Tag: midlife women

Do You Really Know What You Believe?

Do You Really Know What You Believe?

 “Not all those who wander are lost.”  ― J.R.R. Tolkien
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

One belief, wrongly held, can cast a shadow over one’s entire life.
What do you believe? Do you know what’s driving you?

Over the last decade in my work with women over fifty, I have heard said countless times, “I don’t feel that way anymore”, and “I don’t worry about that anymore. It’s just not important.” The process of self-evaluation seems to begin in earnest as we begin to feel our bodies entering the “maturing woman” phase of life. There is a clear moment in time when we are forced to accept that we are no longer “young” and in our youth driven society that can come as quite a shock! I see it as a gift.

A shock of any kind can be just what we need to shake us out of our complacency. It forces us to ask the hard questions, to look at what we believe to be true at the most fundamental level. When we ask these questions, when we look deep inside of ourselves and ask, “who am I?” and “what do I believe” we set in motion a tidal wave of change.

Our lives cannot change unless we change…on the inside. This does not always appear to be the easiest option! We think it’s so much easier to just tolerate our discomfort, or change externals to alleviate our dis-ease. We imagine that if we get a new job, a new house, a new spouse, a new blouse all will be well. Has that ever worked for you in the long run? It hasn’t for me.

The bottom line is that to live a congruent, energy filled life as we age it is necessary to line up our insides with our outsides. In other words, we have to get in touch with our fundamental beliefs and values and start living them. I believe we are all challenged to do this, if by nothing else than our pain and suffering, for when we are living and acting in contrast to our fundamental values, we will suffer.

What questions need asking?

Knowing what questions to ask often comes along with whatever difficulty we are facing. When my mother was in the last years of her life a conflict arose in my family as to where she should live. I wanted to bring her home to live with my husband and me. My four siblings wanted her to stay put in the retirement home. My mother gave me every indication that she wanted to live with us, was, in fact, desperate to get out of the retirement home and get back into a more comfortable home environment, but, it was very clear she would not ask directly for this, nor would she advocate for herself. It was left to me to decide whether or not I should act counter to the rest of the family. It was a touch place to be as I hurt deeply for my mother. I understood her sense of isolation and loneliness. I wanted nothing more than to ease her pain, but there would be serious consequences. It was time for me to dig deep and wrestle with what I believed at the deepest level. Here are some of the questions I asked myself:

  • Is it worth creating a rift with my siblings that could cause long after my mother was gone?
  • Was my perspective of the situation of any more value and importance than my siblings?
  • Am I responsible for my mother’s happiness?
  • Is her happiness more important than my own?

I came to recognize that while I value family and doing what we can for those we love to ease their pain, they alone are responsible for their happiness, as am I for my own. Happiness is an inside job. Contentment is an inside job. As harsh as it sometimes sounds, even now, the seeds of my mother’s despair were sowed throughout her lifetime. I could never fix that, nor did I want the responsibility for it anymore.

Asking the question is the first and most important step.

When we look closer at an area of our lives that is causing us distress and pose a question that does not contain the word “do” (i.e. what should I do), or have person’s name attached to it, (i.e. what is Johnny’s real issue), then we are getting closer to the question that needs to be asked. You may want to begin by asking, “what do I believe to be true for me in this situation” and what are my underlying beliefs and values about this situation. Formulating the deepest, richest question you can find will take you in the direction of your answer and your resolution.

The Willingness to Face Our Pain

The Willingness to Face Our Pain

Image by Trevor Pottelberg
Image by Trevor Pottelberg

 

“Retreating into yourself to find purpose can be like straddling a dock and a boat that is moving away. We are pulled in opposite directions by the intense desire of the mind for human involvement and the equally intense need of the soul for its own company. In the sheer immensity of solitude, when one can no longer draw energy from external sources, we come to see how much of what we habitually call being productive is merely the evasion of sitting still and meeting what is most difficult for us to receive with compassion — our own pain.”
Dawna Markova  from her book I Will Not Live An Unlived Life: Reclaiming Passion and Purpose 
 
Sitting on the edge of freedom, unable to step foot into the unknown, we are terrified of the fear that wells up inside of us. When we even consider stepping forward, something calls us quickly and urgently back into the known. Our fear is mistaken as a dark and dismal warning to run away. To hide. To pretend we didn’t really catch a glimpse of the light or truly want to meet ourselves and embrace our truth. We wear masks to protect ourselves from ourselves. Why do we do this?
 
Change is difficult. Change is challenging. If anyone tells you otherwise they are fooling you, and chances are good that if you think change was easy in the past,  it really wasn’t change at all, at least not the kind that Dawna Markova and I are talking about, change that brings your life into alignment with your true self and all that you have been called upon to contribute. Real change is inner transformation, and above all else it requires solitude and a face to face meeting with ourselves.
 
The most terrifying part of change is this face to face meeting – for it requires meeting our pain. We cannot change if the shadows of the past have us in their clutches, directing our choices and our actions. We will only carry the darkness into the future and rest assured, the pain will be a constant reminder, appearing again and again until we face it, embrace it and put it to rest.
 
The fear of change is our unwillingness to face our pain. To walk toward it. To let it come to the surface. After all, we have spent so much time and energy pushing it aside, pretending it isn’t there, shoving it deep down inside of ourselves, layering mask upon mask over top of it.  It takes some serious excavating to even find it, and then….when we do….we believe we will have to suffer the excruciating pain all over again. 
 
This time, however, the pain is like the lancing of a wound. Oh, it hurts when the knife begins to break the skin, but the pain feels like healing, not dying. As the wound drains, as the pain pours forth, there is great release and relief. It is different. It is not like the original wounding, it sets us free and once we are on our way, it even propels us forward. We begin to understand the necessity of the healing process and the great rewards that come with it.
 

Are you allowing your wounds to drain? Or, are they festering under layers of protection? Real change not only takes a willingness to step forward and meet the challenges, it often requires support of many kinds along the way. You need not go it alone. If you are looking for guidance, support or direction for your journey, get in touch with me. I may be able to help. AgingAbundantly@gmail.com

Embrace Your Child’s Heart

Embrace Your Child’s Heart

"Little Magic" by Susie Pryor Oil on Canvas 40 x 36
“Little Magic” by
Susie Pryor
Oil on Canvas 40 x 36

The midlife transformation that begins in earnest at fifty, and that many of us have already spent a decade or more navigating, is a turning point for many. The dark, confusing period of time, during which everything around us is shifting,  is so disconcerting that it drives us every day, with much earnestness, to examine ourselves and our lives. Have we been living in accordance with our deepest beliefs? What are our beliefs? What governs the decisions we make and the steps we take each day?

The process of questioning is the first step in the reconfiguration of our perspectives and, subsequently, our lives. It’s a tremendous opportunity to delve deeper into our hearts and souls, deeper than we may ever have gone before.  The journey teaches us everything we need to know to begin to discover and to practice new thoughts attitudes and patterns of behavior that will bring us closer to becoming the wise women we were born to be.

My journey led me back to my original self, the unique individual that was born so many years ago, but was never allowed to exist. There is such a clear connection to myself as a child that it is almost eerie. We think, or I used to think, that that child was not wise, nor was her personality formed.  I was wrong. That child held as much wisdom, if not more, than this woman does sixty years later.

Discovering the wise child that lived in us then, and reconnecting with her now, can be an informative and valuable process. The untainted beliefs, abilities, dreams and hopes that she held are still very much alive today. We may have just forgotten them, or buried them, or replaced them with our culture’s beliefs, or our families.

Reconnect with your child heart, by closing your eyes and going inside. Spend a few moments breathing deeply and relaxing. When you feel calm, remember back to a happy moment in your childhood. Allow your adult to spend some time talking with your child. Ask her questions. Ask her what she is thinking about, and what is important to her. Get acquainted.

Repeat this exercise often. Give her what she needs. Be the parent she needed then. Listen to her heart. Together you can heal each other and carry her wisdom forward into today.

No matter where you are on the midlife transformation journey, there’s is something to learn from our inner child.

Dorothy Sander © 2013

WE HAVE THE KEY

LISTEN TO YOUR HEART

We Have the Key

We Have the Key

 

Mountain Art
Granny Hands
Artist: Jill Pritchett
Click on image to visit her website
“So often time it happens,
we all live our life in chains,
and we never even know we have the key.”
The Eagles, Already Gone 
(Quote taken from Aging Abundantly’s A Little Book of Hope)
 

Sometimes it takes a major crisis in our lives to wake us up. Often it just takes turning fifty to realize that our youth has passed us by and it’s time to get moving, to  look at things differently. Midlife is fraught with issues of aging, as well as, external challenges and there are adjustments to be made; values to be examined; beliefs to be questioned. Enough time has passed for most things for us to look back and really evaluate our choices and to begin to see patterns in our behavior.

I read again and again, in blogs and articles written by women at midlife, about waking up to the need for change at midlife; of divorce, new careers, moving across the country, taking up a significant new hobby and more. There’s a sense of urgency, of the willingness to jump into something with both feet that seems to be driven more by fear than sense. The sense is that it is now or never to break free from the chains of our lives.

In many cases, however, it is more true that the chains have been of our own making, than the externals we view as the source of our bondage. Throwing out our husband may provide temporary relief from our unhappiness. Marriages and husbands are easy to blame for our unhappiness. We’ve had twenty or thirty years to study our mate’s problems and foibles , decades to master the blame game and to divert our attention from ourselves to them for the cause of our misery. Likewise, a job, a boss, a series of circumstances can take our attention from the true source of our freedom.

Making changes will certainly shake up the status quo, but to think these changes will bring about our freedom and happiness is delusional. Until we look inside of ourselves, the changes  we make today will always only bring us back to the unfinished business we still hold, the fears and anxieties we don’t want to face, and too the job of finding the key we hold within us.  The sooner we get down to the real business of breaking free from our false beliefs and in-congruent lifestyle, the sooner we will find true peace.

© Dorothy Sander 2013

Learn to Listen to Your Heart

Learn to Listen to Your Heart

DS quoteOne of the most important things we can do to create change in our lives, at midlife and beyond, is to learn to listen to our hearts. I paid lip service to this idea for years. I thought I was listening to myself, but I came to realize that I had so many complex messages running around in my head that I couldn’t even begin to hear my heart’s directives.  Most of the noise going on inside of me didn’t even originate from me. Little by little, day by day, through discipline and effort I was able to untangle the mess that lived inside of me and cluttered my decision making process and generally wreaked havoc with my life. Your head and heart may not be disconnected the way mine was, but if you’re struggling to make decisions, yearning to follow your heart’s desire but don’t know what that is, or live under a cloud of unhappiness, you can not only change, but find all the answers you need right inside of you.

STEP 1: Tune in to you.

Begin by slowing down, even if only for five or ten minutes a day. Create space in your day to do absolutely nothing. Use this time to relax and tune in to what’s going on inside of you. Pay attention to what thoughts go through your mind, what feelings you are feeling and where in your body you feel them. Don’t try to solve any problems or make any decisions, just notice and name what you are experiencing and let it go. Do this every day if you can or at least several times a week. When the fifteen minutes are up you may want to write down your observations.

Step 2: Identify the voices in your head.

By the time we reach 40, 50 or 60 years of age, we have such an assortment of voices in our heads we may have lost touch with which one is actually our own. We may think we are doing what we “want” to do, but we may actually be following the dictates of the culture, our parents, our friends, our spouse, and even our children. From little day to day decisions, to major, life changing decisions, do you know who is in charge of your life? Do you know who is actually making your decisions and what is behind them?  As you continue a practice of tuning in, you will begin to recognize certain patterns of thought. Some you will be able to identify as clearly your own, others will likely be messages you heard from your parents and significant others. When you recognize a thought that is not your own, make a note of it. Later ask yourself, “is this something I believe?” or “is it just something I think I’m supposed to believe?” This time around, you get to choose which values and beliefs you will hold on to and which you will eliminate.

Step 3: Listen for your inner voice.

As you begin to eliminate the thoughts that are tied to beliefs that are not your own, your true inner voice will become stronger. The more often you are able to say, “yes, that is my true voice. That is a message from my inner most self,” the stronger you will become anchored in the real you.

© Dorothy Sander 2013

 

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How to Practice Mindfulness

Rediscovering Your Gifts

The Gift of Presence

 

 

The Gift of Age

The Gift of Age

Living just for today can be a real challenge for those of us who have lived our lives immersed in western culture. Every where we turn we hear messages, reminders, and indicators that unless we are moving forward at break neck speed we are not really living. Buddha, and others, understood the disservice we do to ourselves, and our lives, when we do not see and appreciate what is ours in the present moment, the gifts that are right in front of us.

One of the greatest awakenings I have experienced in my lifetime has been to finally see with great clarity how much I was losing today while worrying about tomorrow and fretting about the past. It took reaching midlife and fifty years of beating my head against a wall to finally get it. As a good “hippie”, I read years ago, and understood at some level the value of living in the moment, but I could only sustain it in moments when I was feeling particularly carefree. But living it in my soul? Ah, that would take years, and many, many hours and days of living mentally in the future, encountering road blocks to my best laid plans, and then reaching midlife and immersing myself in the heartbreak of the past.

Midlife presents an enormous opportunity to make great soul strides, to learn from fifty years of living that we can shed our misconceptions and get back to the basics of who we really are. We can choose to ignore the messages of our culture and hang on to what we know to be true in our hears.  Therein, lies one of the true wonders of aging… to at last not only be able, but willing, to see things more clearly…see things as they were meant to be…to see things as they are for us and to accept life with all its ups and downs, as good, and right and true. It’s a gift of aging. Embrace it.