By Di Westaway | CEO and Founder of Wild Women On Top
Sometimes I wake up giggling and wonder if my life is really as fantastic as I think it is. Buddha says "we are what we think". I think I’ve unleashed myself.
But it hasn’t always been that way. I’ve done my share of crying. I’ve known the trauma of family addiction and disloyalty, the self-loathing of food and body obsession and the heartache of lost love.
When I was at my lowest, living on a friend’s couch with my seven-year-old while my other children stayed with friends, my sister said: “Tough times pass". I clung to this for a year.
Now, looking back at that time, it feels like a blur. I still don’t really know how I managed to turn my life around. But I do know one thing: I was saved by love – a love of adventure.
Adventure taught me mental tuffness. Adventure rejuvenated me. Adventure gave me the power and strength to go on. Adventure made me well again.
Using the strength I’d gained through challenging adventures, I pulled myself though the toughest challenge of my life; protecting my kids while escaping the trauma of divorce.
Adventure showed me that life can begin again at fifty. I will never be a fitness magazine cover-girl again, but I will continue striving to inspire and empower women to unleash their true power. But this is only possible if we have a wellbeing plan. Our plan must be to stay well right into our nineties by continuing to do mad things - like climb mountains and hike hills - because this is what keeps us young.
We often hear that women feel invisible after fifty, but I refuse to accept that my worth has a “use-by” date. I know I’ve got many more fabulous years ahead to serve, to laugh, to love, to climb, to bike, to hike, to travel and to explore this magnificent earth. Plus, I often wear entire outfits of purple and ride my bike through the shopping centre, so I really don't blend in.
Instead of becoming invisible, I’ve lead a team who have inspired nearly 30,000 people to hike 30 – 100km, raised $25 million dollars to restore sight and become one of Australia’s top 100 Women of Influence by working hard at doing what I love: being a mum, social entrepreneur, Trek Training coach, author, speaker and CEO.
I’ve raised three amazing adult kids who can now join me on adventures – no more teething or tantrums or teenagers (well, almost!). In terms of childcare, I’m freer than I’ve been for nearly 30 years.
I’ve got a new gorgeous man in my life, and my only complaint is that he can cook better than me and he has better knees. And no, he’s not married, divorced, rich, a workaholic or a toy boy. But he loves adventure just like me.
Most importantly he’s kind, honest, reliable, does his own sewing and washing, sharpens my knives and cooks me delicious nutritious food. Sadly, he doesn’t live in Sydney, which is a serious issue when my 58-year-old hormones are racing (sorry kids!). But remember … healthy body, healthy hormones.
Plus, I’ve got a job I love which allows me to hike all over the world with awesome women. Forget those “old people” tours where you only walk as far as the bus… we hike across countries and up mountains.
We do this because physical activity in nature is a wonder drug for almost everything. Exercise is medicine and nature helps us manage stress, mood and mindfulness. Just 30 minutes of walking a day reduces your risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia, stress, depression and anxiety by up to 50%. And the best way to motivate yourself to walk is with a goal that scares the hell out of you.
And it’s not just me who knows that life begins at 50. Scientists at Stony Brook University found that when people reach 50, their stress, anger and worry fade gradually, and feelings of happiness start to surge. We stop caring about the things that don’t matter and start to enjoy the fruits of our labour. And we’ve got more time for adventure!
So, if you’re feeling a little down about your wrinkles, grey hairs, flabby bits or the fact that you no longer get chatted up at a bar, try thinking about aging a little differently. Think of it as an attitude, an opportunity to throw off the shackles, break a few rules and go wild. A teenager climbing a fence or riding through the mall is cheeky… a granny doing the same is magnificent. Be like that granny. Have an adventure.
Then, life can begin at any age.