The Queen of My Self

Certainly the most crucial step toward sovereignty is to know our Selves. After all our years as mothers and others, we need to reestablish who we are as individuals, separate and distinct from our relationships with those around us. Who am I if I am not a mother, a daughter, a lover, a wife, a friend, a partner, a teacher, a student, a boss or an employee?

Who am I if I am not associated with some undertaking, enterprise, creation, project, product or service? Who am I, in fact, if I just am? As I live and breathe? And how do I feel about it?

For these answers and the answers to all of life’s questions, we must look into our own heart and allow ourselves to feel our feelings, to own and embrace them for the wisdom they convey. We can only discover our own truth by paying close attention to the promptings of our inner Selves and to our honest reactions to the external energies that surround us. Marion Woodman, the Jungian analyst, writer and specialist in feminine development research, calls this process, “coming home to ourselves.”

An excellent way to start to know your Self is by taking a good long look at yourself in the mirror. This seemingly simple device is not so easy, as most of us are mirror-shy, accustomed as we are to using mirrors as weapons of Self-destruction.

  • Sit comfortably and look into a mirror. Resist the urge to check your hair for neatness or your teeth for spinach. Under no circumstance allow your mind to travel toward judgment or critique. And be nice. Spare yourself those nasty little mind-jabs of disappointment and disapproval.
  • Look at yourself as you would a stranger, with an open mind and an open heart. Do not avert your eyes, but employ them in a straightforward, fearless manner. Introduce yourself to the woman you see there. Let your eyes reassure her that you are friendly.
  • Gaze into her eyes to try to grasp the sense of who she might be. Relax into that gaze and stay engaged for as long as you can. Peer into the depths of your being. What do you see there? What memories? What motives? What myths? What messages?

If the eyes are, indeed, the mirrors of our soul, we have much to learn by looking deeply into them. Like sending a bucket into a deep well and drawing up the clear, revitalizing waters of wisdom from the source.


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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


The Self, according to Carl Jung, is the center, the midpoint of the personality, the crossroads where our personal and collective, conscious and unconscious processes intersect. The Self encompasses the totality of who we are. It is, he writes, “A kind of central point within the psyche to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which itself is a source of energy. The energy of the central point is manifested in the almost irresistible compulsion and urge to become what one is, just as every organism is driven to assume the form that is characteristic of its nature, no matter what the circumstances.”

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.

In the art and philosophy of many cultures, the nature of the Self is represented by a four-part symbol such as a mandala, a labyrinth, an equilateral cross, a swastika, or a four-leaf clover. These symbols mirror the four-partite systems that organize the totality of the cosmos into the four seasons of the year, four phases of the moon, four cardinal directions.

The Four-Fold Goddess is representative of not only the stages and ages of a woman’s life, She also stands for the four parts that comprise our united Self. The Self, the Soul, the Center of a person is commonly thought to include our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sides. These aspects are the ways in which we perceive and relate to the world around us and to our inner Selves, as well. Jung calls these aspects “functions,” and identifies them as sensing (physical), thinking (mental), feeling (emotional) and intuiting (spiritual). These four parts combine to compose our outlook and our insight. Together, they constitute our unique ways and means of being.

Our Queenly assignment, should we choose to accept it, is to identify, understand and connect — or reconnect — all of the component parts of ourselves, to attempt to develop and balance them equally, and to maintain them all in good working order.

The Self is like a jigsaw puzzle or a quilt that promises to become a beautiful whole if we spend the necessary time and concentration to assemble it. It is at once the puzzle, the parts of the puzzle, and also, most importantly, the process of piecing them together.

The ideal of the Queen inspires us to design 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. Once we do, we are able to shift into a new stage of life, a new state of being, a renaissance rebirth, ready, willing and able to rule.


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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



I loved the mothering years of my thirties. I did not bear children, but we don’t need to have given birth to be a mother. The archetypal Mother is not only a biological parent, She is a Mother of Invention, as well. She produces and reproduces — be it children, enterprises, careers or political causes. She then labors endlessly to nourish and sustain the fruits of Her passion: Her family, Her business, Her home, Her job, Her projects, Her clients, Her students, Her community.

That was me. After my Maiden years of youthful exploration and adventure — both geographical and psychological — I felt pulled by the Mother’s instinctual need to nest, and settled into a more sedentary, domestic life. Daughter of Mother Earth Herself, I created a ceremonial center from which I lavished love and nurturing spiritual support on everyone around me.

I extended my affection and protection to a number of young people whose presence enlivened my heart and home. My dear foster son moved in with me when he was ten, and I mentored student interns and assistants at what I came to call the Mama Donna Auntie Mame School of Life. Through these nourishing connections, I claimed my Mother power.

But by the time I was forty, my golden days of Motherhood had turned tragic. Death invaded my life, and family members, friends, students and pets all fell ill around me. Mama Donna to my extended clan, I held the hands and rubbed the feet of the sick and the scared. I read, talked and chanted to the dying and sat with them in long silence. I laid out the bodies of the dead and counseled the grief stricken. I wrote obituaries and officiated at funerals. Hard circumstances forced me to become Mother Courage.

I spent a fifteen-year eternity in the hospice zone, losing nearly everyone and everything that I had loved —family, friends, animals, home, community, income, monthly blood, hormones, equilibrium, confidence, and what ever control I thought I had over my life.

My own needs relinquished, all of my energy was lavished on others. Sometime during that interminable period, somewhere between making Jell-O, changing invalid diapers and scattering ashes, I lost my center. I was off kilter and shaky, preoccupied with the process of disease, decline, death and decay. Menopause with its interminable insomnia, mood swings and hormonal surprise attacks definitely did not help. I was a walking wreck.

To top it off, I was all but celibate for long patches of time, totally disinclined to engage sexually. Surely sex could have been a salve in such hard times, but I refused the comforts that were offered and retreated like a turtle into the shell of my sad self. And the people in my most intimate life, friends and lover alike — those who were still standing — fled from me, frightened by my hands-on association with so much pain and suffering as if death were a contagious disease. All I managed to attract was trouble.

Caught in the quicksand of despair, I gradually became completely paralyzed, unable to help myself, too heartbroken even to lick my own wounds. Resentment and bitterness began to singe the edges of my anguish. In the end, I was no Mother Teresa. And it was not pretty. I made myself sick in every sense of the word.

Then, one day, I’d had enough. “Get a grip.” I scolded myself. “Enough is enough, already.” I was finally and completely disgusted with my sorry ass martyr self. “Yes, some terrible things have happened. OK, lots of terrible things happened. Life happened. Why should I be exempt? Get over it and move on already.”

Resolute, I began my struggle to repossess all of the body-mind-heart-spirit support skills that I had so recklessly tossed aside during my tortured deathwatch. I craved quiet time and serious sustenance to help me process all that I had seen, done and felt. I call this discipline Sitting in the Shadows.

Grieving is an active practice, a conscious engagement that comes from a place of tenderness, compassion and love, and not the same thing as wallowing in formless self-pity, bitterness and anger. As I mourned, I began to open to my pain and started to understand that to acknowledge grief and suffering, fears and foibles, vulnerability and weakness, is ultimately the best hope for maturation, expansion and wisdom.

Determined to process my experiences and emotions, I drew in on myself. Out came my neglected journal, which I embraced as a long-lost friend. I sought council between its covers and lost myself in its pages, seeking to find the way back to my misaligned center, my sanity and my true Self.

Yes, it is true, I realized, I had been called to an appalling task. Yes, I did rise to meet it. Yes, I had succeeded in being of some considerable help. I also acknowledged my feelings of helplessness. I had been to hell and back — alone with no one to support me, which, in retrospect, was precisely the lesson that I had been meant to learn: to be able to rely on myself alone.

In looking back with honesty, I realized that this excruciating transition was a proficiency test in the academy of life. Unless we are challenged, how could we ever expand our capabilities beyond our assumed capacities? Gradually over time, I grew to embrace the difficult circumstances that had been forced upon me, as well as the hard changes wrought from within, for the invaluable opportunities for growth and spiritual development that they offered.

By day I continued to do what I must, and at night I tried to write. Like Penelope, I spent my evenings alone in the dark, spinning yarns, weaving a comforting sense of order, pattern, and systematic interconnectivity around myself like a shawl, a silk cocoon. I sat in its embrace quietly quilting my own experience into the intricate complexity, the enduring continuity of That Which Is, looking for meaning, direction, and perception.

Like Madame Lafarge, I was knitting a running commentary on my duel with death, as a way to interpret the rules of engagement and the lessons of the fray. By handling the threads and passing the shuttle, I was attempting to re-weave what had been broken, and to repair the damage that I had both endured and inflicted as a result of my pain.

My era of selfless mothering of others was coming to an end and I began to direct my ministering attentions toward my own bruised and battered Self. Now that I was motherless, it was time to claim the responsibility for my own care and feeding, my own growth and comfort, my own self-healing. To be my own caring best friend, sister, daughter, mother and devoted advocate.

Slowly I learned — and am still learning — how to mother myself, to lavish upon myself that same unconditional loving kindness, encouragement, support and solace that I have always given so freely to others. To nurture my own well being. To hold my deepest needs in tender trust. To care for my personal concerns and inspire and encourage the development of my best potential. To honor my purpose. To celebrate my passion. And to embrace my power.

Eventually I realized that though not unscathed, I had endured the onslaught

of trials by fire and survived my middle passage of the soul, and I began to feel good about what I had achieved. I felt that I could do anything, because, in fact, I already had.

Finally my circumstances were calming down and my prospects were, for the first time in a very long time, looking up. Through my own intentions and concerted efforts, by constantly questioning and reconfiguring, by struggling to mourn and then release what was irrevocably lost, I was recovering my own misplaced vitality, interest and energy — and then some.

I was beginning to feel the tiniest inkling of the exhilarating force that I had been reading about, PMZ or Post Menopausal Zest (a cheery phrase coined by the anthropologist Margaret Mead) and to believe the promise of renewed vim and vigor displayed by my women friends who are in their sixth, seventh, eighth, and even ninth decades. And suddenly, miraculously, after all that anguish, I began to find my easy stride again and was soon trotting along with new authority, enjoyment and aplomb.

By the time I reached my mid-fifties, I was finally ready and able, and for the first time in my life, actually, consciously, conscientiously willing to accept the responsibility for my own life and living and the truth and complete consequences of my own dreams, decisions and actions.

I was a maturing monarch prepared to regulate all of the inner and outer realms of my own domain. At long last, I knew myself to be the uncontested mistress of my own fate. I had succeeded against all odds in turning my midlife crisis into my crowning achievement. And now here I am, standing in my full sovereignty, Queen Mama Donna, Queen of My Self.


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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



Necessity is the mother of invention, it is said. And women have long stepped up to create solutions to the problems that they encountered in daily life as housewives, mothers and agricultural workers.

I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention – invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.
– Agatha Christie

It is believed that women invented agriculture and certainly it was women who invented pottery, ovens and weaving. But, of course we do not know that for sure.

The first woman inventor on record was Hypatia of Alexandria who crafted the first pane astrolabe, used to measure the positions of the sun and stars and to calculate the ascendant sign of the zodiac. She also invented circa 400 A.D. a device for measuring the level of water and another system for distillation, as well as the hydrometer. The hydrometer—or hydroscope—was a sealed tube about the size of a flute, weighted at one end. The depth to which the hydrometer sunk in a particular liquid gave a reading on the substances, specific gravity.

Sybilla Masters was the first American woman inventor. In 1712 she developed a new corn mill, but was denied a patent because she was a woman. Three years later the patent was filed successfully in her husband’s name.

Sara E. Goode was the first African American woman to be awarded a patent in 1884 for a Folding Cabinet Bed.

We’ll probably never know how many women inventors there were. That’s because in the early years of the United States, a woman could not get a patent in her own name. A patent is considered a kind of property, and until the late 1800s laws forbade women in most states from owning property or entering into legal agreements in their own names. Instead, a woman’s property would be in the name of her father or husband.

Women have been responsible for the invention of a wide range of domestic devices to make house work easier such as ironing boards, clothes wringers, the pastry forks, dishwasher, the flat bottomed paper shopping bag, etc. These were practical solutions to everyday problems.

Want is the mistress of invention
– Susanna Centlivre

Here is a small selection of domestic and beauty inventions by women:

1799 – Mary Moore – Pain Relief Composition
1867 – Elizabeth Hawk – Cooking Stove
1872 – Josephine Cochran – Dishwasher
1875 – Susan Taylor Conversa – One-piece Emancipation Suit to replace suffocating corsets
1880 – Ellen Elgin – Clothes Wringer
1882 – Adeline D. T. Whitney – Alphabet Blocks
1891 – Catherine Deiner – Rolling Pin
1892 – Sarah Boone – Ironing Board
1896 – Julia Terry Hammonds – Apparatus for Holding Yarn Skeins
1898 – Lydia D, Newman – Hair Brush
1905 – Madame C.J. Walker – Hair Care Products with Straightening Comb
1930 – Ruth Wakefield – Chocolate-chip Cookies
1950 – Marion Donovan – Disposable Diaper
1956 – Mary B. Kenner – Sanitary Belt
1959 – Mary B. Kenner – Sanitary Belt with Moisture Proof Napkin Pocket
1983 – Maxine Snowden – Rain Hat
1983 – Theora Stephens – Pressing/Curling Iron
1987 – Ruane Jeter – Digital Toaster

Women were also responsible to inventing major military, industrial, commercial and medical improvements:

1812 – Tabitha Babbitt – Circular saw
1843 – Ada Augusta Lovelace – Early Computer
1845 – Sarah Mather – Submarine Lamp and Telescope
1871 – Martha J. Costen – Maritime Night Signal Flares
1871 – Margaret Knight – Paper Bag Making Machine
1875 – Ellen Fitz – Globes
1879 – Mary Walton – Locomotive Chimney
1881 – Mary Walton – Elevated Railway
1882 – Maria Beaseley – Life Raft
1887 – Anna Connelly – Fire Escape
1888 – Miriam E. Benjamin – Gong and Signal Chair (used in the US House of Representatives.)
1893 – Margaret Wilcox – Car Heater
1893 – Harriet Tracy Sands – Gravity Safety Elevator
1899 – Letitia Geer – Medical Syringe
1900 – Florence Parpart – Street Cleaning machine
1903 – Mary Anderson – Windshield Wiper
1904 – Margaret Knight – Rotary Engine
1917 – Ida Forbes – Electric Hot Water Heater
1917 – El Dorado Jones – Engine Muffler
1951 – Bessie Nesmith – Liquid Paper®
1952 – Virginia Apgar – Apgar Tests, which evaluate a baby’s health upon birth
1952 – Grace Hopper – The First Compiler, a program that translates instructions for a computer from English to machine language
1956 – Patsy O. Sherman – Scotchgard™ Fabric Protector
1959 – Ruth Handler – The Barbie doll
1966 – Stephanie Kwolek – Kevlar, a steel-like fiber used in radial tires, crash helmets, and bulletproof vests
1969 – Marie V. Brittan Brown – Home Security System Utilizing Television Surveillance
1999 – Randi Altschul – Disposable Cell Phone

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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