How do you feel about moving out of your comfort zone and taking chances? Would you be at ease in a room full of women your own age, talking about the things we have in common? Could you conceive of reinventing yourself and becoming an emotionally stronger, more visible person? Are you willing to share more about your authentic self - warts and all - in order to be connected to the people around you?
Until recently, I would have said "no" to those questions (I'm still not sure about the last one). But this weekend I got the opportunity to take part in a gathering that has really changed the way I see myself and others.
This weekend some of the ladies of Midlife Boulevard converged on the Opryland Hotel in Nashville for the very first Bloggers at Midlife (BAM) conference. The mid-week snowstorm made travel difficult for many, and impossible for a fair few. When I woke up Thursday to 6 inches of snow with no chance of it melting until Saturday I thought I wasn't going to make it, either. But two things happened that tipped the scales in my favor. First, my better half figured out how to dissemble my chair in order to fit it into the trunk of an ancient four-door Accord that handles well in the snow. Then a lovely lady who is also in a wheelchair was forced to cancel and offered me her wheelchair accessible room in the hotel. Snowpocalypse Thor was not going to have the last word after all.
Once there I really didn't know what to expect. The last time I was surrounded by people my own age was in school, and that didn't turn out so well. My intention was to focus on the agenda and learn as much as I could to try to improve the content and exposure of Spashionista.com. To work smarter, not harder, and try to develop an effective social media strategy that might mitigate my difficulty typing. I learned so much from every single person and presentation. While everyone around me was furiously taking notes I was doing my best to absorb all of the information. My biggest take-away was that I have a long way to go and a lot more I can do to make this a better blog for all of you readers.
There were some pretty impressive sponsors, too. Companies like Stouffer's, Nissan, Cabot, Collective Bias, Vibrant Nation, Always Discreet, 1010 Park Place, and Albertini Int. They were present, but not pushy, and I'd like to think it's because those of that have been around for a while are not so easily railroaded by pushy sales pitches. I appreciated that. I also appreciated the diversity of the attendees' perspectives on their own lives and how they presented themselves on the 'net. And the conference organizers get 5 stars for their efforts and execution. I had zero accessibility problems, which is something that I can seldom brag about.
What I did not expect was the incredibly sincere sense of fellowship and support extended to me by practically everyone. From the cocktail party on Friday evening, to dinner with a few of the ladies, to the conversations and encouraging - not patronizing - words exchanged by everyone towards one another. No competition, no cat-fights, no wading in the kiddie pool. Just camaraderie and understanding (and maybe a few misty eyes by the end of it all).
I met several wonderful ladies that have experienced catastrophic illness or disability firsthand. Ironically, we were the only ones to speak up during the final open Q&A about "The State of Midlife" and reinvention as part of the transitory process. It was one of those ultra-rare moments in my life where I felt I was truly understood by the people I was addressing. I felt at ease enough to admit that I often feel as if I need to put a positive, encouraging spin on life, both to motivate people with disabilities and to engage everyone else. I don't give a lot of specifics, and I certainly don't let on when I feel as if I have failed.
My wonderful friend Pam from Over 50 Feeling 40 turned to me and said, "It's not about everybody watching you fail. It's about everybody seeing you get back up again".
So that begs the question I need to ask all of you. Do you want to occasionally see more than just my spin on this wonderful town, or my new dress, or the restaurant I tried last week? I really want to know - and be honest - please leave my even the briefest of comments with your preference.
No personal photographer this week so several of the photos aren't stellar, but I really do have to let all the fashionistas know that the copper leather vest is Badgley Mischka via uber-clearance at Gus Meyer. Can you believe Nashville Fashion Week is less than one month away? I know some of my new BAM friends stayed in town and visited some of the shops I wrote about in last week's post