Monday, April 23, 2012

Mid-LifeTransformation: Interview with Flourish over 50

This month I'm starting something new on the Musemother blog, and have joined up with several really smart women bloggers to bring you some interviews and links to theirwebsites for women at mid-life. This week I've interviewed Susan Tolles from the website Flourish over 50. Enjoy!

Musemother: We’re taught that aging is bad, that we’ll lose our productivity, our attractiveness, our youth, be ugly, useless, out of shape. How do you counteract that attitude?
Susan: The Baby Boomer generation is “kicking butt” in the world today. We are active, intelligent, confident, and reinventing ourselves in record numbers. In surveys I have done in my Flourish Over 50 community, at least 65% will respond positively to the statement “I love who I have become as I have aged!” The others are actively seeking new direction in their lives, to create an abundant future for themselves. We are refusing to stay at home, play bridge and go to book club like our mothers did. When I meet a woman who feels unattractive and useless, it doesn’t take long for me to turn her around as we focus on her unique gifts and inner beauty. With over 35,000 visitors to the website every month, I know that women over 50 are actively seeking information to help them lead healthy, balanced lives with style!

What do you do personally to look and feel fabulous?
I have learned to put myself at the top of my to-do list, to keep my mind, body and spirit nourished. I do all the usual things—eat a healthy diet, take vitamins and minerals, keep a good skincare regimen, and get a good night’s sleep—so it is the confidence I have in who I am that makes me radiate “fabulous.” People tell me I am the “perfect picture” of my Flourish Over 50 brand, and 75% of that comes from loving what I am doing and having the opportunity to touch the lives of others with my message of hope and renewal.

What is the biggest obstacle to a woman feeling good about herself after 50?
The media!  For decades, advertising has promoted younger looking women who are thin and gorgeous—of course, as a result of airbrushing and Photoshop! We are bombarded by print and TV ads that feature women we are “supposed” to look like. Only recently have some of the major cosmetics companies begun to focus on older women, and it’s about time! We don’t have to be wrinkle-free with flat tummies and thin thighs to be beautiful. There is true elegance in aging.

What is the biggest myth about turning fifty?
In our parents’ generation, women over 50 were, for the most part, invisible. They went to book club, played bridge, entertained and had seemingly ho-hum lives. If someone told me I had to live like that now, I would scream! This is not the time to stop living! Instead, it is the perfect time to start over, to enrich the legacy that you are leaving for your grandchildren and their children. We don’t even think about slowing down now—we have too much left to share with the world!

What is the greatest thing about turning fifty?
There is such a richness that comes with aging. We have priceless wisdom from the years of experience we have had raising children, often while working hard in one or more careers. We have juggled those roles with volunteering, caregiving and being “all things to all people,” and finally it is time for us to live the life WE want, not what others want for us. Turning 50 is such a huge transition point, and there is great freedom in finally saying “So what, if someone doesn’t like me? I love who I am, and who I have become. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem!”  

What has the midlife transition taught you about your own resilience and joy?
In my “pre-50” life, I had taken personality profiles several times, always scoring in the “extreme” level for being an Introvert. In the past three years, I have discovered that people like me for who I am, and I can just come out of my shell and be ME!  I have met so many amazing women who bring the best out of me, who support me and challenge me to stretch and grow. I have such self-confidence in the person I have become, and know that when I face speed bumps and potholes along my journey, I will be a better person on the other side. I still enjoy my alone-time, when I need to quiet my mind and soul, but the times I have with my girlfriends are what give me new energy.

What role do our men (sons, husbands, fathers) have in our self-image? Do you think they help or hinder ?
The men in our lives play a key role in our own self-worth. I am blessed with an incredibly supportive husband—we have been married almost 33 years—and he has been right with me all along the way. But I have met so many women who have divorced in midlife, devastated by a relationship that has fallen apart because the husband cheated or because they just have grown apart. That can destroy a woman’s perception of her own value. The father-daughter relationship also has a lasting impact on us, and can affect who we choose to marry and how we relate to all men in our lives. My family is so tightly woven together because we keep our Heavenly Father at our core.
How did the idea of the website come about and how did you find partners?
I had reached that point of stark realization: I was a middle-aged empty nester, still smart, useful and resourceful, but didn’t know what to do with my life. I started searching the Internet for resources for women over 50, and there just wasn’t much out there. At the same time, a friend suggested that I start blogging about my journey. When I received comments on my blog posts from women I didn’t even know, I realized that there were others who were experiencing the same emotions and challenges I was. My creative juices started flowing, and I decided to create my own website to share information to help myself and others live abundantly.
At first, I was generating all the content myself, and it was draining. After a while, I took a look around me at the women I knew, or knew of, who had the same vision for serving women. I reached out to a few to ask for their contributions, and they were thrilled to join the site. We have gone from a small blog to a major resource for women around the world, with over 35,000 visitors every month from over 90 countries. I love to share reinvention stories from other women along with our regular guest author articles, and we are even doing video series now. As I envision the future, there is so much to be done, but I am having so much fun along the way!
Anything else you would like to add?
From the beginning, my motto has been “Dream big and step out on faith.” Being over 50 brings with it the freedom to focus on yourself, to pursue those old dreams that have been on the back burner for so long, or to create something totally new for your life. Believe in yourself!  Set big goals, then have confidence knowing that you have what it takes to accomplish them. Surround yourself with cheerleaders, be willing to explore the detours along the way, and celebrate often! Enjoy living as you flourish, inside and out.

Susan Tolles is an Expert in Midlife Reinventions who inspires and equips women around the world to flourish inside and out.  As a website creator, published author, speaker and life coach, Susan helps women celebrate and enrich their true inner and outer beauty as they age with grace and vitality.  

Susan Tolles has contributed to the collaborative books  Inspired Women Succeed and The Unstoppable Woman’s Guide to Emotional Well-Being, both available on her websites. She lives in Austin, Texas, has been married for over 33 years and has three incredible children. She has worn many hats in her life and has personally experienced her own amazing midlife transformation, proving that it is never too late to discover your purpose and follow your dreams.

Thanks Susan for your clarity and enthusiastic answers! We wish you every success in your endeavours to bring the Flourish back into women's lives over 50.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Finding the joy of menopause

Lie back, and the sea will hold you”

                First Lesson, Philip Booth

Yes, I want to tell you, there is emotional turmoil.  Yes, there is pain and a descent into darkness. Yes, you may feel like you’re lost in a dark tunnel with no way out some of the time. The rest of the time, you dance and laugh at parties with a glass of Merlot in your hand, and serve the children tacos and spaghetti, whichever is their favourite. You come home from work tired and decide to read a book after supper, but instead you fall asleep at 8:30, wake up sleepless at 3:00 a.m.

Two years earlier, I felt like bug soup. Inside my chrysalis, all my ragged edges, horns and spotted caterpillar shape, the multiple legs and little prickly bits were all melting, turning into bug soup, and I felt mush-muscled. Only God knew what shape I would take or how my wings would form, which colours scintillate.  Some wild blue turquoise, yellowy green, something completely different than the rose or fuchsia I imagined.

I felt tired, not only physically, but mentally tired of resisting this quiet destiny. No flames, flamm├Ęches or fireworks; it was low-key and subterranean, a lying low until strength could be gathered for flight. The peri-menopause is the period before the coming cessation of bleeding, not wholly begun yet because I was still bleeding profusely every 28 days, except for one month missed. This was the chrysalis phase, an in-between transition—I was not yet transformed, not of one world-- the young energetic past--nor of the other (mellow, old and wise) but on a shuttlebus between the two states. Perhaps 49 is not the end of energy and youthful vigour (although in the sorry shape I was in, both hips and shoulders aching, it felt like it). But just a transition phase.

Yes, at this phase the tears come more easily, and even a little something wrong upsets you. But what I want to talk about is the joy that follows, the big joy, not just a little joy, that does come finally after the dust settles, or after you come blinking out of the tunnel, into the place where you don’t recognize yourself. Once you come up into the clear mountain air, a small ray of sunshine appears, then a whole bright day ahead.

Where did I find my joy? In discovering I was ready to serve – not like before, not to forget myself, nor to give all my power away by being a good girl and getting kudos or to please others, but opening to being a fully satisfied, complete woman, a woman with power. In discovering I have wings, and in learning how to spread them – not to fly away – necessarily, but to rise above the pettiness, jealousy and drudgery of my own mind, to find the purity, clarity, and peace of heart within. Oh, my wings are real; they are white and muscular. But they shine invisibly, growing out from my heart center.

Where did I lose my joy? In making myself small, too small to see. In resentment, and fear of speaking out, fear of owning my truth, fear of what my neighbour thinks of me. I used to feel it hunched a little in my neck and shoulders, but it’s leaving, being cleared away by the work I am doing and the grace of god. I am an ordinary woman with extraordinary powers, that have also been given to each woman. The power to love, the power to inspire by my actions, the power to forgive myself for being human and making mistakes. Where do I find my joy? In sharing the wealth: in hearing your stories, and in sharing mine. In making it brand new, each new day. In realizing I am flawed but fabulous!

My life story is fairly ordinary: I was a child, I  learned to love, I loved people who sometimes hurt me, but I am extraordinarily blessed in being with a caring, gentle man I love and had two children with him; I have bled once a month (almost) since I was fifteen, and since age 51 I am finished with that. I have been in the liminal space, in between young and old, but I am still in the middle years. From here, I can look backwards and forwards, but my pleasure is to stay right here, right now, in the present. And breathe, once more, into the closer, immediate present.

Getting some nurturing, in Rolfing therapy and healing massages and osteopathic treatments have helped open up the shoulder and neck muscles and release the fear I’ve been holding. I also had some coaching in which I discovered I wanted to work with ordinary women, not be a literary wunderkind. I have found my joy, in the possibility of speaking in my own voice to other women, in leading workshops and retreats and sharing my discoveries, and in all of us learning that we are not alone.

And where I really found my joy was in the openness to not knowing, to relaxing into the questions, dialoguing with my inner Wise Self in my journal as I rappelled down the mountain inch by inch, finding a safe ledge to stand on, then finding there was water down below where I could float on an air mattress, and let the sea support me. 

Ah that is where my joy is, in being supported by the universal ocean. The trust I am learning to feel inside. That is worth gold; that feeds and nurtures me.

I wish you the courage to stick with the questions in the transition phase and emerge on the other side of the mid-life transition into your wonderful, powerful Joy.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Feeling like you're going crazy at menopause

Note: this post has been reposted from the msmenopause blog

"The wise woman achieves menopause. It does not overcome her."

Well, so the books say anyway. I can remember feeling very overwhelmed during peri-menopause. There's even a homeopathic remedy for that feeling: Sepia, which I took as needed.

Sometimes things get a little topsy turvy, what with lack of sleep, night sweats, PMS taking over for two weeks instead of three days, and breaking into tears at inopportune moments, like in the middle of a business meeting with your boss.

How do you handle it? Do you go for hormone replacement therapy? Do you just go to see a psychologist for talk therapy? Anti-depressants? What is going on with me?

According to Dr. Christiane Northrup, our brains are being rewired for greater intuition. We move out of the child-rearing mode where we are focussed on others, and begin to caretake ourselves. Changing levels of hormones may be what stimulates the 'Change', but the upshot is, we get encouraged to deal with a whole lot of messy emotions, collectively labelled "unfinished business". The PMS is not the cause but the trigger - it is signalling stuff you have stuffed down, swallowed, and can't digest anymore.

Sitting with a journal (or a good friend who doesn't mind listening to your litany of woes), is a good way to begin to untangle what you are feeling. What do I want? What is bugging me? What is pissing me off?

Can I dare open that can of worms and deal with it, instead of waiting for the can to explode and have worm soup all over the kitchen floor, and risk damaging my relationships with children and spouses? I think it is safer to make lists in the safety of my room, and look at my emotions from a detached place (out of the heat of the moment). Why did I fly off the handle at my daughter's request to book her a hair appointment? Am I taking on too much that is her responsibility? Can I let go of the 'mothering' I do and let my kids take on more of the household tasks? Why can't I value my own self enough to make room for me, my needs, my work, my space.

Myspace - funny that all the kids are creating their myspaces on-line. That's a good metaphor for what menopausal women need. A My space blocked out somewhere in the virtual world or the physical world in 3 dimensions. Sometimes I fantasized about a white room, with no distractions, no radio or tv, no interruptions, no puppies to walk, no cats to feed, no demands on me....somewhere I could let my writing flourish in....then I realized what I was imagining was a little padded cell.

Maybe it's also time to release some demons, release the past, face the present moment. I make visualisations and affirmations a part of my ritual now: I can do it. I am worth it. I believe in myself. I have something worth saying.

There is deep siginificance to this Change, on a psychological level and a spiritual level.

It is initiation by fire.

It is awakening my own feminine self.

It is empowering me.

It is burning through me with the energy of a forest fire.

Find out what is feeding the flames.

Be your own best friend, and show some compassion.

Let the power surges support you, not freak you out.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Feminine Wisdom from Musemother: 15 Tools to a Happier More Connected You

What do you need today to feel whole, happy, authentic, true to yourself?

What elements of the creative feminine do you need to play with? Ie how to listen to your body and honour your emotions, feel what you feel.  Here are some things I do to tune in:

1.       Journal writing and Affirmations: I am flawed and fabulous (for self-acceptance)
2.       Develop my inner coach – write a letter from my 80 year old self to me now
3.       Fire the Inner Critic and let negativity be overridden by loving messages from Inner Coach
4.       Time alone, quiet time in nature, attunement to inner self
5.       Soothing rest, naps, music, breathing and centering, find my core again
6.       Dancing and singing, celebrating life and being a woman
7.       Dialogue with my Wise Inner Self  when I’m in a quandary, over a decision
8.       Self-love – practising compassion, loving kindness, forgiveness for mistakes
9.       Soothing the frightened child, rocking my fear
10.   Patience as a practice
11.   Whole body healthy eating: happy healthy whole
12.   Increase Intuition and body guidance, listen to the body
13.   Weaning myself from my addiction to adrenaline rush, speed demon - the art of slowing down
14.   Inner peace – finding a daily practice I can live with
15.   Make a written vow to Self: commitment to Conscious self care

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Women's bodies and their wisdom

Just read a very deep post from Roots of She about a young girl's first experience of sex, as an invasive assault camouflaged of course as 'older man initiating young girl'.

I am stalled on writing some of my own stories of not only losing my virginity but losing my self to nonconsensual sexual encountners more than once - by not speaking up for myself, by looking for love in all the wrong places, by not knowing the boundaries of my own self, by not feeling empowered enough as a woman to say, Stop, not ready to go there. By thinking it was cool, and hip, and of course it was the sexual revolution in 1970 something and being a good little Catholic girl, I was breaking out of the mold, longing to be a rebel.

Hah! lessons learned, yes, water under the bridge, and sexual politics and games are still going on between men and women. People in power use sex to control those they see as younger, weaker, easy to manipulate for their own ends. What's love got to do with it? very little, in those kinds of situations.

Women's bodies and their wisdom : yes, lately been seeking treatment for muscle tightness that lead me to do some Rolfing with a therapist, and begin to see the relation between the muscles that hold in our emotions and freeze, and need retouching with gentle art and therapy to loosen up and breathe again.  Reading The Wild Feminine, I learned that even the muscles in the uterus and vagina, especially those muscles, are connected to our bodies' wisdom at the core of a woman.  Did you know you could dialogue with those hidden places? Would you dare to even touch yourself there and find out how much your divine feminine sexuality is alive and well? Doing Kegels is another way to get back in touch with those lost parts.

In my journaling class, we do a dialogue with different body parts. We give them names ( a little along the lines of the Vagina Monologues). They speak up and let us know what they are feeling, where the hurts and joys are. It's a really good exercise to free up some subconscious 'stuff', some holding on. What is your story? are you ready to hear your body's wisdom? are you ready to reclaim your feminine power?

I named my uterus Famine and Abundance. I had two miscarriages, so there was a period of seven years that felt like Famine, longing for a pregnancy that would hold. Then there was abundance,, two gorgeous babies 19 months apart, with so much golden light and love in them.

I bet you could come up with a name for your female parts too - or do a dialogue with your hands - what do they do for you? how do they please you with the sense of touch? your feet that carry you everywhere, have you thanked them lately?

let's honour the feminine wisdom and honour the body's gifts. And begin to heal the lost places....and hear our own stories.