Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

by Carol Howard Merritt

I was in the midst of that crisis of middle life. The one that made my eyes roll when I read of white women who felt they had no meaning. It always sounded like they inhabited a fog of luxury-malaise. They had to create drama because they didn’t have enough challenge in their day. So they began dieting, exercising, shopping, and sleeping with friends. Most of them could get away with it easily, thanks to the cluelessness of their husbands who spent most of their time watching sports.

What a cliché.

I wasn’t on the floor of the bathroom with Elizabeth Gilbert. I couldn’t eat or love my way out of this. My depression was much more boring than that. In fact, when I began to tell people about it, their eyes would glaze over, and they would change the subject. They would mindlessly look down at their phone and start reading their Twitter feed.

So I went to a therapist. He fell asleep on me. He literally nodded off in the middle of my sentence.

I got so much more depressed when I realized that I couldn’t even pay someone to be interested in my problems.

I wasn’t sleeping with anyone but my husband. I had dedicated my life to a life of meaning. And yet, I was still falling in that fear of insignificance. I started to struggle with getting out of bed. I didn’t want to take a shower.

Then, I remembered the words of Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones. She was instructing her readers on how to compile a gratitude list. And she said that if we had nothing to be thankful for, then we should be thankful for the ground.

So I looked down. The earth would bear me, even when I felt like I had no support. The air would sustain me, even when I was not feeling nurtured. The theologian Paul Tillich talked about God as the “Ground of all Being.” It was a rich metaphor. God was not above, removed, or distant. God was earthy and integrated.

The air would sustain me. I breathed. Then I went on a walk, and I wondered, “What would the ground tell me, if I listened? I mean, if I really listened? In the midst of my free fall, could I find some grounding?”

The air was damp. It wasn’t that greedy moisture when the air hoards the water into an oppressive blanket of humidity. It was the sort of damp that came from the relief of rain. Cooling everything. I had been walking for years, but it had become a time to make phone calls, listen to new music, take pictures, or finish up an audio book. But in this moment, I hungered to hear the wisdom of the ground.

I kept my house locked up. Sealed tight so that I could conserve energy. I couldn’t command the weather, but I had figured out how to make our home climate controlled. And so I had double-paned windows and lots of insulation guarding us from the elements.

I rarely thought about it, but when I walked outside, I realize that the world was singing. Birds, cicadas, dogs–it was like entering a murmuring crowd of people. I had to intentionally listen to the distinct voices. Trying to distinguish them, I heard the steady beauty of percussionists who repeat the same notes. How did they fit together so well, in their various syncopations and songs? Then I heard the rhythm of my feet on the ground.

The earth was reminding me that I am connected to the song, somehow.

It was  great folly of modernity. We thought that when we closed ourselves up, had control, then we would achieve comfort in our singularity. When we were alone, when we no longer had the nagging needs pulling at us, we would find relief. Yet being human means contributing to that chorus–the singing, barking, and the cries. What we do affects one another. And it was through my ability to hear and our vulnerability to each creature and that somehow made my crisis subside.

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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.

 

The more conscious and respectful we become of the abiding presence and guiding force of our Selves, the more we feel inclined to spend time alone in Her excellent company. One way to honor these healing times of communion, of seclusion, and reflection with that deep part of us that is the source of our strength and wisdom is to conduct them in an environment that is both worthy and conducive to the sacredness of the occasion. That source, that center of Self, cries out to inhabit a special, sanctified space of our own creation, “a room of our own” as Virginia Woolf put it, where we are happily at home within ourselves. The Queen in us becomes very discriminating as to the quality of peace, order, and beauty that She establishes in Her environment, and She defends its inviolability as sacred.


The Queen Suggests:

Create Sacred Space

Put some meditative music on, dim the lights, and walk, dance, slide, crawl, or roll, slowly through your home. You might want to close or squint your eyes so that you can concentrate on what you feel rather than what you see.

Do you feel yourself drawn to a particular area or corner? That is your sitio, your particular sacred space. This is the place where you can feel most strongly your connections to the energy of the earth, to spirit, and to your inner best Self.

Your sitio can be as large as a room, as small as a chair or rug, as contained and hidden as a closet. It can be a sitting area or desk space in a larger room. It can be under a dormer in the attic, or even outside in the yard or on the porch.

Claim this space as sacred.

Cleanse your sitio. Wash the floor, window, or whatever furniture or shelves are in your space. Burn some incense to smudge away any negative energy. Frankincense, sage, cedar, camphor, and copal are especially effective purifying agents.

Consecrate your sitio. Bless your sacred space with the intention that it be a safe and comfortable haven for you, a shelter from the storms of living where you can always find your center and reconnect with your Self.

Sanctify your sitio by creating an altar with some amulet or altar items that will continually remind you of the purpose of your intention. The amount of space and privacy you have will determine the size and form of your altar.

You can construct an actual altar with many holy icons,   lucky charms, inspiring images, offerings, and        candles. You can discretely place certain personally (and privately) precious items on your desk or dresser top, bookshelf, or window-sill.

You can create a drawer or cabinet or closet altar that is completely hidden to all but you.

Claim and defend adequate blocks of time to spend in your sacred space so that you might engage with your Self on a regular basis. Use your sacred time and space to write in your journal, listen to music, meditate, do your yoga or exercises, dance, read, daydream, or nap.

With Self-engagement and development on our mind any time can be auspicious and any place a sanctuary. All we need do is claim it.

 

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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.

 

With a bit of self-love and motivation, midlife can be a time for big positive changes. Here is a bit of advice from Best Knickers Always by Rebecca Perkins
 

We all have a choice
We always have a choice in our attitude towards a situation. If we say we don’t, we become a victim of our circumstances. Choose your response to a situation and leave the role of victim to be played by others.

Do something that scares you
Life in my comfort zone was OK: it was safe, easy and risk-free – but in all honesty it wasn’t joyful, exciting or that enjoyable. We grow when we move out of our comfort zone, so take a risk: write that letter, go for that job. You’ll feel strong and alive for that little stretch.

Be opinionated
I see many women around me who are finally finding their voice in midlife, who believe what they have to say is of value. Don’t be afraid of becoming more forthright and standing up for what you believe in.

Be less available
People will leave a message if it’s that important. We don’t really need to post another comment on Facebook or reply to that text in the middle of lunch. It can be nurturing to switch off sometimes.

Put together a playlist
Mine is called Best Knickers Always Kitchen Disco, and it was one of the best things I did. When I hear those feelgood songs I walk taller, I move my body and I feel more “me” than ever before. Play them when the blues strike – and when you’re feeling on top of the world.

Cultivate green fingers
Whether you have a balcony or a meadow, grow mint (for Pimms and tea), chamomile (to rub between your fingers for instant calm), lavender (for memories of hot holidays) and fragrant roses. Every time I go into my small garden I twist mint leaves between my fingers and rub chamomile into my hands. These are precious moments.

It’s OK to edit your friendship list
I have culled my list of friends a number of times in my life. It’s OK to let some go – it’s usually the ones who don’t accept or welcome your growth. Friendships should be be enriching, not draining, and those that have faded become exhausting. Perhaps it’s time to reassess some of your friendships and decide whether your values coincide any longer.

Celebrate
Reward yourself for tiny achievements, especially during tough times. Perhaps a piece of cake and a cup of tea in the garden when a small section of work has been completed, or a few squares of chocolate for surviving a dreadful day. Don’t keep celebrations for special occasions – find something to celebrate today.

Have a hero or mentor
This could be a writer you admire or a relative or friend you look up to – I still miss my grandfather, the man I turned to when I doubted the big things in life. I often ask myself: “What would Pa say?”

Walk barefoot whenever you can
Being in contact with the earth, sand, grass, wood – even carpet – connects you with your surroundings. Consciously planting your feet directly on the ground gives balance and stability, which you feel mentally as well as physically.

Tackle a fear head-on
I used to feel physically sick when I thought about looking at my bank statements, which were always left in a pile on the kitchen table. But when I became a single parent I needed to take responsibility so I faced it head-on. Now I open my post and check my finances online – and my life is less stressful as a result.

Cultivate friendships
Women thrive with girlfriends. We share, we support, we give. I know that my journey these past few years has been made bearable because of their unconditional support. Who are the friends you could call at 3am?

Surprise yourself
What could you do that’s a little different and out of character? Learn a musical instrument or the samba? Volunteer for something you’re passionate about? I still haven’t ruled out a tattoo. What would you like to do?

Travel solo
Visit friends alone: the sheer joy of browsing the airport or railway shops and enjoying a quiet coffee is nothing short of sublime after so many years spent as a parent, organizing passports and standing at check-ins with children. It is incredible to be without a schedule, to be able to marvel at your surroundings and spend time in complete silence, just listening.

Every cloud has a silver lining
You hear people say that a serious illness was the best thing that happened to them, once they’ve recovered, or that a divorce, however painful, turned out to be a good thing. Whatever happens to you, believe in silver linings: the sun always follows the rain.

Have big dreams
Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re too old. Write down your wildest dreams – you’ll be amazed at what you draw into your life by doing so. Even the biggest dreams begin with one step. Be clear about your goals, write them down and have a plan. As George Eliot wrote, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

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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.

 

With a bit of self-love and motivation, midlife can be a time for big positive changes.
Here is a bit of advice from Best Knickers Always by Rebecca Perkins

Midlife crisis? What crisis? Tips on how to breeze through middle age
MIDDLE age need not be a trauma – with some positive thinking, you could have the time of your life

Midlife is a time of transition for women: our children no longer rely on us and will soon leave home, leaving us to wonder “who am I now?”; we may face separation or divorce; our parents are ageing and we have health scares.

We can face all these challenges with heavy hearts and resentment, or we can embrace this new phase in our lives with enthusiasm.

Midlife is a time of transition for women: our children no longer rely on us and will soon leave home, leaving us to wonder “who am I now. We may face separation or divorce; our parents are ageing and we have health scares.

We can face all these challenges with heavy hearts and resentment, or we can embrace this new phase in our lives with enthusiasm.

One miserable day after the end of my 21-year marriage, years of tears and grief came flooding out of me. Then a text came in from a girlfriend with the words: “All I can say is it gets better. Go gently, be kind to yourself, and best knickers always.”

I understood exactly what she meant. My self-esteem had taken quite a beating, and the lingerie I always prided myself on was banished to the back of the drawer. She wanted me to care for myself again.

Here I am now, having recently celebrated my 50th birthday, and I wouldn’t wish to be 20 again. I love that women of our generation can make choices that our mothers and grandmothers couldn’t make.

We can choose to set up our own business, to look younger, to end an unhappy marriage, to travel alone, to be happy. But we need to believe we can do it.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

Change one thing
Make one small, positive change to your life today and see what happens: drive a different way to work, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier so you’re not rushing. There’s something exhilarating about little changes – and all of a sudden you turn round and see how far you’ve come.

Stop standing in your own way
We often blame others – it’s our husband, parents or boss stopping us making choices in life. But we are the ones self-sabotaging our efforts: pouring a glass of wine ‘to unwind’ even when we’ve said we won’t, or doing the ironing rather than applying for a new job. The voice we hear is, “I don’t deserve it, I’m not worth it.” Ask yourself: what if I were to stop the excuses and get out of my own way?

Decide what you are prepared to tolerate
What are you putting up with? I had a long list – no light bulb in the oven, receipts overflowing in my purse, kids leaving stuff on the stairs, only me unloading the dishwasher – it went on and on. But it’s you who allows this in your life – nobody does it to you without permission. Decide what you will put up with, so it’s your choice – then stop moaning.

Learn to listen
Most people don’t listen – they are simply waiting to talk. You see it in their eyes and their body language. Don’t be one of those people.

Stop and listen and others will always remember how you made them feel.

Next week 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.