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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

Spring Cleaning

posted by Donna Henes

Happy Spring!

In winter, we spend inordinate amounts of time inside, dwelling, stewing, stagnating in enforced inactivity. When our hibernating energy finally re-awakens in the spring, it is with a pronounced case of morning breath. After the dust, the must, the rust of winter, a thorough spring cleaning is called for.

The promise of renewed life prompts us to prepare a sacred and auspicious way for its anticipated arrival. We are moved to purge and purify ourselves, to cleanse and make our selves worthy of the grace implied in a fresh start. We make a clean sweep of our surroundings — internal and external, body and soul.

In washing, we symbolically shed the old, discard the past, toss it out with the bath water. Thus removed of any spiritual pollution, we emerge refreshed, restored and recharged. Our slates are wiped clean. Naked and pure, purged and protected, we stand sanctified, ready to step confidently into the new season.

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We come to this world awash in saline womb waters and are greeted upon the moment of our first breath with a warm bath. When we die we are bathed again. We wash before we eat, before we sleep, before we pray. Most cultures, in fact, require washing before worship. Here, the ablution marks the transition from the profane sector of life to the sacred.

Islam requires the worshipper to wash before each of the five daily prayers performed facing toward Mecca. Muslims cleanse their mouths so that their prayers will be sanctified, and their ears so that they might better hear the will of Allah.

The Sweat Lodge Ceremony, the Inipi, as it is known to the peoples of the Great Plains, was prevalent throughout Native North America. It was, and still is, undertaken as a preparatory ritual of purification before a major spiritual endeavor, such as the Vision Quest, the Sun Dance or the Spirit-calling Ceremonies.

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Water is considered to be the most efficacious purifying agent by Hindus because when it runs, it absorbs and it carries away pollution. For this reason, rivers and other moving waters are considered to be especially cleansing. The Ganges, although filthy, is the most holy of all. It is the intention of every devout pilgrim to wash in its soul-cleansing substance.

The priestesses and priests of Babylonia cleansed themselves with water from the Tigris or Euphrates rivers before performing their religious functions. In ancient Egypt, as well, the pharaoh would purify his body for prayer by sprinkling himself with the “water of life and good fortune.” Ceremonial ablutions in the sea were used to initiate participants in a process of spiritual rebirth during the Eleusinian Mysteries, the oldest of the Greco-Roman Goddess mystery cults.

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Proselytes to Judaism were bathed as an initiation rite, which sanctified the start of their new lives, reborn as true believers, members of the chosen people of the God of Israel, Yahweh. It was essential for the candidate to be completely immersed so that s/he might be truly cleansed of heathenish worship.

The Baptism rites of Protestant and Catholic alike, cleanse the way for a worshipper to move from the polluted world to the holy church, from the earthly plane to grace, from sin to salvation. Ultimately it is an initiation into the kingdom of God.

…I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those
religious people feel about holy water… The longer
I lay there in the clear hot water the purer I felt,
and when I stepped out at last and wrapped myself
in one of those big, soft, white, hotel bath towels
I felt pure and sweet, as a new baby.”
– Sylvia Plath

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Cleanliness is widely perceived as being next to Godliness. The Christian concept of heaven, like the paradise envisioned by Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, is a place of absolute purity and brilliant cleanliness, while hell is seen as a stinking foul pit.

People have always used clean water to prepare for reverent engagement with the divine. But these days, really clean water is in shockingly short supply. We have sullied our rich resources with obtuse abuse, and the very elements, which have the power to cleanse and purify have now, themselves, been poisoned.

Picture this: In the Arctic Ocean there is an uninhabited — never been inhabited — island. In the center of the island is a lake. Can you possibly imagine a more pristine image? A recent water sample from that lake revealed the presence of fifty-two chemicals. There is, after all, no wall underground to ward off contamination. And there is no such place as Away.

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It’s time to clean up our act, don’t you think? In fact, let’s start this spring.

He had a mania for washing and disinfecting
himself…. For him the only danger came from
the microbes which attack the body. He had
not studied the microbe of conscience which
eats into the soul.
- Anaïs Nin

* ***
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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Friends for Life

posted by Donna Henes

I love working and playing in groups of women. I was never in a college sorority, so my first experience was in the feminist consciousness-raising group that I joined in the late 1960s. And what an eye-opening, empowering experience it was.

We were a very diverse group brought together by our Bohemian, politically radicalized lifestyle. Our backgrounds could not have been different: the Detroit ghetto, patrician Manhattan, an Israeli kibbutz, the suburbs of the Midwest. We were artists, academics, shop girls, political activists. We were married, single, mothers, lesbians. And the more we talked, the more we shared, the more we realized that our upbringing and current status as women was virtually the same.

Our group stayed together for well over a decade. We shared each other’s struggles, sorrows and victories. We helped each other overcome obstacles and achieve goals. We saw each other through advanced degrees, first books, childbirth, divorce, love affairs, coming out, mental breakdowns, addiction, abuse, illness and death. These women have a very special place in my heart.

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In the mid 70s I served on the Heresies magazine collective that published the groundbreaking issue on The Great Goddess. A group of us who first met working on that amazing seminal issue still meet monthly for wine and sushi, continuing Goddess research and mutual cheerleading.

In the late 70s I joined DISBAND, a group of women artists who couldn’t play instruments. Our collaboration, fun, argumentative and mutually respectful, produced many clever, ironic, prescient and powerful performances of social commentary and feminist pride. Today, 30 years later, we are still invited to perform.

I also belong to two long lasting groups of women who came together through our work, one a non-profit arts education organization where I used to teach and the other the cemetery where I am still the ritualist. Each of these groups of women meet quarterly to share fabulous dinners and revel in each other’s company.

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In 1971 I hitch hiked through Europe with my best friend, Donna Manganello. We were video taping interviews with women in the nascent Women’s Liberation movement in Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy. In addition to all of the pamphlets we collected, my reading material was The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, the perfect accompaniment to our project.

I have not reread it in all these decades, so my memory may be cloudy, but the theme that has stuck with me most over these past four decades was her portrayal of women’s friendships. It was the friendship between her women characters that provided the continuity of support for each other through the ups and downs of their studies, careers, love affairs, marriages and divorces.

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You know, whenever women make imaginary female kingdoms in literature, they are always very permissive, to use the jargon word, and easy and generous and self-indulgent, like the relationships between women when there are no men around. They make each other presents, and they have little feasts, and nobody punishes anyone else. This is the female way of going along when there are no men about or when men are not in the ascendant.
- Doris Lessing

Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City agreed when she speculated,

“Maybe our girlfriends are our soul mates, and guys are just people to have fun with.”

New research bears this out. A study just published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports a considerable connection between the number of friends and the psychological wellbeing for both men and women in midlife. However, the impact of a dependable support system of friends was much greater for women.

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The study authors surveyed 6,500 Brits born in 1958 when they were 42, 45 and 50 years old. When they first entered the study, the participants self-reported on their psychological wellbeing, whether they were married, the age they left school and whether they currently held a job. Most people said they were pretty content with their life and happily married.

When they turned 45, the researchers asked the same people how many times per month they met up with friends or family. Around 40 percent of men and 33 percent of women said they had six or more friends they met up with regularly. Sadly, about 10 percent said they had no friends.

When the researchers assessed their subjects’ happiness and friendship statuses again at the age of 50, the results showed a significant association between an active network of friends and psychological wellbeing, especially for women. These findings held up regardless of whether a person was married, had a job or had mental health issues in the past.

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The British study isn’t the first to emphasize the importance of adult friendships. An Australian study even found that a thriving social life can lengthen a person’s lifespan, after studying seniors living in community and residential care facilities.

But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
- Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

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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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Friends Keep Us Healthy

posted by Donna Henes

What mid-life crisis?
How quality time with the girls makes women more optimistic about their future than men

By Tamara Abraham
Daily Mail, U.K.

Most women treasure the time they spend with their closest girlfriends.

And according to new research, it is exactly this that makes women in mid-life far more optimistic about their future than men.

A new study into Americans’ well-being found that 25 per cent of women aged 45 to 55 gave themselves an optimism score of ten out of ten when asked about attitudes to their present and future lives.

Girl power: Women aged 45-55 are more optimistic about life than men because they have stronger social support networks

Girl power: Women aged 45-55 are more optimistic about life than men because they have stronger social support networks

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In contrast, just 17 per cent of men of the same age group said the same.

The reason for this disparity, the Gallup-Healthways survey revealed, was that women spend more quality time with their friends.

Men, it found, were less likely to have a strong support network.

Researchers said that it was not the volume of friends that seemed to make the difference, rather the quality, and the amount of face-to-face time.

The most optimistic women, the study found, had a close circle of between four and 12 girlfriends that ‘have their back’.

They spend around six hours a day with someone they are close to, be it a partner or a co-worker.

And having hundreds of ‘friends’ on Facebook is no substitute, says USA Today’s Gail Sheehy, who likens such relationships to business contacts.

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‘Coming home from a conference with a fistful of business cards is not emotionally fulfilling,’ she writes.

‘”Contacts” won’t be there for you when you have a blow-up with your boss and fear for your job.

‘If you have no ready social outlet, you’ll likely start to sleep poorly and feel your energy drain. The best way to recover optimism is to walk and talk with a girlfriend or a group.’

 

* ***
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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How to Deal With Your Midlife Crisis

posted by Donna Henes

By Miriam Slozberg

When you hear about someone going through a midlife crisis, you usually think of that stereotypical scenario of some guy in his forties impulsively buying a sports car and dumping his wife for a younger woman.

Well, let me tell you that is just a stereotype, and dealing with some kind of midlife crisis or transition is not something that only affects men. Many women are very much affected by it as well.

People going through it are affected individually, but many women who are in this phase end up confused, feeling lost and depressed. Many mothers who have given up their lives taking care of their kids, the home and their husbands end up putting their needs and wants on the back burner.

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As a result, these women question who they even are, as well as the purpose in their lives … and many of them end up wondering if there is anything in store for their lives beyond what they have been doing for years or even a few decades.

They may suffer from regrets about making poor decisions that trapped them in their current, less-than-satisfying situations. Plenty of these moms going through this phase also realize that they don’t have all of the time in the world to make their dreams come true and start wondering when or if they can ever make that happen.

There are many mothers who are also sandwiched, caring for their children as well as their aging parents, and that pushes their needs aside even more. It is no wonder that so many moms reaching midlife become depressed and bored with their marriages and have an urge to just leave their responsibilities and live their lives once and for all.

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Some have even filed for divorce for this reason alone. However, filing for divorce and leaving the kids and other responsibilities behind for this reason alone is not going to help. In fact, it will only make matters worse and will create massive regret later on.

Many people also go through a deep reflective time when they are around 60. Think about how you would feel then if you took off on your family because of feeling trapped during your midlife.

There is no guarantee what tomorrow will bring, but odds are if you are a woman who is going through this phase right now, your life is not over and you can start making plans to do those things on your bucket list now.

Let’s put the feelings of boredom, being trapped, dissatisfaction and even those depressed emotions aside and point out how you can plan for a more exciting life for the future.

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  1. Accept Where you Are Now — Beating yourself up for not making good decisions earlier in your life that landed you in a bad place now isn’t going to solve the issues you are currently facing. You need to accept where you are right now, and that does not mean settling.

    Acceptance will bring you to a point where you are fully aware of where you are and what you would like to make better so you can start taking action.

 

  1. Set Boundaries — This is where so many women, especially mothers, struggle. They are afraid to say “no” and yet end up depleting themselves by constantly putting their needs aside.

    Are your kids depleting you? Then you need to encourage their independence.

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    I know many moms (like myself) have kids with special needs, however it is very important that these children are as independent as possible. In some cases I realize that’s impossible, but in that case ask for help and make sure you don’t overdo it to the point that you are depleted.

    If you are caring for aging parents, demand help from other family members and only do what you know you can do to help and nothing more.

 

  1. Stop Feeling Guilty — This is also a huge one that will create burnout and stir up the midlife emotions even more in a negative way. For instance, if you are no longer able to care for an aging parent then start looking into help outside of the family.

    My son has special needs, and I know that he will need assistance of some sort during his life (this also comes with acceptance). Because I know this, and because it’s better for him to live up to his potential and live away from home when he is an adult, I am already making plans for his transition.

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    Unfortunately, many moms who have kids with special needs feel guilty if they even think about doing what I am doing and intend to care for their kids well into adulthood. Those parents aren’t realistic about how they will likely feel and how that decision will impact their other children.

    There is nothing to feel guilty about making plans like this.You have needs and wants, too.

    If you keep sacrificing your life, you will only feel more resentful, depressed, and depleted and won’t serve as a good friend, mother, sister and daughter! Don’t feel guilty about not doing it all. That is because you can’t. When you reach a limit, don’t push it!

 

  1. Find Out What You Really Want and Go After it — What do you want to see happen in your life? What would you like to achieve? Do you want to start a business or expand on your business? Then carve away time just to focus on that!

    That time is your time to plan on making a dream come true. Your kids or husband cannot interrupt you during this time. Make that clear!

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    Do you want to travel somewhere exotic? Start saving a little each month. Talk to your bank or financial consultant about how to grow your money.

    That money is yours to use for what you want! Not for your kids, not for your parents, for you!

 

  1. Reach Out to Other Woman Who Understand — Just know you are not alone in how you are feeling. Women reaching midlife are dealing with too many emotions to handle, and they cannot do it alone.

    Talk to other women going through the same thing. Talking with someone who truly understands can really lift your spirits.

    Isolation will make everything worse. If you are a mother facing overwhelming midlife emotions, just remember even though you can never escape some kind of responsibility completely, you can make things change for the better and live a more satisfying life.

 

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You can go after what you want. Focus on what you do want while you are taking action and planning. By doing that, you will feel better. And most importantly, your needs and wants matter!

 
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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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