Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mid Life Moods: Journaling dark thoughts

Mid-life Moods and dark thoughts

If we reject what is painful, we find only more pain,
but if we embrace what is within us, we stumble upon the light.
~ Elizabeth Lesser

 Aren’t you a dog anyway, always groveling for love and begging to be petted? You ought to get into the garbage and lick the insides of the can, the greasy wrappers, the picked-over bones, you ought to drive your snout into the coffee grounds. Ah, coffee! Why not gulp some down with four cigarettes and then blast naked into the streets, and leap on the first beautiful man you find? The words ruin me, haven’t they been jailed in your throat for forty years, isn’t it time you set them loose in slutty dresses and torn fishnets to totter around in five-inch heels and slutty mascara? Sure it’s time. You’ve rolled over long enough… at the end of all this there’s one lousy biscuit, and it tastes like dirt. So get going. Listen: they’re howling for you now.” tell me the power of words, blog,

Naming things, naming our sadness, our joy, our despair and confusion makes it more real and also helps us move beyond it. I shivered when I read the piece from Meredith above. It made me want to get out my journal and write about the gritty underbelly of feelings that I keep hidden.

It brings me clarity to name what I feel, even if I’m uncomfortable admitting to those feelings. Sometimes I don’t even know how I feel until I get to the bottom of the page and look back. Ah, that’s what it was. On the outside everything may look hunky-dory, but on the journey to the self, on my inner journey, it might be a good deal rockier. And always, beyond the chattering of monkey mind, behind the breath, there is a vital core energy breathing me.

I woke up this morning, two days after Hurricane Irene blew through New York and the northeast, and felt the spaces in my body where there was pain and absence, disappointment with myself, tension and stress, unhappiness, leftover rigidity from yesterday’s shopping trip with my daughter. We are often happy together, but if there is uncertainty, difficulty or tension about details, we are both very unhappy. I was left with the feeling in my body – that I am not always a good mother, that I hate being ‘in charge’ even if I like being in control. I am supposed to be the elder, wiser one, helping her settle into her first week of a new city, new university residence, negotiating new rules, new spaces, new contacts.  But I’m navigating new territory too, beginning my own new ventures, a new website, new creative journaling classes for women, new book of poems, new non-fiction book for women in mid-life (The Tao of Turning Fifty). A lot of new’s for both of us.

Finally I went out to the health food store and bought a product called Calm, a fizzy drink with magnesium in powder form. Lovely, I thought, I need this right now. I want to be calm. I want to find that great comfy place where everything goes swimmingly well even in the unknown territories that freak me out, like filling out forms on-line to get an ISBN number. Should be simple, but what if I screw it up? Shoulders hunch up, I breathe, and try not to rush, and voila! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Relax shoulders.

So journaling, writing, naming the blues.  I always try to be uplifting and be a friend, hand holding and breathing light into the darkness. That’s ok. But there have been many, many times, especially during the last ten years on the peri-menopausal journey, where I have not felt so sure of myself, nor centered and right. I have reached out to my sisters for help, learned EFT, done workshops, felt lots of healing moments in Retreat, and gently gently am learning to go easy on myself.

So, the gist of it is, name the little bugger that’s got you by the pants, gremlin or cranky critic or depression, despair, or fear. Hold somebody’s hand if you need to. Buy some dark chocolate and spiced tea, play some soothing music and rock yourself through it – then write it. Write about what you’re afraid to feel, to acknowledge or admit, to risk. Write as a spiritual practice to help you go deeper into the ‘why’ of what you love, and what you hate, your struggles with overwhelm and your lack of understanding. Write your way to clarity.

Your journal is a safe place to confide in, to hang out naked in, to be private and converse with angels in. To be in your body, at home with your feelings, to gradually grow in self-acceptance and love and let go of judgement and painful self-sabotage – that is beautiful.

So, I’m sure the dark corners are like boogeymen. Once you shine a light on them, once you begin to name them, they shrink and disappear.

Ps what are you afraid to write about? Begin there.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Being Calm and Gentle with Myself

Last June I was seeing a naturopath who heals with Chinese herbs and energy treatments. She told me my adrenal glands were depleted, and made me realize how stressed my body is, all that coritsol rushing through, all those muscular tightness issues and clenching in the jaw and shoulders – from years of working on the computer yes, but also from hunching up in fight or flight mode. Anxiety, stress, constant stimuli, parenting, work all adds to the body being winched up tight.

So today, I am breathing into those muscles and allowing myself to relax. I take a deep breath and tell myself, I am ok, everything is alright. I try to catch the worry wart in me before she takes over my day. Don’t we all need a break from this ‘being on edge’? Bad news, famine, war, and bombardment of tv, radio and newspapers doesn’t help me find my balance. I firmly believe that my being stressed and ready to take flight, jumpy at any noise, unable to relax does not help the world one iota.

So what can I do, what helps? Giving my family the gift of my serene presence. It's time to make it real, Jennifer. Make it a priority. Do whatever it takes to stay calm. I even bought a poster at the MOCA in LA that says Calm so I can have a visual reminder. I’m off to yoga now, and I’m sure it will help me find my calm center.

Ahh, back from yoga, and shivasana and wow, that did help me feel grounded and relaxed. I'm a much happier camper at home, with my kids when I kick the adrenaline habit, the stress addiction, the enjoyable "I'm so busy get out of my way" buzz.....

I wish that for you today, to know that it’s alright, everything is ok. Be well. Be calm.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Being 50, becoming myself

Interviewing a woman who turned 50 a year ago this morning, and we had a deep conversation about how much strength there is in being 50, in becoming aligned with your spiritual and creative energy, to create your life in your own image.  I am exploring this in my work, how the need to reinvent ourselves sometimes hits in the 40's or 50's - one has a dissatisfaction with the way things are, the ordinary, conventional ideas of success. As if society says, if you haven't hit it by 50, well then, lay low, get out of the way for the 30 year olds up and coming. You haven't made it.

But we have so much to give! so much new found confidence and assurance, so much life experience. We're just beginning to know ourselves, with focused simplicity and passion for giving back what we've learned.  Often this implies a 'virement' a complete 360 degree change. Or a sideways channel - for this woman it was turning her back on years of playing piano, teaching music, earning degrees, to go back to school to study the body and its inner workings in osteopathy. I loved the way she talked about her hands - being the instrument she uses to touch the world, in both disciplines.

Another woman who I respect as an author, turned from being a therapist to working with the menstrual cycle and teaching its inner workings to women, leading workshops, and following an inner Authority, as she called it which calls her to do this work. ( Myself, I was working at home, writing poetry, raising children, doing the odd reading, and teaching part-time, but not fulfilled completely by either - wanting to find that specific gift or talent or purpose to give to the world. Knowing that I need to manage my energy and not disperse it wildly in too many directions, I was seeking the one thing that was mine to give, and create something of my own.

Eventually this lead me to teaching journal writing classes and leading retreats, which so satisfies me and gives me pleasure - to dip into the juicy conversations, the deeper levels of communicating with other women, women in transition, women raising children, or working at careers, who themselves don't understand the quest they are on for meaning, but are looking for new learnings, open to discovery. Now I'm on to publishing, and getting my books out there, and all that entails, new learnings.

How have you been affected by the mid-life transition? have you felt the winds of change blowing through your life, or are you content with the way things are? Are you learning to know yourself better?

post a comment, let me know, I'm very curious how other women live this time.

ps see my new facebook page for Musemother

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hot flashes and Soy: The truth?

The truth is, every time you read the news, the experts are changing their minds. First, soy was a sure thing to reduce hot flashes. Then I read in Susun Weed's The New Menopause the Wise Woman's Way that unfermented soy was not good for us. Now a clinical trial published in the Archives of Internal Medicine seems to show that soy's isoflavones do not protect against bone loss or hot flashes (a two year study of 248 postmenopausal women, G&M August 10) (*%3A*) So it's hard to know what works. In the same article, the author mentions maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough exercise is good for reducing hot flashes, as well as adding flax seed and black cohosh, The only supplement I ever needed was Promensil, a red clover extract high in isoflavones. As long as I took the little pill every day I was fine, no hot flashes. One month I stopped taking it, and they came back in full force. The article suggests red clover has no effect, but  my experience shows otherwise, and several of my friends have used it as well, to good effect. I think it's like the homeopaths say - each body, each person, each psyche and physical being reacts differently to the same remedy. What works for one may not work for another. You may have to try a few different things before you discover what works. Whatever you do, know that the rocky road of menopausal change is temporary. Keep yourself in good health, get lots of rest, and support from your women friends and family.  There is a bright side to menopause, an increased level of confidence, a desire to speak our own truths, a clarity about what is in our best interests, a kind of reckoning with the 'good girl' self who was trained to put others first at her own expense.  It becomes imperative that we listen to the signals of our body, especially the need for rest and balance. Your intuition is heightened, and you can work on building a trust in that inner connection. Take good care of yourself, and know that happier times are ahead. musemother/jenn