Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self


JANUARY

January is all about new beginnings and fresh starts. Time to think about what we want and what we need in the New Year. Time to set our intentions and goals, make plans and lists. Take on projects to further our dreams and enhance our power.


By: Andee Harris

I looked in the mirror this week and realized I’m officially in the sandwich.

I’m turning 44 in a week, and all I can think of is, how did I get here? It’s not so much that I have amnesia about the last 43 years—it’s just that between raising children, investing in a career and caring for an ailing parent, I have approximately two and a half minutes a day to reflect. When I subtract the minute and a half I squander enjoying a fine glass of whiskey (because survival), it’s easy to see how I could lose track of time.

Yet for the first time in my life, my perception of time is all-consuming. Days run into weeks, weeks blur into months and, just like that, I’m another year in. Plus, it’s mind-blowing how much can happen in just one week.

This week brought one of the biggest professional accomplishments of my life. After spending the majority of my career advocating for women to take a seat at the table, I actually became the CEO of Chicago software company HighGround. It’s a random Tuesday—I’m indescribably energized.

This week also brought one of the toughest decisions my family has ever made. After suffering for years with Lewy body dementia, a cruel form of Parkinson’s, we made the painful choice to admit my 73-year-old father to an assisted living facility. It’s a random Wednesday—I’m inconsolably sad.

This week (and every week), my sixth-grader and high-schooler bring an unending list of needs that must (and should) be met. It’s a random Thursday—I’m feigning organization and praising my mom friend who picked up my kids. Again.

At 44, my time in the proverbial sandwich is real. It feels like some inevitable midlife crisis that doesn’t actually require an actual crisis—it just requires the passage of time and my desire to achieve (or simply not give up).

As one of the first generations to see our mothers work, my female peers have grown up expecting to have—and earn—it all. But with our high expectations come constant reminders that we are amid the best years of our lives.

All of sudden everything has an expiration date.

“Capitalize on your earning potential now, Andee, because 44 in tech is already GERIATRIC.”

“Spend as much time with your dad as you can, Andee. He is fading fast; every time you see him could be the last time he recognizes you.”

“Plan more quality time with your son, Andee. There’s only three years left until he’s off to college.”

This constant pressure to make the most of my time terrifies me. I’m a control freak, and it feels like the passage of time is mocking me. It’s frustrating, and I’m left with no choice but to find survival techniques. Since an aggressive face-lift, fleeing to the Caribbean, or buying a convertible seem cliched, I’ve turned to something much simpler.

I am choosing to stay present.

Sounds easy. It’s not. It’s a technique I have not mastered, but the mere fact that it takes practice and a conscious effort is what makes it perfect. Every day, I log into the Five Minute Journal app and take a minute to focus on the present. I do that by writing down what and who I am grateful for:

I am grateful that my dad is still here and we can laugh.

I am grateful for my husband, who has my back like no one else.

I am grateful for my kids, who know they can count on me.

I write down three amazing things that happened each day, too—even if one of them is that I skipped the drive thru.

I conducted my first meeting with the board.

I did not forget it’s Hanukkah.

I cooked dinner—with fire and unfrozen vegetables.

As I hit my stride, I’m going to keep tallying the small wins. I’ll remind myself that this is my sandwich, and I get to choose what kind it will be.

I’ll pass on the forgettable bologna: looks weird, tastes meh. Instead, I’ll enjoy the savory avocado toast: still looks like a mess, but it’s incredibly rich, healthy and satisfying.

Andee Harris is CEO of Chicago software company HighGround.

 

***
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.


JANUARY

January is all about new beginnings and fresh starts. Time to think about what we want and what we need in the New Year. Time to set our intentions and goals, make plans and lists. Take on projects to further our dreams and enhance our power.


Mari Selby, VA   

Eve Ensler: “Good is towing the line, being behaved, being quiet, being passive, fitting in, being liked; and great is being messy, having a belly, speaking your mind, standing up for what you believe in, fighting for another paradigm, not letting people talk you out of what you know to be true.”

According to the Christian bible Eve was the original “bad girl”. Eve’s original sin was to stop “being good” and, instead follow the desire to act on her spiritual and intellectual hunger. She ate the apple with curiosity and the recognition that she wanted more than what “Eden” provided. For millennia women have been labeled as “good” if we follow the rules, don’t ask too many questions, and stifle our passions. Fortunately we now live in an exciting time when our hunger for spiritual, intellectual and emotional fulfillment is supported and encouraged. And much of this support and encouragement comes from us talking to each other and sharing our visions!

The desire to be that “good” girl is still deeply ingrained in all of us. As Eve Ensler talks about in her “Vagina Monologues”, this self-hatred we carry requires choices. Choices such as giving ourselves the healing we need, and then redirecting and transforming this self-hatred toward changing the world. First, imagine all the energy we use to make ourselves sexier, more adorable, skinnier, and more successful. Then imagine, instead using all that energy to make a difference in our world! Now imagine all the money we would save if we directed our finances toward what we believe in rather than making ourselves over?

What stops us from exploring our passions? What is the negative self-talk we continually hear? Maybe we have finally decided to accept our curly hair, our big brown eyes, or full lips? For those of us growing wiser, maybe we finally have come to peace with our flabby, aging bodies? Maybe we aren’t so afraid to stick our necks out and stand up for what we believe in? And still it is so easy to fall short of our sense of “perfection”. Whenever we criticize ourselves mercilessly for not doing enough in our day, we are bleeding away our spiritual life force. The ways we pinch ourselves and make ourselves smaller is endless, exhausting, and fruitless.

What can we do to enhance a new paradigm, heal ourselves, and inspire others to follow their own enthusiasm? We can unearth our stories, create them in whatever form they take, and liberally share them with all those we love. Every one of us has creative bones. The phrase, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body” is a lie perpetuated to keep women being “good”. Our creativity takes so many different forms, from writing our stories, to reading books to our children, to making dinner for our family, to singing our songs. Our creativity shines when we take care of our 4-legged friends, nurture our gardens and plants, or smile at everyone we meet. Our creativity is as unlimited as we choose to believe, and as vast as the night sky. We are all stars and meant to shine with our uniqueness and beauty.

Patricia Lynn Reilly: “Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good that she is a woman. A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories…Imagine yourself as this woman.”

This month’s exercise is to plan how you are going to enhance your creativity. The first step in this exercise is to write down your top five passions. What do you most long to explore, learn about, or further study? Perhaps your passion is to grow orchids? Perhaps your greatest passion is to support your friends in their artistic endeavors? Perhaps you have been telling stories since you were a child? The next step in enhancing your creativity is to outline 3 concrete steps you can do over the next month to develop these passions. Will you research how to take care of orchids, and where to buy them? Will you talk to your friends about their creative passions, and determine how you can best support them? Will you get a notebook and start writing down the stories you have been telling? There is power in decision, power in action, and power in allowing ourselves to explore our passions. That power is yours to mold and shape in whatever way you choose.

In the beginning there may have been just Eve, but we are here now, and our collective consciousness is a powerful force that is changing the world.
***
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.


JANUARY

January is all about new beginnings and fresh starts. Time to think about what we want and what we need in the New Year. Time to set our intentions and goals, make plans and lists. Take on projects to further our dreams and enhance our power. 


I shouldn’t have left the finances to my husband
I’m a business writer and a feminist. But when it comes to my own money, I made a big mistake
By Eilene Zimmerman

A year ago I got my first American Express card. This might not seem particularly monumental, but in my case it is. I’m a 47-year-old mother of two, a professional journalist who writes about business — entrepreneurs, careers and the workplace. I have a monthly column in the New York Times Sunday Business section. It’s not a stretch to imagine I would be savvy about the business end of my own life. And yet I wasn’t, until very recently. I had never seen a 401K statement, never made a mortgage payment, never bought or sold a car or stock in a company and didn’t know anything about mutual funds.

I left all that to my husband. This despite the fact I consider myself a feminist. I grew up in the shadow of the 1970s women’s movement. As a high school senior I was, to a large extent, supporting myself — buying my own clothes and car, chipping in for groceries at home and even paying my own college application fees. I graduated from the largest women’s college in the country at the time, and paid for it by waiting tables and taking student loans. Gloria Steinem gave the speech at my graduation. In 1986, I marched in Washington, D.C., to protest the death of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Yet 25 years later I had managed to become almost completely dependent on someone else for my survival. I felt more like my husband’s child than his wife. At the beginning of each year he gave me a certain amount of cash (we were both too politically savvy to call it an allowance), which, combined with my comparatively low earnings as a writer, funded my life throughout the year. My expenses were all the things that made daily, upper-middle-class family life possible: piano lessons, organic strawberries, martial arts classes, soccer fees, swimming lessons, birthday parties.

My then-husband was (and still is) an attorney with a corporate law firm who worked, roughly, all the time. When he wasn’t working, he was too exhausted to stay awake. When our nearly 20-year marriage ended, we sat down in his small garage office and I was given a list of all the places our money was saved. “These are the log-ins and passwords,” my husband said, showing me a list of bank accounts, mutual funds, stocks, iBonds and the like. Over the years he had often given me a printed list of accounts like this — sans passwords and log-in names — but it wasn’t until our rendezvous in the garage that it meant anything to me. Before that I was too busy — and tired — to care.

Because while my husband worked, pursuing a coveted law partnership and spending much of his limited free time researching stocks, retirement vehicles and various high-tech gadgets, I focused on pink-collar work: the kids, grocery shopping, housecleaning, cooking meals, supervising homework, picking up dry cleaning and arranging play dates. My freelance writing career was squeezed into what little space existed between everyone else’s needs. I had little energy left over to request passwords to the mutual fund accounts so I could check on how things were doing, or ponder changing the allocation of our investment portfolio.

I had inadvertently become part of an opt-out revolution much different than the one writer Lisa Belkin described in an article for the New York Times Magazine in 2003. In that revolution, upper-middle-class, Type A women opted out of their MBA-fueled careers to stay home and overzealously manage their toddlers’ lives. In my revolution, relatively average women get married and — especially after having children — consciously opt out of duties considered somehow “male,” and I’m not just talking about mowing the lawn. I’m talking about money. I became, like many other middle-aged married mothers, Lucy to my husband’s Ricky, focusing on kids and home and letting him focus on money and all the big decisions that come with it — should we refinance the house? Buy a minivan? Get a new dining room table? Fix the roof? Open a Roth IRA?

Yet the distraction of family life alone doesn’t account for my level of ignorance. I’m clearly responsible for choosing not to learn about any of these things — especially egregious as I make a living, for the most part, writing about business — but society bears some of the burden too. Women haven’t been — and often still aren’t — raised to talk about money or feel confident about managing it. In fact what’s happened to me is actually pretty common in contemporary marriage, says Terri Orbuch, project director of the Early Years of Marriage Project, the longest-running study of married couples ever conducted. The project, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, has been following 373 couples that married in 1986. Forty-six percent are divorced (mirroring the national rate of 45 percent) and Orbuch says couples reported that money was the No. 1 reason for disagreements, especially in the beginning of their marriages.

“Money is the biggest indicator of power in a relationship,” she says. “It symbolizes opportunity and resources in society and that permeates a relationship, especially for a woman who isn’t making much money on her own.”

My earnings as a writer were about one-tenth of my husband’s salary, making me a financial footnote, and what I lost as a result of that was leverage in my marriage and the confidence to ask for the things I needed — like sleep or time alone or the freedom to travel for my work. I bought into the belief system — one that pervades society and I believe held sway with my ex-husband — that the only jobs with value are the ones with a paycheck. No matter how much we’re told there’s nothing more important than raising children, in real life — or at least in my life — whoever made the most money was allowed to nap when he got home from work. The other person cleaned up after dinner.

About a month after my husband moved out in 2009 I had to pay the mortgage for the first time, although I had been a homeowner for almost a decade. I went online — using his log-in and password — and replaced our former joint checking account number in the system with my own checking account number. Then my work phone rang. I answered it, went back to the screen and couldn’t remember if I had hit the “pay mortgage” button yet. If I hit it twice, I would make two payments.

I called the 800 number at Chase. The woman on the other end of the line said she couldn’t give me any information “about that account.” She told me the account holder was my soon-to-be-ex-husband. “I’m his wife,” I said. “It’s my mortgage too. And I need to figure out if I just paid it.” The woman politely informed me that it wasn’t my mortgage too. It was his.

She offered to call and conference him in so we could get his permission to go into the account and check the payment status. I felt humiliated. I needed my husband’s permission to access the mortgage I was now responsible for paying. I remembered signing papers at our dining room table in front of a notary, so I called my husband and asked how it was possible my name wasn’t on our house mortgage. He said he didn’t know, but that it was possible. “Why?” I asked him. “Why would we have a mortgage without my name on it?” He paused, then said: “I didn’t need you.”

Olivia Mellan, a psychotherapist who works with couples and a pioneer in the field of money psychology, says the reason women often leave this stuff to their male partners is that we’ve been taught by our parents and society to be bookkeepers, not money managers. “Women are told they aren’t good at money. They are taught how to pay bills and use credit cards, but not to keep an eye on the big picture — the future,” she says. “In marriage we put our money in someone else’s name and let them take care of it. We really aren’t expected to have much control over it.”

That can have pretty dire consequences in the long run for a woman. According to the U.S. Census (2007) there are 60.4 million married women in this country. Only half will make it to their 15th anniversary and only a third will still be married by their 25th. Many of them will have a financially difficult old age — in the U.S. the share of elderly women living in poverty is highest among divorced or separated women — 37 percent.

Last summer, Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies surveyed 1,800 working women and asked them to describe themselves when it came to saving and investing for retirement. Three-quarters of the women said they didn’t know as much about retirement investing as they should. When these women were asked how they arrived at their estimated needs for retirement, almost 60 percent of them said they guessed. There were many days, when trying to figure out what I might need for the future, that I felt like throwing figures against a wall and just seeing what stuck. But that’s the old me — the new me isn’t guessing any longer.

After my ex moved out, I began a reeducation program that included a female financial advisor from Charles Schwab, a new accountant and a mortgage broker. On my own I was able to negotiate a financial settlement with my husband. I opened an investment savings account and — with the help of that new advisor — determined how I wanted my money invested (conservatively — I’m not much of a risk-taker). She told me that from her vantage point, the marriages that work when it comes to money are the ones “where both partners have some skin in the game.” Now the game and the skin are all mine and I like that. I’ve learned to read the financial statements I receive each month and even made a modest savings plan for myself. I got that Amex card too.

In July I went down to the county clerk and had the house’s deed reissued in my name. In August I went to a mortgage broker who lives in my neighborhood and asked him to help me refinance my house. By September I had a new mortgage with better terms in my name.

Those successes, of course, didn’t make the last 18 months any less torturous — it’s not easy to navigate through the end of a 21-year relationship. On the other hand, it’s been liberating. My first post-marriage goal may have been to gain control of my financial life, but I wound up with more than money — I wound up with faith in myself. It might seem silly to think that determining what percentage of my savings to invest in bonds would also give me the confidence to buy a new kitchen sink or install a smoke alarm, but it did.

Over the last year-and-a half I have made decisions about my house, my life and my career I could never have made as a married woman. For the first time in a long time, I feel like what I think matters. I finally hold my own purse strings, and you can’t really put a price on that.
***
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.


JANUARY

January is all about new beginnings and fresh starts. Time to think about what we want and what we need in the New Year. Time to set our intentions and goals, make plans and lists. Take on projects to further our dreams and enhance our power.


With the question of power — its uses and abuses — on my mind, I reached out to the Facebook fans of The Queen of My Self to see what power means to other Queens of Themselves.

I posed this question in the last issue:

Q. And you, dear Queens? What does power mean to YOU?  Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

A. You asked for an empowerment story:

In February of this year my 82-year old father had a stroke. He lives 3000 miles away. His wife decided not to call the ambulance, because Dad asked her not to. Maybe a little lie down would make him feel better. Through a roundabout way I happened to find out this was going on. I called her and got her to get him to the hospital.

Shortly after that I made plane reservations. Was told not to come. I shoved my inner child back into her fun place and let the Queenly grown-up speak. I Informed them that I was coming anyway and when I was arriving. It turned into a three week stay during which I spent every day at the rehab center with Dad doing my best to advocate for him when his wife could/did not. This included some very frank and uncomfortable discussions with physicians, doing all the driving, shopping and meals for his wife(who has her own health issues that she is in denial about), making sure the dog was taken care of, teaching Dad’s wife how to deliver insulin (don’t get me started on the practice shot that had 30 units of insulin instead of 3 – yikes!) and sundry other things that escape me at the moment.

At the end of each day, I spent approximately 45 minutes composing a detailed email of the day’s events, improvements, set-backs, plans being made and the reality of Dad’s condition as well as the reality of his wife’s inability to be “present” and able. This email went out to a large extended family (his children and her children – all adults) and had to be worded most carefully and candidly.

The short version of the above is that I rose to the occasion in ways that I did not realize I could, and maintained this successfully for weeks. My communication was clear and concise. I was able to deal with obstacles without raising my voice or being condescending, and was gently persistent until there was resolution.

I managed to get the attention and good response from people in authority. I was able to truly be the adult when I would usually defer to the parents. My daily email reports kept everyone in the loop without making anyone defensive regarding their parent. All along the way I encouraged everyone to be gentle and loving with each other in this highly charged situation. And most surprising, they all started to ask for and seriously consider my advice, including the most bossy “in charge” folks.  Many family members expressed their thanks and how they don’t know what would have happened had I not been there.

My inner Queen served me well, and now I know that I can call on her when I need her.

– Gloriana, CA
A. In response to your “power” query:

I believe that the strongest most powerful approach I can take in my life and my creativity as a public and environmental sculptor is to align my Self with the flow of the spirit. Ralph Waldo Emerson

(another Quaker ) felt the World Spirit was a good swimmer. My job is to develop a harmonic with that spirit and surf or swim along with her!! Loving support,

– Hera, NY

 

 

A. Power to me is knowing what you stand for and not backing down, but having the humility to admit when you are wrong, or adjust your position when you have grown. All while being true to yourself.

– Sarah Jane, WA

 

Q. What does power mean to YOU, dear Queens? Please send me your thoughts about power and also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

A. Just perused the latest of your Queen’s Chronicles, and am inspired to write you about a powerful anthology put together by Sandra Haldeman Martz, At Our Core: Women writing about Power that is unfortunately out of print because the publisher crashed, but a number of copies are available through Amazon.com at amazing reduced prices: 17 new from yes! 35 cents, and 54 used from (yes) 1 cent. It was marketed new for $11.00, a bargain even then, with a stunning cover and 179 pages about women and power. Tragic that it’s no longer being marketed, but what a bargain at the above prices. Power to us Women People! Power to the Queens! Love you and all your productions,

– Karen, NJ

 

A. Empower = power in my Queen world.

– Miriam, CA


A.
I have always felt that there is a strong connection between love of self, security in your self, power, love and gentleness, tolerance and understanding towards others. When you are strong and you know you are strong, you don’t need to prove it and you are thereby free and secure.

– Lorraine, PA
A. Power-

There are times when I have witnessed someone who is acting at the top of their compassion, intellect, spiritual service and ability to communicate. (Maturity level and physical strength are not factors here.) I get a feeling of pause as if to move would shift a current that would dissipate the aura, the perfection of the moment. To me ultimate power is in this synchronicity.

  • Katherine, CT 

A. I am powerful when I am centered and standing strong in my life’s purpose.

-Donna, OH

 

A. Watch out, world. Here I come!  A sassy gal who is determined to do what I want to do. I was a good girl for far too long!

– Mo, RI

 

A. Power is my Goddess-given right to live my life as a free agent.

– Saundra, UT

 

A. Power is being 100% yourself and not compromising based on what others want you to be, do or say. It is also not giving anyone else free rent in your head — which is essentially giving your personal power over to them!

– Christine, OH

 

A. To thy own self be true

– Micklo, CA

 

A. A Queen’s power should be used to further her life’s path and to help along her sisters to do the same thing. We can do much to improve the lives of others if we use our power to do so.

– Katharine, Denmark

 

A. It means knowing how to access my life force energy, what activates it, what zaps it, and granting myself permission to do whatever it takes to stay connected to this inner fountain of youth! It is my chi!

– Daina, MI

 

A. To me power means being able to say the hard stuff with grace and non-attachment!

– Judith, NY

 

A. Responsibility.

– Ruth Ellen, England

 

A. Power is the life force within us and around us. And the ability to tap into it.

– Cristie, ND

 

A. In the mind of the Goddess (A Bitch) is a Woman of Strength, Power and Wisdom. Never take offense to this title of Queenship. And those who use this word are aware of its Goddess meaning. Blessed be the Woman who holds her own.

– Janel Oriana, NY

 

A. I KNEW someone would say “bitch!” It just reminds me of the well worn saying “Well behaved women rarely make history.” I had a conversation with a friend one day about Madonna who is one of my favorite examples of a powerful woman. I said I realized that she has a tendency to step on toes, act bitchy and make some doubt her sanity. I then realized I was one of those people, and I was perpetuating that view of a very powerful woman who has pissed a lot of people off with her creativity and confidence. I don’t agree with everything she does, but she does it well!

– Kimberly, IA

 

A. To me, true power is changing the world simply by the force of being exactly, only, and completely who you are.

– Carolyn, MA

 

Q. What does power mean to YOU?

If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly, rebellious, you’re on the right track!

– Clarissa Pinkola Estés

***
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.