The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

Benefits of Age

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 our role 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.

 

 

Long Live the Queen

posted by Donna Henes

The notion that fifty years of age could be considered a “halfway” mark is unprecedented. For most of human existence, life expectancy hovered at around twenty to thirty years, and it was only by 1800 that folks commonly began to live to be forty. American women now enjoy a mean life expectancy of eighty-four years, a stunning rise from only forty-eight years for a woman born in 1900.

In general, women live about eight years longer than men, whose average life expectancy today is seventy-six years. It was once thought that when large numbers of women entered previously male dominated professions, they, too, would start dropping dead of heart attacks and strokes on the stock exchange floor. Not only did that not happen, but women now outlive men by an even greater margin than before. Today, a woman is likely to live thirty-five to forty years following her menopause.

If a woman reaches fifty without a chronic illness, notes Dr. Christiane Northrup, the well-known obstetrician-gynecologist, in The Wisdom of Menopause, she has every expectation of living into her mid eighties at least. Our chance these days of living to one hundred is one in fifty, an astronomical increase over the millennia from one in twenty million.

This means that at midlife, we can typically expect two, three, four dynamic, active, productive decades before we consider ourselves old enough to claim the right to be called Crones. We do not look or feel or act our age because our age is no longer perceived to be old. Or, as the caption of a New Yorker cartoon put it, “Good news, honey – seventy is the new fifty.” In Dr. Northup’s words, menopause is the “springtime of the second half of life.”

But if we are blessed with this inestimable gift of many more years of life than anyone who ever lived on Earth before us could ever have imagined, it is crucial that we wend our way with great concentration and care through the crises of our midlife passage, so that we can learn how to turn our losses into the very lessons that will help us to achieve the life that we want for ourselves as we age.

If we ignore our unresolved problems, chronic irritants and resentments, we can be sure that they will surface as toxic stress that can cause cancer, heart attacks, substance abuse, depression and other debilitating and life-threatening problems. How successfully we handle our changes now will determine the quality of our health and well-being for all of our future years. Our life literally depends on it.

Midlife women today are anxious to work through the debilitating panic of aging and its negative, derogatory cultural connotations with at least some measure of good grace. We want assurance that the difficult transitions we are experiencing might bring about a period of positive growth and transformation for ourselves as individuals, for our relationships, and for society as a whole. We are determined to redefine the parameters and archetypes of middle age.

Possessing both the vital stamina of youth and the experienced wisdom of age, our pioneering generation is especially suited to such a task. Unique in history for our unprecedented freedom, education, individuality, worldliness, health, wealth and longevity, we now hold positions of hard-earned authority, responsibility and influence in ever-wider realms.

Though certainly not perfect, nor perfectly safe, our power is unparalleled. Moreover, weaned on freethinking, idealism and independence, we have been prescribing the parameters of our lives, inventing and reinventing our culture and ourselves for decades.

 

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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.

A Time For Me

posted by Donna Henes

During the decades of our Maiden and Motherhood, women grow to meet all of our many demanding responsibilities. Like the moon that can’t keep getting fuller and fuller with no retreat, we can take on only so much before exploding like a balloon pumped up with too much air. In the second half of Her life, the Queen begins to wane, to contract, to pull in. She opens the air valve and releases what is not to Her benefit.

“Perhaps middle-age” speculates Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “is, or should be, a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulation, the shell of the ego. One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach.” The Queen rejects the unimportant, the unsupportive, and the inconsequential until She is pared down to the essentials. The purity of Her purpose ever more finely focused, She lives Her life more directly to the point.

When we reach our middle years we naturally pause and take stock of our lives — our career paths, our goals and aspirations, our sense of meaning and purpose. With our perspective of all of the changes and losses that we have seen and suffered, we come to realize that all we have left in our lives is time, and who knows how much of that remains?

Therefore, the imperative to live fully, creatively, energetically, effectively and consciously consumes us. We begin to question — some of us for the first time ever in our good girl lives — all previous assumptions, rules, restrictions, addictions, predictions and predilections which have ordered our existence. Our heart cries out for authenticity. Is the life that we are living the life that we would choose if we knew that we had only one life to live?

All of the parts of ourselves that we have previously ignored, hidden, sublimated and suppressed are clamoring for our attention. “What about me?” the career woman yells at the homemaker and the homemaker yells right back “And what am I, chopped liver? I want my turn, too.” “No, it’s my turn,” demands the daughter, the lover, the wife, the mother. “No, no, look at me,” shouts the artist, the writer, the musician, the athlete, the entrepreneur, the adventurer, the healer, the spiritual seeker. An unlived life demands to be lived.

One therapist I know calls the woman at this decisive stage of midlife “The Dangerous Woman,” because she is likely to overthrow all of her previously held notions of responsibility and duty to others, and puts herself — her needs, her desires, her goals and her dreams — first, despite the repercussions. “Women have to summon up courage to fulfill dormant dreams,” writes Alice Walker. The Queen bursts forth from adversity and previous constraints, actual or imagined, to become a proficient player in the game plan of Her choice. When She operates from Her own inner guidance, She releases Her unique gifts and expressions, the sum of Her entire life experience to date, and allows them to ripen and come to fruition. And She recognizes and celebrates the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of doing so.

The Queen of Achievement, of Attainment, of Endurance, of Survival has experienced much during Her turns at Maiden and Motherhood. She has traveled to the ends of Her emotions, sometimes willingly, sometimes kicking and screaming. She has explored the depths of the pain and sorrow of the dark times in life as well as the joys and pleasures of the lightest moments, and has learned and integrated the lessons of each.

Her skills are polished, Her confidence high. She is contained, sufficient unto Herself. She knows She can handle whatever might come Her way, because She has, in fact, already done so. She is focused and engaged, fruitful, and a newly fierce champion on Her own behalf. This gives Her clarity of vision and purpose. She knows what She wants and knows She wants it now. Her decisions might not make sense to Her friends and family, Her choices might shock and alarm them, but no amount of dissuasion can shake Her from Her resolve. Old doubts and concerns fade in the glaring light of Her determination.

Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself.
- Katherine Mansfield

 

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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.

My Mother the Queen

posted by Donna Henes

Unlike my grandmother who personified the archetypal transition from Motherhood to Cronedom at menopause, her daughter, my mother, was a Queen long before her time. Her story is quite a common one now, shared by many millions of women, but in the early 1950’s, she was a lonely pioneer when she sought a divorce at the age of forty-five.

My mother did not get divorced for reasons of adultery or cruelty or even irreconcilable differences, not that her marriage wasn’t severely flawed. But her desire to separate actually had little to do with her husband, my father. When that momentous day came, her radical decision was really about her sudden, urgent and undeniable drive to make her way in the world on her own.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight
in bud became more painful than the risk to bloom.
- Anais Nin

Like so many women of her generation, she had graduated directly from her mother’s extended household to her own nuclear family, and had no experience of living alone. So, one morning, she simply woke up knowing in her bones that this life that she had not so much chosen, but fallen into, nearly two decades before was no longer — if it ever was — good for her.

After nineteen years of homemaking, she was suddenly thrown back into the job market with two kids to raise, no alimony, minuscule child support and pitifully archaic office skills. As if the situation wasn’t challenging enough, she had to endure a fall from suburban grace, the censure and not-so-subtle stigma of being a divorcée. What she did have going for her, however, was a mighty determination for a second chance at life — this time on her own terms, thank you very much.

After a few years of acting out of fear, foundering, failing and starting again from scratch, searching for and finding herself (during which time she miraculously kept us all afloat), my mother finally cast her lot with a start-up land development company in desperate need of her considerable Virgoean organizational skills. By the time she reached her early fifties, she had worked (and I mean worked) her way into a vice-presidency of the corporation. The only woman executive, she had a huge budget and hundreds of people in her charge, not the least of whom was herself. She cast herself as a Joan Crawford-Barbara Stanwick-Rosalyn Russell character — a scrappy, independent, smart-as-hell, chic-suited career woman with shoulder pads and an entirely black and white wardrobe — the star of her own version of a 1940’s film.

It was only when I was about half finished writing The Queen of My Self that I realized that my mother, Adelaide Trugman, was the Queen incarnate, my own personal archetypal role model. How fortunate I was to have witnessed the process — the struggle, the strain and the joy — of my mother’s midlife transformation from a suffering and subservient wife and unfulfilled PTA mom into a Queen who refused to be invisible, spoke her own mind with authority and demanded to be heard.

The pride and pleasure she derived from her achievements was electrifying, animating her energy and coloring her cheeks with a contagious royal flush. She moved through the world now with confidence in her abilities, and a completely new charisma. With no one to answer to, she was free to pursue her greatest pleasures, long denied. She sold the house and got and decorated the apartment of her dreams. She traveled, took painting and ceramics classes, went to lectures, plays, concerts, and played cards with her friends, the “girls.” She even bought herself a mink coat, a particularly satisfying accomplishment, since in her day, in her crowd, the husband paid for the furs.

 

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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

Benefits of Age
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 6:00:37am Apr. 14, 2014 | read full post »

Long Live the Queen
The notion that fifty years of age could be considered a “halfway” mark is unprecedented. For most of human existence, life expectancy hovered at around twenty to thirty years, and it was only by 1800 that folks commonly began to live to be forty. American women now enjoy a mean life expectancy

posted 6:00:51am Apr. 11, 2014 | read full post »

A Time For Me
During the decades of our Maiden and Motherhood, women grow to meet all of our many demanding responsibilities. Like the moon that can’t keep getting fuller and fuller with no retreat, we can take on only so much before exploding like a balloon pumped up with too much air. In the second half of He

posted 6:00:33am Apr. 09, 2014 | read full post »

My Mother the Queen
Unlike my grandmother who personified the archetypal transition from Motherhood to Cronedom at menopause, her daughter, my mother, was a Queen long before her time. Her story is quite a common one now, shared by many millions of women, but in the early 1950’s, she was a lonely pioneer when she sou

posted 6:00:18am Apr. 07, 2014 | read full post »

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posted 6:00:49am Apr. 04, 2014 | read full post »


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