After a 30-year marriage crumbled, Paula Harer found herself single for the first time in 35 years. She felt like she had something to say about her experience, so started writing a blog called Starting Over at Sixty. She addresses everything from loneliness and reinvention and offers ways to create a new outlook on life. Move On Magazine talks to Paula about her journey and what she has learned along the way.
You are a champion for women over 60 rediscovering life. What led you to this point in your life? I had been married for more than 30 years when I left my husband, moving to a one room urban loft with my dog, Red, and beginning a new chapter of life. It was a lot to process, and for a while, I just sat there, lost. I was a mess. Being single was not part of the plan. I was going to be a married mother of three for the rest of my life. Well, things changed.
Tell us a bit about your blog Starting Over at Sixty.
After about six months of settling into my new life, I was still miserable. I just couldn’t seem to get myself moving forward toward healing and starting over. One evening, when I was particularly lonely and sad, I just started typing. It all came pouring out of me: how broken hearted I was, the loneliness, the depression. I couldn’t stop the words from flying off my fingers and onto the page. It was a surprise to me that I had it all inside me waiting to pour out. So, I kept writing. It felt good. Now, I write for women over 50 who are single.
What are some of the issues and topics that you explore? And, what’s the main message that you want share?
I cover topics in Starting Over at Sixty such as loneliness, lack of confidence, the need for new dreams and dating.I want my ladies to feel important, confident and relevant.
If you are a single woman over 50, 60 or more, you still have a third (maybe even half) of your life left and I hate to see women waste that most valuable time.I feel like it’s my job to tell it like it is, while offering hope and the idea that life can still change for the better.
I am good at helping other women affect change in their lives. When they read Starting Over at Sixty, they see their own story on the page. And, they see someone who was totally broken and was able to turn it around. That’s the message for sure.
What does the future hold for Paula Harer?
My life is good and it is only getting better. I love working with single women over 50 to help them find a path to
happiness and success, whatever that is for them. I get so excited when I talk with a woman who I know I can help. Really that’s what it’s all about.
You talk about transitioning from “cocooning to killing it.” What are your top five tips to ensure that women can make this transition?
How about I give you one tip five ways! I think the most important thing a single woman who is over 50 can do for herself is to be good at making new friends. Here are my tips for making new friends for any woman going through a change of life:
Be a joiner
There is no better way to find new friends and keep yourself motivated than to join some new organizations or social groups. I joined a new book club after I moved. I went to a new workout class where I met some new friends.
If you don’t know what a meetup is, go to Meetups.com to find out. There is a meetup for just about any activity. You might think this is also about joining a new group, but it’s not. I wanted to meet other women over 50 who were single and I didn’t find that meetup to exist in my city, so I organized one. It was easy. We have a happy hour once a month around town. And, we have a private Facebook page where members can go to see if anyone is available to see a movie or go to a concert.
If you are feeling like the mountain isn’t coming to you, you go to the mountain. The first time I had a party that included my new friends and my old friends they all had a blast! The suburbs meets the urban dwellers was so fun for everyone. And, let’s face it, I got a few party invitations that were kind of reciprocal.
I know everyone has heard that before, but I suggest volunteering for a new organization. Do something you haven’t done before and you will meet some new friends and maybe even learn a new skill.
Tell us a bit about the Starting over at Sixty Sisters Program and what women should expect to get out of it?
I am all about continually moving forward. That’s evident to anyone who reads Starting Over at Sixty. Often I hear from women who are lonely and isolated. So the Sisters Program tackles both. It is a membership program that offers guided topics for the Sisters to follow throughout the month, at their convenience. All videos are on a private Facebook page, where, Sisters can not only get the updated weekly “task,” but can also make online connections and share concerns, ideas and questions in a private setting.
For example, one of our topics was building confidence from the outside in, so we focused on our clothes. That might not seem like much, but single women my age walk into the room without a partner by their sides. Always! Couple that with the fact that our bodies aren’t what they once were: I’m not talking weight, I’m just talking natural change. It can all eat away at a woman, and single women may feel it even more intensely.
I told the story of attending a wedding in an outfit that just felt uncomfortable. I felt horrible about myself all night. I pulled and tugged on it continually. I was alone and seeing people that I hadn’t seen for at least 30 years. I couldn’t wait to get home and rip it off. I just felt so unhappy about myself.
Then, the next morning I put on an outfit for a luncheon later in the day and I felt like a million bucks. The difference? Nothing but attitude. Nothing but what was in my head as to how I looked. I don’t want my Sisters to have that issue. I want them to feel confident about themselves as they walk out the door every day.
So we spent the month working on our closets. We removed the things that make us feel terrible and said goodbye to them. Then, no matter how few pieces were left in the closets, we knew we would feel confident in what we were wearing. I know it sounds small, but it makes a huge difference when we feel good about ourselves.
Now that we are feeling more confident on the outside, we can work on the inside. This month, for example, we are focused on our friendships and what our needs are in comparison to what the needs are for our married friends.