Monday, November 26, 2012

Taking Stock of 2012

The calendar is rolling around to the end of 2012, but we still have 12-12-12 to look forward to. What will you be doing on Dec 12, 2012 at 12:12? Maybe you’ll be sitting down with your journal looking back at the year’s highs and lows.

There’s a lot to be grateful for, isn’t there? For myself, in spite of having faced several huge challenges this year, it still feels like a very heart-full, healing year. Wouldn't that make a great journal exercise I thought, as I read a newsletter from a life coach who was celebrating her year with her business. Why not look back at January 2012, instead of forward at 2013, (not yet, not yet). How did the year start? If I go back and read my journal entries from that month, will I find my hopes and desires were fulfilled? Did I have a clear idea of what I wanted to explore and expand and bring into my life?

If you could make yourself a little ritual for the end of this year, sometime before the Christmas holidays get you ramped up and over-scheduled with baking, cooking, shopping and wrapping, it might just make your holiday season that much more gratifying, as you give thanks for everything that has come to you, all the projects you manifested, the actions you took, the rest you gave yourself, the time you allotted for self-care and finding balance in the mad rush of days…the love you shared with family and best friends.

Last year, my sister Sue, who does astrology charts, told me that my purpose was to learn how to nurture myself better, then to teach this to others. I found that in my journal from January 5, 2012. What a good reminder….must nurture self first, so I can walk my talk. I take a look back to see how I did this year…

In January, I was preparing to launch my book for women, The Tao of Turning Fifty. How could I forget those crazy months of proofreading and sending in corrections, waiting impatiently for the book to be ready to go to print so I could hold my book launch? Fifty lovely people came to the launch party at Enoteca Mozza in February. Within one hour of my Press Release, Mitsumi Takahashi from CTV had called to book a live TV interview (which ran in April). That was a good feeling! I had a few reviews and write-ups in local newspapers. Book sales are coming along, slowly but surely (about 200 sold online or directly through my classes, and speaking engagements).  On the way I’ve met lots of fascinating women, attended workshops on publicity, networked and blogged and twittered and Facebooked away the hours, connecting with menopausal women and women turning fifty. One more milestone on the recently revamped website – 100 subscribers to my newsletter!

I feel it’s time to thank you for all your encouragement and support in this, too. A writer without an audience is like a lone mountain climber calling his name into the canyons. She may get feedback, but not a sense of connection, which is really why I write.

In my forties, I had no idea what my fifties would look like. They have turned out to be the most creative years – something to do with kids growing up and leaving home, for sure. They were both away at school this year, one in Architecture, one in Interior Design. My daughter made it through Hurricane Sandy in October, and my son made it through a serious ATV accident in Greece earlier in July. In spite of having his jaw wired shut for 6 weeks, he was ready to get back to school in September, with not too many consequences. I was very close to my Vitamix blender all summer and back to motherhood 24/7. Time to practice what I teach about getting enough quiet time and rest. Looking back at 2012 has made me tired!

Lots more happened, of course. I filled up two ring-bound notebooks with pages of soul searching, questing and seeking for inspiration. Listen to your life calling was the name of 2012 journaling class. And it’s been calling me loud and clear. New classes in 2013 will be called The Creative Circle, as I welcome women into the circle of journaling and SoulCollage®.  I hope reading this blog will help encourage you to listen in to your life too.

Journaling is such a great, totally inexpensive, accessible way to find out who you are and what you want. As long as you have a pen and some paper, it’s the cheapest form of therapy I’ve found. In those pages, you learn how to be your own best companion, how to let the answers bubble up of their own accord, and how to tune into your inner guidance system, just by sitting and breathing, grounding and centering, then listening in for the gentle nudging and whispers from your soul… Here’s a short exercise for you to practice with:

What do I need today?
What do I want?
What am I grateful for? 

Three questions to set you on the road to wellness and self-knowledge.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Feminine Goal Setting at Mid-Life

“In this culture we are told to set goals. We are supposed to know where we are going and then take specific steps to get there. But this is not always possible, or even wise. It is the male model of linear, rational thinking. But the life process of women…is more chaotic and disorderly, more circular and intuitive. Sometimes we can’t see the next horizon until we step out of the old life. We don’t yet know where we are going. We may not know the place until we arrive.” —Joan Borysenko A Woman’s Journey to God  

I received an e-newsletter from coach Jan Carly, all about how goal setting sometimes trips us up. It really made my heart glad to read this from a coach who uses goal-setting as an important tool. Personally, I have some large perspective very big goals that are sometimes a bit vague, and several smaller detail oriented or focused goals, but I don't always find it possible to sit down and plan my day or week with a calendar, in fact my brain resists this kind of linear thinking like crazy (by going foggy and nonfunctional). I have the luxury of structuring my days by following my intuition (most of the time), on which projects are calling me or are my priority. And yes, I do have appointments, meetings and other people's calendars to deal with too.

But something about goal setting really rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps its the rebel in me, but I in spite of my circular paths and methods, I do manage to get a lot done. I have discovered that I need to leave a lot of room for spontaneity and last minute changes - like this morning for example. I had planned a cleaning day at my chalet - my niece was going to come with me. Our contractor had also picked this day to fix some shingles, inspect water damage and do caulking (it's a nice sunny day here, no rain in sight). But I was also dead tired after a very full weekend, with two supper parties and a full-day retreat I facilitated yesterday. So....although my goal for the day was set a week ago, in the end, my niece cancelled due to a hospital emergency, my contractor still hasn't showed up and is sick at home himself, trying to round up a crew to come here, (it's 11 am as I right this), and instead, unplanned,  I spent the morning listening to soothing music and writing my evaluation of the retreat, and perusing my SoulCollage(R) cards.  Which felt really 'just right' and just what I needed today.

This doesn't mean the shingles won't get done, or the caulking (I hope), but my schedule usually flows like this, and when I flow with it, I am a lot less frustrated.

Here's something that struck me from Jan's newsletter:  "Achieving a goal is a finite moment in time. The real living is in the journey. Success lies in being fully who you already are. Do you want to define yourself by one external moment? If you have the mindset that nothing is worthwhile until you reach a goal then what is day-to-day living really all about?"

Exactly! The day-to-day living in the moment, enjoying the circular, labyrinthine journey while remaining grounded, connected to the steps I am taking and the earth I am walking on, is paramount.  I find that, especially in mid-life, women discover they can't multitask successfully anymore (and new brain science tells us that our brains can really only focus well on one thing at a time anyway). I do need to promote my work, get out and meet readers at live events, plan for writing time and research time, but I don't see it happening in straight lines, from point A to point B. It works with synchronicity, spreading my web of contacts, woman to woman, attending conferences and workshops, remembering the local community I am living in and offering my services there. I can jump in my imagination to some far-future goal of being a famous author, and despair at the low number of book sales, or I can enjoy the journey.

So I make it my goal to be centered, and work with flexibility. Going in circles or spirals, doesn't indicate lack of forward motion. It is just a more intuitive way of working. Time is an illusion anyway, and the boxes we like to build around time usually get knocked down. You will know the place when you arrive, as Joan says. Allow your feminine wisdom to guide you, even while you are setting goals.

Have a great week,

Monday, November 05, 2012

Heroine's Quest at Mid-Life

If you haven't already, read The Heroine's Journey by Maureen Murdock It's the perfect companion for a woman at mid-life who may be feeling that, in spite of her successes and achievements, she is tired of feeling like she is 'never enough'.

Women have their own quest, she says, and it is not the same as the Hero's quest (as described by Joseph Campbell). It is often a more circular, less linear journey. In spite of succeeding in a world where masculine values are more prominent and productivity is honoured at all costs, women at mid-life may experience a disconnect with their feminine selves - the connection to their emotions, feelings, intuition and relationships. This can manifest as exhaustion, burnout or just feeling dried up. Sometimes we lose our connection to the inner fire, our sense of purpose and meaning; we feel like we no longer know who we are.

Part of the challenge for women is that it is in our nature to give, to nurture, to tend and befriend. Women give and  give to all around them; but we end up with either a sleep deficit or an energy deficit, as we try to balance work hours and home hours, children, spouses, elderly parents; in spite of  being expert at multi-tasking, sometimes the juggler loses herself in there. The ball that says "joy", or "contentment" is not in the air anymore.

In the feminine quest for wholeness, in the need for reconnection with her authentic self, a mid-life woman needs to learn how to stop doing and learn how to just be.... "Being is not a luxury, it is a discipline. The Heroine must listen carefully to her true inner voice. That means silencing the other voices anxious to tell her what to do."  Murdock.

The hardest thing to deal with in the mid-life transition is the acceptance of no longer being able to 'do it all' with aplomb, like the Superwomen in the commercials and ads, who always have perfect hair, perfect clothes and perfect skin, in spite of working 24/7.  We feel there is something wrong with us for not being able to juggle all our roles without extreme fatigue. But in our mid-forties to fifties, often the proverbial 's...' hits the fan, and our bodies force us to slow down - all we want to do is rest, garden, chill out, so we can find our way again.

This is normal, and part of trying to live authentically. As Murdock says, to be true to ourselveds, we have to stop acting to please others and find out what nourishes us. A woman may even go through a depression or a dark time of voluntary isolation, descending to the inner world of body, emotions and intuition, in a sacred journey to excavate her soul. It may involve a search for her inner child, digging deep in dreams and memory for her lost 'magical' child self.

Often, women describe having dreams of crying babies, neglected or almost dying, who need to be fed. And Murdock sees this as a symbol of our connection with the feminine. How can be get back in touch with our own wisdom? not through the mind, but through the body, through getting in touch with our cycle for instance and allowing a rest day, by eating healthy food in a conscious fashion, by healing and feeling and dealing with our emotions.

Don't feel guilty, in other words, if you are extremely tired and can't 'do it all' anymore. Give yourself a break before you have a breakdown.  For more on this topic, read The Tao of Turning Fifty, What Every Woman in Her Forties Needs to Know. There's a chapter on Courage to Face the Dark, and Going Down and In that may particularly speak to you. see my website, for a free excerpt.