Meet Donna. At the time of this photo shoot Donna was eighty-one years old. And yes, she is wearing make up, and yes, I did do a little tweaking, but truly very little. She is beautiful, isn’t she? But this is not why I am introducing her to you. I am doing that because, like me, I hope you will be inspired by her gumption and courage.
I first met Donna when she was working at a renown high-end fashion store in the North Bay (of San Francisco, for those who are not familiar with “The Bay”). She was assisting my friend Valerie who was shopping, while I just hung back and observed. Unless I am directly involved in something, I like to step back and observe. I see and perceive more that way. I noticed Dona’s genuinely kind manner and also her particular talent at knowing what styles and colors would work, or not work, for my friend. You might say, “Well, she was working in a fashion store, of course she knew that!” But let me tell you, although they think they do, not all women, or men for that matter, who work in a clothing boutique know how to look at you and match you with the right clothes.
The other thing I noticed was how beautiful and elegant she was, and the artist in me itched to capture her inner light through the lens. Yet I was flying back to Hawai’i the next day, and I did not dare ask.
But she stayed with me, and a year or so later, during another one of my California stop-overs on the way to or from Italy, I went back to the store hoping she would still be working there. She was, though I was told she had just left to go home and would not be back until after the long weekend. I was leaving on the Sunday, and I thought that maybe this was not to be. But when I stepped outside there she was, rushing back to the store to pick up something she had forgotten. Synchronicity? Definitely.
What with her commitments and mine, however, the shoot did not happen for another year, on another one of my visits to San Francisco.
Donna and I met up at 7:30 am to catch the beautiful morning light before moving to a new location for a change of clothes and some indoor shots. We talked and talked throughout the session as if we had known each other forever, and a friendship was formed, or I should say rekindled. Among other things, she told me that she had just recently changed her work schedule at the store to part-time because she was attending a business course and starting a new business in fashion consulting for older women. I was stunned! Not because I did not think she could do it, but because here was this 81-year-old (as I had found out she was) grandmother, of no particular financial privilege, with the guts to follow a dream and start all over. Not something you get to witness every day, not even from people half her age!
Over the years, never-ending is the number of times I have heard “Well, you know, at my age…. ” take your pick and fill in the blank with whatever thing they could not do, dream they could not fulfill, red hat they could not buy, yoga class they could not attend, or vacation they could not allow themselves to have. The list goes on and on, and ranges from the smallest things to the really big ones. And I am talking about perfectly healthy women!
I do not know how Donna’s business is doing, as we were going to connect again a couple of weeks ago, but, with one thing and another, it did not work out. So I will have to wait till after I get back from Carmel in the new year to hear the latest updates in my favorite way: in person. But wether the business was successful, or it fizzled after a couple of years is not the point. The point is that she had the guts to go for it, the courage to step out of the box – and for women her age the box is really small and has thick walls – and go for something that made her happy.
I am not going to delve into how wonderful change can be, as I do not want to run the risk of pontificating from some wobbly soap box. But Donna inspired me, and whenever I get a little fearful in my next step, two people come to mind: Donna, and Louise Hay, who started Hay House when she was sixty. And if they had the guts to do it at their age, I have no excuse.
I do not know Louise Hay personally, but Donna I do. So I am featuring her today, because I hope that her story will come in the nick of time for even just one of you to hear the message, be inspired and go for what makes your heart sing. We need more singing hearts in this world.
“May You Be Happy,
May You be Blessed,
May You Prosper in All Things.”