Aging Creatively

Legendary film star Bette Davis once said:

Getting old is not for sissies!

For those of us in the firm grasp of the jaws of time, it’s hard not to agree. Aging certainly has its challenges — failing eyesight, sagging skin, a stranger’s face staring back at us in the mirror, receding gums, hair thinning on the head and popping up unwanted elsewhere, decreasing stamina, increasing aches and pains and, of course, those embarrassing lapses of memory.

I used to laugh when my mother-in-law called basmati rice — balsamic rice. I don’t laugh so much now as I too begin to grope for words and an unintended one slips past my lips.

Then there are the distressing social ramifications of aging such as loss of status or perceived value, particularly if you are a woman. Grey hair, so distinguished in a man, acts like an invisibility cloak on the female sex.

Photo of Aging Mom and Dad, Aging CreativelyMy mother, in her later years, put up a good fight against the vanishing cream of age. I’m sure she dyed her hair. But it was the black eye patch, star spangled sneakers, red pants and candy cane striped broom stick she used for balance that left an indelible impression on everyone mind. In addition she was inexhaustibly effervescent and made friends everywhere.

I think she played with aging and made a game out of being seen.

It worked. People still remember her although she’s been gone from the planet sixteen years.

I remember her frequently as I go through my own aging process and not just because I inherited her cramping legs that catapult me out of bed in the middle of the night to stamp their muscular grip into submission. Mostly, I recall her joie de vivre, her playfulness and her eternal cup is half-full perception of life even after cancer stole both her breasts and a brain tumor took one eye and half her smile. She was no sissy, that’s for sure!

Possibly my sisters will think I paint too rosy a picture of those hard times, and gloss over her struggles, hysteria, at time even despair. My father getting Alzheimer’s was part of her aging landscape.  Yet she persevered and managed always to see the light side of life

That is what aging is about — the highs and lows. It is what we do with them that makes all the difference.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to take a workshop series called Ageless Pizazz with MFT and drama therapist, Ariel Adams. Like my mother, Ariel turns the discomforts and unsettling imprints of aging into fodder for creativity and play.

I expected to have fun when I signed on. I love play acting and improv. What I did not expect was the way it took me on a deep dive into the murky waters of numerous forgotten selves. The resulting humor, authenticity and insight that came from the group exercises transformed my aging irritations into a mirror of my heart. What I learned was the magic of paying attention. Buddhists call it mindfulness. For me it’s insatiable curiosity, plain and simple.

So much of what we do in daily life is blink. We don’t see. We avert our eyes and distract our minds from anything that might be unpleasant, or boring or scary. We turn up the music, multitask, stay busy, sign up for another class, put another item on the to do list and go go go. We never stop, look, listen and feel. After 30 years of Sufi workshops, I should know better, but I still glide away from the unwanted.

Ageless pizazz is about waking up, noticing, paying attention especially to the unwanted, then stretching what we find into crazy shapes to see what else we discover.

Ariel is writing a book about creative aging called Ageless Pizazz! Nine Principles for Turning Up Your Oomph, Having More Fun, and Being More Powerful as You Get Older. Got to love a title like that. By the time your get to the last word you’re mind has had a workout and you’re stoked for play.

Ariel decided she needed a case study when she got to writing principle No. 5: — commit to something that matters, follow your bliss. She asked if she could interview me. She said my commitment to my film series, Secrets of Life and Death and my workshops on dying embodied her ideal of following your bliss. Okay, for those of you unfamiliar with my work and beginning to question Ariel’s mental faculties — stay with us. There is a bliss factor here.

Ever the multi-tasker or at a least duo-tasker, I suggested she interview me for my teleconference series Mystery and Magic of Life and Death. That way we could record the conversation and also invite the rest of you participate. So that’s what we’re doing.

Want to find out the connection between death and bliss or bliss and pizazz? Please join us in the fun.
Creative Aging
TUESDAY March 18th
5:30 PST, 8:30 pm EST


Bring some of your own stories of triumphant aging. The teleconference is free and accessible by web as well as telephone.

I want to leave you with two principles I am finding especially helpful in this latter half of my life:
1. Be curious, as one door closes, another one opens. Look for the door that speaks to you and go through.
2. Don’t resist, discover the gift. Even those aches and pains are great teachers about life and death when we pay attention.


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief Transformation Coach Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D. helps people transform their grief with a holistic approach to mind, body and spirit that heals trauma, reframes past attachments and releases limiting beliefs while uncovering a true life purpose and direction. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at


  1. Dearest Miche, This is a beautiful article about things all of us, your sisters, are experiencing (including the dratted leg cramps). I have to make clear that mother never dyed her hair and she joked about her stylist wanting to take away whatever gray you could find. She never lost her very pretty left breast. But our father was no stranger to Grecian Formula or a collateral face lift. I don’t think anyone in the clan thinks you are painting a portrait too rosy and I love the half full cup analogy, although with mother it always was a little over the top. Thank you for all you are thinking and learning and doing. It is a good journey.

    • Michelle Peticolas says:

      Dearest Sister Kip, Thank you for correcting some of my recollections and setting the record straight about our mom. Yes, at times she was a little over the top. What I am stunned to realize is that I wrote this on her birthday and didn’t even know it. There are greater forces out there than we can possibly imagine.

      • Susan McKearnan says:

        Looking forward to hearing you, Michelle, and the ageless Ariel in dialogue. It may have to be on a recorded version of your conversation, however, because I’ll be dancing Soul Motion the night of your interview. ‘Til we cross paths again, all the best! Keep up the good work.

        • Michelle Peticolas says:

          Wonderful to hear from you, Susan. I think back with fond memories to our time together with Ariel and the Ageless Pizazz series.

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