The Creation of Don’t Stop Now
Jan: People in our small community assumed Elle and I knew one another. We’re both writers, so of course we must be friends. In actuality, resistance to meeting each other was strong, and we both put significant energy into avoiding any sort of connection. Only later did we admit to having nearly identical thoughts. Writer. Hmmm. Sure. Of what? Letters to the editor? Trash novels? Who cares.
Elle: Writer. Riiiiight. She probably has a card table and a cheap laptop. There’s no way she’s a real writer.
Jan: As writing professionals fortified with a healthy dose of superiority and smugness, we assumed the other was merely a wannabe. Our suspicions prevented us from initiating any sort of contact, and we continued to live our somewhat parallel lives—right around the corner from one another—until a dreadful accident, a hairdresser, and a yard sale brought us together.
The year was 2003. Elle and her husband Joseph were celebrating their first wedding anniversary on the northern California coast. While strolling along the beach, Elle was knocked down by a sleeper wave and pinned underwater by an enormous log.
Elle: The paramedics estimated the weight of the log at 1,000 pounds. (When I go, I go big.) Joseph managed to rescue me, and I was life-flighted to a nearby trauma center, where I spent six days in the ICU. (If you want to read more about what happened, you can find the story here.)
Jan: How did I know about this? It turns out we had the same hairdresser. One day while Deb was cutting my hair, she told me about her client, a writer (yes, that writer), who by the way lives in the same neighborhood, and was recovering from a horrible accident.
I am a compassionate person by nature, and for the first time, it occurred to me that just maybe this writer, who almost drowned on her first anniversary, was someone I should meet. So what if she didn’t write anything I’d want to read? She had survived a near-death experience and lived to tell the tale. Maybe she’d write some godawful story about her experience (snicker). I let the thought brew for a while, but resistance won. I never acted on it.
Fast forward a couple of months. It’s a Saturday. I’m in the kitchen, and my husband comes in from outside to tell me there’s a really good garage sale around the corner at the home of the writer. He thinks there’s some stuff there I’d like. And he told her that his wife is also a writer. Elle, who is always polite, tells my husband that she’d like to meet me. So, a few minutes later, I amble around the corner.
Resistance Is Futile
Here’s what I remember: she’s nice, funny, smart, and despite my trepidation, I liked her right away. As a bonus, my husband was right. She was selling some good stuff, and as I recall, the prices were great.
Elle: I took to Jan immediately, and all of my preconceptions about her were shattered on the spot. The writer was a bright, interesting woman—imagine! I hadn’t had a BFF in my neighborhood since I was ten years old. Could this be the start of something new and wonderful?
Jan: Fast forward to the next week or so. I’m walking my Golden Retriever around the block and I see Elle walking in front of me with her Golden Retriever. We have matching dogs! Unlike me, Elle is dressed to the nines: red skirt, black high-heeled boots, and some sort of awesome leather jacket. I’m in my usual: jeans, sweatshirt, and running shoes. I’m somewhat intimidated, but I figure what the hell. We’re neighbors. Let’s be friends. My Golden and I catch up, and by the end of the walk, it was as if Elle and I had known one another for decades.
Elle: I’ll never forget that day. We stood in the road gabbing for nearly two hours, and our dogs plunked down out of sheer boredom. They, too, were destined to become fast friends. The four of us clocked a lot of miles together over the years, and Jan and I used to laugh at the perfect rhythm of their doggie butts as they bumped along side by side in front of us.
Jan: Initially, the fact that we both wrote and sold words for a living had very little to do with our connection. We had so much else in common. Both of us came of age in the ‘60s and had similar attitudes and experiences about sex, drugs, and politics. Talking freely about anything and everything was easy for us. Passion abounded for our dogs and cats. We both loved to cook and bake. And around the same time, each of us gained twenty pounds during menopause and were desperate to lose the excess weight. (Weight Watchers, here we come.)
Elle: Jan and I joined Weight Watchers together, and every Saturday morning we’d walk through the woods—our shortcut to the meeting place. On one weigh-in, we discovered that we had each gained a pound over the previous week. Devastated by the news, we went shopping for digital scales—and then went out for cheeseburgers and fries.
Jan: The connections and similarities seemed endless. I was adopted, and Elle and her first husband had adopted two boys. Both of us shared adoption issues from different, but helpful to one another, perspectives.
We became best friends.
In no time at all, we became the best of friends. I learned that Elle is not only a gifted writer, but the author of several books. She’s also a fashionista, and when my son, who is now a professional magician, got his first gigs, Elle took him shopping to help him find his “look.”
Elle: Playing stylist for Nick was a treat. He was open to just about every suggestion, and we had such fun picking out clothes.
Jan: One day while we were walking the dogs, I told Elle that I wanted to write a book about being adopted, searching for my birth mother, and finding my siblings. I’d written business articles, web copy, and training materials, but I didn’t know if I was able to write a memoir. Elle encouraged me to do it. I sent her the first chapter for review, and she told me to keep writing. When I was done, she edited my book, which I later self-published.
That was many walks and talks ago.
About two years ago, again on a walk, the idea for Don’t Stop Now germinated. I wanted to write a book to motivate women of a certain age (and myself) to keep moving forward in spite of getting older. Elle had an idea to provide a roadmap for aging in a way that was more exciting, interesting, and inspiring than anything our mothers could offer us by way of example. The result is this blog and a book we hope to release sometime in the near future. (Publishers, take note!)
Elle: Jan is a fabulous storyteller, and the thought of writing a book with her was so appealing. We brainstormed like mad—usually over a bottle of Chardonnay that we appropriated from Joseph’s wine cellar—and we concluded that baby boomers are moving into the future with few role models.
Although previous generations had their sampling of exceptional women who made a mark past midlife, that type of behavior wasn’t the norm. We heard about them because they were so extraordinary, but their larger-than-life personalities and accomplishments seemed completely unattainable to us. Instead, we learned to identify with our mothers and aunties, who inspired us when we were small.
But now—as we enter our fifties, sixties, and beyond—we are in a very different place than most of those women. For one thing, we’re living longer, so we have lots more time on our hands after careers and child-rearing have ended.
Together, inspired by one another, we can create new paths for this uncharted territory. As the aging process tugs at us to slow down—to stop—we can learn to resist. To make vital contributions. To continue to live lives marked by richness and satisfaction.
Because of our resistance, Jan and I nearly missed out on a rewarding collaboration. Is resistance getting in your way of accomplishing something? Is there a small voice in your head that you’re not listening to? Let’s get a conversation going. Who’ll be the first to share her story?