I met 51-year-old Laura Silverman twelve years ago, when she rescued me from a deadly dull dinner party. I was transfixed by this radiant woman whose palpable zest for life transcended her husband’s decline from cancer. After nursing him through till his death, she gave the most eloquent eulogy I have ever heard, followed by a spectacular post-funeral home-cooked spread.
Laura is the ultimate midlife phoenix. Widowed at 40, she swapped coasts to New York to carry on with her life. She has succeeded in spades, with a new husband, a cabin in the Catskills, and a food blog to die for. Keep reading for her thoughts on aging brilliantly.
Your husband died in 2003 after a long battle with cancer. You were 40 and relocated from Los Angeles to New York shortly thereafter. What did you imagine that second act would be like and how was that different from where you are now?
I actually wasn’t really thinking of it as a second act. I left Los Angeles after just 4 years to move back to New York, where I had lived for 15, so it was really like going home. I didn’t have any grand plan. I just needed to get on my feet financially and to spend some time nurturing myself, physically and spiritually. So much changed for me in the ensuing decade. I fell in love with a man who is a true partner and inspiration. I have a much richer creative life. And I have a deeper understanding of what is important to me.
With your current husband, you moved from Manhattan to upstate New York, trading in an urban life for a more bucolic one. What prompted that move? What has the transition been like?
After a few years of spending weekends at our cottage in the Catskills, George and I longed to live in nature full-time. Our jobs made it possible—he’s a filmmaker and I’m a freelance writer—so we decided to try it. The transition was pretty seamless, though we still drive in to the city about once a week, mostly to meet with clients. This fall, for the first time in 5 years, I felt a little uneasy about how disconnected I have become from city life. We rarely see theatre or get to museums now. But hiking, bird-watching, foraging and the beautiful clean air offer us something equally (if not more) important.
Describe your blog, Glutton For Life. Where did you get the idea? Who takes the photos? What has the blog done for you personally?
The move upstate engendered a kind of creative renaissance I had not anticipated and I found myself with more time and space to focus on personal projects. Glutton for Life is the place where I document my journeys in the kitchen, in the garden, in nature, on the road and inward. I advocate embracing the full spectrum of experience, being present in every moment and staying vital and curious through all the seasons of life. I take the photos, which is something new for me that I have come to enjoy. Overall it’s been a great experience that has connected me to my passions and to many kindred spirits.
At 47 you decided to stop coloring your hair and let it go gray. Given our youth-oriented culture, this was a bold move. Was it something you always figured you’d do or was there a moment when you decided it was time? What do you see when you look in the mirror? How has your hair impacted your sense of yourself as a woman?
I’d been coloring my hair since my mid-30s and had never given much thought to when I would stop. The decision to do so was made partly out of practicality; with limited time in the city, it just didn’t make sense to spend hours in the colorist’s chair. It was a little scary since I didn’t have a single female friend with grey hair, but living upstate made it a bit easier. My husband was incredibly supportive, which was also helpful. The transition was awkward and took a lot longer than I expected but I have no regrets. I think the color is actually more flattering, though it really has no impact on my sense of myself as a woman. When I look in the mirror I see my authentic self.
Who are some of the mature women that inspire you and why?
Twyla Tharp. Marina Abramovic. Elsa Peretti. Terry Gross. Patti Smith. Alice Waters. Meryl Streep. All these women are so dedicated to their work and the way they keep pursuing their passions inspires me. I also love seeing older women with strong personal style.
What words of advice would you give your younger self?
Do the work. Don’t feed the fears. Reveal your true nature. Rejoice.
What is the best part of being over 50? Anything you miss about being younger?
The best part is understanding how much more remains to be discovered, learned and experienced. The advantages of youth are primarily physical and there’s really no point in mooning over that, is there?
Besides Glutton For Life, where else can we find your work?
Watch a short film on Glutton for Life here (https://vimeo.com/100512929) and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I write for Gardenista, Edible Hudson Valley, Condé Nast Traveler and assorted other lifestyle publications. My creative marketing portfolio is housed at www.bylaurasilverman.com. And I’m currently shopping around a book proposal based on my blog.