Act 2: Recreating A Life
It used to be that many of us believed age 50 to be the milestone when everything started to shut down. Our bodies, our brains, and gradually, our careers. Our sole purpose to life after that was entertaining grandchildren.
Today, with so many baby boomers heading into their second half of life at a time where technology and medical advancements are creating possiblities that didn't once exist, more of us are seeing this part of our lives as a time to reinvent ourselves. A time to entertain grandchildren AND still be active participants in a life with meaningful purpose. A chance to explore long-burning desires or new and exciting interests.
When Greta Pontarelli attended her first pole dance class, she had no ambitions other than to try something new. She knew her desk job left her feeling fatigued and her muscles weak, so she looked for something to change that, while adding a little fun to her life.
"My teacher must have thought I'd never come back because I couldn't even begin to get up the pole," says Greta.
But come back she did. Again and again. Over time, Greta saw improvements and her aerial artistry began to take form. Six years later, Greta took home her first World Master's Championship and just this past April added another gold, winning the Pole Art Italy World Championship.
At 65, Greta has now earned 6 medals and 4 world championship titles. That's right. 65.
The oldest of six children, Greta grew up in a family of musicians. Rather than play music, however, she wanted to move her body- dancing, swaying, and tumbling. She enrolled in a gymnastics class, eventually earning Floor Exercise Champion at Penn State, among other wins.
"I trained on a hard basketball floor that was tough on my joints and used a balance beam made by our school's wood shop that wobbled, so I had to learn quickly that life if far more what you do with it then what it hands to you. Those challenges helped me to grow."
My interview with Greta...
Greta, congratulations! I am so impressed with your accomplishments that I have to start by asking how you feel after this latest win?
Thank you. It feels great, though I get so lost in the experience itself. It's more about the art and less about the win. But I'm very pleased!
Your first class was difficult. You couldn't even get up on the pole. I think most of us would have given up after that, thinking it too hard. What made you go back?
Even though I struggled in that first class, I felt the difference immediately, especially in my core. That was enough motivation alone, but I also wanted the chance to develop more grace and artistry. To tell a meaningful story that feeds my soul.
Hmm...you want to "tell a meaningful story which feeds my soul". What do you mean by that?
When I create a choreography, I'm always looking to connect with the archetypes of transformation. I open myself up to change and creativity. If we do that, we are like the chrysalis that becomes a butterfly. It's by allowing transformation into our lives that we connect with the heart of the Universe. Sharing that energy through my dance feeds my soul, and I am permanently changed through a deeper meaning of my existence.
So many people seem to be searching for deeper meaning in their lives today. It seems that tuning in, rather than looking outward, seems to be the way to find it.
Yes. You have to go deep inside and find the passion that sets your dreams in motion. Some people need a mentor to motivate them and some find the magic that makes their souls soar all on their own.
You say you are working to help support others to get the most from their lives. How do you do that?
The key is to find the elixir within you that catalyzes your dreams. I work as a life empowerment coach, share my philosophy in workshops and through blogs and also have a book in the works. When I hear from others about how my journey has given them permission to dismantle their own excuses and fears and go after their dreams, that enriches my life beyond measure.
Greta, I love to post inspirational quotes and affirmations around my home. They help to keep me inspired. What are some of your favorites?
I have many, but the ones I try to live by are...
You are the master of your destiny.
Don't let age or any limitations keep you from going passionately after your dreams.
Words you seem to embody, for sure. Do you have role models you look up to?
Since I was very young, I have been drawn to the universal wisdom of numerous mentors, especially Joseph Campbell, Inayat Khan and Ram Das whose enlightenment have illuminated my journey to serve others. I find daily inspiration in people, my family, art, nature and life itself.
How about your tenacity? How do you keep finding the motivation to train, because I'm sure that takes time and effort.
I sometimes have to push myself to get going like everyone else. What I have learned however, is that after 20 minutes of training the endorphins kick in and then I don't want to stop. Inertia is a basic principle of physics. Matter at rest wants to stay at rest and matter in motion wants to stay in motion. Another way I motivate myself is by videotaping my combinations and reviewing them after each run. I see so much that I would like to improve on that it drives me to repeat the pass until I have achieve it.
I love the physics reference! That's so true. It's not like one day we just wake up and feel like making all the right choices. We have to find internal motivation. Sometimes that might look like one foot in front of the other.
Greta, I definitely sense an inner peace with you. Do you meditate?
I started meditating in my early 20's and it gave me the tools to bring that inner peace more deeply into my daily existence by centering. When I perform I find my center and focus on breathing in through the solar plexus and out through the heart. It is only by connecting with the heart center that I can bring my story line, which is always about transformation, to life.
I am a pretty big proponent of clean, plant-based living, since it made such a difference in my health. If you don't mind sharing, what does your diet look like?
My husband is a fantastic cook and he creates wonderful meals following a modified Paleo diet of organic food and freshly caught fish when possible. To keep inflammation down we follow a gluten-free diet that eliminates wheat floor, sugar and corn. I don't have an issue with dairy so I enjoy a little cheese, a glass of cabernet and a small piece of dark chocolate now and then.
Does this mean we should all start training to win gold in the next Olympics for our lives to have meaning? Hell no.
What it DOES mean is we take lessons from people like Greta who show us that getting the most from life means MOVING. Taking action.
It means we quit being afraid of trying new things or afraid of what people might think. It means having the courage to do something new, even if it's all by yourself. As Greta has shown, it means not being defined by cultural norms or our own self-doubts.
Ask yourself what the ONE thing is you can do today to make your life feel more meaningful.
Then go do it.