Maybe it was the “When life benches you” moment that two-time US Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach delivered in her Barnard commencement speech on May 16th.  Maybe it was the “It’s my time” moment Aunt Vi had with her family in last week’s episode of Queen Sugar on OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network. Or maybe it’s me, 56, trying to stay relevant in a never ending world of younger, cuter, smarter, faster.

Whatever the reason, I’m feeling it and I’m wondering if you are too. As soon as I turned 50 (six years ago), I began to experience things that I have never experienced before – being shushed, ignored, passed over, played off, cancelled on and betrayed. This is all new for me, and maybe I should be grateful that I haven’t had this happen my entire life. But I think that’s the point – it’s happening now because I’m in the second half of my life, and that’s the part that doesn’t sit well with me.

The good news is that with age comes strength and wisdom and I have built pretty thick skin. So in those moments when I feel passed over or “benched,” I am able to take it less personally and move on. Even while I’m in the moment, I am able to literally detach myself from the situation, which is a skill! And while the feeling of being passed over is noted, it motivates me to work harder. Which is why Abby Wambach’s words had me cheering from my bench when she said:

Here’s what’s important. You are allowed to be disappointed when it feels like life’s benched you. What you aren’t allowed to do is miss your opportunity to lead from the bench.”

Oh Abby! Your words resonate with me! Lead from whatever position you are playing, or not playing. Don’t give up even when you are benched. In fact, when you are benched, keep coaching. Keep using your voice even when you are not heard. Keep showing up even when you are ignored. Keep fighting for your seat at the table, no matter what your age is.

“Keep fighting for your seat at the table, no matter what your age is.”

I have auditioned and tried for so many gigs in the past four years that I actually have a good laugh over most of them when they don’t work out. Hey, at least I put myself in the arena, even if the arena was filled with women half my age!

I just hosted my Unexpected Speaker workshop this past Friday where we worked on using our voices to engage an audience and have our stories heard. Funny that I do this for a living and yet each year, I feel a little less heard, not in my workshops, but in life. I want to help change that, not just for me and my fellow midlife sisters, but for my daughters, nieces and young women I mentor.

And the change is so simple – it’s a community. When you are connected to like-minded women (and men) who lift you up, your power grows, your voice is heard and there are plenty of seats at the table. I felt that power with my workshop community, 26 women and one man, who came together to add some magic to their speaking style, but what they really found was a deeper connection to themselves and each other. When Abby Wambach says to surround yourself with your wolf pack, she offers us all a solution. Community is the solution.

“When you are connected to like-minded women (and men) who lift you up, your power grows, your voice is heard and there are plenty of seats at the table.”

So a big shout out to my wolf pack community – my workshop attendees, subscribers to my blog, followers on social media, girlfriends, co-workers, sisters, daughters, nieces, my mom, the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago, The Forever Fierce Revolution, Capital Strategies Women’s Forum, The Wisdom Coalition, Erika’s Lighthouse and Step-up Women’s Network – and to all of your wolf packs! As long as I am connected to my community, and you are connected to yours, our time isn’t then, it’s now. It will always be now.

“As long as I am connected to my community, and you are connected to yours, our time isn’t then, it’s now. It will always be now.”

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