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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

Baby Boomers War Against Aging

posted by Donna Henes

By Dr. Glenda Smith

Have you noticed lately? There are too many of them to count… “Baby Boomers.”

Nearly 78 million of them can be found in this country, to be exact. This figure is not to be taken lightly, as it constitutes about one quarter of the nation’s total population.

Baby Boomers come in all sizes, shapes, colors and psychological make-ups. The one common characteristic among all members is that they were born between 1946 and 1964 – post World War II.

Who are they? “Baby Boomers” – often referred to as the S Generation or the Sandwich Generation — play many important roles. Their present age range is from the mid-40s to the mid-60s. Besides the communality of age, many feel that Baby Boomers carry a host of other characteristics, which distinguish them from their predecessors. Some of their traits include:

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  • Members tend to live longer;
  • Members begin families later in life;
  • Members are often interwoven in a unique intergenerational family structure. They are parenting their own children while also parenting their aging parents;
  • With this complex mix, they are also trying to satisfy their own set of spiritual, emotional and financial needs as well as those of a spouse.

If the variables mentioned are not enough to manage, baby boomers find themselves locked into an era in which political uncertainty prevails; the fear and devastation of global warfare dominate our consciousness; and economic instability is the hue and cry of the day. For many, these conditions tend to create a panacea of ills leading to states of anxiety and depression. Some psychologists call it the “midlife crisis.”

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Despite these phenomena, we clearly have in our midst the makings of a rare breed

Age-ism and the quest for longevity

America has been accused of being too focused on youth — to the extent that “youthfulness” has almost become a culture in and of itself.

The fact is, older adults have built the nation; run it reasonably well; and continue to control most of it, economically and politically. This does not seem, however, to daunt the “youth fever” which abounds in our society. We see this played out daily on television, in movies, advertising, and other media.

So what is the result? We dye our hair, flaunt the most frisky fashion fads, spend ge-zillions of dollars on cosmetics and health spas while we starve ourselves trying to get to size four. Sound familiar? Many conclude that baby boomers, in particular, have declared a war on aging. They will not grow old gracefully. They will not grow old at all.

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Baby Boomers wage war

This is not to say that all of their efforts lean toward silliness. Many boomers (and other age groups) also strive toward longevity by leading a healthy life style. They eat healthy meals, rest adequately, exercise regularly, and make regular visits to their physicians for a check-up. In either case, the end goal is to live a long and healthy life and to enjoy the journey.

Then there is there is the ‘ol’ demon’ stress and related burn-out, which many people suffer as they strive to maintain the status quo in our fast-paced society . The weapons waged against stress vary from vitamins, exercise, jogging and vacations to prayer, meditation and yoga. And if all else fails, there is Prozac.

Baby Boomers are winning

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Nonetheless, the nation is getting older. The age group 65 and above is one of the fastest growing in the American population according to population statistics.

In a recent broadcast of World News Tonight, Diane Sawyer reported that medical scientists have now developed a new test to determine a person’s level of aging. For about $700, a person can take a simple blood test which will indicate when he/she will die. The blood test will show if part of a cell called the telomeres is shorter than normal.

It appears that smoking, drinking alcohol and stress may shorten the length of the telomeres. One can lengthen them with the practice of good health habits.

Interestingly, most people surveyed did not wish to take the test. At present, the average life expectancy for Americans is about 82 years, give or take. The average life span for men in our culture is about 81 years, while women fare better. Most women can expect to live to about 83 years old.

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We also note that there is a marked increase in the number of centenarians in our society (persons age 100 or beyond). Compared to just a few decades ago, these findings are astonishing.

Medical scientists envision that the average life span is soon likely to extend to 120 to 125 years. With the advances in medical technology, access to “super drugs,” and the nation’s focus on healthy living, this level of longevity is indeed a possibility.

Many are concerned as to the extent to which we can handle increased longevity. Real problems can arise with aging. Not only are there social problems — can I depend on Social Security? Will I have to go to a nursing home? Will Medicare and Medicaid hold out?

But the real question may be, are we living well or simply living longer?

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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.

 

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The Queen’s Clothes – Part 2

posted by Donna Henes

…..Continued from Wednesday’s Post of Part 1….

When I was really young I made all the clothes for my paper dolls, eschewing the ready made ones that you were supposed to cut out. I also made clothes for my other dolls from my mother’s rag box and collection of buttons and ribbons. When I first moved to New York at 20, I worked as an assistant in a Hassidic day care center, went to college at night, and designed and sewed velvet palazzo pants with embroidered hippie trim on the cuffs for a boutique in the Village until they ripped off my designs and had their own Puerto Rican seamstresses stitch them up on the cheap.

In my thirties I turned my love of clothes into art. I created what I called the Salvation Sensation Cheek Boutique, a vintage shop in my loft. I collected clothes in thrift shops on my many travels and altered them in some way – added or took away collars or sleeves or changed some decorative detail. Shopping was by appointment. We would drink sherry and play dress up. The experience served as a sort of therapy, too. Not retail therapy, but working and playing with issues of Self-esteem and Self-expression. People came to create costumes to wear to divorce court, for example, or for a 50s theme sock hop, or whatever. I even hosted mending parties where folks brought the pile of stuff they had been meaning to fix. I supplied lots of threads, scissors, and notions, as well as tea, sherry, and music. We sat ensconced in comfortable cushions in a soothing domestic environment. We mended our clothes and tended our spirits.

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In that same decade I did a healing ritual project at Manhattan Psychiatric Center. I collected clothes that the donors felt were lucky or soothing or healing. On Memorial day I sat with patients and doctors tearing all these energy-filled clothes into bandage strips in honor of all the women who tore all the bandages for all the wars all throughout time. Then I spent three weeks tying a strips of this healing cloth on the trees and bushes on the hospital grounds – one for every patient and staff member, 5,160 in all. My friend Sarah Jenkins took pictures of each item of clothing and of the entire ritual process. These pictures along with the journal I kept became my book, Dressing Our wounds in Warm Clothes.

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In my Queen of My Self workshops, the most common concern I hear expressed is that women who are aging are feeling or afraid to feel invisible. And this is not just imagined. We have been told that we need to tone down our style as we age. Be less bold in our appearance. Less creative. Less expressive. Less. Much less. We are threatening, you see. The strong and competent woman who is in charge is scary to the status quo. We are expected to cut our hair, wear more beige, go to bed early, act our age, and disappear altogether.

How sad is that? And how stupid. We Queens are at our most powerful now. And whether the powers-that-be recognize it or not, the world, the planet, needs us to assert ourselves right now in every way and on every level. We cannot, must not ,just fade away without an unseemly fuss. While it is crucial to feel good about ourselves and empowered, it is also most most important that we model it for all to see.

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Let us take our razzle dazzle out of the closet and into the streets. Let us wear our grey hair, our wrinkles, and our wisdom with pride and aplomb. Let us wear what we want, age appropriate be damned. Let us strut our stuff with the assurance of our maturity. Let us project our powerful persona so that it is impossible for us not to be seen and recognized as the Queens we are.

 

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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.

 

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The Queen’s Clothes – Part 1

posted by Donna Henes

I am a clothes horse. I love clothes. I love dressing up. I love putting outfits together. I love the treasure hunt of shopping for treasures in thrift stores, which I do whenever I can and wherever I am. I love the color of clothes, the feel of them on my skin or on someone else’s. I love the art, the presentation, the subliminal messages, and sublime effect of clothes and how they are worn.

I come from a family of women who love clothes and men who know about and appreciate clothes – both on women and on themselves. Dandies, if you will. I guess we come by our “apparelphilia” legitimately. My maternal grandfather was a tailor in Russian Poland, and he continued his trade when he arrived in Cleveland as a political refugee by way of Siberia (where he and my Gramma were activist prisoners after the 1905 revolution). He helped to organize the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, the ILGWU. Though I never saw him in person, in his pictures he is a Dapper Dan

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As was my grandmother. I never saw my gramma when she wasn’t fully dressed in a corset, a dress, stockings, fluffy coif, clip on earrings, and lipstick. My favorite rainy day occupation when I stayed with her over school vacations was going through her dresser drawers – with her approval, of course. What a treasure trove! A sacred altar of Self-decoration. Her drawers were fragrant with sachet and powder. Exploring them was the height of sensual delight as I opened each silk box filled with perfectly pressed hankies, with gloves, with jewelry, all to be caressed ever so carefully. I still have and still wear much of her jewelry.

When I was in junior high school I babysat for the 3-year old son of the couple across the street. He was a chef and owner of the only French restaurant in town. She was the hostess. It was a fancy restaurant in the late 50s, which meant that she wore the elegant cocktail dresses of the era. She was French, wore a chignon and a single pearl in each ear, and was the epitome of sophisticated French chic. And her closet! Yes, I admit it. As soon as they drove off I stood in rapture worshipping at the shrine of her gigantic collection of silk, satin, crepe, organza, sequin cocktail dresses. I enjoyed that indulgence more than the little chocolate bon bons her husband would leave for me.

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My mother, too, was meticulous in her presentation. Every time we went out together she would spend a great deal of time accessorizing,choosing the perfect earring or necklace or shoe to complete her outfit. Sometimes it was fun and sometimes irritating, but I have to admit I do the same thing. It is not  about being matchy matchy, but about finding just the right subtle balance and flow, creating an empowering energy, that expresses your best Self. This focus on external affect is not about fashion nor vanity, but about stepping into the world with intention and with confidence and centeredness. It is about not hiding, wearing your true spirit on the outside.

To Be Continued….Part 2 of The Queen’s Clothes on Friday

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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.

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Rain Goddesses

posted by Donna Henes

So far, this spring has been quite a wet one. We have had lots of April showers, which promise a bounteous profusion of May flowers. Because water is such an essential element, it has come to stand for the origin of all life — cycles, seasons, species — and its sacred renewal. The Hindu Vedas refer to water as the Most Maternal, the original sea at the beginning of time from which the whole world emerged. In India, water is seen as the bearer and preserver of life, coursing through all of nature as river, as rain, as dew, as sap, as blood, as sweat, as tears, as milk.

The Egyptian Great Goddess of the Watery Heavens, Nut, whose worship was already ancient by the time of the first dynasty, was represented by a celestial cow. Bovine symbol of motherhood, she is the first ocean of creation and mistress of all waters. She leans over the earth in a protective attitude, her bent form framing the sky. She carries the sun on her back and wets the ground with the nourishing milk from her universal udders.

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Goddess figures carved in the Neolithic period, which have been found throughout Europe and Anatolia, depict the divine Mother Goddess with Her breasts incised with chevrons. These V-shaped symbols associated with both birds and water, suggest the life-giving showers She sends us from the sky. Arctic hunting peoples still see, as they have since Paleolithic times, Her breasts in the shapes of the clouds above.

About eight thousand years ago, the planet experienced a drying trend of several centuries duration. Rain was sparse, water scarce. Figures from this period, which were unearthed in the Balkan region of Europe, bear witness to the aridity of those times. They depict seated women holding big bowls on their large laps. There is something humble in their demeanor. Are they simply sitting, waiting patiently for rain to fall? Or is this a posture of petition? Invocation? Devotion? Divination?

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Mother Sea, mother to millennia of mothers, is one of humanity’s oldest images. She is the Goddess of the Waters of Life. Our Lady of the Holy Water, whose cosmic womb is an archetypal symbol of birth and re-birth in many creation myths worldwide. She arises from the primordial ocean. She is fully capable of issuing forth, all alone from her own body, life in all its forms. Which She then supports as well. A proficient provider, She produces and shares the stuff of survival, wet nurse to all Her offspring.

I am the woman of the great expanse of the waters
I am the woman of the great expanse of the divine sea
She is the Woman of the Flowing Water
She is the Woman of the Flowing Water
She is a woman whose palms are like spoons
She is a woman with hands of measure.

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– Maria Sabina

Mother Sea, Mother Earth, Mother Nature were ultimately overthrown by our Father Who Art in Heaven. The Great Mother Goddess, giving and generous, evolved into God the Father, withholding and judgmental. And rain, the bountiful milk from Her eternally full breast, become the salty semen of He who fertilizes. Although there are still today indigenous cultures in Africa, Australia, Oceana, Native and Latin America who regard rain to be in the realm of the Goddess of Waters, most of the world’s peoples now view precipitation as a divine male attribute.

Rain remains the vital vivifying fluid, which flows down from the heaven. To recycle and replenish the water stores. To refresh and revitalize the earth. Celestial substance of necessity, rain is absolutely elemental. But quite quirky. You never know with rain. Too much, too little, too late, too soon, too hard. You can’t really depend on it. And yet you have to.

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Today we know how to make it rain. And snow, as well, for that matter. Cloud seeding is as simple as sitting in the cabin of small plane and tossing out handfuls of finely ground ice crystals into the clouds. Another macho trick from a culture that sees itself always in battle with Mother Nature. Hey, we even know how to make acid rain! What comes out of the clouds these days could kill you.

Just a little rain.
Just a little rain.
What have they done to the rain?

– The Searchers 1969

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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.

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