kinds of ways that that can come out. It’s clear to me that the wisdom, feminine wisdom, the wisdom that came from these 100 voices are these truisms that just get expressed and have to get expressed in the things that we’re doing out in the world, whether it’s businesses we’re creating in our 60s, or whether it’s volunteer work that we’re doing, whatever it is that we’re feeling like you said, curious and attracted toward. If it includes this deep appreciation of beauty, then climate and addressing climate and all the things around that are going to be part of that.
Emily Gindlesparger: That’s incredible. Thank you so much, Sue. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you today.
Sue Brightman: It’s been such a pleasure talking to you as well. Thanks for inviting me.
Emily Gindlesparger: The book again is called A Call to Further Becoming. Sue, besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Sue Brightman: They can find me on suebrightman.com.
Emily Gindlesparger: Great. Well, thank you so much.
Sue Brightman: Thank you, Emily.