Tag Archives | life stages

Helen Mirren made me do it: Visioning a Second Act

© Annie Leibovitz

I loved executive and life coach Tania Carriere’s insightful guest post about “becoming” during our Second Act. I think any woman pondering the person she might grow into will feel its resonance.

Tania will be leading a visioning retreat for women October, 2017 in Molokai, Hawai`i. I’ll be participating as well – this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity. Details and link at the end of the post. Enjoy!

Helen Mirren made me do it

by Tania Carriere

It was a normal enough moment.

I was sitting at a Starbucks, coffee in hand, putting off some work for a few indulgent minutes of Facebook. I was robotically scrolling, only partially engaged with the usual mix of animals, self-help quotes and messages from friends.

That’s when it happened to me.

That’s when this photo happened to me.

I froze, my scrolling index finger mid-air. I was riveted. I could not stop looking. I felt like I had found something of importance. I looked at it and felt…. Awestruck. Not because of her beauty or her fame but because I didn’t realize until I saw this photo, that this is what womanhood can look like.  Real, authentic, vibrant, strong. Bad Ass. Commanding. Awesome. And wrinkled.

And something in me cracked open a little.

I had just started to navigate the changes that come with age. I had gone through 4 different sizes in 2 years as my body decided what kind of metabolism it would like to have that day. There were the reading glasses that I resisted for a year, the lessening of stamina, (staying up past 1 a.m. requires a day off to recover) and the new wardrobe that seemed to have gravitated to tunics and flowing shirts to hide the belly fat and rounded hips that appeared. I tried to hold all these changes with grace and dignity, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having sat down on the little bench in the Nordstom’s changeroom and cried with dismay at a body that I couldn’t seem to anticipate or understand.

I don’t mean to paint an entirely bleak picture. There are great things that come with age too, like no longer seeking “permission” to be the person I really am, giving up the need for people-pleasing, having enough independence of spirit to leave the house without makeup or shaved legs and knowing, exactly, how I like to spend my time. I am eternally grateful for those gifts and the ease that they bring. So it’s not so much that I resisted the changes that came with age, I realized that with the sagging bits came the reward of newfound wisdom. It was more that aging seemed to have landed me in uncharted territory. I didn’t quite know how I was supposed to be in it.

I was perplexed. I had achieved so much and lived a wonderful, expansive life. I had a delightful circle of loved ones. A wonderful career. I did the things I love; dance, travel, read, theatre. I cultivated relationships that charmed me, I ate glorious meals that I delighted in cooking. But there was unrest in me and perhaps, a little sadness? A part of me that struggled with a loss of vibrancy, a giving up of the coltish legged creature that once seemed fearless. I had a longing for the permission that I used to give myself to be glorious.

I used to enjoy the attention I got for my youthful rendition of beauty. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy, just enough to fit the checklist that someone, somewhere decided was the definition of who I should be; thin, blonde, nicely shaped, long legged, exuberant, friendly and full of possibility. I excelled in my profession, got invited into the big meetings, was offered top tables in restaurants and skipped the lines. I travelled, bought a house and stood as a vibrant example of thirtysomething femininity. I was used to the attention that my confidence gave me. The world was mine to conquer, to delight, to engage. Yes, that confidence came at a price. I bristled at and occasionally faltered under at the demands of perfection and got lost in the dark world where self-worth equates body image, but I got noticed. I was a part of those who had the right to be vibrant and boldly stride into whatever lay ahead of them. No matter what, I could count on being seen. At the interview, at the audition, at the first date.

And then suddenly, it seemed almost overnight, I was unseen.

Not rejected, just unseen.

I was no longer in the world of 30-something-vibrant-flat-stomached-world-achievers (heck I am about to enter the world of 50 something) and suddenly I did not register in people’s awareness as I walked by. I was no longer the sassy upstart that people used to see when they looked at me.

And that was the problem. I was not sure who I was at this age and I couldn’t seem find the checklist for a powerful, vibrant, sexy woman of 50+.  I was standing there with the old checklist and it was not working. I knew I didn’t want to look like the botoxed version of Barbie, but I also didn’t want the diffuse, shrinking energy of a woman who was no longer in command of her vitality.

Where was it to be found? Where were the examples of women who wore their years, their experience, their glorious ways of being with pride? Women who still exuded vibrant possibility. Women who created a whole new phase of being that lies between Nymph and Crone. Women who left you enchanted, wondering, longing and were over the age of 50?

When I saw this picture of Helen Mirren I became curious. I stopped and looked. I mean, really looked. And then I became envious. Can you believe it??? Envious! The last time I felt envious of anyone older than me I think I was 16 and wishing that I would be a very gown up 21. But look at her – the command of her space, the energy that just leaps out at you, the defiance in her tattoo and her exposed cleavage that just takes the whole notion of being matronly and flips it the bird.

Oh, the stories that she has to tell.
What I wouldn’t have done to pour her a glass of wine (or better yet, a whiskey) and get down to a long talk.

It’s not that I wanted to be her. It was that in seeing her I realized that I didn’t have a vision, a mentor or a knowing of who I wanted to be. I instantly loved this photo, and strangely enough I think I fell in love with myself when I looked at it. The old choices society wanted to offer me just didn’t cut it. The blessing of age is that I could see that they never did. It was high time that I decided how this next decade or two (or four) are going to look and feel. I Re-Imagined myself, finding the new markers for MY new definition of this Self. I erased the page, creating space to be the kind of woman that I would envy.

And if someone asked me about a new sizzle in my responses, the reappearance of my coltish legs from under the tunics, the haircut and the sultry attitude I’d just respond….

Helen Mirren made me do it.
And pour myself a whiskey.

About the Retreat

The Re-Imagined Self is a mini-sabbatical, a moment in time that leaves the everyday behind, where you can drop in, hear the questions that you are already asking, but don’t have the energy, time or courage to answer.

These 7 days in Hawaii, in the company of a small group of like-minded women, will rejuvenate the creative spirit while exploring identity, achievement and what makes yours a life well lived.

As executive and life coach, I have been leading discovery retreats of self exploration for over 15 years. Join me and Lynette Sheppard in this unique opportunity to Re-Imagine the Self you are today. Click the link for details:
https://www.advivumjourneys.ca/retreats/-hawaii

Comments { 2 }

Retire Meant: A Few More Thoughts

Blossoming © lynette sheppard

It was a delight to hear so many optimistic, exciting visions for retirement from goddesses in answer to our query. I decided to look up the word “retirement” in the dictionary. Here’s what I found:

noun
1.  the act of retiring, withdrawing, or leaving; the state of being retired.
2.  the act of retiring or of leaving one’s job, career, or occupation permanently, usually because of age
3.  the portion of a person’s life during which a person is retired
4.  removal of something from service or use
Those are some wornout, even depressing definitions. Luckily, we are creating our own definitions and making it up as we go. Most of us baby boomers started out rebelling against the status quo and I don’t see us stopping anytime soon. So here is a my definition of retirement: “a phase of life where one’s own priorities and desires dictate contribution to the whole.” In other words, we decide how we thrive and give back – whether it be gardening, mentoring grandchildren, or volunteering. And give back need not mean externalizing – I met one goddess recently who moved to an island to find and create her own “Walden Pond” to her family’s surprise. She follows her passions of writing and living primarily outdoors. So how does she give back? By simply being fulfilled. It’s a joy to be around those who are following their dreams and modeling living comfortably in their own skins.
I’d love to hear your definitions of retirement – post them here in the comments or email them to me at lynette@9points.com.  Here’s to our next great phase!

Comments { 1 }

More Visions of Retire Meant

Flower Spiral © lynette sheppard

We received so many great responses from you all – thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I wanted to make sure that these visions didn’t get lost in the comments, so am posting them in this blog entry. Be sure to read to the end, where R shares some concerns about retirement. We all learn from sharing our wisdom with one another, so thank you again!

PK wrote:  

I’m 64 now. I’ve been working since I was 10, at one gig or another. Can’t say I was dedicated to most of those gigs – they were a way to make a living, to support my other interests. Some of them were more intrinsically interesting than others, and one aligned with my higher purpose and felt really satisfactory. For the last 6 years I’ve worked from home primarily as a virtual office manager for a company based on the mainland. I’ve investigated the Social Security retirement plans and am staging a 2-year withdrawal from this company. However, my husband may get a full-time college professor job this year – and then I would retire almost immediately. What would I do with myself? I can think of about 1000 things – but first volunteer with children, be the full-time artist I’ve wanted to be all my life, garden, bake, be a domestic goddess, raise chickens. I look forward to it.

JM shares her own vision: 

Aloha Ladies, I am 61 and still have a 17 year old son at home. He is a jr in high school. Im still so very active being a mom and a grandmother to 11. I teach hula 3 times a week plus work. Being a photographer I can pick and choose my work times. I get a little sad thinking that one day coming up my son will be moving on. I see his excitement and dont want to dampen his enthusiasm for moving out of moms house! So this has been good for me to read as most of you have already passed this point years ago. I am not sure exactly what I will do, but Im sure traveling will be in the picture! Hula keeps me thriving so Im thinking of moving into taking classes to become a Kumu Hula. The older I get the more important relationships are, all relationships including my ancestors. I personally feel there is a whole new world waiting for me.
Yes I have sleepless nights, yes I still get too hot and then too cold. I just giggle and dont let myself get caught in any drama over it. I feel very alive and healthy.

K is looking forward to retirement too:  

As I approach retirement from about 3-1/2 years out — I think about it more and more often.

Right now, I feel like I am in kind of a transition or rehearsal phase. When I take a planned day off from work, I try to mimic what I would do if I didn’t have to report to the grindstone ever again. What would I do if I had my time as my own?

Most times, I try to spend some time in nature, taking a short hike on a trail I haven’t walked before and really open my eyes and drink in the textures, smells, and sights I will have the time to savor in the future.

I think a lot about the type of retired grandma I want to be. I want to be an active and a fun one to be around. One of my daughters is not too domesticated, so I’d like to expose her daughter to some of my favorite pasttimes (embroidery, sewing, gardening) that she otherwise doesn’t get to experience. (I’ve already begun that, but want to continue if it’s something she wants. I learned so much of this kind of thing from my grandmother).

Since the out-of-doors is important and nurturing for me, I would like to share that with my grandkids and continue to with my husband as long as possible. I see camping and many local hikes in the future. There’s a wonderful group of older women who maintain trails and camp together; I’ve been dreaming of joining them.

I branch out my thoughts to the dark times, winter and days when the driving rain keeps me indoors. I like to think I will busy myself finishing long-abandoned projects, starting new ones, taking classes on old and new hobbies. There are many groups who meet in our library system for conversations on local issues, arts, hobbies, travel, foreign language practice, and of course, books! I look forward to accessing those.

So, I guess what retirement means to me is that it is a trigger for the next exciting life series! I’ve done the rest—here comes the best! It’s a time of becoming enriched and enriching the lives of those you love. Of not letting life simply pass by, but enjoying and savoring every moment.

Still, not every woman is looking forward to retirement. R, a menopause Goddess sister from Portugal shares her concerns. I suspect she is not the only one of us caught in some conflict about these changes. Here’s her heartfelt musings:

I’ve found Menopause Goddesses blog by chance, sometimes I read it with the most attention, and sometimes not I have to say.
Retirement subject is not very close for me yet, I’m a Portuguese 55 years woman living near Lisbon our capital and this year the allowed retirement age as come to 66 years and 3 months, or 60 years age and 40 of discount career for pension found, this last option with 6%/year tax and a sustainability tax of 13,8%, resuming, too much limitative for us to think about it, unless you think to live your retirement begging. Situation in Portugal is not friendly for those that think retire sooner than official age.

Although the approaching of that stage of live for my husband, that is 5 years older than me, scares me a lot, besides work he always count with me next to him for everything and I’m afraid to feel myself under a dominance I’m not used to.
I know that in US young people leave their parents’ home when they went to university but in Portugal we have not that tradition, only the students that have less score classifications go to universities outside their residence area.

My 2 daughters with 33 (the older is a journalist and actually is working as public relations) and 26 years (she’s a nurse) have study near and they’re still living with us.
The difficulty to rent or buy a flat in our country is huge for young, and the salaries sometimes are not enough to face their responsibilities sooner, they are now both thinking to rent a flat and share expenses, this situation is causing me the feeling of empty nest, the past 35 years I’ve been first a mother, a wife and less a woman so I’m feeling lost and I don’t know my role any more, I’m beginning to feel also the weight of menopause literally (both: body weight and feelings).

Sorry if I extended myself too much but we still feel this subject as banned in our society, the women don’t like to show their disability to face this stage of mind and always try to show themselves very open mind, with millions of activities, dressing as teenagers sometimes acting if their daughters were rivals.
Thanks for sharing with us.

Comments { 4 }

Retire Meant – Menopause Goddesses Share Their Visions

Sunrise or Sunset? © lynette sheppard

Several of you responded; others are still thinking about and crafting their replies. Here are some of the visions shared by our readers. Enjoy! I surely did!

MB shared:  “I am not retired yet. ( I am soon to be 56 years old. ) BUT, I’m in college now, dual enrolled for two professions, pursuing a dream to work on my own terms and from home using all the experience I’ve gained working for the healthcare industry for the last 30 years in customer service.  I am 2 semesters away from my first college degree!  And 3 months away from a new credential!

So retirement to me looks like a home office, my dog next to me, my husband running our video game store at the local mall, and being on call for my second job as a Clinical Medical Assistant to get my “people” fix when I need it!

I am glad I’m at this place in my life- hot flashes, weight gain, no- filter -mouth and all.  It’s trying at times, but it’s my life and I’m making the best of it!”

BT responded with these thoughts:  “I enjoy your blog posts very much and just had to chime in about my thoughts regarding retirement.

Recently I had to really give this thought as I realized I had many emotions around it. I’ll be 54 in July. Recently, my 57 year old neighbor retired from a job she worked at her entire career and off to a warmer climate she and her husband went for a few months. While yes, I’d like a little more time in the sun, perhaps doing less at times, I couldn’t help but think what it must feel like to have devoted your whole life, often working more than forty hours a week, to now not working.

It brought up those transitional periods in our lives when we can feel lost, as I’ve felt a few times in my life. I wonder how it is affecting her as she was very devoted to her work. I’ve also been with women going through transition from a job they were very dedicated to until what is deemed “retirement age” and now not sure who they are anymore – as if they lost their identity and sense of purpose.

As I sat with the many feelings, I realized how it’s important to me to keep making an impact with my tribe that I continue to build. And how making a difference is so important to me and leaving a legacy, not necessarily as what I do, but in hopes that I help people (especially women) feel good about their lives and find meaning in them. I don’t see as that ever ends, but something that is so important to me and my own vitality because it feels good to my soul to make a difference where I can.

So thanks for the question and asking for  feedback. I’ll be curious to read what others have to say!”

CH offered these gems: Retirement (“the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work”) . . . well, to me
who had a wake up call in my late 40’s that there was more to life than my narrow
perspective of my job, I think perhaps there is a more enlighten way to view this
transition. Leaving behind the work schedule allows us to connect with life in a whole
new way . . . discovering the opportunity to connect with passion.

I am amazed at the narrowness many view retirement . . . travel. I am reminded of my
soul sister in the NW (Anne Fangman who published her memoir: Mustard Every Monday:
From Secluded Convent to International Travel) responds to those wondering at her
retirement party if she was going to travel? “Been there, done that! I’m going to
stay home and enjoy life.”)

Opportunities abound once we don’t clock in and clock out. Watching friends nearby has
been a wonder to watch as they grapple with the time on their hands and how they
discover ways of connecting with themselves, others and “nature.”

I am looking forward to your posts on retirement!!!

CR shared her experience:  “Time is both your friend and your enemy … you do not have to get everything done today because yes, there will be tomorrow,
you do have time if you choose to have coffee with friends which was not possible very often when you are working..
but you also have funerals on a much more frequent basis …
I find I make it a priority to go to the Y several times a week
both for fitness but because sometimes those are the only people I see all day or all week.
I have started cleaning out my house I have lived here a very long time.. so when something happens My son will not have to do much…
I now have time to learn things i have always been interested in
and not be bothered with stuff I just don’t care about… there are things you do for others because you care about them , but I am much more selective about them.  Time is the most valuable commodity in the world .. and when you retire you realize it is more valuable than you ever realized . I make time to be with people that make me laugh; that has not always been an option .. now it is.
I look at retirement as a gift … and I am lucky to be here.”

BeFabRevolution is retiring on her own terms: “Hi Ladies, I am soon going to leave my nearly 25 year career as a corporate consultant. I have loved it. It has been interesting and often challenging, but I’m just over it. I’ll be 58 later this year and have had an overwhelming need to reinvent myself.

I am “retiring” from a strict schedule, but am too sharp and energetic to not have a new, more interesting challenge.

I have been laying the groundwork for nearly the past 2 years to launch a new business, catering to women age 50+. I launch the business next week. Woohoo!

Lynette, I need you as an expert speaker for 2017!!! I am so excited! I guess my “retirement” comes in being my own boss and being of service in a very different way.”

And a very treasured response comes from my own mother:  “As an 82 year old, find that life is what you make it. For me life is great as i have a great daughter and son-in law. Love is so important !”
Betty    AKa mom

Vibrancy comes to mind when I read these visions. Any other thoughts, insights, ideas? Put them in the comments or send them to me at lynette@9points.com  I look forward to more wisdom, questioning, input. Thank you so much to those who shared so generously! Virtual hugs to you all!

Comments { 5 }

Retire Meant

Flying Free © lynette sheppard

Fifteen+ years ago, Theresa-Venus and I had one of those life altering conversations. We were going through perimenopause and wondered if something might seriously be wrong with us. No one told us that all these horrifying symptoms and maladies were going to come with the Big M. We thought that maybe we’d be a little warm once in a while and never have to worry about wearing white pants again.

That conversation spawned the Menopause Goddess Group, our book “Becoming a Menopause Goddess”, and this blog. On average, we have 35,000 visitors each month. That reinforces the fact that we are not alone. We’ll keep this site going – well, as long as we keep going.

Theresa and I had another of “those talks” a couple of weeks ago. A few Menopause Goddesses we know are retiring this year and looking forward to it. It got us to thinking, though. What does retirement mean to each of us? In what ways will we create a vibrant life after “work”? What does it look like to each of us to “retire”?

Before we share our thoughts and feelings, we’d like to hear from you – how do you envision retirement? Or if you are retired, what fulfills you? Is the reality of retirement different from your initial vision? What would you share with your sisters about retirement?

We look forward to hearing from you – write your answers and musings in the comments or email lynette@9points.com  Don’t be shy – this site is about women sharing wisdom – we want to hear from you.

Comments { 7 }

New Year’s Intentions

fireworks for blog
I don’t make resolutions anymore.It’s too freaking stressful to make them and subsequently break them. I do make intentions, however. Intentions for me are large global visions of how I want to live for the next year (and maybe longer.)

I am in the habit of drawing an angel card each morning. The one word on each card serves as a daily focusing, a mantra if you will, for noticing or expressing a certain quality throughout 24 hours.

For example, today, I drew Kindness. Musing on kindness throughout the day allowed me to slow down when my cat was walking all over my keyboard and just pet him for awhile, rather than push him away. Work could wait. And it did. I was nicer to the people I met in town and even to myself, usually last on the list.

Similarly, I’ve found intentions to be helpful for me in focusing on a larger scale, on defining what might be important to me to notice and embody for the coming 365 days. Under each intention are ways in which I might accomplish it, but I am in no way absolutely wedded to them as goals.

That said, here are my intentions for 2017:

Notice and follow Beauty.
Photography
Prose: read and write
Butterflies – follow them.

Artify
Become an Art Activist rather than a politics watcher
App and paint photos
Write

Nourishment
body: exercise, yoga, eat healthy most of the time
mind: Scrabble, reading
spirit: solitude, music, time in Nature

Connection
Spouse: quality time, shared pursuits and adventures
Family: spend time w kids, parents, pets
Good friends: spend time

Celebration
Being on the top side of the dirt (that’s big!)
Each moment
Celebrate What’s Right With The World site

Give Back
Blogs
Healing Images
Art Activism (see above)

I will re-view these throughout the year – maybe find that some are easy to focus on and others need more attention. I use them as a sort of fuzzy logic compass to give my meanders through life a sense of direction and purpose.

I will eventually set goals as I focus more on my intentions – for example, within the intention of music, I want to learn to play ukulele. I’ll need to set a schedule of practice and lessons as well as determine how far I wish to go in this pursuit.

Your intentions may echo some of mine or they may be completely different. I offer mine only as a template and you may find a better way to define your New Year visions. Please share them if you do. That’s how we become Menopause Goddesses – growing and sharing. I wish you all a peace and joy filled New Year.

Comments { 0 }

Creativity Blooms During and After Menopause

Hello Dahlia © lynette sheppard

Hello Dahlia © lynette sheppard

Myriad difficulties and symptoms arise during the menopause transition. And if you are searching for help or remedies, just put your symptom or need into our search box. After almost 15 years of Menopause Goddess Blog posting, you’re sure to find lots of information. Much of it is condensed in our book, Becoming a Menopause Goddess.

Now into Second Adulthood, I am finding so many women also interested in the positive changes. Once we stop flashing every few minutes and our moods stabilize, we ask ourselves “what next?” What next turns out to be a plethora of welcome changes. Who knew?

One of the most exciting of these changes occurs when our creativity gets its own power surge. We tap heretofore unknown wellsprings of creative juice. We overflow with inspiration and we aren’t afraid to fail. The “not afraid to fail” may be the most important piece. After all, the creativity police won’t come and take us away if we suck at something. And I can attest that if you find something you enjoy and stick with it, eventually you won’t suck.

But it really matters not if we are “good” at what we choose as our creative outlet. It’s important that we jump in with both feet, both arms, and a whole heart. We need it because it nourishes us. Right now, I am blessed to be part of a photography seminar here on Moloka`i. And yes, there are a lot of women (and men) celebrating Second Adulthood.

So dance, draw, paint, photograph, knit, write. Don’t wait – the house doesn’t need to be cleaner, dinner can be eggs, and the laundry will rest in the hamper another day. As poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Comments { 8 }

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

Comments { 0 }

Menopause and Intimate Relationships

Distressed Love © lynette sheppard

Distressed Love © lynette sheppard

More than just a decrease in libido can cause significant strain in the most loving, troublefree relationships during Menopause. In this blog post, we examine irritation and feeling disconnected from our intimates.

My husband once remarked that it was a wonder that more couples don’t get divorced during the  Big M transition. And certainly it’s true that if we who are undergoing this forced journey don’t understand much of what’s occurring, our mates and loved ones are left completely befuddled.

The combination of physical changes and emotional changes can put a strain on the most loving relationship. Loss of libido, depression and apathy, irritation with everything your loved ones say and do, fatigue, hypersensitivity to noise, temperature, and touch are just a few of the manifestations of this hormonal rollercoaster ride.

Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause, starts her book of 500+ pages with this sentence “It is no secret that relationship crises are a common side effect of menopause.”

Okay, well it may not have been an intentionally kept secret, but I sure never heard anything about this. (Or any other of the myriad manifestations of the hormonal sh*tstorm we call the Big M.) And I’m a registered nurse for pity’s sake.

Dr. Northrup goes on to elucidate that whatever is wrong or dysfunctional in your relationships will be greatly exacerbated by menopause. I think that is true.

However, in all my talks and sharings with menopause goddesses and their loved ones, I’m finding that a huge amount of upheaval can exist in the most functional relationships.

The Venuses spent a significant part of every meeting focusing on our primary relationships. Suddenly sexual desire disappears. We may not have leisure time interests in common with our spouses. The kids are no longer a focus.  How then do we connect with one another?

And now our intimates want to spend more time with us (the men are changing, too, don’t forget.) We are just beginning to explore our creativity and may want to spend more time alone or with girlfriends  How do we reconcile these needs with our desire to be connected with our loved one?

It has been all too easy to assume that every freakout or episode of bitchiness is hormonal – “oh she’s just going through menopause”  rather than a legitimate reaction to circumstances.

Additionally, deeper difficulties may be brewing or problems long ignored have just come to the surface.

However, it is just as deluded to assume that this sea change isn’t hormonal. Especially if the change is fairly dramatic, seemingly without warning.

Theresa and I found that we went from zero to sixty on the irritation meter in seconds during the worst of our transition. Talking with the other Venuses showed us that we were not alone.

It became clear to us that we needed to ascertain when our anger was a legitimate problem, a true trampling of our boundaries versus a hormonal side effect. Let me tell you truthfully, it can really be hard to discern the difference.

Looking backward, I can offer this advice. Proceed with caution and take it slow. We found that irritation might flare up in a circumstance that we could certainly rationalize as being justifiable anger. But we often decided not to act or say anything right away. We mused. We waited. We paused.

If we were still pissed off in a few hours, we reevaluated and decided on a plan of action for confronting and discussing the problem. If our irritation had literally vanished, we knew that hormones might have played a part. And we let it go.  No harm, no foul.  Especially no harm. To us or anyone else.

(A little history sidenote here – none of the Venuses is a shrinking violet, unused to sharing her feelings, including anger. If you have always contained your anger and irritation, this may not be the best plan for you. You may need to let some anger out. After all, some Change is good!)

And some good news.  The worst of the emotional and hormonal upheaval seems to last around two years, give or take a year. So be patient. Get to know your irritation levels; when they require intervention and when they don’t. Warn your loved ones when you feel especially out of control so they won’t take it personally. Best of all, they can support you. They love you.  They want to help.  Let them.

(Part of this post was adapted from a previous entry in 2009. It’s still relevant. More about this in the next post from me in two weeks. Ashley will post next week.)

Comments { 1 }

Cultivating A New Relationship with Ourselves

Ferntasia © lynette sheppard

Ferntasia © lynette sheppard

One hard lesson we learned – possibly the most valuable of this transition – was that the pivotal relationship we needed to cultivate was with ourselves. When it seems that virtually every molecule in our body has changed, it shouldn’t surprise us that we need to get to know our new selves. That truly is the first step in creating new relationships with our intimates. Oh sure, we all thought we knew ourselves but further examination made us completely rethink that premise. Here’s how we started the process.

Me – meet Me

The mantra of midlife women “I just don’t feel like ME anymore” serves as an call to awakening.  Who WAS I?  More important,  who AM I now?  Perhaps our increased need for time alone has a purpose.  We need to become acquainted with the changeling emerging from the upheaval of our bodies, psyches, and beleaguered spirits.  We must question ways in which we have known ourselves prior to now.

We identify ourselves by the roles we’ve played in family and society.  We also have ideas of what describes us – quiet, outgoing, sensitive, impulsive, etc.  Identities and descriptions make up much of what we think of as ‘myself’.  These roles and ways of being are familiar and comfortable, if not exactly the dreams we thought we would live.  In getting to know a new SELF, we must first relinquish these familiar identities.  We need to let go of them however much they may resemble a life preserver tossed upon the stormy seas of so much change.

We addressed this in one of our Menopause Goddess gatherings with the following exercise.

“Letting Go of the Old Me” Exercise
Cut up heavy unlined paper or cardstock into pieces big enough for one or two words to be written.  (approx. 1/2 inch by 3 inches each is a good size.)  Give each woman 30 pieces of paper and a pen.  In silence, each Venus writes down one role or description on each piece of paper,  eg.  homemaker, nurse, artist, spiritual person, wild woman, sister, daughter, mother, and so on.  When finished hold all your roles and identities in your hands.  One by one, put them down, feeling the sensations and emotions of letting go of each one.  Take as long as needed – noticing how it feels to shed each identity.  When all your papers have been relinquished and your hands are empty, just sit quietly and notice what is left.  How does it feel to be without your roles?  Without your descriptions of who you are?  Don’t forget to breathe.

After 5-10 minutes of sitting quietly in this fashion, slowly begin to pick up your roles and descriptions one at a time.  Notice this time how it feels to reclaim each identity.  Are there some that are easier to take back?  Some that are burdensome or seem irrelevant?  Are there surprises?

If you’ve done this exercise in a group, (definitely the preferred way), those Venuses who wish to may share their experiences.  This serves to deepen and validate the experience for all.

For some in our Venus group, this exercise was deeply emotional, with great pain experienced on ‘giving up’ some of our most cherished identities.  Others were equally surprised at the ease with which some roles dropped away, like burdens laid to rest.  We found ourselves re-thinking the roles we have adopted until now and contemplating releasing those that no longer serve us or others.

The most important epiphany of the exercise involved feeling what was left when we let go of all our supposed roles and identities.  “Something” essential still remained.  An authentic being with value apart from what she does or how she is perceived exists when we give up all our identities.  Each goddess might be well served to acquaint herself with this essential ‘she’. Our ‘aha’ discovery of Self without proscribed identities led us into a discussion centering on another relationship that we wished to cultivate in midlife: our spirituality. We’ll touch more upon this in our next blog post.

This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.”

Comments { 0 }