I see “Begin Again” as an ideal theme for this season. We have the supreme opportunity now in the autumn of our midlife to begin again. How shall we reinvent our Selves? What new programs, projects and passions are on the horizon for us? Please send me your stories of change, transition, and transformation. Our shared experiences serve to inspire and empower us all.
Thanks. xxQueen Mama Donna
Candles, lanterns, lamps and torches are employed universally to light the way along the spirit path of progress. In another domestic adaptation of the Epiphany tradition, many families keep a tall twelve-year candle for each child. This is first lit at the christening, then burnt bit by bit, year after year, until the child attains adulthood at the age of thirteen. A candle, of course, represents life; a birthday candle, our life — the spark, the heat, the glow, the movement, the melt down, the ultimate burnout. We kindle a ceremonial fire so that the propitiatory power of our prayers can rise on the smoke, fly on the flames, find its way up to heaven. We make a wish and bless it with a blow of our life’s breath, which, one day, too, will be extinguished.
Somehow, especially as we grow older, cake and low-fat frozen yogurt are no longer the fulfilling richness we seek in our birthday celebrations. A party doesn’t feed us, the day doesn’t quite seem to satisfy us the way it used to. The promise implicit in the pomp is gone. We have seen what we have seen. We know what we know. We are left, more and more, with a subtle sense of disappointment and an unsettling reminder of the ever-swifter passage of time. Another day older and deeper in debt.
A birthday, then, becomes a time line, a life line, a party line, a deadline. An assessment of our annual bottom line. Research shows that there is a definite “birthday effect” on the health of a given group. The incidence of heart attacks increases significantly for both men and women during the week before and after their birthdays. This might be equally explained, I suppose, by the added emotional/physical stress of ambivalent anticipation and ultimate let down and over-the-top partying.
Our birthday is our own personal new year. It is an annual reunion with ourselves, and attendance is required. It is a periodic opportunity to take serious personal stock. “How am I doing?,” as old Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, would always ask. What have I learned? And what can I just not get through my thick skull? Like any new beginning, our birthday is an ideal time to sharpen our focus, realign our perspective and rededicate ourselves to living the very best life we can.
Since the early 1980’s, I have kept a birthday book. I usually retreat to some extent and fast to some degree during the week or so before my birthday, during which time I devote myself entirely to the recording of the past year. Processing my impressions and my lessons. Plotting my progress. Pondering my problems. Planning my goals. Ultimate good girl that she was, Princess Victoria of Great Britain wrote in her journal on her eighteenth birthday,
“How old! and yet how far I am from being what should be…. I shall from this day take the firm resolution to study…. to keep my attention always well fixed on whatever I am about, and strive everyday to become less trifling and more fit for what, if Heaven wils (sic) it, I’m someday to become!”
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering 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™: http://www.donnahenes.net/queen/consult.shtml
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.