Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

By Sharon Mesmer

First, there was the buying of the white dress, white fake fur jacket and white shoes. I recall my mother and me marching up and down Ashland Avenue, the main shopping street in our South Side Chicago neighborhood, in search of something that I would actually deign to wear. It couldn’t be too ornate, according to Sister Eleanor, the principal of St. John of God grammar school, but according to me it had to be really, really pretty. (Twelve years ago I actually found the dress as I was cleaning out my mom’s house, and it really was pretty: sateen with sheer puffy sleeves and seed pearls all over the bodice.) As we shopped around, we’d run into other girls and their mothers doing the same thing. Seeing them and comparing notes — “Goldblatts ain’t got nothin’ good no more,” “I heard they’re gougin’ everybody over by 63rd” — heightened the feeling of the ritual’s importance.

The ceremony, on a May morning in 1968, bordered on the pagan: All 60 kids marched slowly, piously, in a procession toward the church, led by the pastor and assistant priests, with altar boys shouldering a large statue of the Virgin Mary on a wooden pallet, her head wreathed in white roses. The streets were packed with our parents, grandparents, godparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and neighbors, all snapping photos from behind police barricades. We were told by the nuns not to talk to, or even look at, anyone — just keep our eyes focused on the kid directly in front of us, our hands folded in prayer. And yet at almost every step someone was yelling my name — “It’s Uncle Bob, honey! I wanna take your picture!” “Sharon! Look at your mother!”

As we turned a corner, I could, for the first time, hear the booming sounds of the church organ and the choir. I remember thinking that that was a magical moment: all of us walking toward the thunderous organ playing just for us while the choir of adults sang us in to the tune of a hymn called “This Is My Body.”

A group of teenage boys stood with their arms folded, watching us; a young mother crouched, put her arm around her little boy, and pointed; an old man doffed his cap. As we walked up the steps of the church, the nuns, like security at a rock concert, waved back the mothers with flowers and dads with cameras. It felt like we were the Beatles.

Now I wonder: Why is it that we’re lauded and celebrated when we’ve only just embarked on the journey? Why do we stop marking, ritually, the accomplishments along the way? The hurdles that we overcome?

I think all of us women who are going through menopause should gather together and then two-by-two make a pious procession through streets clogged with our living loved ones and long-dead parents and grandparents (resurrected just for us and calling our names). Whoever we are, whether svelte and wafting Chanel or pouchy with pendulous breasts, I want us to be made much of, cheered, recognized. I want our procession to be led by a bunch of men our age with beer guts pushing their shirt buttons apart, shouldering a statue of whoever our appropriate goddess is — possibly Coatlicue, an Aztec Earth Goddess, or maybe Hillary Clinton.

I want us to be sung to by a choir as we march into a secular temple, possibly some combination of the old Fillmore and the Society for Ethical Culture. Once inside, we gather in a circle around a huge ring of fire and, at an appropriate moment, accompanied by chanting, we reach into our purses and toss into the flames that unused old tampon that we’ve been carrying around for five years. As we do, the fire changes from red to pure white, tongues of it leap into our hearts, and we receive the ability to heal and bring blessings to our community.

And then there’s a party afterward that lasts four days, with enough ice-cold drinks, Ativan and L’Occitane Verbena Refreshing Towelettes (chilling in hundreds of tiny personal refrigerators) for us all.

Of course the ritual she is seeking is a Queen Crowning Ceremony!

  • Queen Mama Donna


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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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By Sharon Mesmer

For some women, menopause is no big deal. Some say they barely notice it. My mother, long ago, described her menopause this way: “My periods just started gettin’ lighter and lighter, and my harmones settled down, and then one day … pfft! It was over.”

Not me. Not only did menopause change my life, it changed me.

Before I was laid low by hot flashes, panic-inducing adrenaline rushes and the constant oscillation between morbid sadness and killer rage, I’d prided myself on being fearless. I’d screamed obscenities at the masochistic nuns at my Catholic school, kicked undercover cops in the groin and once threw a chair at my abusive fiancé’s head while Allen Ginsberg read poetry in a room below.

And suddenly, I was a person to whom sitting quietly with hands folded, ideally in a dark room with the shades drawn and maybe “The Lawrence Welk Show” playing low on an old TV, seemed like the best plan ever.

I wish I’d been better prepared. I wish I’d properly celebrated the last time I’d canceled plans to spend all morning soaking in a lavender-scented bathtub with a bottle of Advil. I wish I’d noted down the date when I’d dug that last extra tampon out of the bottom of my purse and thrown it away. I should have marked the event in some way, maybe even performed a personal rite-of-passage ritual: taken that tampon out to the woods, placed it upon an altar that I’d fashioned out of ancient glacial rocks, and set it ablaze while I chanted an invocation to whoever the crone-goddess of menopause is.

I am now well acquainted with that goddess.

It’s possible that I have the World’s Worst Menopause. But how to quantify with hard data hot flashes that make me feel like I’m staring into the mouth of an active volcano or the engine of a coal-burning locomotive on the hottest day in history? To what previous record could I compare panic-inducing adrenaline rushes that occur every hour on the hour and, while I’m teaching, inspire concerned students to ask if I’m having a heart attack? When I hear women use cutesy nicknames like “power surges” I want to rip their throats out.

If you are one of those women for whom the transition from periods to no periods was like the transition from walking to sitting down — congratulations. Everybody else: You are my tribe. And I’ve come to believe that our tribe needs a ritual.

I’ve heard menopause described as a second puberty. There are plenty of rites-of-passage for girls as they begin and complete puberty. There’s the bat mitzvah, the quinceañera and the Sweet 16. I’ve read about a beautiful Apache ceremony called Na’ii’ees, which usually takes place the summer after a girl has her first period and commemorates the story of Esdzanadehe, the first woman. It originally lasted a few days, during which a girl, covered with a golden mixture of cornmeal and clay, became imbued with the power of the first woman and received the ability to heal and bring blessings to her community.

I didn’t have a Sweet 16 or a bat mitzvah. But I did have a First Holy Communion, which supposedly marked my ascent to the age of reason, as a 7-year-old. As rituals go, it was a good one.

Coming Wednesday, Part II

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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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NR: Can you tell us more about response-ability?

DH: Response-ability is the willingness to encounter each person, situation, event, and emotion with an open heart and an open mind, so that we can respond to the needs of others and our own needs with equal care. Born of awareness and consideration, response-ability means choosing to be fully conscious and present in life and to participate conscientiously in its enfoldment.

Maturity brings with it the understanding that everything is not about us. That the world does not revolve around our personal story. That we do not exist in a vacuum. And that all those other people out there actually have lives of their own and are not simply extras in our movie.

Life and living have shown the Queen the value of community, cooperation, concern, care, and communion. Knowing Herself to be an integral, inextricably interconnected part of a greater whole, She multiplies Her ministrations to include the welfare of the entire world around Her.

NR: Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

DH: If we mighty Queens bring to bear the amazing experience, understanding, and acumen that we have to share, we can, together, restore balance and bring healing to a world that seems bent on destruction.

Personally, I do not think that it is a coincidence that just as the planet teeters on the very brink of destruction, there comes along a generation of fiery, accomplished, clever, ambitious women at the height of our supremacy to whip it back into shape. And the sheer enormity of our numbers means that we can actually achieve the critical mass necessary to make a real and lasting difference.

Let us harness our impressive Empress Energy: our purity of purpose, our passion, our heartfelt compassion and our enormous power, and let us direct it toward creating a safe, sublime and peaceful world for us all. The future is in our very capable hands.

NR: Our thanks go out to you, Donna, for sharing your exciting work with us. You’ve stimulated us all to think about our power and take up the challenge to use it wisely. Now it’s time for our readers http://nourishingrelationships.blogspot.com/2010/08/queen-of-my-self-stepping-into.html to have the opportunity to connect with you personally.

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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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NR: What, exactly do you mean by Queen?

DH: The Queen is a woman who is still energetic with youth, yet wise with age. She is confident and beholden to no one. She thinks, speaks, acts for her Self and is secure being powerful. She has stepped into her sovereignty and wears it well.

The Queen refuses to condescend or conform to the adolescent and exploitative standard of beauty promulgated by popular culture. She does not deign to compare herself with teenage models or emaciated-lifted-stitched-tucked-injected-Hollywood-uber-beauties. A truly mature, secure woman accepts the inevitable physical changes that come with the passing of time and incorporates them into the way she presents herself to the world. Self-aware, Self-assured, she transforms her Self as she goes. She glows as she grows into her full potential, and becomes ever more becoming. Her reinvigorated attractiveness stems from Self-knowledge and enfranchisement; her magnetic sensuality is centered in the fulfillment and satisfaction of her Self-worth. She exudes the intoxicating appeal of a woman who is at heart, pleased with her Self.

NR: How does a woman go about becoming a Queen?

DH: She must decide and choose to accept the responsibility for her own desires and needs. She establishes boundaries and obeys only her own inner voice. She asserts her Self without guilt or apology.

The Queen uses the power of Her own purpose, growth, and gratification to claim and proclaim what is rightfully Hers, including — especially — Her own Self-image, charisma, and sexuality. When we are comfortable in our own skin, we carry ourselves with presence and pride, and project our formidable inner beauty out for all to see and appreciate.

Our emotional maturity and depth of character make women in our middle years extraordinarily and vitally attractive. We are substantial and robust, heady with the flavor of all that we have seen and done so far. We are pungent with profound experience, with pain and loss, exploration and transformation, glory and joy. The myriad lessons learned from lives intensely lived are reflected in our palate, which has become sophisticated, subtle, firm and complex. Like fine wine and good cheese, women ripen and improve with age. Our essence becomes stronger, clearer and infinitely more powerful. What could be more sexy?

NR: What are the benefits to aging?

DH: A liberating sense of Self. A Gallop poll revealed that despite facing the loss of so much on every level, women declare themselves to be the happiest after the age of 55. They might lose the pigment in their hair and the elasticity of their skin, their parents and their children, but they have gained THEMSELVES! This is glorious.

Once the Queen has conquered the challenges in Her life, she begins to claim Her royal power. She cuts through fear and ambivalence to become the sole ruler of Her Self. She has struggled for Her transformation and has achieved it. Her proud potency is palpable, Her authenticity uncontested. Her life now takes on a new ease, a grace, a certain lightness of being born of Her Self-knowing, Self-respecting, Self-directing, Self-projecting passion and purpose. She sails ahead on Her own steam, cutting efficiently through seas that are sometimes smooth as glass, sometimes choppy and fraught with danger. Her age and vast experience is Her ballast. She keeps Her center, come what may.

But something else remarkable takes place once the Queen has stepped into sovereignty. Now that Her own life is in working order and running more smoothly, the Queen can afford to enlarge the territory and expand the horizons of Her Interests and influence and extend the parameters of Her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual domain. Firmly rooted in Her best Self and acting on Her own behalf, She is free to reach out in ever increasing concentric circles to others. Now She can freely offer Her compassion, expertise, time, and money to people and causes that call to Her sense of response-ability, literally Her ability to respond.

Coming Friday: Questions about response-ability.

 

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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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