The Second Half: Keep the change

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Seems like everybody is talking about
“change” lately: handling change, motivating to change, reasons to change. I know a couple of expressions related to change, some that I spout regularly. One of my favorites is, “If nothing changes, nothing changes!”

Like the neighbor kids say, “DUH!”

I try to explain it by saying: “If you don’t change anything, you are guaranteed to get the same results you have always had. Change even one thing, and you have at least a 50-50 chance of getting a positive result!”

Francis Bacon said it better: “Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.” Oh, yeah!

But it isn’t that easy. I was getting my hair cut the other day and hairstylist Lindsey, the owner of Studio L in Roscoe, told me: “People are uncomfortable with change, at least as it relates to their hair. I spoke to one young adult client for almost an hour before I cut her hair radically shorter, making sure this was what she really wanted. Afterwards, she looked fantastic and seemed very pleased, but I never saw her as a client again. Seems her parents were upset with her dramatic change!”

At my age, I have no parents to answer to, but I do have a husband at home. My recent haircut and expensive lowlights solicited a lukewarm response from Hubby: “You went shorter, I see.”

A bit non-committal—at his age, he has learned not to give an opinion too quickly. To be fair, if I came home in a silver lame´ jumpsuit with my hair ablaze like the Olympic torch he would say, “Oh, you went lighter.” Hubby is not inclined to flamboyant expression.

The thing that gets me is pals who never seem to notice any change in my appearance. One exception is my Second Half cohort, Pat, who explained: “Kathleen, your curly hair and eclectic style is always a challenge to more conservative folks. They don’t notice your changes because you are a constant change from their usual fare.”

And here I just thought I was becoming invisible!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “All things must change to something new, to something strange.”

I agree. Every time I look at that older, slightly worn-out face in the mirror these days—now that’s strange! But I’m partial to Joanne Woodward, who declared: “I’m tired of playing worn-out depressing ladies in frayed bathrobes. I’m going to get a new hairdo and look terrific and go back to school and, even if nobody notices, I’m going to be the most self-fulfilled lady on the block.”

She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College at the age of 60 alongside her daughter, Clea. Woodward continues to reinvent herself: writing, producing, directing, performing and acting as artistic director of the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut. Facing her 80th birthday this month, Woodward is a stellar example of graceful change.

“…even if nobody notices…” she said. I guess we can all take a lesson.

“So, instead of dwelling on the negative,” I decided, “I am determined to focus only on the positive. No one has to know…I’ll just change!”

For help, I went to a site called eHow, and found these “7 Steps to Changing Negative Thought Patterns” (at

1. Recognize your negative thought patterns: Being entertainingly sarcastic, I notice how often I use negative statements.

2. Make a list of positive thoughts to carry with you; refer to them often: In the dressing room at Kohl’s, I had a negative thought and pulled out my list: “I am not old and fat! I am…picking up eggs, coffee and celery???” Wrong list.

3. Replace the negative thought with a positive, asking, “What is the feeling and why am I experiencing it?” I’m pretty sure I was feeling old and fat because I couldn’t fit into those Vera Wang skinny jeans like the tiny adolescent model in the ad.

4. Let go of grudges or past wrongs. So yelling at my husband, “Going for pizza and ice cream all the time was your idea!” is not quite letting go. I’ll keep practicing.

5. Avoid circumstances that encourage negative thoughts. One Second Half friend shops online, to avoid dressing rooms and teen-age clerks staring at her aging shape. I’ll just go to Coldwater Creek, where the jeans are stretchy and the clerks sport silver in their hair.

6. Do something nice for someone else every day. Today, I will wear my flattering new jacket and stretchy black pants…for you. Isn’t it nice to see an old broad looking so good?

7. Appreciate yourself and the good things… Do something nice for yourself each day. When you feel happy, they tell us, negative thoughts change into positives.

I’ve been trying to treat myself better, but I find so many of my usual efforts backfire, such as the Vera Wang jeans fiasco. So I turned to the teachings of personal growth guru, Jim Rohn who said:

“We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.”

Desperation…I can relate. I really, really wanted those jeans!

Rohn claims it’s really easy—just think, feel and act positive! If it was that easy, the world would be filled with Flower Children, singing their way through each psychedelic day.

Truthfully, I prefer my subdued husband’s philosophy: “Do something, even if it’s wrong,” he says, “If it does turn out to be wrong, do something else.” Simple, elegant, and understated…see, I’m changing already!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the Feb. 24-Mar. 2, 2010 issue

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