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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

Interview with a Canadian Queen – Part 2

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: Coming of Age in the 60s (Viking, 2010), 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.

It is also my pleasure to offer copies of After the Falls to the first three women who contact me to request one.

Interview with a Canadian Queen – Part 2

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

CG – 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.

QMD – Have your expectations changed? In what way?

CG – 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.”

QMD – What invaluable lessons has aging taught you?

CG – 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?

CG – 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.

* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

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

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers 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.

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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.

It is also my pleasure to offer copies of After the Falls to the first three women who contact me to request one.

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?

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CG – 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.

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

CG – 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?

CG – 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.

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

CG – 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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Tomorrow Interview with a Canadian Queen – Part 2

* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

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

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers 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.

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Earth Speaks

posted by Donna Henes

 

Earth Speaks
By Elizabeth Hazel, OH

Earth speaks to those who listen:
Maternal lectures in shades of green,
Sisterly riddles in coy lagoons and comic swamps,
And her epic daughters,
Mountain covens meet to ponder immortality.

She thinks in seasons and paints in time:
Impressionistic springs give way to pointilistic summers;
Drab and tattered autumns yield to ruthless winter whites
As frost giants gnash through horn-blasted blizzards.

Earth speaks to those who listen:
The North Star is poised upon the axis of her turnings,
And steers her through tides of space and time.
The pulse of her journey thrums through sand and soil,
And her blood churns through rivers and streams.
Her body communicates with force and subtlety,
And few can penetrate her family secrets.
Her moon conducts exchanges with neighborly planets
And imports overseas from remote suns.
Light year accounts in her cosmic ledger
Score tallies that beggar all reckoning.
Contrivances may take her measure
But know not her meaning
Or delight in her passions.

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Earth speaks to those who listen
In the oldest language of all;
With the nouns of creation,
With verbs of being,
And adjectives of multiplicity.
Hers is the greatest song
The deeps call to the heights
In a symphonic canon of sea and land;
And all hearts resound to her sonorous chords.
Earth speaks to those who listen.

* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

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

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers 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.

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Guardian Queen of Earth’s Water

posted by Donna Henes

Author and eco-feminist Vandana Shiva has long been a leading activist for women of third-world countries, farming and water sovereignty. According to her article “Empowering Women,” she suggests that a more sustainable and productive approach to agriculture can be achieved through reinstating a system of farming in India that is more centered around engaging women.

She advocates against the prevalent “patriarchal logic of exclusion,” claiming that a woman-focused system would change the current system in an extremely positive manner. In this way, Indian and global food security, can only benefit from a focus on empowering women through integrating them into the agricultural system.

She describes a compelling and creative relationship between women, soil and water. Women in India often walk many miles to obtain drinking water for their families. However, they usually go no further than 10 miles to do so. At that point, they take action. Women were among the first to notice a connection between deforestation and a lack of water. As the homemakers, women are in charge of collecting drinking water. However, after deforestation campaigns, they often noticed a severe decline in the resource.

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A participant of the 1970s Chipko Movement to prevent deforestation in India, Shiva explains, “Forests used to be about revenue and timber, but then it was about water.”

She also rallied against strip mining in India. Though the then-Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, condemned strip mining in the Himalayan Mountains for its “ugliness,” Shiva took action to prevent damage to water. “In the limestone, caves and cavities and bodies of water would form. Strip mining stole the water storage system provided by nature,” she said.

Shiva tells of a 75-year-old woman who had been beaten for preventing bulldozers from further stripping the mountains. Despite her injuries, the woman carried on, calling to mind Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent practices. “We strip foliage from trees and the leaves return. We are a part of nature, why wouldn’t we bounce back as well?” Shiva said.

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In 1993, Queen Shiva received the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) “…For placing women and ecology at the heart of modern development discourse.” Other awards she has received include the Global 500 Award of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1993, and the Earth Day International Award of the United Nations (UN) for her dedicated commitment to the preservation of the planet as demonstrated by her actions, leadership and by setting an example for the rest of the world.

On the train from Delhi to Jaipur, we were served bottled water, where Pepsi’s water line Aquafina was the brand of choice. On the streets of Jaipur, there was another culture of water. At the peak of drought, small thatched huts called Jal Mandirs (water temples) were put up to give water from earthen water pots as a free gift to the thirsty. Jal Mandirs are a part of an ancient tradition of setting up Piyaos, free water stands in public areas. This was a clash between two cultures: a culture that sees water as sacred and treats its provision as a duty for the preservation of life and another that sees water as a commodity, and its ownership and trade as a fundamental corporate right.

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* Please send me your thoughts about power and powerful women who you know and/or admire. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

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

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers 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.

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