Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Turning 60: Looking in the Mirror

Have you looked in the mirror and thought these thoughts?

Every time I look in the mirror, I understand this is just the beginning for me (at 49). I just want to shoot myself.
I am so sick of my body, I just wear baggy clothes
i hate looking at myself, and trying new clothes on in changing rooms. 
I wouldn't dare do it naked. !!! Eeeekkk....!!

A lot of menopausal women go through a period of self-hatred it appears. I know I've had moments like that, especially when I was down in the dumps, in the midst of menopause misery, with twenty extra pounds and a feeling of general despair. Love handles, saddle bags, my hips swimming in extra fat like the Venus of Willendorf!

But today, on the cusp of 60, I feel better about myself than ever. What happened to make the difference between 49 and 59? A lot of work on myself, a little therapy, some Energy Healing and Reiki, some workshops and courses on Rites of Passage, and mostly, in leading workshops and classes for women I have come to understand myself, and the whole mid-life process, so much better. But I'm still a bit stuck on a few aging issues.

It's a work in progress, right? my life, my self-acceptance, my compassion for myself instead of the harsh inner criticism I usually shoot myself down with. 

Looking in the mirror is especially fraught with mixed emotions.

This morning, looking in the mirror quickly, running a brush through my hair on the way to a Grooming appointment for my little shitzu who looks ragged and messier than I do, this is what I saw:

Today, I feel like I should maybe not colour my hair brownish red again, but allow the silver and grey to shine through. My roots are showing! does that make me look like a lazy person, or slovenly, or just tired?

I look at my face in the mirror - after putting on five different creams - a cleanser, a toner, anti-aging serum, face tightening, eye corrector and a day or night cream with SPF - a new ritual started only a month ago, with Arbonne natural products (or mostly natural!).

Fact: I have had two basal cell carcinomas, so I need to protect my skin from the sun, and the top of my head, my scalp, with a hat.

Fact: I want my skin to be a little tanned, less cadaverous white, but not burn.

Fact: my wrinkles are not overly visible, it's my double chin that bothers me, but mostly in photos (taken at a weird angle, or leaning back too much).

Fact: I think I still look youngish, I still feel young. Until I notice the way some cashier or bag boy at the supermarket looks at me, or rather, doesn't look at me.

Fact: recently, my breasts have perked up again. Less saggy. Is it the weight loss? the low carbs hi protein diet helped me lose 15 lbs. Is the zumba and yoga classes, more exercise? I like what I see, for the first time in years.

My tummy has a bit of an overhang, especially where my horizontal scar is from that ectopic pregnancy umpteen years ago. But it's not too visible under tight T's.

My legs are still slim (but then, so are Mom's at 83, always have been).

Mirrors are tricky. They can be my worst enemy. Sometimes I prefer not to look, but my bathroom is full of's hard to avoid. I do like to check out my silhouette in store windows. Is that vanity? or just checking that I haven't been swallowed up in body fat like Jonah in the whale.

How do you feel when you look in the mirror? Are crow's feet, laugh lines and saggy bottoms getting you down? 

Leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Taking the Pain out of Sex

Many, many women at mid-life find sex painful.

Some find it painful because of vaginal dryness, but some have deeper issues. Have you heard of vulvodynia? a chronic condition that affects the labial area. Or Vaginismus - involuntary clenching of vaginal muscle?

Only because a friend of mine in her early fifties complained about vulvodynia, had I ever heard about this ailment. She ended up seeing an energy worker/naturopath who helped her understand the issues behind the pain.

The Globe and Mail published an informative article in June 2014 : Read it here:

I hope if you experience vaginal pain, or pain during intercourse, that you will strive to get some good medical advice, or even seek some alternative health advice from energy workers, homeopaths or osteopaths. There are many facets to our pain bodies: mental, emotional, spiritual and physical. It can be wonderfully freeing to imagine four different ways your body is sending you a message on all 4 levels.

Be curious, don't be satisfied with a doctor telling you nothing is wrong, it's only menopause. Or worse, writing you off as a hypochondriac. Women's sexual energies are changing at mid-life, and you must pay attention. Your kundalini energy (or wild feminine) is rising. Do not be afraid of it, or sweep it under the rug.

Pelvic physiotherapy is a recognized treatment in North America. Your ob-gyn may not have the necessary skills to help y ou, but hopefully she can refer you to a qualified therapist.

Tami Kent has written a wonderful book called The Wild Feminine,, which offers helpful visualisations and exercises for you to get in touch with the energetic side of this area. She is also a pelvic physiotherapist, if you live in the Oregon area. There is a resource section in the back of the book to help you find similar therapists.

It pays to be present to our bodies' messages. Take good care of you!

in health,

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Facing Aging at mid-life

I thought I knew a lot about mid-life, having already written a book on turning fifty, The Tao of Turning Fifty, (see book page at; it's  essentially a heads-up about the emotional turbulence of menopause and the mid-life transition. But this year I'm 59, and turning 60 in November. I want to write about it, but realize I don't have a clue about what it means to turn 60. It's definitely on my mind. 

I know it's on my mind because I am not telling anyone I'm 60 - I'm definitely still 59, and holding. Usually in other years, I have been anxious to add 6 months to my age and bump myself up to the next birthday's age. But not this year. It is a milestone, a major one, although maybe not as major as 65 - mandatory retirement age in some countries.

I did get a letter from the Quebec government asking me if I wanted to start receiving my old age pension or wait until I'm 65. It's a paltry amount, barely over $100 a month, so yes, I can wait for that. But it made me sit up and think, wait a minute, I'm just getting started. I'm not retiring yet!

Having raised a family and worked mostly at home for over 20 years, I have just begun to discover the freedom of having a work life, and an identity other than mother. I'm leading classes and retreats for women, and still studying and learning new things. I just completed a year-long training in facilitating rituals, for instance. And I'm auditioning for an ABBA based musical theatre show in the fall. Now that my kids are studying away from home, there is room for ME, and MY projects. Mid-life has been the great liberator, once I got through the ups and downs of menopause.  Does turning 60 mean I'm entering a new phase?

On the down side, I do see signs that I am not accepting aging very gracefully. I still dye my hair to cover the gray. I find it makes me look pale and tired when I let the roots grow out, - I've tried it twice now - there's just not enough glamorous shiny white hair to provide contrast. And I just bought a slew of facial products, natural based of course, to apply to my skin morning and night. Cleanser, toner, aging serum, skin tightening masque, and all. I never thought I would be a client for beauty products. See, roots showing and frown lines:

Wikipedia puts mid-life in a depressing framework: "Middle-aged adults often show visible signs of aging such as loss of skin elasticity and graying of the hair. Physical fitness usually wanes, with a 5–10 kg (10–20 lb) accumulation of body fat, reduction in aerobic performance and a decrease in maximal heart rate. Strength and flexibility also decrease throughout middle age. However, people age at different rates and there can be significant differences between individuals of the same age."

Since it's on my mind a lot, I'm trying to come up with a ritual to help women see the positive side of aging, and not just worry about wrinkle lines, laugh lines, crow's feet, saggy boobs and love handles. I realize there are many upsides - there's a rich harvest to this time of life, right? It's time to start reflecting on where you've been and where you are going, who you are, your authenticity. Instead of fearing old age, perhaps we can look at those fears and see them in a new light. Drop the external mask, and find the real inner beauty.

Reading Anam Cara by John O'Donohue, I fell eagerly upon the chapter Ageing: the Beauty of the Inner Harvest. He relates the four seasons to the seasons of the body, and of course, fall is the time of ageing. It's a book that talks a lot about the need for solitude and a quiet place to be with your own soul.

 "The beauty and invitation of old age offers a time of silence and solitude for a visit to the house of your inner memory. You can revisit all of your past.Your soul is the place where your memory lives. ... "In actual fact, old age, as the harvest of life, is a time where your times and their fragments gather. In this way you unify your self, achieve a new strength, poise and belonging that was never available to you when you were distractedly rushing through your days. Old age is a time of coming home to your deeper nature , of entering fully into the temple of your memory where all your vanished days are secretly gathered awaiting you.

Ok, so 60 is not that old. Maybe I need to dance with that world 'old' a little and find some new associations with it. Some old things are really good, like an old friend, an old worn pair of jeans that fit you just right and aren't too tight, an old comforter or quilt that has been well loved and kept you warm all your life or an old suede jacket passed down from your mother that has a special patina to it.

I invite you to muse on what ageing brings up for you. What does turning 50 mean? what does turning 60 mean? Is there less of something, or more of something? Does life seem less rich or more rich? I'll be musing on this in the weeks to come, and blogging here, so come back and check it out.


ps Our time is limited. If you make it age 80, you will have had 29,200 days on the planet. Which means that when you're 40 you only have 14,600 days left. That may sound like a lot, but it definitely feels finite; it won't go on forever. The age of 50 particularly seems to bring up fears of mortality for many people. It's do or die time. Literally. (see