As we move into the second half of life I hear women around me bemoaning the demise of their youthful looks, the advent of "laugh lines" and the relentless onslaught of menopause and all the associated miseries that come with it.
Two traits that are always shine out of this type of woman are integrity and authenticity. They're almost the same thing in some ways, but they also co-exist and enhance each other and can really make a mature woman stand out from the crowd.
There are a lot of definitions out there for the word "integrity" but for me it always means that someone is honest and true to their values in all situations. I have no real problem with someone who openly goes about screwing people over - I know it is who they are and I expect it of them. I can be prepared and question their motives because I know what they're like. It is the person who you trust and who acts in a way that you never expected from them that shows a true lack of integrity.
As I get older I feel the need to invest in relationships that I can trust. I don't want to make excuses for the "friend" who let me down or the workmate who went behind my back. I love people who do what they say they'll do - who "walk their talk" and who can be relied on to be loyal and caring. Part time friendships and people who are only there in the good times are just not part of my world any longer. I need to surround myself with people I can trust and who I know won't let me down (or at least not mean to let me down) because they care about me too.
One of the benefits of getting older is that you start to get a real handle on who you are. I know what I like and don't like and I know what is important to me. My values are an integral part of my character and I know that I would never deliberately hurt someone or do something at the expense of another person's feelings. I love people who have accepted themselves and owned their flaws and who are out there living life as the individual they are - and not as a clone of who they think they should be.
I bumped into an acquaintance the other day, she is married to a doctor and does her utmost to project the 'serene doctor's wife, perfect mother' persona, but you can see that she is struggling. When I mentioned to a couple of other people that I had seen her, they both remarked on how thin her veneer was and how easily it could all fall down if anything goes haywire. How awful to walk such a narrow line - to always be trying to be perfect or to be what your husband thinks you should be, or to be keeping up appearances. I want to celebrate who I am - flaws and all. I don't want to apologize for being the woman I am - I have value and worthwhile stuff to contribute to this world and being authentic is a big part of that.