Tuesday, October 07, 2008

To Everything a Season

Here's a column I wrote last month for the Nat'l Assoc. of Baby Boomer Women that has some relevance to our current financial climate:

Cultivating Resilience

I love all four seasons.

No matter how bleak the winter has been, by April my hydrangeas are budding, the copper beach and pin oaks are leafing out, and the lilies of the valley are once again poking their stems through the earth. Not all my plants make it through the winter. My Connecticut soil is less than ideal, for instance, for growing lavender, and every few seasons I have to replace mine. But each year, most of my garden survives.

We human bloomers, late or otherwise, are a resilient bunch as well. We have to be for the seeds of our dreams to germinate and multiply. The winter of our adversity ultimately strengthens our resolve.

Think of Christopher Reeve, the actor who became a quadriplegic after a riding accident. In the movies, he played Superman, but in real life he became someone much larger: a down-to-earth role model who epitomized the power of persistence and hope. Yes, like my lavender, he eventually succumbed to the elements, but while alive, his blooming was abundant.

Or consider surfer Bethany Hamilton, who was attacked by a shark in 2003 and lost her left arm below the shoulder. No sooner had she recuperated than she was back on her board again, making the best of what she still has. She, too, is a role model for anyone who feels defeated by misfortune.

No athlete wants to lose. No entrepreneur wants her business to fail. No writer enjoys receiving a rejection letter. But many of the people we most admire have experienced repeated setbacks along the way to achieving their long-term goals.

University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth calls this combination of perseverance and passion “grit.” Grit, she says, is the one characteristic shared by prominent leaders in every field. And guess what? According to Duckworth’s research, older individuals often measure higher in grit than younger ones. Our advancing age, in other words, might actually be an asset when it comes to late blooming.

Six months ago, the dried-up stalks in my flower beds looked as if no life would ever come from them. If I didn’t know better, I would have yanked them from the ground. Now after a summer of glorious blooming, my plants once again are starting to fade. Next spring, the cycle will start anew.

Note: The photo of my fading hydrangeas was taken two weeks ago.


  1. I loved this post. Thanks for sharing with us what you wrote for NBBW

  2. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Hi Prill,

    Just me you recently, so
    am stopping in to see
    about your book.

    Your book focuses on
    women, and that is a
    group with distinction,
    but what about drawing
    such stories beyond
    women to others?

  3. Thanks, Allyn.

    Anonymous-- Yup, DG focuses exclusively on women. I did, however, interview several men for the book and continue to do so to this day. (If you scroll down my "subject index," located in the sidebar of this blog, and click on "late bloomers," you'll find some of their stories.) The bottom line is that I'm a humanist at heart, even more than a feminist. I started out to write about both women and men, but the women's stories resonated with me in a way that the men's did not. As a woman on the cusp of 50 (I'm 54 now) whose mother majored in marriage, I suppose I was looking for role models.

  4. I just love the boomer Women site. At least partially because the collect great writers like you, Prill.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Leading the boomer pack. LOL