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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

To My Daughter, I Will Beg

posted by Donna Henes

by N’tima Preusser
Military wife and new mother

 

One hundred and seven pounds.

I worked hard for that weight. I was light. I was frail. I counted my corn kernels. My skin was colorless, punctuated with clogged pores, and my eyes were yellowing, my external organs corroding as if to prove that my insides were struggling.

But you could see my collar bones, and that is what mattered.

I had finally crossed the threshold into the “underweight” category, according to the BMI calculator that haunted me. I was greedy for less (and less, and less). I celebrated my weakness. I translated it into strength. I bled insecurity. The word “ugly” had a debilitating kind of dominance over me. If you told me I was “fat,” I would have come apart.

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Because that is what mattered.

I was emotionally, mentally… cellularly starving. It took me years to learn what I know now, but it was not until her that I really got it.

Seven pounds and twelve ounces of redemption. A tiny girl full of a giant dose of clarity. It took my body swelling with child. My bones bearing the weight of another human being. The expanding, the shrinking, the scarring, the tearing — all of it — to accept my body in its glory.

My body, that I hated so deeply before, built my daughter’s body.

That is nothing short of a miracle, to me.

From the moment we met, the responsibility to teach her how to love herself has sat squarely, tirelessly, on my shoulders.

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I still am uncertain of what I will do to be sure of that. By the time I was 7 years old, I was already coveting Catherine Zeta Jones’ face on a magazine cover. I do not know how that happens. I do not know how as women we go from babies blowing kisses to ourselves in the mirror, to young girls pinching our bellies, or dodging our reflections in the mirror altogether. There were just so many little things in my life that added up. Little things that went unnoticed until I found myself kneeling in the bathroom, washing out the sound of me making myself sick with the bath water running.

I do not know how to protect my daughter from the sexualization of women that is this world.

I don’t.

But to my daughter, I will beg, “fall in love with yourself first” — this matters. And I do not mean a tolerant, conditional, praise-yourself-when-you-look-good kind of love. I mean deeply-rooted, white hot, irrevocable, laugh-at-yourself love.

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On the day my daughter looks up at me, with her innocence still intact, and asks if she is pretty, I will want to shake her by the shoulders and scream “YES.” In that pivotal moment, I will not put emphasis on how beautiful I think the combination of her father and me illustrated on her face is.

No.

Instead, I will tell her that her heart has a strength that has allowed it to start beating again after stopping. I will not put emphasis on the nearly-perfect curls in her hair or the blue that swims in her eyes.

No.

She will know, instead, that she has bones and muscles that carry her from place to place without growing weary. That she can see, and hear, and taste the flavor of this life wholly thanks to the body that she lives in. I will emphasize the knowledge, the truth and the creativity that she stores inside of her head. I will tell her that she has 10 fingers that have memorized sign language and a mouth that speaks words so that she can communicate all that she is feeling. I will tell her that she has a body that is capable, a body that is powerful. A body that gives her life every single day and heals when it is sick. A body that gives and gives and demands nothing but love in return.

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When my daughter is 12, stricken by her first gust of insecurity and dissecting her appearance, I hope she does not see the gap between her thighs that is or isn’t there. I hope she does not measure the symmetry in her face or the depth of her pores. I hope instead, that she will see looking back at her the shell of the spirit that is within her. I hope that she knows that the number on the scale is only the numerical relationship between her body and gravity.

That number doesn’t really matter.

I will make sure that she knows as a woman, as a person, that her body belongs to her. It does not, and will never, belong to me, or to her father, or to any other person. She will know that there is no requirement to be soft around the edges because she is made up of an XX chromosome. She will know that she does not have to be delicate or lovely if she does not want to be. I want her to know she does not have to water herself down to spare the intimidating of others. I hope she is unapologetic with her confidence. I hope she is a force to be reckoned with.

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A hurricane.

I want her to know that loving your body means tending to it with care. It means listening to your body, moving your body, feeding your body the things that it instinctively craves. I do not care if that means juicing organic kale or treating yourself to ice cream, as long as it is done in love.

I want her to know that when she offers this kind of love, her body will embrace her right back. This is so important. This matters.

Early in life, I pray she has a solid understanding of what it took me so long to grasp: You do not have to be beautiful.

She must know that beauty, from an aesthetic place — even intelligence, talent or humor — are all irrelevant to her, and anyone else’s, self-worth. All of these things are gravely overshadowed by the truth that she is a human being. She must know as a human being that her voice is never Too Loud, and that the space she occupies is never Too Much.

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Lastly, I hope this self-love that courses through her will be so abundant, it will overflow into the lives of the people she meets in her lifetime.

By example, I will teach her that ultimately, loving yourself is the beginning of all victories. And that is what matters.

Originally seen on Coffee + Crumbs.

 

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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.

 

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Successful Aging: Rituals to Increase Energy

posted by Donna Henes

By Helen Dennis, LA Daily News

At some point, most of us acknowledge that we can’t do quite as much as we did years ago — and usually not in the same amount of time. If we overdo it, we often pay a huge fatigue price.

Let’s focus on an energy audit from an October 2007 Harvard Business Review article by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” (Most of the information in this column is based on that article.)

Schwartz and McCarthy directed their article to organizations that want to increase their capacity to get things done. Although the article is directed to employers, many of the points are relevant to individuals — in or out of organizations exhausted at any life stage.

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Here are selected statements from the authors’ “energy audit” to determine if one is headed for an energy crisis.

  • I don’t regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep and often wake up feeling tired.I don’t work out enough (cardiovascular three times a week; strength training at least once a week).
  • I have too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy.
  • I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation or to savor my accomplishments and blessings.
  • I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time and am easily distracted during the day, especially by email.
  • I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing and creative thinking.
  • I don’t spend enough time (at work) doing what I do best and most enjoy.
  • There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life and how I actually allocate my time and energy.

There is no magic number of check marks that suggest a crisis. However, agreements to these statements are reminders to be vigilant on how you spend time.

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Four sources of personal energy are identified by the authors, and each is accompanied by rituals to fuel and sustain these sources.

The body is a source of physical energy. We know that lack of nutrition, exercise and sleep diminishes physical energy and the ability to manage emotions and focus attention.

Rituals: Improve sleep by going to bed earlier and reduce alcohol consumption. Reduce stress with cardiovascular and strength training. Be aware of signs of low energy such as feeling restless, yawning, being hungry and having difficulty concentrating.

Emotions affect the quality of our energy. We cannot physiologically sustain intense emotions for long periods of time without periods of recovery. And with age, recovery typically takes a little longer. If we ignore the need for downtime, we may become cranky, impatient, anxious and feel insecure. Such emotions can be exhausting.

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Rituals: Diffuse negative emotions with deep-breathing exercises. Positive emotions can be enhanced by expressing appreciation to others. And if we have an intensely difficult situation, consider, “How will I think about this in six months and what can I learn from it?”

The mind and what we do with it affects the focus of our energy. For example, multitasking has been considered a value in the workplace. In reality, it undermines productivity. As much as 25 percent of time is wasted in switching from one task to another.

Rituals: When tasks require high performance, stay away from emails and the telephone. And every night, identify the most important challenge for the next day. Make that a priority the next morning at home or the office, studio, laboratory or volunteer setting.

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Having a purpose and feeling that life has meaning fuels the human spirit. When daily activities are consistent with our values, we derive a sense of meaning. As a result, we typically have “more positive energy, focus better and demonstrate greater perseverance.”

Rituals: Allocate time and energy to what is most important to you. Try this on a daily basis, even if you only allocate a short amount of time. Live according to your values. If doing for others is part of your values, make this a priority. Finally, recall when you have felt absorbed, effective and inspired. Now deconstruct that experience to understand what has energized you. Was it your creativity? Using one of your skills? Being in charge? Whatever the answer, do more of that type of activity.

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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.

 

 

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Interview with a Canadian Queen – Part 2

posted by Donna Henes

QMD – When you imagined yourself as a woman in her middle years, how did you imagine your life to be? Is it?

I am 62, so I am past my middle years. When I was a girl or even in college everyone thought I would never marry or have children. I agreed with their assessment. When I was a child, I pictured my middle years with me as a nun in Africa discovering new medicines or administering to the poor. (All of my aunts were nuns.) When I was in college I imagined myself as an academic living alone with my work in New York City. Oddly, after a life of having little to do with men, I met a man, married him and had three children who are now in their 30s, and I have been happily married for 40 years. I never pictured myself with a family. When I went to my high school reunion, the boys in my class were surprised I married. They saw me, as one of them said, “as the first raging feminist.”

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In terms of a career I am now a writer, alone on the third floor of my house writing novels and memoirs. I am thrilled to have such a great career and lifestyle and I believe I have surpassed my childhood expectations. I feel having a chance to create something in a long-extended project is as good as life gets. In many ways I am doing what my mother wanted to do.

CG – Have your expectations changed? In what way?

Love changes everything. When you have no idea what love is, you feel it is overrated. However, once you have had a chance to love your spouse and children you realize that no matter how much fame or how many books you write, none of it will ever give you the warmth of a family. I never expected to want more than external achievements when I was younger.

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QMD – How do you feel about the process of aging?

I am fairly shocked by it and frankly appalled. I don’t have limitless talents. My two meager talents used to be that I had athletic ability and I had a prodigious memory. Both are gone. When I look at the weights I lifted or the boats I rowed and raced, I can’t believe I ever did that much. I could never do it today. In terms of memory, I still remember things from long ago. I cannot believe that I can’t remember the names of characters in a book that I read last week. I don’t know why that should appall me since I now forget my children’s names. I used to have limitless energy and can honestly say I never once in my life was tired until after I was 55. Since I turned 60, I find that I can do much less intellectual or creative work in a day. I also get tired and need to get more sleep.

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On the upside, the humbling of aging has FORCED me to learn a lot. I think I finally have my priorities straight. I have learned to be nicer to myself and to others. You can’t have it all. Oscar Wilde was right when he said “Youth is wasted on the young.”

CG – What invaluable lessons has aging taught you?

Don’t expect too much of yourself. Relax and work on relationships. There will always be some “young thing” hot on your heels who is more energetic, prettier, smarter, more ambitious, more athletic, or funnier. You lose your edge and can’t compete anymore. You need to change gears and work on having fun. You don’t want to work forever and then drop dead. You need to not put off what you want to do. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW SHORT LIFE IS. No one is able to tell you that time accelerates with age. What five years was when you were 20 is far longer than it is at 60.

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QMD – Do you have wise words for women in their midlife transition?

Do not listen to anyone except yourself.  If you want to do something and those around you discourage you, don’t listen. Just do it. Many people told me that I had to stay in psychology in private practice. I “needed the money.” I “would never get published.” etc, etc.  Fortunately, I didn’t listen and I do make enough money — not a lot, but enough, and I did get published. People often speak from THEIR own fears. Their naysaying has nothing to do with you. If you want something enough you will overcome the obstacles.

 

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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.

 

 

 

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Interview with a Canadian Queen – Part 1

posted by Donna Henes

I recently attended a talk by Canadian author Catherine Gildiner and was quite taken with her good humored wisdom. When I read her book, After the Falls, I was hooked. She graciously allowed me to interview her and I would like to share her answers with you. They offer a revealing and inspiring description of a woman coming into her power.

Interview with a Canadian Queen – Part 1


QMD – I understand that you did not begin to write until you were in your 50s. Can you please tell me about that? What made you want to chronicle your early life?

I was a psychologist for twenty-five years and then one night at a dinner party I began telling a story of an event that occurred when I worked in my father’s drug store from the age of four. I was delivering drugs with the black delivery car driver and we were snowed in and I had to stay overnight at his house. The woman who had the party worked for CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company). She encouraged me to write up the tale. She suggested I enter it into a short story competition. However once I started to write — I wrote a whole memoir! Then I sent it to a publisher and it was immediately published and on the best seller’s list. I decided at that point to begin a full time career in writing. I was already fifty so I decided I didn’t have that much time left.

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I concentrated on my early life because I had such memorable people in my work as a young child, they seemed to be screaming in my head to be written about.


CG – What was your first sense of yourself as a self-identified person, separate from what society expected of you? 

A bully was harassing me and hurting me. He was pulling out my hair in bunches for months. I went to my teacher and parents but their solutions did not stop the bullying. Finally I stabbed the bully in grade four with a compass. He collapsed. And I finally let him have it. I was kicked out of school and was forced to see a psychiatrist. That was a fairly dramatic consequence for a Catholic school in the 1950s. I had a sense that I was not doing what was expected of me but I really didn’t care. I had protected myself. It wasn’t what Catholic school expected from my parents. I however realized I was on my own and I had protected myself. If people thought I was crazy I REALLY didn’t care. It was quite freeing really.

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QMD – When and in what circumstances have you felt yourself to be powerful? 

I have felt powerful several times. I worked on civil rights in the 60’s.  Even when I was a young kid I went out in the night and decided to paint all the black lawn jockeys (lawn ornaments) white. When it was written up in the paper as “vandalism” I still felt powerful for doing it. Any time that I worked for a greater public goal I felt a surge of personal power.

CG – What powers, strengths, visions, are you working on manifesting now? 

I am not working on any powers in the external sense. I feel I have a lot of those. I am working on trying to manage my anger and type A personality so that I can better enjoy my personal relationships. If you want to talk in terms of visions, I want to see myself as someone who accepts others and accepts myself. Hard driving gets you all kinds of external rewards (PhD, money, books published, psychology private practice) but at 62 you find it wears out your motor and replacement parts are hard to come by. I have bought a farm so that I can calm down and appreciate nature and solitude.

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…     Monday, Interview with a Canadian Queen – Part 2

 

 

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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

To My Daughter, I Will Beg
by N'tima Preusser Military wife and new mother   One hundred and seven pounds. I worked hard for that weight. I was light. I was frail. I counted my corn kernels. My skin was colorless, punctuated with clogged pores, and my eyes ...

posted 6:00:50am Jul. 31, 2015 | read full post »

Successful Aging: Rituals to Increase Energy
By Helen Dennis, LA Daily News At some point, most of us acknowledge that we can’t do quite as much as we did years ago — and usually not in the same amount of time. If we overdo it, we often pay a huge fatigue price. Let’s focus on ...

posted 6:00:11am Jul. 29, 2015 | read full post »

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posted 6:00:53am Jul. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Interview with a Canadian Queen – Part 1
I recently attended a talk by Canadian author Catherine Gildiner and was quite taken with her good humored wisdom. When I read her book, After the Falls, I was hooked. She graciously allowed me to interview her and I would like to share her ...

posted 2:16:57pm Jul. 24, 2015 | read full post »

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