Lust for Life.

I have a great story for you all today, but to set the mood I’ve hand-selected these memes for you to enjoy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here’s the thing. After 40 or so years  of being an adult, I’m getting less and less thrilled about it. Specifically, I’m talking about the years from around the time you become eligible for Social Security until you die. These do not seem to be the most exciting years of life, judging by what I did yesterday. Yesterday, 65-year-old me put new shelf liners in our kitchen pantry, and then I went to the bank, and then I waited until Jeopardy came on TV so I could make a gin and tonic. 

I’m not saying that I was never bored when I was in my 20s or 30s — in fact, I was often bored. . . but there was always a way out!  I could take off for Paris! I could stay out all night dancing and getting high in the East Village! I could join the Peace Corps! I could go hitch-hiking in Ireland! I could go live on a kibbutz in the Jordan Valley for a year! I could jump into a love affair with someone totally inappropriate that would end in tragedy! Sadly, life doesn’t offer  itself up that way when you are in your 60s, 70s, or 80s and I rue it every day.  And yet, there are people who get to my age and find ways to still be energized and excited and ensouled by life. 

That’s why I am in awe of my friend, Janet Lea, a Baby Boomer public relations executive who fell deeply in love two years ago and, as a result, is in Yorkshire (England) this week, meeting and greeting local and national celebrities who are clamoring for her attention as she unveils her first book to the acclaim of world-wide gathering of  academics and influencers.  

Now this is what I call Living Out Loud which is, fact, the subtitle of her book:

Gentleman Jack is the name of an 8-hour historical drama from the BBC that aired in the Spring of 2019 about Anne Lister, an upper class lady from Halifax; a landowner, world traveller, and polymath who cross-dressed in men’s clothes and took a wife in 19th-century England. Anne Lister was a lesbian at a time when there wasn’t even the word “lesbian”.

As Janet says: “It never crossed my mind that watching a TV show in 2019 would propel me out of my comfort zone, send me on a transatlantic adventure, and plop me smack  dab in the middle of an international community of lesbians, historians, and strong women. Gentleman Jack upended my life.”

The thing is, Janet is happily married to her wife of many, many years, and was enjoying a slower-paced life in semi-retirement in New Mexico but, “Thanks to Gentleman Jack, I fell in love with a woman who had been buried for nearly two hundred years. I was stupefied and embarrassed because Anne Lister was, after all, dead. But far more mortifying and unexpected was my morphing into a 70-something fan girl.”

With the conclusion of the first season of the show Janet “assumed what had become my unsettling preoccupation with Anne Lister would end and my infatuation  with all things Gentleman Jack would surely dissipate. 

But no, it didn’t,” Janet says.  “It got worse.”

I was obsessed.”

So what she did was put a 15-page questionnaire to the Facebook group of Gentleman Jack fans from around the world , asking about the impact the program had had on their lives. Out of the 600 people who wrote lengthy and “searingly emotional” responses, she interviewed close to 70 people, via Zoom, while the world was in lockdown in 2020 and 2021. Their stories show how people can find their true selves, via Gentleman Jack (or some other catalyst). These are  people who re-created themselves to live more loving, more authentic, more meaningful, and more adventurous  lives because of Anne Lister’s example of strength and courage.

Since publishers usually have a backlog queue of books in their publishing schedules that would have put her on a 2-year waiting list, Janet founded her own publishing company, hired a graphic designer, proofreader, IT specialist, and production manager while she handled rights and permissions and got her book and e-book to press just two months after her final interview. Pub date: September 2, 2021.

And now, 23 days later, Janet is the foremost documentarian of the phenomenon spurred by this BBC TV show that is re-shaping lesbian identity. She’s got a sold-out book event in Anne Lister’s hometown, she’s an honored guest at a symposium that features renowned Anne Lister historians and archivists, and she’s holding meetings with the creators of the BBC program because of their interest and gratitude for her  work, which, buy the way, has made The Gentlemen Jack Effect the #1 book in Lesbian Studies on amazon.com.

P. S. I did the illustrations.

 

 

 

What I love most about Janet’s story is that it shows how alive we can be at any age. Everything that she has accomplished in the past two years comes down to falling in love, to having that special kind of passion that is the life force itself. I wish there was a way that you could conjure it up at will, but it seems to be a thing that comes out of the blue, randomly, when you least expect it. And isn’t that wonderful? It could happen today! 

Janet’s book  click here is available at amazon.com because it was the only distributor she could find who would get orders out fast and efficiently to America and overseas. You don’t have to be in love with Anne Lister to be moved and inspired by these life-affirming and joyous stories of self-actualization, but you do have to have a beating heart — these stories will move you. 

Happy reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a great weekend, everyone. I hope you all fall in love and 18 months later find yourself in a far-away land being the toast of the town. Or, throw yourself a staying-at-home party while you whip up some margaritas and tip the cute pizza delivery guy an extra $10. For all you Australians who are gearing up for lawn-sprinkler-hopping-into season, and all you Northern Hemispherians who are taking stock of the sweater situation: you never know. A great passion might be just around the corner, because weird things happen on the cusp.

 

See you all next week.

XXOO

 

 

 

 

7 Comments, RSS

  1. Still not fond of vegetables, but love going to bed early with a good book.
    In the morning I often tell myself the ritual of being retired and old is disgusting. Thanks for suggestions on shaking it up a bit. Right now I am looking at my “acre of life”, no kittens in my apron pocket while making orange marmalade but there are other things there.
    Thanks for not mentioning that despicable guy that lives in Florida and plays golf sometimes.

  2. Susie

    Oh my goodness…I normally don’t share but I know a lot of old people that need to read this. I mostly only know old people anymore. I’m soon to be an empty nester and do not know what to do with myself. I’ve agreed to say yes to everything this year in hopes of finding something to do when the last one leaves. So far I’ve learned that I still hate golf even when there are drinks after but I do like owning a scooter. In scooter club we ride, we eat and drink, we ride home. Very little actually socializing during this social event so it’s practically perfect. I’m only a fair weather scooter-er though so hi-ho, hi-ho it’s off to find a winter hobby I go. I will start with this book. Great post as always!

  3. Kirra

    I loved this post! I watched Gentleman Jack in 2019 when I was living and studying in Europe and then when on holiday in the UK visited Shibden Hall in Yorkshire where Anne lister lived and also the church where she ‘married’ her ‘wife’ in York, where there is now a blue history plaque. It was exciting, so I am off to order this book! Look forward to seeing your illustrations/pictures.
    It’s still cold here down south, really looking forward to the warmer weather…..hopefully soon!

  4. I’ve rarely been bored in my dotage here — in fact, apart from a couple bumps along the way, life is better than ever. In a way, the pandemic let me be what I wanted to be. which could be summed up as “not frenetic.” Just enjoying. I’m not familiar with the series but it sounds very good, as does the book. And your illustrations, too! That makes it extra worthwhile. Three cheers to you and Janet.

  5. Congratulations on keeping an artistic hand in the book world! That sounds like an amazing project.

    Everything amazing throughout my life happened because I fell in love with someone else’s characters in books or TV shows, and being an extreme fan, just ran with it, inspired to do my own creative things and become friends with like-minded nutters, go places I never would have gone otherwise, and succeed at my wildest dreams. And some people scratch their heads at me, and say things like, “Why do you still have TV boyfriends at *your* age?” To which I reply, “Because I *can*. Perhaps you are secretly envious?”

    And then I stop associating with them.

    Thanks for the amusing memes. I adore the final one. It speaks to me on a very deep level indeed. As for aging…well, I didn’t mind becoming “mature” all that much, and even “senior citizen” didn’t send me into a spiral of self-pity, but recently an article on booster shots told me that everyone over 65 should get one because risks are higher in the “elderly.” WTF?!? Oh NO NO NO NO NO NO ***NO***!! I absolutely draw the line (I’m turning 67 next month) at ELDERLY. Jeez Louise. I mean, I walked nine miles in a day a few weeks ago just because I felt like it. And did not have a single ache or pain afterwards, so take your “elderly” and shove it where the sun don’t shine.

    Sorry this got so long. Obviously, your post stirred things inside my mature, senior heart and soul. Now let’s get out there and go fuck some shit up!

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