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. I found this great new beginnings piece in the Daily Mail, U.K.
xxQueen Mama Donna
A New Life – Part 2
By Crista Cloutier
I couldn’t afford to live in France. I’d have to get a car, a place to stay, and I had my share of credit-card debt. But one look around my house and I realized I might be able to bankroll this madcap idea. You see, I was the sort of girl who liked to buy things. Shop girls lit up when I entered their doors. Now all this stuff I had accumulated was going to find a new home in order to fund mine.
Like most people, I tended to identify myself by my possessions. As I began selling my precious belongings – the contemporary art collection, the classic-film library, the stainless-steel pots and pans – the doubts crept in. By the time my antique furniture was going under the hammer I had become an insomniac, pacing the floor each night racked with fear.
My family and friends were supportive, though they thought I was mad. After I left my job, new and exciting offers began trickling in. I was tempted and my resolve wavered, but I grimly persevered. Whatever had gripped me about moving to France refused to let go.
It was a week before D-day when I broke. I’d been feeling wobbly, but had spent the previous few months so totally focused on shedding the last remains of my American life there wasn’t time for emotion. Suddenly, the tears were falling furiously for having been denied. I wailed – for my family and friends, my house, my books, my beautiful things, my Prada bag, for God’s sake. And for what? The unknown. I was terrified that nothing would ever fill the void of what was gone. I would spend the rest of my life empty. But something kept pushing me forward, a belief in something more, more to life than pretty clothes and parties. More to me.
What would I do in France? I had no plan. I didn’t even speak the language. I had spent so much of my life exhaling – working, spending, striving and trying to please – that I needed to inhale, to be inspired.
When I finally arrived in France with my whole life funneled into two (well, OK, three) suitcases, I was exhausted. I moved into a remote 400-year-old farmhouse. It was nearing wintertime, though autumn’s vivid reds and golds still painted the wild landscape. The only sound came from the wind, which was relentless and bitterly cold. I learned to haul wood and build a fire. My thoughts were my only company as they kept repeating, ‘What the hell have you done?’ I moved between exhilaration and terror, faith and doubt, white wine and rosé.
I spent the first ten days clinging to the fireplace for warmth and the bottle for comfort, using my tear-soaked tissues as kindling. With no television to distract, I could stay by the fire all winter or I could create each day. The freedom was paralysing. But slowly, fear released her clutch and I began to paint a new picture of my life.
I ventured into the wild French landscape and was surrounded by beauty. I began taking long country walks. Me, the girl who considered a long walk to be from one end of the shopping mall to the other. Now I tramped for miles each day. I got lost but realised that I could always find my way. I learned to trust my instincts.
Tomorrow: A New Life – Part 3
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™
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.