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Beyond Hesitancy: A Midlife Leap of Faith To the Unknown

Sand and Sea © lynette sheppard

Sand and Sea © lynette sheppard

Sirena Pellarolo shares an inspiring story of how to create a vibrant Second Adulthood in this wonderful guest post. Enjoy!

Beyond Hesitancy: A Midlife Leap of Faith To the Unknown

Guest Post by Sirena Pellarolo, Ph.D.

“Over and over I’ve watched peri-menopausal symptoms resolve in women who’ve had the courage to negotiate the rapids of their midlife transitions consciously and in an empowered way in which they finally give their own needs high priority” (my emphasis).

Christiane Northrup, M.D., The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During the Change. New York: Bantam Books, 104

I’m finally rocked by the magic murmur of the Ocean. It’s soothing and sometimes haunting. I’ve been yearning to live by the ocean for decades, and I always thought it would be impossible. Who would have thought the solution was right in front of my very nose? I just needed to change my perception and open up to the possibilities. As an appointed Sirena, I knew that my Oceanic Mother Iemanjá wanted me close to her healing waters. Now I am, and I feel that each day that I spend in her presence, I’m closer to my own core, my aquatic essence. It took me courage to push the hesitancy aside and just do it.

The story I’m sharing is an exemplary tale of how we can make positive and self-supportive changes at midlife. By telling my story, I wish to convey to other women that it’s safe to listen to our own intuition and follow our deepest dreams. As midlife women, we’ve lived too long making sure that those around us had everything they needed, be they family members, co-workers or bosses. It’s our time now, time to pay attention and listen when our soul beckons us to release more life, be more of who we really are without apologies. The more we do it, the closer we’ll be to our own self-expression and fulfillment.

Take my case. I spent a whole lifetime of obligations as a single mom. Strayed away from my own artistic, mystical inclinations when I migrated to the US with my family of two baby daughters and an artistic husband who refused to give up his own art no matter what happened. Although what I am going to share was probably a biased perception, at that time I felt that I was the one who had the sole responsibility to anchor my focus on the day-to-day survival of the family. I created a life crisscrossed with duties, and although I did pursue a career that was close to my heart, the freedom and creativity that I craved became repressed and acted out in ways that –I see now–, could have been avoided by just letting out some steam and addressing the longings. Too much rational work as an academic thwarted my poetic nature until I hit peri-menopause at forty-five, and it then became unavoidable to shed the masks I had donned to perform the victim role that didn’t fit me anymore.

In a recently completed chapter titled “The Masquerade is Over: Shedding Masks at Midlife,” included in the collection Menopause Mavens, from Mayhem to Mastery, I recall the incredible transformation that I underwent fifteen years ago: the opening of the path that has brought me where I stand right now. Prompted by a series of psychic upheavals and deeply symbolic events, I ended up renaming myself and changing the course of my life forever by simply acknowledging my deepest desires. However, looking back at that transformation, in the mentioned piece I acknowledge that I wasn’t able then to fully “embody the greatness of la Sirena,” as I did not dare to “cross completely the threshold” that separated the old version of myself with my magnificence.

In her comments, the editor of the anthology addresses my hesitancy, “this feels like your next book topic – how to fully embody the new you and releas[e] the hesitancy…. how to explore what the blocks [we]re, [in order] to really embodying her.” I truly appreciate Jane’s feedback for it propelled me to start working on a book guided by my own process of identifying and overcoming my inner fears. In turn, I use this acquired self-knowledge to guide women who have been holding on for too long to old limiting belief systems and behaviors and discover at midlife that they can feel happy, creative and fulfilled.

After my peri-menopausal wake up call, I slowly but surely started to pay attention to the stirrings of my soul and allowing my intuition to move me, tentatively at the beginning, with more courage and heart in recent years. At fifty-five I underwent another turning point when I retired from my position as a professor to pursue my passion and calling as a healer. But the real pivot happened in the past six months, during the last of a five-year transition from full employment to retirement, as I was building my practice as a certified Holistic Health Coach. I plunged into the revamping of myself by listening closely to my yearnings towards service, as I knew I had so much to offer other women by just sharing what I had learnt in my own healing experience.

During those five years, I had consciously embarked in the process of stripping myself of the accoutrements of my old profession, by deepening my spiritual practices and learning everything I could about how to become a heart-centered health practitioner. I knew that this last year of my semi-retirement, was going to be crucial to catapult myself into my new career. Interestingly, several external events inspired me to take a radical leap of faith toward the unknown.

My younger daughter Violeta and her husband decided to leave Los Angeles and move back to Boston, where Andrew and his family are originally from. They were also expecting a baby, my first grandchild! In my various visits with them–and more intensely when BB James was born in July–, it became very clear to me that I had to move out of Los Angeles and start a new life elsewhere. I didn’t know where, but it became crystal clear that I had to let go of a city that had ran its course, and de-clutter my life from old stuff that didn’t serve me anymore.

“I renounce everything to have it all” became the theme for this process of letting go. The admonition haunted me, I repeated it as a mantra, and its meaning helped me move forward. I breathed it, I prayed it, I dreamt it. As soon as its profound meaning became flesh and I stood in the power of that calling, I willingly started selling or tossing everything that I felt was cluttering my life. The more I got rid of, the freer I became. I was feeling lighter and ready to tackle the next stage of my life with a clean slate.

This was the time when my older daughter, Paloma–who had been living with me and was the original instigator of this process of decluttering–, decided to leave Los Angeles too. Wow! I was alone now… Why would I stay in this city past December, when I would be fully retired? It was a perfect opportunity to let go of a place and a lifestyle that had had me running around trying to be productive, spinning my wheels to provide for others and really slow down, catch my breath and recoup all those dreams I had put in the back burner twenty-five years before, like writing and traveling.

These past six months have been the most liberating of my life, as I got rid of things, situations and places that were imbued with the clingy energy of self-limitation and frustration. As I released, I was making space for the new to sweep me up ad move me forward.

In my need to simplify my life and focus 100% on my healing practice, the calling for travelling and going back to the simplicity of Latin America, where I’m originally from, started to haunt me. I wanted to visit my aging mom in Buenos Aires, and spend time in my beloved surfers’ beach of Santa Teresa in Costa Rica.

In mid December, after I posted the grades of my last classes, cleaned up my office at school and sent the 30 day notice to vacate the rental place I had lived in for the past five years, I still didn’t know where I’d go come mid January. However, I was certain I’d receive guidance and stayed in trust that the right place would reveal itself in due time.

Sure enough, one morning in meditation I got a download to reach out to an old friend who had been my grad school classmate from the early 90s, and ask him if he had a room available in his beautiful ocean front home in Baja California. I knew this was a long shot, because my friend is very private and really cherishes his aloneness and is content sharing his ample home with his four cats. In addition to that, he rarely checks his email and doesn’t have a cellphone. Very difficult to get in touch with him!

By the beginning of January, I still hadn’t heard back from him and already assumed that my request had not been well received. Until one day I finally got an apologetic email about the delayed response, where he assured me of his delight to have me share his home with him. I was elated at this and speeded up the process of packing up, storing and getting rid of my last belongings.

As I look back, I really don’t know how I did it, how I found the courage, determination, patience and persistence to go through this protracted process of letting go and trusting the intelligence of the Universe in the process of moving towards my next stage in life. But the fact is I did. Now that I’m settled in this beautiful home, facing my beloved ocean, allowing myself to be rocked to sleep by its continuous cadence, I look back and take stock of this experience that can serve as an example of how to change around our lives at midlife.

Sirena Pellarolo, Ph.D.
Midlife Midwife and Holistic Healer
Co-author of Menopause Mavens: Master the Mystery of Menopause
www.sirenapellarolo.com

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What A Vibrant Second Act Looks Like

Whatevah © lynette sheppard

Whatevah © lynette sheppard

We drove up to the house and parked. A diminutive red-haired pixie burst out from the front door, multicolored tattoos scrolling down both arms. “This can’t be right,” I thought. “This woman can’t be a grandmother.”

It was our first time using Airbnb. The cozy mother-in-law unit looked perfect. I received text messages from our hostess, Linda (not her real name). She gave me pertinent details and asked why we were coming to Ventura. When I mentioned grandchild, she responded that she too was crazy about her grandchildren.

As Linda neared me, I realized that she indeed was a Menopause Goddess. She flung her arms around me in welcome and ushered us into the charming hideaway. A bottle of wine and several Keurig coffee pods decorated the counter. A woman after my own heart.

Linda  is a nurse midwife who runs two other businesses. She is a dynamo, a force to be reckoned with. I don’t doubt that she jumps out of bed every morning excited to greet the day. She has created her vibrant Second Act.

Menopause Goddess Sandy was in a terrible accident last year while commuting to work. Her convalescence gave her time to assess her life choices. She retired from her job and took a different route to Vibrancy. She spends her days walking, reading, and playing with her grandson. For the first time, her days are completely her own. She says she may volunteer or work at a bookstore someday, but for now each day is a perfect jewel to be admired as it is.

Jess and her husband left the tech industry last year. They bought a motor home and traveled the U.S., wandering wherever they wished, whenever they wished. They came back home and got jobs that have nothing to do with tech – she works in the hospitality industry and is loving the fresh start.

Barbara is a member of my writer’s group. She moved to Moloka`i alone last year. Her family was aghast. Why was she moving to a rural island where she knew no one and had no ties? She explains it this way – “This is my Walden Pond. I want to live a life of contemplation in nature.” She writes much of every day and is thriving in her new life.

My point in sharing all these stories is this: there is no one right way to live a vibrant life. All these women are following their hearts into a fulfilling (for them) Second Adulthood. There are as many ways to live vibrantly as there are Menopause Goddesses. And if we don’t know what or how we’d like to create our next steps? Try different ones on for size – if you don’t like it, go to Plan B. Or C. We don’t get demerits for trying more than one approach. Or for constantly revising it as we go along. Whatevah!

Share with us your vision of a vibrant Second Act, even if you are not quite ready to fully live into it. Sharing our dreams makes them more real to us. And after all, that’s what this site is about: Women sharing wisdom.

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Older Ladies Rock!

Donnalou Stevens

Donnalou Stevens

Donnalou Stevens is a true Menopause Goddess. Her hilarious midlife song Older Ladies has gone viral. Watch it and you’ll see why. This may just be our new anthem as we journey our Second Adulthood. Enjoy. And you can find more on her website at donnaloustevens.com

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Women Changing The World – One Dinner at a Time

That is the tagline for one of the most inspiring women to women endeavors I’ve ever seen. And we will tell you all about it.

Flash back to September and our annual Menopause Goddess gathering this year. We talked once again about legacy and contribution. MIdlife has made us all too aware that our time on this planet is limited. We wondered how we share might some of the blessings in our lives, whether it be through mentoring, volunteering, public service, or donations.

Then Cyn Venus told us about a project that she has been involved in for the past year called “Dining For Women”. This nonprofit organization was begun in 2003 by Marsha Wallace. The premise is simple: a group of women meet for a potluck dinner and donate the money they would have spent going out to eat to a cause benefiting women.

On their site, diningforwomen.org, they further describe their mission and vision:

“Dining for Women from the beginning has focused on improving the lives of women and girls worldwide, who often live on less than $1 a day. By focusing on women and girls, DFW empowers women to find solutions to the problems they face through education, healthcare, and economic development.”

“Our Mission
Dining for Women’s mission is to empower women and girls living in extreme poverty by funding programs that foster good health, education, and economic self‐sufficiency and to cultivate educational giving circles that inspire individuals to make a positive difference through the power of collective giving.

Our Vision
Our vision is to create a new paradigm for giving – collective giving on an immense scale while maintaining the intimacy of small groups with a focus on education and engaged giving.”

Dining For Women involves us in two of our favorite things: girlfriends and giving back. Okay, three if you count eating. And I do. I was sold on the idea from the minute Cyn described the concept. And then she shared the following video of the cause of the month for September, 2011: the Fistula Foundation in Ethiopia.  Warning: grab your Kleenex before you watch.

Want to know more about fistula incidence and options for women in Ethiopia? Read the novel “Cutting For Stone” by Abraham Verghese, a stunning story written by a physician that will break your heart wide open.

So: Dining For Women. $10 here. $15 there. Resulting in 1.2 million dollars raised over the eight years it has been in existence. Where else can we get so much return for our money? As for me, I’d much rather have a potluck with gal pals than go out to a restaurant where I have to dress up and be on my best behavior.

The website shows all the ways we can help whether we organize a potluck group that meets once per month or just shop in their Marketplace to support Dining For Women. Let’s see how many chapters we can create in the new year (not wanting to stress anybody out over the holidays. Although it may be a stress reducer to meet with girlfriends and commiserate/celebrate/what have you.)  And hey, what a great New Year’s resolution.

Women helping women. To quote my handsome spouse, Dewitt, “I can’t wait until women run the world.” Yep, me neither. But we’re getting there by doing what we do best. And after all, we are more than half the citizens on this little blue marble. Just sayin’… Dinner anyone?

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Schedule a Play Date – With Yourself

Painted Butterfly © lynette sheppard

Whether it’s a spa day or reading or journaling or watching your fave old movies or making art – regular play dates ought to be part of our second adulthood. We need to recapture childlike joy  and immerse ourselves wholeheartedly in unstructured time.

In our feverish scheduling, it’s time to block out playdates (even whole play days) for menopause Goddesses.

It  can be hard to get started – dieseling is what my hubby calls it. I start to do something just for me, but then jump up and try to accomplish, to cross a few more tasks off the list, to have something to show for my day.

Puttering around the house is enjoyable in its own way, as is getting a jumpstart on chores and the work week. But we can get lost in the laundry, cleaning out a closet, organizing, reports.

A Playdate is time just for me
. And you. I love playdates with girlfriends too, but there should be just YOU time, where there is no need to adapt yourself to anyone else’s wants, needs, desires, or conversation. In fact, quiet is one of the most nourishing parts of my play days.

So, after a wonderful week of photographic seminaring here on Moloka`i, Dewitt took off for a gallery opening featuring his work on Maui. Though work has piled up and I felt behind, for my own sanity and serenity, I scheduled a Play Day.

Here’s how it went:

There was the usual dieseling:  Changed the bedsheets and piled the old ones by the door to go out to wash.

Forgot sheets – . Organized my desk. Cleaned cat box. Sat down to read and saw sheets. Got up again and put them in wash and put wet towels knotted up in washer into dryer.

Answered phone, lost track of what I was doing: oh yeah, reading. Wait, got to jot down idea for blog. Played another move on Facebook Scrabble with a friend.

Started to read menopause research study in Menopause journal – remembered how much I hate medicalese speak. Put magazine down.

Made coffee – uh oh, breakfast dishes still in sink. Washed them. Poured cup of coffee and sat back down to re-read favorite book “Sisters of the Dream” by Mary Sojourner. A novel about the mystery and magic of sisterhood across time and culture.  (out of print, but it’s possible to find a copy through a used bookstore.)

Some stories are food and this is one of them for me and Theresa-Venus, too. 40 minutes of blissful journeying, .then interrupted by chatty cat demanding affection – (cats think play days are all about them.)

More reading with cat on lap. Lunch.

Worked on painting technique on photographs using Photoshop. One success, one maybe, one failure but I learned something so can try it again and get it right.

Long walk, showered off the sweat.  Finished and won Scrabble game online. Poured glass of wine and watched the sunset.

A perfect play day. A perfect day. I’m filled up again. Tomorrow I can work, refreshed and renewed, excited even.

What would you do with a play day? Or a few hours playdate? And isn’t it about time to schedule one? Share your “perfect day” with us – we might get some ideas for our own future play dates.

BTW, the photo painting that worked is the one of the butterfly above this post.

(For more wit and wisdom from our community of Menopause Goddesses, click here to purchase your copy of “The Big M” – your personal survival and thrival guide for the menopause transition.)

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