Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self


The process of maturing is an art to be learned, an effort to be sustained. By the age of fifty you have made yourself what you are, and if it is good, it is better than your youth.

~Marya Mannes

Between this blog, The Queen of My Self fan page on Facebook and my monthly Ezine, The Queen’s Chronicles, I get a lot of comments from women everywhere who are transitioning into their own powerful potential as a fully sovereign Queens.

I would like to share some of these thoughts, as I believe they speak to the interest of all the 60 million midlife women out there. Should these spark your own thoughts. Fabulous! And if they inspire to you send in your thoughts and ideas to share, even better.

 

“I’m always happy to see women reclaiming age. We have to figure out what it means on our own, questioning everything that society tells us. This is work that all of us are doing, just as we’re reclaiming our gender expression and our spiritual practices.

In a still male-dominated society, an aging woman is seen through male eyes. No longer a traditional sex object, and so derided? But also feared, because of some very ancient conditioning. Early on, elderly women must have been the most valuable asset in tribal cultures. Memory and experience were priceless, since that was what kept everyone alive. Elderly men would have been revered, too, but elderly women would have more intimate knowledge of body changes, cycle and healing. And so I have no doubt that we were the authority figures for thousands of years.

And as the patriarchal overthrow meant the suppression of women’s primeval power, so it buried the power of old women. Our social roles have narrowed down because we retain the tendency to speak truth and to naturally exert authority. In order to prevail, patriarchy has to turn us into cartoon characters – just as they’ve done with the witch and with so many aspects of womanhood.

It makes sense, from nature’s viewpoint, that elderly women would have special gifts, gifts that we’ve been honing our entire lives. Nature doesn’t waste anything, least of all experience.

I am really curious to hear what age means to other women. For me, it’s been a much more balanced and self-aware place to be. My mind has settled down. It’s the difference between choice & compulsion. When I was younger, I felt compelled to push, struggle, and take on challenges. Now, when I do those things, I do them from a sense of choice.

Old women often discard the mask of femininity and stand revealed in our true power. But it can be very scary to step out of a firmly-entrenched social role and that’s why women are scurrying to “look younger.” To take on our atrophied power is not easy. We all have to recognize it first, and then we have to work together.

But to my mind this is the only thing that will save the planet at this junction in history. And I think it’s the message of the epoch, the message of Pluto in Capricorn, the sign of age and wisdom.”

– Jenny, Germany

 

Amen. I am in my mid 40’s and finally know. I understand and appreciate myself. Life is fantastic!!!

– Tracy, OH

 

This is so true. During my 30s and early 40s I wished to return to my 20s. Now, in my late 40s, I am so glad to be where I am in life’s journey.

– Cyndi, CA

 

So right you are sister. At 70 I am who I am and proud to be Queen of Self. Life is a stage and I love the part I now play.

– Micklo, CA

 

Soooooooooo true! And it only gets better and better. 🙂

– Diana, NM

 

Yes! I am very happy with who I have become!

– Brenda, BC, Canada

 

Yes! The handcrafted Self is worth the journey it takes to get here!

– Lynlee, CA

 

My 50’s are just sooo much FUN!

– Donna, MT

 

What are YOUR thoughts on getting older? Please leave a comment and share you ideas and experiences. Thanks.

*****

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™
 

 

We expect our mental faculties to dwindle as we grow older, but a new book suggests it is not inevitable, writes Sylvia Thompson in her book, The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain.

The popular view of growing old is filled with pessimistic accounts of minds which become less alert and more forgetful, and bodies succumbing to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and various forms of cancer.

American science writer Barbara Strauch has just written a book which challenges a lot of what we believe about growing old – particularly in relation to our minds.

In The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain , she takes a more optimistic view of the mature brain, suggesting that although forgetfulness and lack of focus may be hallmarks, so too are increased competence to deal with work crises and complex human relationships which span many generations.

She draws on studies of brain biology that show the brain structure continues to change throughout life – a fact that was much disputed by scientists until recently. “For most of its 100-year history, neuroscience has embraced a central dogma: a mature adult’s brain remains a stable, unchanging, computer-like machine with fixed memory and processing power. You can lose brain cells . . . but you certainly can’t gain new ones,” wrote Fred Gage in a Scientific American article which first suggested that this theory was in fact, wrong.

“The brain is an organ. It is tissue that is changing all the time and it is regulated by our environment. It is affected by what we do,” Gage told Strauch in an interview quoted in the book.

Strauch writes about how what we do affects our brains and how brain-training exercises actually help to tone up the neural circuits. In fact, some researchers now suggest that helping the brain stay flexible through new learning tasks, complex leisure activities or perhaps even certain video games can buffer it against “the assaults of normal ageing and dementia”.

One study defined cognitive-stimulating activities as those in which seeking or processing information is central. That meant playing bridge was out, but reading magazines or newspapers, going to the library, doing word games, taking music lessons or learning a foreign language were all counted in.

In her book, Strauch also gives some attention to dementia – the brain disease that has become one of Western society’s biggest fears. Several studies point to education and complex occupations as protective factors and, amazingly, some of them found that older people who remain highly engaged on an intellectual level don’t show the outward signs of dementia even though their brain scans suggests they have the disease.

Researcher Yaakov Stern, a neuroscientist at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, says: “This suggests that those who can call on more brain power can hold back the outward signs of the disease. Then, by the time the disease becomes outwardly evident, its effects are much further along in the brain and those patients both get worse and die faster.”

Overall, Strauch – who is in her mid-50s – remains hugely upbeat about the mature brain. She regularly refers to the competences of middle-aged people who are capable of wise decision-making based on years of experience.

And although this makes for happy reading, it does leave one wondering exactly how much of her discourse is based on observing middle-aged friends – writers, doctors, scientists – with successful careers.

She writes: “‘I hate it when people say they are having a senior moment’, said one woman I know in her early 60s. ‘People lose their keys when they are my age and they think it’s their aging brain. But plenty of teenagers lose their keys, and when they do, they just, well, they just say they lost their keys’.”

She suggests we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be “aged by our culture” and says that many cultures view midlife as mature adulthood.

In a chapter entitled The Middle in Motion – the Midlife Crisis Conspiracy , Strauch argues that the idea that most of us will suffer some sort of midlife crisis has been hugely exaggerated. Based on a small study of artists in 1965 and then taken up since by Gail Sheehy in Passages and psychologist Daniel Levinson in his book The Seasons of a Man’s Life, she says the idea of a midlife crisis as predictable and common has long been discounted in academic circles. Stanford psychologist Laura Carstensen says: “There is no absolutely no empirical evidence for a midlife crisis.”

One study of nearly 8,000 Americans found that only 5 per cent reported any kind of midlife trauma, and they were, by and large, people who’d had traumas throughout their lives. Similarly, Strauch argues that numbers of women who suffer a crisis at the menopause may be exaggerated.

Yet she doesn’t deny that there can be a fair amount of stress in midlife, but she argues that by then, we can cope with it better. As one researcher put it, by midlife “we are equipped for overload”.

She also argues that many older people want to continue to work beyond traditional mandatory retirement ages. “The world is set up to treat a middle-aged brain not as ripe, ready and whole but as diminished, declining and depressed,” she writes.

Ultimately, Strauch wants us all to reappraise the middle-aged brain. “Part of our memory – certainly the part that remembers names – wanes. But, at the same time, our ability to make accurate judgments about people, about jobs, about finances – about the world around us – grows stronger.”

Have heart! We are not getting older, we are getting better!

*****

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™

 

 

 

“Men walk, women talk.” The veracity of this the popular saying was recently proved in a landmark study conducted by two women scientists at UCLA.

The long-held idea that the familiar “fight or flight“ mechanism was the universal human response to stress, (based of studies that were conducted with only male subjects) was turned on its ear by Drs. Laura Klein and Shelley Taylor. Their research suggests that women don’t necessarily run away or engage is confrontational combat when they bare threatened. According to their stunning findings, women seem to operate from a larger range of behavioral options.

“Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible,” explains Laura Cousino Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study’s authors. “It’s an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.”

But women react completely differently. In stressful situations, women experience a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. Specifically, the hormone oxytocin, released as part of the stress response in women, lessens the fight or flight response and prompts us to tend children, old people, and animals, and gather together with other women instead.

And once women do engage in this tending or befriending, studies suggest, more oxytocin is released, which further counteracts stress and produces a comforting effect. “This calming response does not occur in men,” says Dr. Klein, “because testosterone — which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress — seems to reduce the effects oxytocin. Estrogen seems to enhance it.”

What do you do when you are worried, or threatened, stressed to the max, or scared shitless? You call your girlfriend! Consider the enormous significance of this behavior and the ramifications of its effect on our health and well-being. Study after study, years of research, has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. “There’s no doubt,” says Dr. Klein, “that friends are helping us live longer.”

Friendships not only keep us alive, they enhance our quality of life. The famed Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop serious physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading joyful lives. The results were so significant that the researchers concluded that not having close friends or confidantes was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight!

Even the event of the death of a spouse, perhaps the most intense stress inducer, failed to result in any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality in women who had a close friend with whom she confide and commiserate. Those without friends did not fare nearly so well.

*****

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™

 

 

 

My post Wednesday  was about the Self,  in which I wrote, “The Self is the sum of all of our parts, and holistically, it is greater than the sum of all of our parts. The fluid Self transcends time and space, expanding and shape-shifting, changing and adapting to accommodate the possibility of all possibility.” Our Self is “the artful patchwork of our own lives designed from the wild and wonderful patterns of our own personality and experiences, and crafted from our individual inner authority.”

Here are some words of Self-wisdom by some very wise women:

 

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

– Jane Austen

 

“Doubt yourself and you doubt everything you see. Judge yourself and you see judges everywhere. But if you listen to the sound of your own voice, you can rise above doubt and judgement. And you can see forever.”

– Nancy Kerrigan

 

“It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes.”

– Sally Field

 

“Falling, falling, falling, falling down. Look yourself in the eye before you drown.”

– Emily Saliers, Indigo Girls

 

“Our goal while on this earth is to transcend our illusions and discover the innate power of our spirit.”

– Caroline Myss

 

The authentic self is the soul made visible.

– Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

“In our natural state, we are glorious beings. In the world of illusion, we are lost and imprisoned, slaves to our appetites and our will to false power.”

– Marianne Williamson

 

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

– Virginia Woolf

 

“Every problem can be solved with the proper application of the means at hand. Maybe not easily, happily, cheaply or painlessly – but it can be done if you have the will; you already have the means – yourself!” ~ Joanne Siewert

 

“It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.”

-Betty Friedan

 

“I didn’t leave Sonny for another man. I left for another woman. Me.”

– Cher

 

“The bright shining

only reflects back to myself,

my own light blinding me.

I can’t see the world and they can’t see me.”

– Anna Chrisrest,

 

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

– Judy Garland

 

“Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable.”

– Brenda Uleland

 

“At some point in my life, I swallowed a Sun. And now it dawns and sets in my belly.”

– Erika Harris,

 

“My heart filled with love, flowing over with joy, my own little drum that I like to march by!”

Gunda Fijnje-Nolan

 

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.”

– Sylvia Plath

 

What us your experience of your Self? How would you describe it?

 

*****

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.