“It’s like a blueprint of our future, to work with these women.” Those words were spoken at one table after yesterday’s Time of Our Lives benefit luncheon.

In a sun-filled room near Central Park, lined with balloons and flowers in the colors of spring and Women’s Voices for Change, Arianna Huffington and Silda Wall Spitzer discussed change, life, and how menopause is the moment when women give themselves permission to be fearless. And that sound people heard out on Fifth Avenue was the sound of laughter – the laughter of recognition, of relief, of joy.

WCBS anchor Magee Hickey first set the tone in her introduction of the two. “I’m 53 – my mother would cringe to hear me say it,” she said. “But these days, I even  revise my age upward.. people will say Wow, you look great for 55!” Contrastng her current self with her younger self as she first started out in TV, Hickey laughed.”The first 25 years of my career in TV news,  I was always worrying — do they like me? Then I got fired, and it was clear they didn’t like me. Then I got another job, and they fired me, and I knew what THEY thought…Now, 10 years later the first guys rehired me.You know what? I don’t care if they like me. And because I don’t care that they like me, I do  a better job. ” Then, Magee introduced the two main speakers, and it was on to the discussion between two enormously beautiful and powerful women.

Asked by Silda whether the multiple stages of her life — from Greek student and president of a debating society at her British school to political spouse to media mogul   — were a series of reinventions or an evolution, Arianna shook her head: “I think of it more of getting up when you fall down, dusting yourself off and going on to the next thing.” As for life at 58, the author of On Becoming Fearless said, “How can you be fearless if you can’t admit your age?”

What’s terrific this stage, she said, was that we don’t have as much fear of failure – we’ve been there and survived. Her teenage daughters, she added. “will even not do something, because they might fail. I tell them about my first book, how it was rejected — and they chime in, ‘yes we know. by 36 publishers.’ But it is just true that as we get older, we know.” The older she gets, she added, the more she thinks about how to move ahead with joy. “Not happiness — even the Founding Fathers never promised us that, only the pursuit of it. But I think our capacity for joy increases.” Asked for some keys to moving forward with joy, Huffington emphasized two elements — one metaphysical and one quite physical.

About the latter, “I cannot underestimate the importance of sleep,” she said. “Raise your hands if you are at this very moment sleep-deprived.” When 200 of the 300 women attending raised their hands, Huffington questioned the “very male” model of success “that consists of going, going. going, till you drop dead of a heart attack at 52.” It is up to women in their prime “to reinvent success.”

On numerous dates with powerful men, Huffington added to much laughter, “they always make a point of saying how little sleep they’re getting. ‘Oh, I just get about four hours sleep a night.’ At some point in the night, I  invariably find myself thinking , this dinner would  be a lot more interesting if you had gotten some sleep.”

As for the metaphysical, Huffington hearkened back to her 2002 book The Fourth Instinct: The Call of the Soul. “It’s not about your specific religion, or what you believe in that sense,” she said. “But I do believe we have a deeper need once we get past our first instincts for survival, for sex and power….The fourth instinct is about something else, some kind of meaning outside ourselves.” To have a passion that connects you to the outside world — that’s as essential, she said, as all that sleep.

After a dialogue that also included politics, marriage, sex and yoga (full MP3 available here), the gathering concluded with a reminder that Huffington said is written on  a note above her desk. “Every New Years Ee  I make a list of things I’m going to give up,” she said.  Like skiing. I realized at one point – I don’t enjoy it, why am I still saying yes?”

Thus the sentence above Huffington’s desk: “You can complete a project by dropping it.”

And with that 300 women, all in the midst of or approaching the transition, were given permission to do just that — to move forward with determination and with joy. Permission to say, as the three women at the dais had said, “It’s so liberating to be my age.”

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.