The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

Letting Go of All that Does Not Serve

posted by Donna Henes

On my birthday last year, a friend presented me with a gorgeous amber necklace that she had gotten in Russia twenty years ago before she immigrated to the United States. Though she felt that it did not suit her, she held on to it for two decades for sentimental reasons. When she gave it to me, she apologized for it not being a new store-bought thing, but I was thrilled. Not only does it suit me perfectly, but I was extremely touched by her sharing of this nostalgic gem.

And I completely understood her motivation for giving it away. It is common for women in midlife to display an overwhelming urge to purge, to clean out, throw out, refuse, release, discard, to distill and streamline all of our attachments. We refine our needs and tastes and now want to be surrounded by only those people, places and things that add something positive to our lives.

If we are to practice living life with intention, purpose, and appreciation, we are called to take stock — on every level imaginable — material, mental, emotional and spiritual. And we feel the need to evaluate everything in terms of its value to us.

Do our belongings, attitudes, ideas, obligations, commitments, habits, goals, dreams, relationships and wardrobes still fit us? Do they suit us and our current life style? Are they flattering? Do they please us? Do they continue to serve us? Do they feed us what we need? Or do they just take up space? Do they drain our energy and slow us down by the amount of maintenance that they require?

It seems to me that we spend the first half of our lives accumulating things and the second half getting rid of them, paring our possessions down to a manageable cache. At some point in our middle years, it is important to take the time to catalogue what it is we have, what we have accumulated, what we hold onto, what we have carried with us through the years, and what we would be better off letting go of. As we face the second half of our lives, it is prime time to check our baggage and lighten up our load.

With practice, we can distinguish which of our possessions and commitments express our true desires, needs, values and aesthetics, and which do not. Which relationships serve us in a reciprocal manner, and which do not. Which engagements, involvements and assignments are fulfilling and life-affirming and which are empty busywork. “It’s not so much how busy you are, but why you are busy,” the writer Marie O’Conner reminds us. “The bee is praised; the mosquito is swatted.”

So what do you want/need to release as you come into your Queendom? What you have already let go of and what do you still need to part with — mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually?

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

Labor Day Time Out

posted by Donna Henes

On Labor Day, I thought I would honor non-labor, non-work, non-doing — just being. And I plan to celebrate on my back.

On the first page of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins; his character calls in “well” to work. He maintains that he just feels too darn good to report for his job. That always struck me an excellent idea. Why waste a perfectly fabulous day in bed when you are feeling too poorly to enjoy it?

For years, I have maintained a Day in Bed ritual practice. There will simply come a day — never predicting which day — when I wake up knowing that today is my Day in Bed. I know with a deep knowing that if I don’t lie down, I will fall down, collapse under the strain.

I do not feel sick, mind you, just out of steam. In my mind, this is not a sick day, but rather, a Well Day, a day to devote to my own inner needs. Over time, I have learned not to fight this overwhelming laziness. I gladly give in and let go of my goals. I don’t fight it. I surrender to the decadence of self-care.

I get up long enough to make a cup of tea and bring it back to bed with me where I stay for the next 24 hours. Oh, I get up periodically to attend to bodily functions, to muster up something to eat and drink, but after each brief foray, I return to bed to spend the day blissfully quiet and alone.

I read. I nap. I write a letter or list or two. I daydream. I read. I nap.

I luxuriate in doing nothing. I imagine myself to be Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Colette or some other fabulously romantic invalid writer propped up on pillows, her devoted dog nestled in the covers at her feet. Or a privileged consumptive patient pampered in the sanitarium in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, eating six cream-rich meals a day and lying down to rest after each one of them.  

But of course, thank all goodness, I am not an invalid; I am not even sick. And I intend to stay that way. These short periods of respite and regeneration work remarkably well to keep me cool, centered, and balanced. And best of all, I rarely get sick.

This is not to say that I never lose my cool, center and balance. That sorry dis-ease usually happens when I feel compelled to stick to some horrendous unforgiving schedule — natural or self-imposed — where I work until I collapse. Which is, I guess, why they call it a deadline.

In too many cases, my breakdown takes the form of a fall or other accident of some kind. I literally fall apart, fall down on the job, which is my body’s undeniable way of reminding me to go to bed every once in awhile.

Last summer’s serious tumble and consequent injury brought home in no uncertain terms the importance of my Day in Bed. Had I been a bit more rested, I probably wouldn’t have fallen in the first place.

The insidious sickness of the deadline syndrome is that you delude yourself into believing that if you don’t do this thing, whatever it is, then no one can, or no one will, or you, yourself, won’t do it later. The work becomes more important than you. Sometimes, it is necessary to step back a few paces from our bustling lives, stop racing around, and just slow down so that we can absorb and process our experiences.

In a culture that defines itself in terms of clocks and dollars and duty, it is difficult to allow ourselves to claim the time and mental space to devote to an occupation that results in no visible product. Non-product, however, and nonproductive are definitely not the same thing. Down time is not negative. It is not not doing something. What we are doing when we jump off of the treadmill is resting, reflecting, ruminating, regenerating, rejoicing, and opening to the myriad ways of receiving the reassurance and guidance that we need.

And now, while Mercury is in retrograde, is the perfect time to slip out of time and go back to bed.

Happy non-labor Day!

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

African Queen

posted by Donna Henes

   
Perhaps nowhere in history were women held in higher standing and regard than in Mama Africa, the birthplace of humanity and the world’s first great civilizations, with its preponderance of matriarchal and matrilineal societies.

“You know that in our country there were even matriarchal societies where women were the most important element,” writes Amilcar Cabral, the Guinean leader of the African Liberation Movement, in Return to the Source. “They were not queens because they were the daughters of kings. They had queens succeeding queens. The religious leaders were women, too.”

Probably the most famous woman in African history is Queen Nzinga Mbande, Amazon Queen of the N’dongo and Matamba in West Africa, who ruled Angola for thirty-some years in the mid-1600′s. In 1621 at the age of thirty-nine, she negotiated with the Portuguese for the preservation of Angolan independence while seated on the back of a kneeling servant, an ingenious and face-saving performance, as the colonialists had not provided a chair for her in an attempt to embarrass and humiliate her.

Years later, Nzinga refused to hand back runaway slaves to the Portuguese, thus bringing down their colonial wrath. Along with her female officers and advisors, Nzinga formed formidable tribal alliances and gathered a vast army that, in true guerrilla fashion, harassed the Portuguese to exhaustion from all sides while avoiding direct confrontation. Politically astute, she formed alliances with other foreign powers, pitting them against one another to free Angola of European influence.

I may be kindly. I am ordinarily gentle, but in my line of business I am obliged to will terribly what I will at all.
- Catherine II. Russian Queen, 1729-1796

Queen Nzinga was a visionary political leader, competent and self-sacrificing, completely devoted to the resistance movement against the European slave traders. She possessed an abundance of both steely hardness and soft charm and used them each, depending on the situation, as a tactical tool when it suited her.

Her death in 1663 helped open the door to the massive Portuguese slave traffic. Yet her struggle helped to inspire others to follow in her powerful path and continue to mount offensives against the white invaders. Queen Nzinga is so revered that, despite logic, a pre-historic imprint of a footprint on a rock at Pungu Andongo in Angola is attributed to her.

One of Queen Nzinga’s spiritual children, a ferocious middle-aged woman known as Nanny, led a victorious slave revolt in Jamaica, then founded a free Maroon community called, Nannyville. It is said that when the pursuing British fired cannonballs into their village, Nanny caught them between her buttocks and shot them right back at the soldiers.

Harriet Tubman, another on Queen Nzinga’s mission, was, in addition to being the famous founder of the underground railway, a soldier in the Union army of the North. On June 2, 1863, at the age of sixty-six, she led a mission on the Tennessee River with three gunboats under her command. Queen Harriet and her allies blew up a Confederate bridge, engaged in espionage, and saved the lives of seven hundred and fifty-six slaves. After the war, the army not only refused to recognize her contributions, they robbed her of her just veteran’s pension.

I am Queen Nzinga.
I am Queen Amina.
I am Harriet Tubman.
I am Mbuya Nehanda.
And Behold!  I’ve been pushed!
Down! To the ground!
With only my bare hands
To use as a cup.
But I have fought many wars,
Plus untold battles,
AND I ALWAYS PULL MYSELF BACK UP.

- Nilene O. A. Foxworth

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

 

Questions From Readers

posted by Donna Henes

The Nourishing Relationships interview concludes with an open Q & A:

NR: Now it’s time for our readers to have the opportunity to connect with you personally:

Q. Thanks for your encouragement. I’d like to think of myself as a Queen but to my kids either I’m invisible or, if they do acknowledge me, I’m an intrusive, royal pain in the butt.
- Gloria

A. So your kids don’t see you as a Queen… So what? What do they know?! You are the Queen of your own life. We all are — IF we can allow ourselves to own our own power. Only you can validate your own sovereignty. Issue an official Royal Decree “I hereby declare that I am forthwith Queen of My Self.” All hail!
 
Q. Excuse my ignorance, but what is an urban shaman?

A. As shamans in every culture always have, I create contemporary rituals for my community, which I consider to be all of humanity. My role is that of catalyst: organizing and instigating innovative, demystified systems for creative public interaction, celebration, and communion.

I am an Urban Shaman, a modern urban woman, living in the city that is the capital of the world. My specialty is multicultural ritual and ceremony. I learn from all of the members of my community and blend together rituals that speak to all people from all backgrounds. My circles reflect that diversity and I am proud to be the ceremonial connector of people of all faiths and ethnicities.

Q. I like that just because we’re focusing on being the best we can each be, it doesn’t mean that we ignore the rest of the world. As you say, we can use our maturity to respond to the needs of others and give back.
- Sharon

A. Yes. Respond is the key word. I like to spell responsibility with s hyphen: response-ability. Our responsibility to ourselves, our inner circles, our community and our world is defined by our ability to respond.

Q. Just wondering how a Queen is different from a “Princess.” I never wanted to be thought of as a “Princess” when I was younger, so why do I want to be a Queen now?

A. A Queen is not a grown up princess. A princess is pampered, cosseted in a cushion of entitlement. A Queen is a mature ruler of her own destiny. She rolls up her sleeves and does whatever needs to be done, because she sees the need and has the ability to respond. A Queen owns and embraces her own power and uses it to empower others.

Q. Mama Donna, You make so much sense – but it’s hard to keep thinking of myself as a Queen when I keep getting shot down. What can I do to keep myself on track?

A. Keeping your own center in the midst of opposition is not easy. But it is incredibly important. It is all about Self-esteem.

In The Queen of My Self there is an entire chapter of exercises and practices to help develop a healthy sense of internal sovereignty. Also, I write a daily bog on Beliefnet.com with information, advice, inspiration and encouragement for enjoying Meaning, Moxie and Majesty in Midlife.

You can also subscribe to The Queen’s Chronicles, a monthly Ezine full of ideas, feedback and support to keep us centered and empowered. Just go to www.thequeenofmyself.com and sign up.

These tools are really helpful as reminders of and as connectors to our own power.

In the end, it is your opinion of you that counts. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

Do YOU have any questions for me? Feel free to ask.

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

 

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