The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

The Queen: A Model for Midlife Empowerment

posted by Donna Henes

Who are we supposed to be at this stage of our life when we are less likely to be bound and identified by our kinship connection to someone else — as daughter, wife, mother, lover? What exactly is our role as older than young and younger than old women who are still active, attractive and more effective than ever?

The Queen paradigm promotes a new understanding of what it means to be a middle-aged woman today who accepts full responsibility for and to her Self. And it celebrates the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual rewards of doing so.

Becoming a Queen is not automatic. The Queen bursts forth from adversity and previous constraints, actual or imagined, to become a proficient player in the game plan of Her choice. The Queen does not invite hard times and trouble, but She chooses to use them well. Actualized, organized, efficient, self-sufficient, competent, ethical and fair, the Queen has struggled for and earned Her authority and respect. Determined and firmly centered on Her own two feet, She dares to climb, step after step, with nascent surety into the heady realm of Her own highest sovereignty.

Once on Her throne and crowned, the Queen glows golden with confidence, competence, and grace. She is fully aroused and takes great pleasure in the feelings of freedom, elation and wellbeing that come from personal empowerment.

Shining from the inside out, Her attractiveness and attraction is rooted deeply in Her self-actualization, self-worth, and inner strength. She exudes a primal excitement, Her power palpable in her very presence. Her desire reaches the boiling point and her inhibitions melt in the heat of Her renewed passion for life.

This royal mythic model that I envision is recognizably like me, like us. Not yet old, yet no longer young, still active and sexy, vital with the enthusiasm and energy of youth, She is tempered with the hard earned experience and leavening attitudes of age. She has been forced to face and overcome obstacles and hard lessons including Her own shadow, and in so doing, has outgrown the boundaries of Her old self.

Agitated with the unessential and restless for authenticity, She sheds all attachment to the opinions of others and accepts complete responsibility and control for Her own care, feeding and fulfillment. She is the Queen of Her Self, the mature monarch, the sole sovereign of Her own life and destiny. Here, finally, is an archetype that fits.

As long as I live, I will have control over my being — you find the spirit of Caesar in me.
- Artemisia Gentileschi

 

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

Lost and Found

posted by Donna Henes

Aging and changing might be inevitable, but they ain’t easy. They precipitate in us a great uncertainty. The myriad dramatic disturbances of modern middle life — menopause, health concerns, career shifts, the empty nest, divorce and death — create an overwhelming crisis of identity and purpose for each of us. What follows is an intense period of questioning absolutely everything — our goals and achievements, our priorities and our operating systems, our morals and our values, our fantasies and our fears.

Some of us spend a considerable amount of time — easily ten or fifteen years — swirling in the turbulence of this middle age reassessment. Who are we supposed to be at this stage of our life when we are less likely to be bound and identified by our kinship connection to someone else — as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a lover? What exactly is ourrole as older than young and younger than old women who are still active and more effective than ever?

This middling transitional shift into the next stage of our being promises us a vast world of positive possibilities for the second half of life. But first, before we are able to avail ourselves of the advantages and rewards of maturity, we must cross the Grand Canyon of midlife change, steep, rocky, and ripped asunder by a whole panoply of seismic ripples — mental, emotional, and spiritual — beyond the obvious physical ones. We climb and climb, and still we lose ground. The Earth that we once trusted to be solid under our feet is slipping away and we are dragged out to sea where we bob along in uncertain waters, in a leaky boat with no map to guide us.

It seems as if
I’ll never get beyond
the foot prints that I made. 

-Qernertuq, Eskimo poet
c.900-1400

In her book Goddesses in Older Women, the therapist Dr. Jean Bolen says that menopause is “a time of great spiritual and creative unfolding — although it sometimes feels like great unraveling.” Unraveling, indeed. The whole damn sweater is falling apart and we are standing here naked in the cold (and we are still hot). Nothing has prepared us for this landslide of transitions that greets us as we enter our middle years. There we were, going along as always, then one day out of the blue, we discover ourselves to be middle aged. Blindsided in a youth-conscious culture, we never saw it coming, but the overwhelming evidence of our aging can hardly be ignored.

These profound changes in the chemistry of our bodies and in our intimate relationships, the terrifying disruptions of our status quo, the daily life-and-death dramas we are forced to deal with, are incredibly disorienting. Not only are we burning up physically, blasted with flashes from our out of control internal furnaces, we are also, many of us, burnt out on an emotional level after years of tending the home, the hearth, and usually a job as well.

Gallup took a poll of women over 55 years of age. They were asked in which decade were they the happiest. 11% said their 20′s, 14% said their 30′s, 13% said their 40′s, the rest, well over 50%  answered “RIGHT NOW!!!”

Interesting. Society tells us, and our own experiences have verified, that now that we are menopausal, we are poised to lose everything that has so far defined us: our power of reproductivity, our youth, our sex appeal, our children, our parents, our spouses, our time left on the job, our visibility, our very lives — and we have never been happier! We might have suffered great loss, but look what we have gained — our Selves, And that makes us happy, indeed.
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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

Soul Friends

posted by Donna Henes

I love working and playing in groups of women. I was never in a college sorority, so my first experience was in the feminist consciousness-raising group that I joined in the late 1960s. And what an eye-opening, empowering experience it was.

We were a very diverse group brought together by our Bohemian, politically radicalized lifestyle. Our backgrounds could not have been different: the Detroit ghetto, patrician Manhattan, an Israeli kibbutz, the suburbs of the Midwest. We were artists, academics, shop girls, political activists. We were married, single, mothers, lesbians. And the more we talked, the more we shared, the more we realized that our upbringing and current status as women was virtually the same.

Our group stayed together for well over a decade. We shared each other’s struggles, sorrows and victories. We helped each other overcome obstacles and achieve goals. We saw each other through advanced degrees, first books, childbirth, divorce, love affairs, coming out, mental breakdowns, addiction, abuse, illness and death. These women have a very special place in my heart.

In the mid 70s I served on the Heresies magazine collective that published the groundbreaking issue on The Great Goddess. A group of us who first met working on that amazing seminal issue still meet monthly for wine and sushi, continuing Goddess research and mutual cheerleading.

In the late 70s I joined DISBAND, a group of women artists who couldn’t play instruments. Our collaboration, fun, argumentative and mutually respectful, produced many clever, ironic, prescient and powerful performances of social commentary and feminist pride. Today, 30 years later, we are still invited to perform.

I also belong to two long lasting groups of women who came together through our work, one a non-profit arts education organization where I used to teach and the other the cemetery where I am still the ritualist. Each of these groups of women meet quarterly to share fabulous dinners and revel in each other’s company.

In 1971 I hitch hiked through Europe with my best friend, Donna Manganello. We were video taping interviews with women in the nascent Women’s Liberation movement in Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy. In addition to all of the pamphlets we collected, my reading material was The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, the perfect accompaniment to our project.

I have not reread it in all these decades, so my memory may be cloudy, but the theme that has stuck with me most over these past four decades was her portrayal of women’s friendships. It was the friendship between her women characters that provided the continuity of support for each other through the ups and downs of their studies, careers, love affairs, marriages and divorces.

You know, whenever women make imaginary female kingdoms in literature, they are always very permissive, to use the jargon word, and easy and generous and self-indulgent, like the relationships between women when there are no men around. They make each other presents, and they have little feasts, and nobody punishes anyone else. This is the female way of going along when there are no men about or when men are not in the ascendant.

- Doris Lessing

Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City agreed when she speculated,“Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates, and guys are just people to have fun with.”

New research bears this out. A study just published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports a considerable connection between the number of friends and the psychological wellbeing for both men and women in midlife. However, the impact of a dependable support system of friends was much greater for women.

The study authors surveyed 6,500 Brits born in 1958 when they were 42, 45 and 50 years old. When they first entered the study, the participants self-reported on their psychological wellbeing, whether they were married, the age they left school and whether they currently held a job. Most people said they were pretty content with their life and happily married.

When they turned 45, the researchers asked the same people how many times per month they met up with friends or family. Around 40 percent of men and 33 percent of women said they had six or more friends they met up with regularly. Sadly, about 10 percent said they had no friends.

When the researchers assessed their subjects’ happiness and friendship statuses again at the age of 50, the results showed a significant association between an active network of friends and psychological wellbeing, especially for women. These findings held up regardless of whether a person was married, had a job or had mental health issues in the past.

The British study isn’t the first to emphasize the importance of adult friendships. An Australian study even found that a thriving social life can lengthen a person’s lifespan, after studying seniors living in community and residential care facilities.

But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
-Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

From Sea Turtles to Social Work

posted by Donna Henes

A New Kind of Midlife Crisis for Women
By Amanda Orr

Last weekend, I attended the birthday brunch of an old friend, surrounded by people with whom I started my own career more than two decades ago. Throughout the afternoon, I heard a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot lately whenever I bump into female friends I haven’t seen in a while: “My goal is to be a story on your blog in the next couple of years. I read it every week and it’s given me hope that I don’t have to do what I’m doing for the rest of my life.”

These confessionals were delivered in hushed tones or in quiet corners far from the potential eavesdropping of other guests. One woman admitted she was looking into part-time graduate school programs for social work and another only half jokingly said that having just returned from a beach vacation, she had the crazy idea that she might like to do something related to marine biology after hearing a scientist discuss his recent sea turtle rescue trip. “I mean, I know it sounds crazy,” she said. “But I mean, maybe I could do something related to it, right?”

“Well, sure you could,” I replied. And furthermore, there’s no reason these women should be talking about these goals in secret as if they’re silly ideas that will probably never happen. For a huge number of professional women today, having a midlife crisis means anything but Botox and convertibles. More and more women are walking away from stable and lucrative, yet stale, careers. They may have loved them once, but now, the thought of staying in them until they’re 65 makes them weep — literally.

These confessionals all started four months ago when, really almost on a whim, a friend and I decided to find some of these brave women — women who leapt from safe and sometimes prestigious careers to start over and do something completely new mid-career. We had no idea how many we would find — our initial goal was 12. “Maybe we can find enough for a magazine article?” we ventured over coffee, giddy at the prospect. After all, we ourselves were two women who, in our early-to-mid-forties were beginning to think, “Is this all there is?” Or, once you’ve worked your way up the career ladder, can you start over? Can you pursue a dream from long ago that got pushed aside when you got promotion after promotion and then got saddled with a mortgage?

And now we know the truth. With Career 2.0, we have discovered the stories are endless. Not only is it possible to turn a passion into a profession, it’s even feasible to pursue a career in something you never even knew existed when you were starting out as a young professional.

Once we started digging, we were blown away by what we found and now laugh at our initial goal. In addition to what we researched online, we started getting referrals about amazing, inspirational women who had made the switch. They just started coming out of the woodwork.

There’s Andie Grace, who left a rewarding and high profile job at Burning Man to help launch an independent film label, Deborah Hernan, who followed up an amazing career at Revlon and amFAR to manufacture her own line of tween skin care products, Srirupta Dasgupta a software industry exec who launched a social enterprise and Aud Melås, a former banker and online start-up founder who moved to Norway and currently brews the number one artisanal beer in the region.

To answer your next question, these are not women who have tapped into a trust fund for a pet project. These are women who have worked their whole lives and are seeking greater fulfillment and new adventures. They want to take charge and are putting their teeth in the game to make it happen.

What do these women have in common? They all invested in themselves. They needed to make a change so badly that they took loans from 401Ks, sold their homes, or downsized their lives in such a way to make it happen. Some returned to school to get new qualifications, others revisited skills or passions they had in earlier, more carefree times before climbing the corporate ladder. Personal fulfillment and happiness were the driving factors and none had any regrets about the decision to re-launch.

But for those of us who have a desire for change but are perhaps somewhat risk adverse, there’s a whole industry springing up to support you. There are crowd funding platforms like MoolaHoop just for women to launch their second acts and women-run co-working spaces like HeraHub offering women a space to network, launch their businesses and ease into a transition without having to have the capital to rent commercial space. Even Stanford University is getting in the game, launching its Distinguished Careers Institute, not just for women, but for anyone who’s had a long-term successful career and wants to take a midlife gap year to figure out what to do next.

And why not? We’re living and working longer, and we have more opportunities than ever. You may not imagine that you can have a second life, but you can. Just take the advice of one of our international stories. As Erja Järvelä recommends — and she should know as a logistics-executive-turned-shamanic-energy-healer — “Quiet down a bit and listen to yourself.” You might be surprised at what you will hear. Or maybe you won’t be surprised as you’ve known it all along. You just needed to find your voice.

I’m just hoping that next year, when I go back to the annual birthday brunch, I find my friend with a fresh sunburn, ready to regale me with stories of rescuing sea turtles.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

Previous Posts

The Queen: A Model for Midlife Empowerment
Who are we supposed to be at this stage of our life when we are less likely to be bound and identified by our kinship connection to someone else — as daughter, wife, mother, lover? What exactly is our role as older than young and younger than old women who are still active, attractive and more eff

posted 6:00:56am Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Lost and Found
Aging and changing might be inevitable, but they ain’t easy. They precipitate in us a great uncertainty. The myriad dramatic disturbances of modern middle life — menopause, health concerns, career shifts, the empty nest, divorce and death — create an overwhelming crisis of identity and purpose

posted 6:00:40am Sep. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Soul Friends
I love working and playing in groups of women. I was never in a college sorority, so my first experience was in the feminist consciousness-raising group that I joined in the late 1960s. And what an eye-opening, empowering experience it was. We were a very diverse group brought together by our Boh

posted 6:00:02am Sep. 12, 2014 | read full post »

From Sea Turtles to Social Work
A New Kind of Midlife Crisis for Women By Amanda Orr Last weekend, I attended the birthday brunch of an old friend, surrounded by people with whom I started my own career more than two decades ago. Throughout the afternoon, I heard a phrase I've been hearing a lot lately whenever I bump into fem

posted 6:00:38am Sep. 10, 2014 | read full post »

Hot Women
It is summer, hot and horny, and I am on a roll. So I am going to continue this theme of beauty, attraction, seduction, sex, love and self-love until I run out of content — or steam, whichever comes first.  Many women now in midlife have always been pleasure seekers. Our generation created and

posted 6:00:26am Sep. 08, 2014 | read full post »


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