Tag: courage

Shape-Shifters & Magical Reinventors – Voices of Wisdom

Shape-Shifters & Magical Reinventors – Voices of Wisdom

SHAPE-SHIFTERS & MAGICAL REINVENTORS

Voices of Wisdom in a Chaotic World

 

Who would deduce the dragonfly from the larva, the iris from the bud, the lawyer from the infant? …We are all shape-shifters and magical reinventors. Life is really a plural noun, a caravan of selves.” – Diane Ackerman

 

voices of wisdom
Dragonfly and Daffodils watercolor by Marilyn K. Jonas

How dull life would be if we always remained the same! Yet, day-to-day life in this crazy, mixed-up world has activated a visceral longing for peace and security. I’ve read numerous blogs in recent weeks written by friends who are trying to find a way to navigate the political and social morass that greets us each morning via the little black box that sits in the corner of our homes. I’m not talking about the TV. That is only one vehicle of transmission. No, it’s so much larger than that now. There are copious avenues of transmission, each vying for our mental and emotional attention with great bravado. An attempt to fight off the incoming feels about as successful as putting a finger in a hole of a sinking ship.

Joan Z. Rough, author of SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go, (September 2016) and a self-proclaimed news junkie wrote in this in her blog last week:

Managing my stress is an important part of my self-care. I do not want to live with constant anxiety which turns my gut into a churning cement mixer filled with rocks. I get jumpy, depressed and feel hopeless. At the ripe old age of seventy-three, I want a life of ease. I can’t afford the damage that stress causes to my mind, spirit and body.”

Joan goes on to explain just how she reacts to too much news and what she is doing about it. Like many women over fifty, Joan is a shape shifter, a magical reinventor. She finds her way through life’s endless treacheries, by building her wisdom bank account. She is not trouble-free. No one is, despite the impression many give on social media. Joan is simply bold, brave and courageous more often than she is not.  She is open to growing, changing and learning the deeper, richer truths of life. Follow her blog and see for yourself.

Daisy Hickman, whose memoir The Silence of Morning I recently reviewed here, also flies through life-like a dragonfly. She shares her wisdom for navigating this “brave new world” in her post Disconnect From Uncertainty and Chaos. I learn something new about shape-shifting and courage every time I enter the Sunny Rooms Studio, where Daisy shares her wisdom. Her cyber studio reflects her philosophy of life and her how she has come to avoid too much chaos:  “A sunny room isn’t about always being upbeat, energized, or falsely positive. Rather, it’s about exploring topics that take us beyond the contentious nature of the world — the noticeable penchant for conflict, negativity, acrimony, controversy, and drama. There is more to life than surface distractions.”  Ah…that is wisdom. 

When I began Aging Abundantly, what seems now like a lifetime ago, I was consumed with what I often refer to as my “midlife transformation”. The quote, “Just when a caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly” became my personal mantra and the focus of my understanding of the aging process.  I entered midlife thinking it was the end, only to discover that it was the beginning. I was being melted down into viscous matter, as was my life, in order to be re-born into a more meaningful way of living and being.  I’ve come to believe that while our deepest transformation, or “dark night of the soul”, may occur in one fell swoop, the process of transformation, never ends as we are in the game. We don’t ever “arrive” unless we turn our backs on the process, and even then it has away of coming after us.

A decade later as I approach sixty-five, I am no less enchanted by the women of wisdom I continue to meet through Aging Abundantly and beyond. I feel blessed and privileged to have a little black box in my house that allows me to reach out and touch so many of them, to learn from them and with them, to walk beside them as together we grow, change, evolve, transform, and search for the gifts not only of the aging process, but of life itself.

As I move on in my journey, I find myself longing to focus in on the completion of several books I have started, in-between trauma and transformation, and keeping up with this and other endeavors. I long to put everything aside and sink into the writing of a memoir. I’ve always had more ideas than I could ever complete, now I have to accept that condition and work within its limitations.

I am not abandoning Aging Abundantly, I will just be shifting its focus from only my words to the voice of many. There is such beauty and wisdom in the collective vision of our generation. Together we are creating a tapestry of wisdom, unique to this time and place and I hope to be able to pick up a strand or two here to share with you as I launch The Voices of Wisdom Series™. Each Wednesday, I will introduce you to a woman whose wisdom I have come to value, and together we can listen to her voice. Sometimes the post will be written by others, sometimes I will post interviews and book reviews. always with an eye toward gleaning wisdom from voices of wisdom.

Wisdom, as defined in the Free Dictionary is, “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right and lasting; insight.” Each guest post  ill offer a slice of wisdom as it pertains to aging abundantly in a chaotic world. Be sure to tune in as they sprinkle a little of their magic on these pages and inspire and assist us in becoming more ardent shape-shifters and magical-reinvetors.

If you are interested in participating as a guest in The Voices of Wisdom Series™, please send a query and brief bio to me at DSander@AgingAbundantly.com. For more information visit Guest Post Guidelines.

 

A COURAGEOUS OLD WOMAN

A COURAGEOUS OLD WOMAN

Dogwood BlossomsWhen we moved into our home nearly twenty years ago I was delighted to discover that we had a beautiful dogwood tree right outside the living room window.  Healthy, strong and stately — in a delicate dogwood kind of way – our tree has delighted us year after year. Unlike the wild dogwoods one sees along the Carolina back roads, with spindly limbs and small white blossoms, this tree provides a showy display of large white blossoms, and has the distinct feature of a whole branch of pink blossoms!  While this is not altogether uncommon in cultivated dogwoods, I have always felt fortunate to have such a beautiful tree growing and healthy in my front yard.

The tree was probably at least as old as the house was when we bought it, if not a bit older.  That would have made her twenty-five plus years then.  Now, she’s much, much older, and like me, she has gathered a hitch or two in her get-a-long.  Sadly, she’s less and less showy each year and I was heartbroken to discover her pink branch was lost last winter in an ice storm. There were no pink blossoms this year.

She has been battered and bruised over the years; neglected during a long dry spell in our business when we could not afford to give her the extra care she needed. She weathered another dry spell when nature held back necessary sustenance, a drought that brought an end to the life of our beautiful big maple, and it took its toll. I study her weathered bark and broken limbs, the scaly lichens that finds her a delightful host. I bear witness to her crooked starts and stops and feel aches and pains as if they were my own. I often wish we’d treated her better and taken her less for granted.

I sit beside the window and drink my morning coffee each day and still feel blessed to have her here with me. She holds a different sort of delicate beauty and like an old woman who has more inner determination than physical strength to keep on keeping on, her vulnerabilities are overshadowed by her strength to live on.

I can’t help but wonder about her vulnerability to disease and weather extremes. When her leaves fall in recent years one can see her scars more plainly. I wonder if I should fertilize her, prune away the dead bark, or leave her be.  I wonder if there are things that are weakening her that I can’t even see. I fear not doing enough for her, and I fear doing too much. I felt very much the same way when my mother lay close to death. Should I force her to eat? Should I just let her be. No one wants to be responsible for neglecting a loved one; for not doing something one should to sustain them; but I learned then that there is a time for letting go and letting God.

As for the dogwood,  I learned too late that trimming her branches in an effort to help her grow into her fullness actually created openings for insects and disease.

Many days I feel much like this old dogwood tree. Once innocent and resplendent as only the young can be, I have no doubt that an oddity or gift or two escaped my notice.  I believed myself strong and capable of weathering most any storm that might come my way. Like our lady, I was assailed on many sides, but it was the ones that I did not anticipate or perceive that created the most harm. I’ve lost a branch or two along the way. I’m not as physically strong as I would like to be, and yet my will to live and be and continue to become grows stronger with each passing day. I know it will be a race to the finish. I also know which will win!

No matter how things turn out for the dogwood, or for me, we’ve had a hell of a run and put up a hell of a fight to blossom and share what beauty we can. I hope she out lives me. I would hate to see her go.

THE MASKS WE WEAR

WOMEN STYLIN’ AT EVERY AGE

Just One Decision – That’s All It Takes

Just One Decision – That’s All It Takes

Sunflowre by Annelein Beukenkamp
Floral/Still Life – Sunflower by Annelein Beukenkamp Watercolors

Most of us remember our parents warning us as teens and young adults to think twice before doing a thing we were thinking about doing. Those of us with children did the same. We caution(ed) them as we were cautioned, suggesting they look before they leap. There’s even a cliché for this advice. Experience taught our parents, as it taught us, that life can go awry in a big way. Thinking and evaluating before we act is a good thing.

Too often, however, this sensible advice came with other subtle messages attached to it. The warning may have been delivered from a place of fear. The real message may have been, “I screwed up so many times in my life and suffered the consequences, I love you too much to watch you do the same thing.” We hear the fear and attach it to our own.

Making decisions, particularly decisions that stretch and grow us, is an intimidating proposition for most. Either we haven’t a clue about what we’re getting in to, or we’ve fallen so many times we’re terrified to try again. This is why we absolutely need and benefit from support and guidance.

Guidance is something many who struggle as adults never received as children.  Guidance helps us see the possibilities, good and bad, it shares experiences and stories as story lessons, it helps us process our fears in a constructive manner.  When guidance is missing, warnings illicit fear and rebellion, the antithesis of moving creativity forward to a positive conclusion.

The creative spirit, the life force, in each of us longs to be set free. It longs for an avenue of expression, for experiences that feed it, for success, accomplishment, and growth. In essence it’s very nature is expansion. When our spirit and desire to live, love and create is thwarted by fear, it draws inward. We become depressed, frustrated, angry, or confused and life doesn’t go well. Our relationships flounder, our work life is not to our liking, our world looks dingy and fulfilling. We may even despair, or give up trying.

Picture quote Anais Nin

JUST ONE DECISION

If you find yourself in this place, if you are stuck and not living a life you love, one decision can change everything. It did for me.

I had little guidance as a young person, at least guidance that was useful and that resonated with who I am.  As a result, I made one less than stellar decision after another. To compound matters when I faced with recovering from my poor decisions, I had no support.  We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn and grow.

Guidance and support is a valuable commodity when it comes to learning from our mistakes.

As time went on I grew more and more fearful of taking risks. The only way I could figure out how to decrease the pain in my life was to live a smaller and smaller life and do what I thought I was “supposed” to do – what family, society, friends thought I should do. I shoved down my creative spirit and locked it away. At times it would sneak out and lead me to a decision – some were good, some not so good – but I’d lock myself down more often than not.

That is, until my early fifties when the time came to either live or die.

It was a horrendous battle, that began with my willingness to find the courage it took to make one small decision, a decision made for me and from me, not for my children, my husband, our business, my family or for any other external reason.

I made the decision to sign up for and take an online writing class. I was fifty-one. I don’t want to bore you with the details here, but that one decision changed my life. Was it an easy process? Not on your life. It took another ten years before I could say I am happy and at peace with who I am and my life and I will always be a work in progress.

Do yourself a favor. If you’re feeling stuck, unhappy, confused, lost, or overwhelmed, make just one decision from the center of you, one that will take you in the direction you long to go. If you don’t know what that decision is, or need or want support and guidance,  reach out to me or someone you know can provide it. You’re worth it. The world needs you. It needs the best of you.

OUR THOUGHTS, OUR CHOICE

DEPRESSION – FIGHTING THE BATTLE

THE WILLINGNESS TO FACE OUR PAIN

MY COACHING SERVICES
Finding Courage

Finding Courage

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”  ~ Anaïs Nin 

3823782148A few years ago, a couple of friends and I bought matching silver “tree of life” pendants for our necklaces.  I love the tree of life and it’s representation of a healthy life with strong roots holding to the earth, and healthy limbs reaching for the sky.  Later, I added a small charm with the word courage carved into it, and another love charm later from a friend.  I treasured my jangling trio, until one day recently, I reached down and they were gone.  My necklace turned up at a place I had visited earlier in the day, but all three charms were gone.

I was thinking about my missing charms a few days later while talking with my daughter who was home on college break, and how everything is constantly changing.  It is the transition, the actual act of changing from one thing to another that is often the most difficult part.  At 19, my daughter is transitioning from child to adult and her 22 year-old brother, graduating from college soon, is doing the same.   Managing this transition is a turbulent, unsteady time for me, a time of missteps and discovery which can be exhilarating and a little scary.  I would imagine it’s similar for them.

As my children transition and step up to their adult lives, my mother with Alzheimer’s disease, is stepping out of hers.

When I was pregnant with my children, I was in awe of the women who had given birth before me.  It seemed I noticed the mothers in the world for the first time.  Her and her and her.  Mothers.  They were suddenly everywhere and they became holy members of the “mother club.”  How had I not noticed them before?  It’s like this for me now as I notice women whose children are long gone and who have surely lost their mothers by now.  Her and her and her.  Empty nesters, motherless daughters, carrying on, laughing, living.  I’m intrigued and curious about their lives, now lived without their mothers walking this earth, their children far away, and with smiles on their faces.

As my daughter shared her thoughts on growing up and the changes this will bring, we talked about how the only constant thing in life is change, and how we can DSCN0393_2 (1)open our hearts, unclench our grips, and flow with, not fight the changing currents that come our way.  As we talked about letting go, she shared her realization of how difficult it must be for me to lose my mother to Alzheimer’s.  In this moment, with a pensive look on her face,  I knew she was talking about me — that she was imagining ME with Alzheimer’s and HER saying the long good-bye.

It hit me then — my daughter is watching me navigate my mom’s Alzheimer’s disease just like I watched my mom with her mother.  What kind of message was I sending my children in my struggle to let go of my mother and of them? What were they learning from me about accepting change?  Perhaps more importantly, what message did I want to give them?  In barely a breath, a subtle shift took place and I told my daughter that letting go and embracing change is what we must do if we are to live in peace.

I realized that letting go and embracing change is what I must do if I am to live in peace.

Maybe it’s peace that I see on the faces of the motherless daughters with faraway children who seem firmly planted in their next chapter.   If that’s the case, I like to imagine theirs was a hard won peace that began with a valiant struggle against the strong tides of change, tossing them about, churning up muck, then spitting them out into calm waters once they accepted the flow — and finally let go.

A little lighter, and later in the day, my daughter joyfully tracked me down and announced, “Dad found your courage on the driveway!”  We shared a knowing look, then laughed at the fullness of the moment — my courage had been found!  It was beat up but intact, along with my tree of life and love charms which were also on the driveway.  It turns out, we had been driving and parking on them for a week.

Sometimes I miss things that have been in front of me all along.

**********

Joanne Leonardis
Joanne Leonardis

Joanne’s most recent occupation was as a stay-at-home mom to an active son and daughter.  But due to the recent fledgling flight of her children to college, Joanne’s full-time job was recently down-graded to part-time, with most of her duties occurring during the summer months, Christmas break, and through frequent texting.

When she’s isn’t tending to her far away children, or contemplating what her next chapter will be, Joanne spends a fair amount of time as a long-distance caregiver for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, and her father who is bewildered by living alone after 50+ years of togetherness.

Joanne has a B.S. in Human Services Counseling, and has worked as a Social Worker with the elderly and at-risk-youth. She currently volunteers in her community in various capacities including as an Alzheimer’s Advocate.  When not traveling between Virginia and Minnesota to visit her parents, Joanne enjoys gardening, meditating, running, and spending time with her husband.

Joanne writes about preventing Alzheimer’s, navigating mid-life, and letting go of her mom on her website Racing Alzheimers
You can also find her on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RacingAlzheimers and twitter at https://twitter.com/RacingALZ

Every Day We Have a Choice

Every Day We Have a Choice

 

Every day you have a choice ~ to dwell on the past or focus on today. Ask yourself: what can I do today to bring me one step closer to my dream? You do have today…this moment…now. You owe it to yourself to make the most of it.

Life goes by so quickly. It seems I turned around and in a flash my kids were grown and I’m nearing sixty. Age is just a number to me. I don’t feel old. I certainly don’t feel sixty, but I haven’t a clue what sixty feels like so I can’t be certain. It sure doesn’t feel like what it looked like when I was young!  My body is showing the effects of time, but I often forget to notice and the impact is minimal.

Moving from fifty to sixty was difficult and challenging, but unlike what I had imagined, it has also been extraordinarily fulfilling. Like most mothers I cried when my kids left home and like most daughters I cried when my father died and then my mother. I churned with regret for too long about how I had spent my youth and lived in fear of the future even longer. But through hard work and the invaluable support and guidance of friends and books, I have ventured onto a path that feels like the one I am meant to be on. Trust me it’s not always obvious or blissful ~ but it is amazing and worth getting up for in the morning.

I think the fifties is the decade of change, the narrow, treacherous pathway that takes us from life then to life now ~ from seeking to being ~ from reaching for the future to living in the moment.

Life is richer now. My dreams are more meaningful and feel more attainable. We have today. I have today. You have today. We owe it to ourselves to make the most of it.

 

The Gift of Age

Getting It Together After Fifty