In this installment of Saturdays With Cindy (check out past episodes here), I talk about the importance of supporting and building other women up to create strong communities of confident and respectful women who will lead the way for generations to come.
Sometimes, the best is yet to be. That's what baby boomer and fashion model Cindy Joseph has discovered as she's grown older and wiser. Here, she shares the lessons she's learned.
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I come from a lineage of women who hardened themselves to survive in a man’s world. My mother was practical. She kept me safe, clean, fed and busy with fun things. I grew up, however, without the feminine exchange I longed for from her. Looking back, I see that I made sure I always had many girlfriends — that’s how I quenched my thirst for the feminine connection I did not get at home.
When I was a teenager, I was painfully self-conscious and focused mostly on my appearance. I held my bangs down in the wind for fear that people would see my forehead, which I judged as too big. I sat on my hands because I was once told I had masculine fingers. I spent hours on my hair and makeup before school. I did whatever it took to look like the models on the magazine covers, wearing foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow and two pairs of fake eyelashes every day. I helped my girlfriends do the same thing. We were all hiding behind a facade of beauty products, and I often wondered how I would keep my future husband from seeing the real me if I ever got married.
Little did I know, I was developing skills for my future career.
During the summer of 1968, I went through a huge transformation. I was living in the heart of San Francisco and my peers and I began recognizing the hypocrisy of society’s dictates. We searched for new ideas and lifestyles that we could relate to. I threw away all my makeup and beauty products, most of my wardrobe, and anything that was not natural, authentic and honest. I even stopped shaving my legs and underarms.
A few years later, my rebellion softened and I found a happy medium. I realized I could honor my interest in beauty, and still be genuine and natural.
But once I started working with professional models, my self-esteem was confronted once again: I still had heavy negative judgment about my appearance (though it was far from the extreme I went through during puberty). It was difficult to spend days with these girls and feel good about myself, though I definitely enjoyed many aspects of working with a team to create a beautiful image. I knew deep down, however, that there was more to attractiveness than shiny hair and big eyes.
I realized that models did not come through the door looking like they did once we spent hours transforming them. So as I became more familiar with the concept of ideal beauty and worked closely with the girls who the world deemed the most gorgeous, I could see that surface beauty was only fleeting. Once I got to know the models, I could see that they were only attractive when they were happy, kind and loving themselves. I saw they were the most beautiful when they were truly enjoying their lives. I was no longer intimidated by their “package.”
I was a makeup artist for over 25 years, and during that time I married, raised children, traveled the world, and learned more and more about myself. After years of taking myriad transformational workshops, psychology courses, and classes on human nature, I started living my life according to what pleasured me.
And once again I recognized that when a woman is taking joy in her life, she is her most radiant and attractive. Her beauty has nothing to do with the size of her nose, her height or the shape of her body. A woman’s beauty is in her ability to experience pleasure.
So it was not until I was in my 40s that I started discovering all that being a woman is about. When I started living according to what pleasured me, my persona changed. When I started feeling “right” for who I was rather than thinking I had to fix something, or change in some way, others took notice. That is when I was recognized on the street and asked to model at age 49.
Honoring that most innate part of my feminine nature is what makes me most attractive.
I am now 60. I have found that the riches in life are all around me if I allow myself to notice and appreciate them by following my spirit. There is no external place to find what I carry right in side.
I continue to model and have created a pro-age, believable beauty cosmetic line, www.boombycindyjoseph.com.
Aging is really just another word for living. Life continues to be a magical and fascinating adventure. My passion, my feelings, and all that I am are intact and functioning. The concept that aging is becoming less in some way is really the antithesis of what happens. One becomes more and more as life continues.
I am always and forever in the “prime of my life.”
Getting connected, feeling connected and being connected are the most important things in my life — I believe they are the most vital and critical elements to living happily and with satisfaction. Though I don’t know all of the science behind the need for connections, I know instinctively that humans thrive in company, and are meant to have companions in life, be it family, friends, coworkers, or fellow community, spiritual congregation or club members. People want and need to relate with each other; it seems people would rather fight with each other, i.e., relate in a negative way, than not connect at all.
Personally, I feel connected when I am alone and do not feel alone; when I am an integral part of a group; when I’m feeling part of a bigger whole, like a family, a group project, a neighborhood or community initiative, a work force. I recognize that each individual creates the larger whole, proving the value of everyone involved. I also see my connection to the planet by acknowledging the role I play in the balance of Mother Nature — humans are critical to the ecosystem.
Connection is a state of mind, a knowing that I am a unique and vital part of this universe. It’s knowing all of humanity is my family — a “we are all in this together” kind of thing. The feeling comes from my own point of view. It’s a decision to acknowledge the truth of how things are.
For me, feeling connected is feeling valuable.
So how do I get connected if I’m not feeling it? First, I must reconnect with myself. I take the time to check in and just feel my feelings: I often find that when I’m disconnected, I’m anxious, worried, annoyed or tense. Once I take a little inventory, then I can do what I need to do to relax, be it intentionally breathing deeply, releasing my body tension or stretching. Once I relax, then I start to feel appreciation for my life, and the tension disappears. I feel safe, calm and hopeful. When I do that, I feel connected to myself. Once I feel connected to myself, I start to feel the connection to others. And that brings me to feeling I belong here, to an understanding that I am a part of everything.
Getting connected, for me at least, starts from within, and from there extends to the external world of family and friends. Eventually, it makes its way to my community, country, the world and, finally, the whole universe.
How do you get connected? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
Me and my house mates: Bruce, Tara and Willie
In my last
blog, I wrote about making pleasure a life priority. Pleasurable living — and
living at my full potential — is what group living is all about for me, so
that’s what I’m choosing to write about this month. And since it touches on the
theme of inspired family, too, I figure I’m covering September’s theme as well!
Cohabitation has to be the most rewarding and challenging thing I’ve ever done.
Living with (or in close proximity) to a varied group of others has been a wonderful source of fun, adventure, comfort and satisfaction for me. Sharing meals, household projects, relationship issues, raising children, or whatever anyone and everyone is up to, has been nourishing and gratifying to my mind, body and spirit.
Living with others also pushes me to make the choice of reacting or responding to my fellow housemates. To have my life be the most gratifying, I must behave with maturity and responsibility.
When I first considered living with others, it was born out of my sheer enthusiasm for company. I wanted to share my whole life with my friends and family. I was not satisfied with occasional get-togethers. I wanted to relate on a daily basis with those I loved.
In the early ’70s, there was a trend among the baby boomers to bring back group living (which was the way people had lived for most of human history) through hippy communes, a number of which quickly sprang up throughout the country — and many of which disappeared just as quickly.
I experimented with a group of friends, who basically crashed at my house one night, and never left. We were young, inexperienced, and it all fell apart within four months.
In the late ’90s, after raising kids, starting a career and traveling the world, I found myself wondering about group living once again. I decided to move into a pre-existing, intentional group-living community for a while to learn some of what they knew about successful and pleasurable living throughout their 40 years of living together. I then applied my new awareness and skills to my own household of friends and family.
When I tell folks about how inspiring group living has been for me, most of them respond with questions like these:
- How does everyone in the group get along with each other?
- How do you make decisions about chores, finances and other responsibilities?
- How do you get your desires and needs met without being squelched by the majority?
- How do you get quiet and solitude?
And then I usually hear them mumble something under their breath about how they would never be able to live in a group. The skills of living well with others are simply not something most of us have ever been taught.
There is no question that the dynamics of pleasurable group living requires practice and sensitivity.
I boil it down to four main ingredients (which I’ve oversimplified here, and which I’ll probably write more about in future blogs):
- Practicing good communication and lots of it;
- Knowing there is no way to win when your friends or loved ones are losing — that any decision that affects the group is strictly a win-win or lose-lose situation;
- Continually reminding ourselves and each other that caring about one another is valued above all else; and
- Last but not least, everyone practicing charity as a way of reminding ourselves how good our lives are
When these things are considered top priority by all involved, group living can fulfill our desire for connection, relating with others regularly and knowing we are a vital part of something bigger than ourselves.
Can you imagine a situation in which your opinion, desires and needs are considered so completely that compromise, for you or anyone in the group, would be unacceptable?
Can you imagine the only way the whole group could be happy would be if each person were getting everything they wanted? Can you imagine everyone being in total agreement before any newly proposed idea goes into action?
This is possible. I would not have believed it if I had not witnessed it and practiced it.
I believe humans are wired for community living. As noted, history shows us we are tribal/herding creatures at heart. And there is certainly more to human life than mere existence. A group can handle many of our deepest needs. Sharing our creative energy calls us to action we may never practice while living alone.
Living in a group — with people ranging in age, taste and desire — creates a rich pool of resources far beyond what we might create on our own.
Our 21st century lifestyles have led us far from the extended family households in prewar times. With today’s changing social, economic and demographic conditions, blended and extended family households are becoming far more common again. Out of economic need, we are rediscovering the social, psychological and emotional value of group living.
Remember, a group is two or more people, so even if you aren’t living in a group situation now, at some point you probably will be. And even if you don’t, keep in mind that in any group situation (from work to neighborhood communities), we can practice paying attention to each other, communicating more and valuing each other’s happiness.
In my mind, there’s no better way to bring out the best potential in each of us.