Susan B. Wallace possesses an extraordinary outlook on what life is worth. Her picture does not lie. Our “Celebrate Audacious” interview is the start of a joy-filled celebration of living life to the fullest, no holds barred.
How did the unique collection of pictures of you come about?
No one gets out alive in this life. Because of my age, I think of that. I am 76 and I have 5 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. I wanted to leave my grandchildren a legacy in my photos. Children need someone to mentor them. So, they can venture out in life and believe they can go out and do whatever they want to do.
When gives you satisfaction in your life?
People need to be loved; they need to be remembered. Basically, people know me and remember me because I believe wherever you go, go with intention.
A shopkeeper is a prisoner behind their window. So, when I go shopping, I will purchase something because I know they need that sale. When someone has a birthday, I take them a birthday cake. I leave a bottle of wine for the waiter. Making people feel special, it has been my specialty since I was five.
The thing that I learned is life isn’t about making a business it is about making a life. So, some people are so busy making money, they forget about the people, living, being there. I love people.
I understand you have a Lavender farm. Are you from Washington?
I have a lavender farm, The Painted Lady in Ilwaco. It is not a big deal, but it is a big deal to the community that I live in. It is a small village, full of retired folk, they need me as a tourist spot. People from all over the world stop here. Busloads come to take pictures. It sets the community as a destination. I planted lavender and herbs and they won’t stop coming.
I was born in San Francisco. My husband and I built the house. I call it my scavenger house because each time we had extra, we would search out and add to it.
People box themselves in. At 76 I am still venturing. Why limit yourself when there are no rules? For me, I have lots of things left to be.
What do you want to share on your life journey?
I mentor a lot of women and have taken care of handicapped persons all my life. When I talk to women it’s more one to one. DO Something, if you don’t do something you have nothing to give. In doing the doing, you have something to say, something to offer. If you are busy giving you will find many, many blessings.
Go find someone to make happy. Get up and get doing something. Are you saying,” Oh I don’t know anything, or I don’t know what to do?”
Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. That is how you start. Don’t be afraid to try. I picked up saxophone when I was 50. Look how long of a time I have had to play it. Don’t cut yourself off from learning. You don’t know how long you are going to live.
What excites you when you get up each day?
Honey, every day of my life I suffer from depression. I don’t take medication for it. I start the day and in a couple of hours, I have an avenue to take to get me out of it.
Many women focus on what they wish they could do. I would like to dance like so and so. You have to give the gift that you have to give. If someone says they wish they could dance like so and so, I say on Christmas morning would you take someone else’s gift and open it for yourself. You are your gift. Be yourself.
When have you been most satisfied in your life?
I am satisfied every day. I live in the moment and I surround myself with people who are interesting.
What was the best advice you ever received?
I have had several pieces of memorable advice; I did standup comedy when I was 30 and I met Rodney Dangerfield and all. Advice out of that? Burn the bridge, you’ll never have to cross it again.
Then there was this lady who had a boarding house when I was young. When you went to visit her, she had this beautifully set table with a cloth over it. She would just roll this cloth back and you would draw up to the table and have tea and eat. She said when I was very young, “You know darling, in my day when someone asked you something that was none of their business, it was ok to tell a lie.”
I remembered that. Not too long ago I went there. The old house was gone and in its’ place was a senior citizen’s recreation center. I was struck by how appropriate that was.
What do you need to make more room in your life for?
I want to do the Flamenco in the streets of Barcelona, so I am taking classes. I want to dance to Leonard Cohen’s A Thousand Kisses Deep. Just so you don’t hear on the news “a 76-year-old lady is in jail today…”, I am taking Bart Pouye’ who speaks Spanish with me, my French brother.
Joe Crocker is my brother’s neighbor. He called me and said” I got to sing for Joe Crocker. Happy Birthday!” Imagine.
What is your key strength?
At different times it’s different things. Life is like a dance; there are different movements. One needs flexibility, the ability to change and move. You need to change it up. I make my dance in life fit the situation.
I am willing to be wrong and I am willing to let them be right, even if they are wrong. You have to show people not tell them. I have a black belt in martial arts. My instructor never told me what I was doing wrong. He would take my hand and show me what to do, like this.
Do you have a favorite book that totally changed the way you thought about life and why?
I love reading books about France. I wanted to learn to speak French in my 60’s but, everyone said you can’t learn, you have to learn it by the age of 7. The science is before age 7 the brain is one big compartment. Then the brain starts to have different compartments. So, I decided I am putting the French language into my creative art part. I belong to a French club and I am speaking French.
Anything is worth doing or trying. If I don’t try, I set myself up for disappointment. So, I believe we need to re-invent ways of doing something.
Is there a key piece of wisdom you would like to share with women?
Be remembered. I was at a get-together not long ago. Women were introducing themselves. One after another they got up. After everyone boasted of their great achievements this wonderful missionary lady, laid back and unremarkable looking, stood up and said, “I am 26, full of fire and the cute as can be.” The world is blind and deaf. Stick out.
Life is an adventure, meet wonderful people, enjoy it and remember anything worth doing in life is worth doing poorly.
Check out The Painted Lady Lavender Farm
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