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Linda Clement

FABULOUS50PLUS PORTRAITS

"I decided in my early 20s that I wasn't going to adopt the 'old woman' behaviour of chasing youth, but that I would enjoy it as it happened, so when it was over (if it is ever really over inside) I would have fond memories of BEING young, instead of long, long memories of trying to stay young. " - Linda Clement

I think all women, especially women with a history of 'not wanting their pictures taken because I am not pretty / I look so old' NEED sessions like this, because --as a friend's mom said with deep regret-- all those years ago you were not this old looking yet, and you have no good photos of you then, and in 20 or 30 years, you'll be older still and will look at these and say, 'I really looked great!’

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Linda is a parenting coach and author. She also does public speaking and editing. She was a former professional softball umpire, and long time La Leche League Canada volunteer.  She loves to draw and paint for fun, and some of her favourite things to do are cooking, eating and travelling. She savours being outdoors and has been a water baby her whole life.

Linda has faced her own fair share of life’s challenges. In her mid-teens, her plans for after high school included joining Katimavik (the old Canadian government / military project of bilingualism and national experience) and going to university for mathematics and computer science, but at 15, she became involved with a funny, charming older man and these ideas were ridiculed or simply erased. She didn’t see how his anger controlling her life and opinions, for almost all of the 34 years they were together (30 of it married).  This relationship that red flags all over it, emotional control, physical intimidation, and social isolation, so it became more important than anything else: don’t upset him, it’s not worth it; try to figure out what provokes the temper tantrums (good luck with that!) and just forget any dreams or plans that aren’t his, or that he disagrees with. She assumed they were ‘just struggling’ and didn’t see the whole: never again seeing friends who’d seen too much; never having company over unannounced; never committing to anything that interfered with his preferences; eventually even no longer expecting his equal participation in their home, extended family or even childrearing.  Having children (2 now-grown daughters) changed her whole focus in life, as she found deep and lasting joy in the privilege of getting to watch them grow up as k-12 homeschoolers. Becoming a mother knitted into her passion for psychology and human development, though it was the hardest and most delightful thing she ever did. Parenting was largely solo with a wide and deep network of the people she knew, as her (then) husband was a navy sailor. When her youngest, at 18, was brought home from her (immediately-ex) boyfriend's house in the middle of the night, she wondered (naively, it turns out) 'how does a child raised in such a loving and happy home end up in an emotionally abusive relationship?' Their roommates had called the police when he refused to let go of her arms, or let her go to sleep at 3am. 

Her divorce came as the biggest and most overwhelming shock of her life, and (like most people leaving a narcissist) cost her most of her family, friends, and the city she grew up in and loved. The marriage was over suddenly! She was simply going to bed when the he held her arms and shouted in her face. She drove around for a while and then went to the police. He explained, to the police and her parents, why what he had done was fine.

Now 54, she is continuously motivated by her own curiosity. More than anything else, her insatiable thirst for information, insight and wonder draws her to know a significant amount of a truly ridiculous collection of unrelated fields and interests. In eighth grade, she had a science teacher who taught them about the weird things on his desk (a cat he had mummified to see how it was done, petrified elephant dung, a few other oddities) and his bizarre work history: he worked in a tire retread factory, on an archaeological dig, science teacher, etc.) and at that time she thought 'that would be a cool way to have a resume...'

Years later, she would come to realize that she had that weird and cool resume: worked in a fine french restaurant (front of house and kitchen), a big department store's china department (did you know that Irish porcelain is considered some of finest in the world?), a tacky gift store with sick joke gifts based on ageism and sexism, a printing press where she did art layout and design, photography and typesetting (where she discovered she was really really opinionated about paper and fonts,) made coffee and did photocopying and proofreading on the executive floor of a provincial hydro corporation, worked in a pool hall taking felt off tables and working the desk, made piecework cash pouches for an office supply store, delivered catalogues, operated a daycare, umpired softball, evaluated speeches for public speaking courses, volunteered as a group facilitator, as a public speaking coach, as a data entry and financial admin clerk for a national non-profit agency, and created (she thinks) the parenting niche of life coaching when she started her business- Raising Parents Inc., in 2002.

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How do you feel about being over 50?

I am looking forward to being over 80, quite honestly. I FINALLY feel like I have enough experience and wisdom to feel (mostly) qualified to (usually) confidently sell my services and books. I published 2 in 2017, because I finally felt like I was credible 'enough' ... at 51. 

I LOVE the colour my hair is turning. I was born white blond with see-through eyebrows and eyelashes, and my hair darkened as I went through puberty (eyebrows first, how weird is that?) I like the colour of my hair, the dark blond, but I am really looking forward to having the hair colour my dad has and grandmother (and her sisters) had: that gorgeous silver white. I'm about 20% of the way, with newly-discovered racing stripes over my ears (bride of Frankenstein style!) I love it!

I also enjoy and am amused by the way my skin is changing: the increasing bony look to my hands as I lose the youthful fat padding, the crinkles beside my eyes that show how much I have squinted into the sunny days and laughed. The softening of my arm skin, and how it looks wrinkly when pressed --how it will all look in 20 or so years, I expect. My mom calls it 'ruffled,' and I remember my grandmothers' arms and how silky soft they felt... how warm and soft and gentle their bony hands felt.

I have long thought the obsession with youthful-looking skin / hair was the behaviour of OLD women, not a youthful attitude or behaviour at all. Not vibrant, alive, joyful --but fearful, nervous, frightened: old and frail. In the pragmatic style of my thinking since I can remember (I can remember being under 2...) I decided in my early 20s that I wasn't going to adopt the 'old woman' behaviour of chasing youth, but that I would enjoy it as it happened, so when it was over (if it is ever really over inside) I would have fond memories of BEING young, instead of long, long memories of trying to stay young. 

I have been extremely fortunate in my friends and family, many of whom have been (and are) dear to me in their 70s, 80s and 90s. I hope to emulate their joie de vive past my 100th birthday!

What is your definition of beauty?

Energy.

There is a vibrancy, energy, within beauty --it's something like health, a sense of self present within, a kind of interest in the world beyond the self, playfulness, confidence, drive. 

When I was the president of my speaking club, I had to choose a theme word or phrase ... I chose 'everything strives' ... with the idea behind it that all life is beautiful, all valiant attempts, reaches, tries are building a field of moving toward something greater, brighter, better... and in that is beauty. 

Yousuf Karsh, the Canadian-Armenian photographer renowned for his deeply revealing black and white portraits of celebrities and political figures, said something like, 'after a while, I could no longer discern what was beautiful and what ugly meant --it's just light and shadows and personalities' ... as I learned to sketch and paint and write clear descriptions, I found the same thing. I think ugly is found only in the not seeing properly, deeply enough or truly: it's a surface judgement that comes out of a total lack of appreciation for the depth of the subject. Skin deep. Shallow. A view mostly reflecting what is inside the viewer, not the viewed...

Your best features? (Physical and non-physical, beauty is not only on the outside!)

I have always loved my hands and the colour of my eyes. In some light, my eyes are weirdly green, and my hands are flexible and (I think) well proportioned and strong.

I have an outrageously quick wit and strong memory, which has served the dual purpose of rapid-fire take-downs of jerks in public settings and for extemporaneous comedy both on stage an at parties. It also makes my parent coaching quick and memorable: I see clearly and quickly what the key problem is, and easily pick effective strategies and perspectives from a huge well of experience, stories, and resources. It also makes me nearly impossible to beat at Trivial Pursuit, but happily I dislike competitive games very much so I will always help you win and modify the rules to make it fair for people who don't have ridiculous memories for deranged and obscure minutia.

I have been striving throughout my life to understand both myself and others (did you have a happy childhood, or are you funny? --facebook meme) and it has resulted in me getting better and better at being non-judgemental of people. I absolutely judge (and despise) some behaviour, some parenting advice and some of the ways people treat children as if they're not really people, and I keep seeking to understand and support parents who want to find more effective means of helping their kids to adulthood.

 

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What words of wisdom, based on your personal experience, would you share with your best girlfriend if they struggled to see their own beauty?  

Learn to draw or paint yourself or take selfies, or record yourself with audio and video --often. Do lots and lots and lots of whichever way you pick to make images of yourself, and initially don't look at them very much. Look at others' (especially amateur) work: artists and painters , photographers, documentary and candid videos and audio recordings of other people, and study the lighting, the poses, the shadows, the colour combinations, the composition, the backgrounds, the sound quality, the movements... look for what 'works' and look for what doesn't 'work' and think about how you'd improve it with your magic wand. 

When your work is a few weeks old, and you've really studied other images and recordings, pull your self portraits and recordings out and look at them anew. 

You will see yourself in a new way, and the images of yourself in a totally new way. You'll see that you're beautiful, unique, yourself --and there are lighting or composition issues that ARE NOT ABOUT HOW YOU ACTUALLY LOOK. 

Any way of studying the image: form, line, style, symmetry, composition, shadow, light, colour balance, background; any way of studying these will disable your learned 'pick it apart if it's not perfect according to whatever was in beauty magazines or on celebrities when you were 14 or 20' (when most people's ideas of 'what is acceptably attractive' were formed) ... and give words for a new voice in your head when you look at your reflection or images, or even just down at your feet: this shadow makes that muscle look strong or soft; this  pose makes my neck look short / long; this background makes it look like I have a shrub growing out of my head... but I love the quirky look on my face, that's so me…

What are you self-conscious about (if anything) that you think other women could relate to?  

Probably everything --what people think, whether or not my writing will sell, or be valuable to anyone else, if I'm qualified enough, if I'm mature enough (seriously, I don't think anyone ever really feels grown up inside, do they?) how my work (or I) might be attacked in public, argued with... I am somewhat uncomfortable with my weight and deeply resistant to joining in on the suffering-to-be-thin game, and it doesn't bother me much or often, so mostly I just relax and live with it.

Your thoughts on the Fabulous50plus project - how has it helped you in anyway. 

I think all women, especially women with a history of 'not wanting their pictures taken because I am not pretty / I look so old' NEED sessions like this, because --as a friend's mom said with deep regret-- all those years ago you were not this old looking yet, and you have no good photos of you then, and in 20 or 30 years, you'll be older still and will look at these and say, 'I really looked great!’

What does the future look like?

I continue to write, speak to groups, travel, and help families reach their own high standards. I expect not to retire, actually. I have always expected that I wouldn't retire, because why would I stop doing what I love?

Are you a 50+ woman? Join the Fabulous50plus movement.

The Confident Woman project is celebrating Vancouver's Fabulous50plus community. Your participation will include a portrait session that will change the way you see yourself, your special feature on blogposts like this and The Confident Woman magazine, your portrait exhibition at the end of the project and a new community with all the amazing Fabulous50plus women. The goal is to reach 50 women with The Confident Woman project. Would you like to be one of the 50 women?

To get started, visit www.franctal.com/fabulous50plus

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