This interview is part of our exploration into the theme of Aging. Follow along all June and July for more stories on the theme.
An entrepreneur, writer, model, influencer, actress, and businesswoman, Dian Griesel is not somebody who is easily contented. Her ferocious curiosity, entrepreneurial ambition, and hunger for knowledge and human connection have paved the way for a life full of experiences. Last November, Dian started blogging about aging, opening up a dialogue with her internet followers about what it really means to be “old”. The responses were overwhelming and triggered the realization that so many people long to have a safe space to discuss the experience of aging. Seeing an opportunity to foster connection over a universal topic, Dian created Silver Disobedience, a network of people coming together to discuss what it means to age consciously. As she writes on her website, “Silver Disobedience has become the active rejection and disregard of the notion that getting older somehow equates to irrelevancy or obsolescence.”
We saw a lot of similarities between Silver Disobedience and ENDPAIN: both are platforms aiming to create a safe container for conversations that can be uncomfortable or vulnerable; both are aiming to shift perspectives through connected conversations. For our aging theme, we wanted to talk to Dian about the beauty and importance of the Silver Disobedience community, about what it means to embrace getting older, and the idea that perhaps aging is really just the process of getting to know oneself over time.
Dian Griesel: My name is Dian Griesel, and I'm 57. I'm a mother of two teenagers, and [I've been] married for almost 20 years. I have been living in the city of New York for almost 30 years. I've been self-employed my entire life, and in a variety of businesses. Most of them involving health, science, understanding humans, human emotion, health, how our bodies react to whether it's food or medicines.
Grace Gregory: How did you become interested in all of that work?
DG: I would say I probably became interested in humans for the same reason we all do—because we're trying to figure ourselves out initially, or maybe all along... ‘Cause I'm not sure we ever completely figure ourselves out, or others. It's also one of the reasons I write is to continually put myself to the test of what I think needs to be worked on within myself, and the more I do it I find other people seem to be saying, “Oh, you're in my head. That's what I need to work on.” It's gotten me very connected to the concept of universal consciousness, or collective consciousness. Which is something I've always believed, but I'm witnessing it realtime in a big way since I started blogging.
GG: That's so great. Yeah, I think that's what really cool, and unique about your platform is that it is this open invitation for people to contribute, but you are also this very active voice as well, and I think that is not only inspiring, but it just creates this transparency that's really valuable. If you could explain in your own words, what is Silver Disobedience? What are the components of it? And what is your role in it?
DG: Well, Silver Disobedience started when... as I said, I'm 57, and I wouldn't be living in the city if it wasn't for my best friend who is 20 years older than me at 77, and we've been best friends for 30 years. And she made it possible for me to move to New York, and gave me a place to stay many, many years ago. And she is the aunt to our children by her nature, and we would all describe her as the biggest kid we know, and she ended up in the hospital. Let me say right off the bat, she's doing very well right now. But she's been a ghost writer of 44 books. She still does that very actively now, but she ended up in the hospital with a freak situation that took three different operations to figure out what was actually wrong. And I, as her healthcare proxy, was in the hospital pretty much every day, and it was very disturbing to see someone who I thought as so alive, so not alive. I mean, breathing, but not in any state that you want to be.
And it was very upsetting to me, and I really started to think, first of all I didn't want to lose my best friend. And at the same time I really started to focus on what was age, what made someone old? Was it a number? Was it a physical state? Or was it an attitude?
And so that was how I started blogging from a hospital room back in November, and I was writing down my own thoughts, and one day I said, "You know, I'm just gonna put this out there, and ask the people what they think about aging?" And I started to get resounding comments back from people that it was absolutely had nothing to do with their years, it had to do with our perception, and our attitudes. And so if we thought we were old, we were in fact old. But if we viewed ourselves as young and vital, like my 77-year-old best friend does, or my 89-year-old mother, who's married to a fantastic guy who is 82. And you know, they're all very live people to me because they have a spirit within them that's alive and embracing whatever is happening, which isn't always pleasant, and it can involve a lot of pain. And my mother at 89 sat in the hospital when her four sisters died of cancer, lung cancer, in their mid fifties. Yet she's always the one who is there rallying, and grabbing life for as much for as much as she can get while she's alive.
GG: That's amazing. Yeah. Silver Disobedience, itself, you're kind of, you're describing what the spirit and the ethos is of the people who come to the site. What exactly is the site? I mean, is it a ... Just so people can understand, can anybody contribute? Or are there discussion boards? Or are there resources as well? If you could just talk about what it is in its physical form?
DG: Silver Disobedience can be found at SilverDisobedience.Rocks. That's a website where all the content is currently housed, and I actually started with a Facebook page, and then when the Facebook discussions built up, I added an Instagram page. If somebody went to Facebook.com/SilverDisobedience, you would find the page there, and then I added Instagram, which is @SilverDisobedience. Then people would say, “Is there any place I can find all these blogs?” So I added a website, which is searchable, and on the website, yes, if you scroll to the very bottom of the first page it says, “Be featured as a Silver Disobedient,” and I post features of people, as well as people can contribute their articles, and they fill out a form right online, and I can read the article, my team will edit it if necessary, we'll come back and say, “Okay at this point we really like it.” Maybe we want to add a picture, and we can make it go live.
And on the website there is not that much discussion — I think the people who like to use the website like to read, and are a little more private. And tend to do a little less commenting. But Instagram, and Facebook, particularly Instagram have become massive conversations at this point, where there could be 3,000 ... You know, 4,000 or 5,000 likes, but 1,000 or more comments that are very detailed.
GG: Yeah I mean, I think that just speaks to the power of the desire to be heard, and to communicate over these topics that otherwise we might not have the chance to.
DG: You know I think there is a lot of that, and I think it's a safe place, and people appreciate it as that. And want to keep it that way. Even if someone was to post something that could be even slightly perceived as negative, they don't get lambasted for it, instead the crowd tends to approach that person with a tremendous amount of compassion, asking them, “Are you feeling okay today?” It's a very fascinating dialogue that occurs.
GG: Yes, so speaking of the dialogue, I was just curious what are some of the most common themes and topics that come up within the conversation? What do people want to talk about mostly? I was wondering about if mental health came up? If careers came up? If love came up? What are some of the main themes that you see coming up over, and over?
DG: I think the biggest theme is getting really comfortable with who we are, how we feel, where we've been, what we've learned from that. That whether it's health issues, changes in our relationships, changes in work, it's all part of life. It doesn't lessen us. It may change us, but it doesn't need to be a change for the worse. It's that new opportunities keep coming if we want to see them. And it's like the blog I posted today was... I do have a follower, I won't, to maintain her privacy, and she has had a serious challenge in her life. She had a husband who was very sick, and she had come home to find, and he had cancer, to find he had hung himself in her garage, and I can't imagine that situation. But when she posts, she comes from a perspective of clearly pain, but in the way of life is not so rosy. There is anger. There is pain and hurt. And what I tried to explain to her without answering her directly today, was in my blog post. And as I said I’ve studied science my whole life, from holistic science, nutrition, hypnosis, meditation, Reiki. You name it, I've studied it.
And so the post today what I was trying to explain was that scientists know that the mind has incredible, incredible power to heal and create recovery. And there is so much research that these effects happen all the time because your mind is very strong. I write because I want people to stay focused on the positive. I do it for me. I want to stay focused on the positive all the time. Because where you keep your mind, there is so much power in between our ears, that if we drift into negative areas, that's what can often materialize. And I'm not saying we cause our own pain, but our perception of it can make it worse.
GG: Absolutely. And so I think that's where the healing power of storytelling can come in, is that you're sort of... you're rewiring the way you might think about something, and you're also feeling connected to other people who might be feeling the same way, and which brings us back to the collective consciousness that you were talking about in the beginning. And so I think there is so much power just in the community itself, and the conversations themselves.
DG: Exactly. I do see that on your site. I mean, you know the biggest reality in life is one way we're born alone, and we die alone. When we die nobody is jumping in our coffin with us. But, I think because of that reality, which people do instinctively know, they assume they're alone. But we're not alone. We're so connected with other people, and platforms like ENDPAIN... just reading someone else's words, somebody says, “Wow. You're in my head. I felt that. I know that feeling.” And so much of loneliness comes from not wanting to risk exposure that you might be weak or less than. Even when I write a blog every day, I sometimes sweat out long and hard before I hit send because I say, “Oh, my god. Are my clients that pay me for crisis management going to think I'm going over the deep end because I posted you're really kissable.” And then I think, you know what? If they do, too bad. Because I want more human connections at this phase in my life, and the irony is the more I let myself be more human, the more human connections that are coming back from the most amazing places.
GG: I love that. Yeah. I'm curious what was your perspective on aging when you were younger? And before you started Silver Disobedience, was aging something you feared? Was it something you embraced? Have you always had this perspective on getting older?
DG: That is such an interesting question. You know I had three plane crashes at a young age.
GG: Yes, I wanted to ask you about that too.
DG: By the time I was 24. In fact, well, 27. By 27 I had, had my third. And I had a sister who had a really terrible car accident when she was 21, and in my teens I saw my mother's sisters die from smoking and lung cancer in their fifties. I'm tempted to recite the lines of probably a Rolling Stones, or a Who song, about something about aging like “Hope, I don't die before I get old.” But I think that would probably sum it up. I think I ... And certainly September 11th cemented it for me.
GG: So you kind of didn't develop this conscious embrace of aging until a little bit later in life, is that what I'm hearing?
DG: I think it comes with age. I'd like to believe it does. You know?
GG: It’s interesting because I think, and I am only 23, I have not lived very long on this planet, but in...
DG: You're an amoeba.
GG: Yeah I'm hardly even a developed person yet, but I think it's interesting to consider what would change if people in their twenties, and even in their teens started... Not thinking or fearing about getting old or anything like that, but just embracing a conscious... This idea of conscious aging in which... I mean, for me I just graduated from college, and I am ... This is my first go in the "real world," and so I really am already thinking about the experiences I've had, and the lessons I've learned from them, and how I can integrate those lessons, and approach the person that I want to be. And so that's the way that I'm sort of practicing conscious aging, and I know I'm... I mean, the word aging, we might automatically think old age, but it's not that, it just means getting older, which we're all doing. Aging is living.
DG: And who is to say older isn't better?
GG: Exactly. Yeah.
DG: Or not better. Just different, and equally great. Each age is great. I wouldn't want to go back to my twenties, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss them. I wouldn't want to go back to my thirties, but I wouldn't have wanted to pass them. You know, every phase is great, you need them all. Just like teenagers, people think of teenagers as, oh, it's this crazy insane period. I mean, I thought that about my own kids, and at the same time I'd say, “That's life in those years.” It's not wrong, or right.
It's just life, and the how the brain is at that point, and how life is being seen at that stage, and every stage is great. Especially, if you stop worrying about, am I at the right stage? Am I like everyone else? You know am I behind? Am I missing something? Am I? We're all worried about what everybody else is doing, instead of just going through the doors as they open, and knowing it's all fine.
GG: Yes. One thing I wanted to ask as well, I was wondering what you believed to be the, what you call “the exclusive perspective” of this demographic, this Silver Disobedience demographic, which you do cite I think at one point, I know you said it's open to everyone, but you're sort of citing it as 50 years and older, I think?
DG: Well, it's funny. When I did that, when I did that, it was because I didn't think anybody younger would listen to me. Then I found that people posting would say, “I'm sharing this with my teenagers, or my college aged kids because they seem to want to listen to you, more than they want to listen to me,” which is also something I've observed with my own children. We all want to listen to someone other than our own parent.
Then I had thirty, twenty-year olds, thirty-year olds join the conversation, and say, “I can't believe this. This is talking to me. It's making me feel more relaxed with where I am in life.” And I just, I have an eighteen-year-old. I've just watched all these eighteen-year olds, and all their friends go through all this angst, worried, “Oh, my gosh. I have to choose where I'm going in life. I have to know where I'm going.” You just graduated from high school, or from college, “Oh, it's all this pressure. I need to make the right choices.” You know what? Screw it. Don't worry about it. It's all gonna be fine. Just keep trying. Keep thinking about what you love. Keep doing it. Keep staying focused learning as much as you can. Because learning is a lifelong thing, it doesn't stop with college. I learned more once I quit traditional school because I started to really focus on everything I wanted to learn, and didn't have to take another math class. Which was a nightmare to me. Now I hire people who can do math, and they help me.
GG: Yes, because everybody brings their own gift. And so that's... You're tapping into your gift, and you're letting somebody else whose gift is with numbers take over that role.
DG: Exactly. And you can change careers. Oh, my gosh. I'm 57 years old, and started a blog. I started modeling a year ago.
GG: Oh, my god. I love that.
DG: I mean, if someone said to me at 56 years old you're going to be signed with Wilhelmina, I would have busted a gut. I mean, I still think it's hilarious. I still, every time I walk in their offices, I'm like, “Okay, just pinch me a few times because I need to feel the pain, and know this is really happening here.”
GG: You are just adding things to your repertoire, to your inventory of so many things, and experiences. That's amazing, and it's clearly not stopping anytime soon. You just keep growing.
DG: Well, that's to me what life is. And the hardest thing, when people say, “Well, what do you do?” Or, “How do you describe yourself?” I say, “Well, would you ask Richard Branson that?” No, he can have Virgin, and he can have an airline, and he can have a Coca-Cola company, and he can have a record company, and he can have a magazine. He's Richard Branson. You're Grace, I'm Dian. We're doing what we do.
GG: Yes. So what are your hopes and dreams for Silver Disobedience? I know it's pretty new to the world, which is amazing and exciting. But do you have any visions for it?
DG: Well, I'm speaking with a big literary agent, who I'm in the middle of finishing up a contract with. And so there will be a book. I really want to build out a network online. I want to have a place that can be supported by people who understand that this is a nice place to visit, and participate, and share, and get support.
GG: Yeah, so, ‘cause I know you've studied all of these sciences, these practices, and healing modalities, like Reiki, and hypnosis, and meditation. Do you at this point in time, do you have a way to offer those resources to the Silver Disobedience community? Or is that a goal in the future?
DG: I will likely at some point once again, I recorded them years ago, offer downloads to people for meditations at some point because I just think they're great. There will always be a free one for people. Once I add that to my To Do list. I really want to have a lot of free content out there that people can grab, and use in anyway that they feel beneficial to them when they want to access it.
I do believe people are receptive to learning if they can see how good it feels, and to me if we can start... just like your site does, to have somebody share something, just that knowing you're not alone makes you open to the possibilities of a bigger world out there, a bigger opportunity of beliefs, a bigger opportunity of possibilities for us as individuals, and collectively. I do think there are new awarenesses, and openness between people. There is still the closed crowd, but there will always be that. But there will be people who want to be thinkers, explorers, adventurers. And it's a good thing.
GG: Yeah. So, just as a last question, what advice would you give somebody at any age, whether they're in their twenties, in their sixties, in their nineties, somebody who has a fear, or resistance to aging, what would you tell them?
DG: “Aging is better than the alternative.” And then I would expand that into saying what is aging? Yes, our bodies change, but there are people who are born with bodies that are kind of old, or have challenges and problems right when they start. The physical being changes, but I also know people in their seventies that are in better shape, and will tell you they're in better shape than when they had the natural gifts of a twenty year old. So I would say treat your body like you want it to last a long time, that would be one thing, because hopefully it will. Think about everything you do, whether it's how you walk, how you think, what you eat, what you put in it, how you move. Try to think of it for the long haul because you want to have it last as long as possible, and know that age just means you have more opportunities, more chances for opportunities. Every day you're alive is a new chance for new opportunities, so why would that bother you?
GG: I love that.
DG: And that's as I said, that's coming from someone who never would have made it as a model at 18. Maybe I had to live 57 years to have that happen? You know?
GG: You never know.
DG: Yes, you never know. You never know. As long as you're open to the possibilities. And the bigger thing I would say to people, “Don't worry about what you don't know. You can learn it.” There is always an opportunity to learn something. You don't have to say, “I'm not prepared. I'm not ready.” You walk through the door, and you figure it out. That’s it...
GG: I love it. Well, thank you so much, Dian.
PHOTOGRAPHER: GORDANA KOJIC