Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asking myself the same question over and over again, so I decided to just write about it hoping the answer will come to me. “As I age, and as a woman over fifty, am I becoming more tolerant or less?” That is the question.
I‘ve always considered myself a tolerant person, even compassionate at times. However, I’ve noticed a change in my being when confronted with people (friends, family, colleagues, strangers, cashiers, waiters, etc.) who try my patience. I just don’t want to be terribly inconvenienced any more, and don’t like people wasting my time – or insulting my soul, because both are precious.
For example, if I have a doctor’s appointment at 3:30, I have to leave work early and basically hurry so I’m not late. Then, I end up sitting there for over an hour before anyone acknowledges I’m next. My response? I’m angry (even though I’ve brought a great book to read) because on that particular day, I’ve got tons of work to complete and a major deadline. The doctor and his staff do not seem to care at all. I get annoyed and become intolerant.
Or, I get a call from a friend or client and have to inform them I can’t talk because I’m running off to an appointment and I’ll call them later. And, guess what? They keep talking as if they didn’t’ hear me. So, I get annoyed and become intolerant.
Or, I’m waiting for a plumber at 8 a.m. and at 10:00 I’m still waiting. I call the plumber and get no response. I become intolerant.
It seems to me that I used to be more tolerant. For example, I used to feel compassion for perpetrators of heinous crimes, because after all, aren’t they sick? But, for example, after hearing about that hideous case in Cleveland where one man tortured, abused, and chained several young girls for almost a decade, I no longer feel the least bit of compassion for such criminals. I just feel like they deserve to die. So when that criminal was found dead in his cell, I felt it was a perfect ending for him.
So, I guess I’m just becoming less tolerant after all? What about you?
You think the 50’s and 60’s will be a time for us women over fifty to refocus on our own hopes and dreams. As baby boomers, the children are raised, and hopefully, financially independent. It’s time to question the need of the big house with the big yard, a time to reassess, revamp everything from daily life to long-term plans.
But, for so many of us, tragedy shows up and wrenches our lives apart — heart attacks, breast cancer, the stark realization that your finances are not in the state they should be for pending retirement, or worse: an out-of-the- blue death or divorce.
We’ve read much about recovering from a death, or divorce or cancer, but when it strikes in the 50-60’s, you’re more vulnerable, for you are no longer young, and less flexible because you are no longer young, but neither are you old enough to expect death and, divorce after thirty years of marriage seems as unlikely as losing an arm. It’s hard to go home to Mom and Dad at this age, although I’ve seen it done under the guise of caring for them.
There are paths back to wholeness and life. The following techniques will vary in appeal depending on your beliefs and personality, but those who have traversed a personal crisis successfully have utilized them, not necessarily in this order, not really in any order, and sometimes, all in the same day. And, remember — time is the ultimate healer.
1 .) Meditation- People who don’t meditate often say it’s because they don’t have time. But when you go through a trauma, time seems to lag unbearably. This is a good opportunity to start or build your practice. Start with five or ten minutes and work up to half an hour. Sit up comfortably (if you lie down you may fall asleep) and watch your breath go in and out. If thoughts intrude, gently push them away and continue watching your breath. Sounds too simple to matter, but this practice will center and calm you. For more about meditation, Google Deepak Chopra. Also, pilates and yoga offer a moving form of meditation.
2.) Spiritual – There is nothing like a trauma to make you wonder about God. If you open yourself at this time, you will likely find God in whatever guise you perceive him. Suffering seems to open the channel in a way that being happy or content just doesn’t.
3.) Nothing– There seems to be a whole lot of what feels like “unproductive” time, time that you can’t account for. Daydreaming? Crying? Moping? Whatever — do it. Allow yourself to be unproductive.
4.) Gardening – There is something about promoting life in any form that gives a primitive knock on the soul and mind that not only yes, life goes on but that life is a magnificent, driving force that will not be thwarted. For me, the visual for this is the daffodil or tulip that forces through the asphalt.
5.) Walking– Exercise and endorphins, yes, but walking offers a means to wake up to the world, the neighborhood and what’s going on, the beauty of nature, the feeling of the breeze on your cheek.
6.) Reading – The self-help books do help, so do spiritual ones, but the best are probably the laugh-out-loud ones. For me, that’s Carl Hiaasen.
7.) Be with Friends and Family– You’ll think they don’t understand what you’re going through even though they try, and you’ll be right. But they want to be there for you. When I went through my particular trauma, my closest friends started Sunday Supper, a time where we all got together for a couple of hours, to sip wine, cook and chat. It turned out to be a comfort to them as well.
8.) Change of Scenery – Get out of town. Go somewhere far from your usual haunts, somewhere out of your comfort zone. Everything will feel so unfamiliar that your pain will take a break due to shock.
9.) Routine – And, conversely, find solace in your daily routine. Filling the bird feeder, sweeping the front porch, feeding the dog, and, if you don’t have a job, volunteer somewhere where you can leave your own troubles behind.
10.) Moving forward – Without realizing it, you’ll eventually begin to feel some forward movement. You may continue to relapse into sadness or dismay from time to time, but the push forward towards life is a natural given, if you just let it happen.
From the forthcoming book, Breakdown in Swannanoa, available as an e-book in June of 2014.
On top of feeling like a crone (which I am), a lot of stuff seems to be happening to those I love and the planet. How is one to cope with it all? I mean, the town that some dear friend’s of mine (Tosh and Garima) live in was destroyed by a 1000-year-flood (Lyons, Colorado), another friend who is just one year older than me found out he has a couple of weeks to live after going in to the doctor’s to see about a bump on his head, if I think of the economy I get really nervous, and and and.
I try to not be negative, I really do. And even when I think I am helping the planet by sending FB friends a petition to sign that I feel might make a difference, it can backfire:
“Please STOP sending me all of these causes…. Thank you I have my own causes….. I have unfriended you and still I am getting them….. because I am a friend of a friend of mine…. I am so sick of being bombarded with every bad piece of news out there ….people are just going numb ….to it all…. Everyone knows that everything is f—-d,,,, I think its time to start spreading a little joy instead of all of this fear……”
Ajita, I truly am sorry, and I get the cosmic message because I won’t be sending out any more petitions to be signed to stop Monsanto, have GMO’s labeled, or to try to get the world governments to join in to help the Fukishima disaster, I promise!
Instead, I am going to start to write posts with things that I am liking, and not just my favorite lipstick (which used to be Chanel because of the way it glided on my lips, plus the smell was a wonderful, subtle rose frangrance but is now some weird smell that makes me feel like I’ve put some sort of cheap air freshener on – yuck!).
It’s funny, but when I started writing for this blog many years ago, I was only going to share what makes me happy. I guess I started to get a little too personal; call it the “FB” sydrome of thinking I should “share” everything. It’s a sickness and I know the cure.
So what am I liking right now? It’s the 21-Day Mantra Meditation Journey with Deva Premal and Miten. I have loved singing since way back when we went to Catholic mass every week. I can’t think of anything that I would rather be doing. Chanting to the divine is just, well, divine, and I had forgotten about it and the places it takes me.
Take a look at the clip below, and if you’re interested, click here to jump in.
I am trying to keep up. No, I take that back: I am done with trying to keep up. At this point, I am just doing the best I can.
I did have a good excuse in getting behind in my garden this year because, yes, Asheville officially got more rain SO FAR this year than Seattle gets in A YEAR. And we got 10 inches just in the first week or so of this month, July. And over an inch an HOUR on the 4th of July. I think that makes us an official rain forest with now over 50 inches of rain! So planting starts and seeds was almost impossible with the soil in the raised beds looking and acting like soup.
Talk about how the weather affects my mood, well, all I can say is that for those weeks (yes, weeks) that it rained and rained (and rained) I was not feeling very happy. I almost moved back to Cleveland. Oh wait. They were having the same weather!
I am very grateful that the rain stopped, the rivers didn’t overflow, and that we have a good roof and excellent french drainage thanks to the genius and hard work of my Swiss husband. Oh, I did become a born-again Christian though, because the rain stopped as I got down on my knees to pray!
When the sun finally did come out, it felt kind of weird. After not seeing the blue sky for a very long time, I couldn’t believe how much I had missed it; so much so that I had to take a picture of it:
Besides being grateful for every singe day, I am seeing that things always work out, that letting-go and trusting is a good thing, and that this is the new normal so I can stop whining about how it is so intense, etc.
I am also seeing how much of a baby I am if the sky isn’t blue and sunny all the time. I mean, the ice caps are melting fast, it’s getting harder and harder to vote in my state, and now we can’t even protest anything that we don’t like in this country because it’s a crime, and I am feeling depressed about the weather?
So out of necessity, I’m making time each day to disappear: into my garden, to lay down on the floor with my feet up, to write a letter, to put gold dots on the new batch of business cards, to read a book, or to bake.
Carolina turned 17 this past month, and I wanted to make her something special. I knew she would appreciate a cake with lots of layers and chocolate icing and frozen, ground up peanut butter cups between each layer and on top.
And she did! I found out that while I do like to bake, sometimes, it takes a little practice to make such a cake.
The next time I make the “Smith Island Cake” it will look like the one below (click on the picture to get the recipe that I used):
So while everything seems to be crazy and getting crazier, I like to spend more and more of my time in my own world.
I’m just wondering, how do you unwind? Let me know when you get a moment.
It feels great to be recognized by the Huffington Post. Bravo to them for providing a global platform for women over 50 to speak their mind! Today, I was going to blog about a friend of mine who was looking for a simplifying expert because she felt so overwhelmed, but since HuffPo posted my thoughts regarding The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power, I decided to re-post. Looking forward to hear what you feel about this almost universal topic.
I’ve been following the buzz around The Third Metric, and all I can say is why (as women) did we wait so long to start redefining what seems so obvious? When I was in my 20s and 30s, success meant money and power because that’s how men defined it, and I modeled my success after theirs, as did most women. My opinion about money and power has changed over time, and as a working woman over 50, I can tell you that power doesn’t have the same connotation as it did in my earlier years, though one thing remains constant: money. Let me explain.
In my late 40s, after twenty years of a demanding and exciting career in Washington, D.C., I decided to take the plunge and get out of Dodge City. My husband and I wanted a simpler life, where we could spend more time in nature and not have to work 60 hours a week. Well, we have that, and guess what? I miss my big fat salary from D.C. You know why? Because money provides you the power to be free — free to buy that airline ticket to visit your best friend who’s been living in Senegal for five years; free to fly clear across the country to your nephew’s wedding and give him a wonderful gift; free to have the funds to send your granddaughter to Shakespeare camp in the summer; free to help a friend whose home is about to go into foreclosure because she just lost her job; free to hire someone to clean your house every week so you don’t have to spend the weekend cleaning; free not to worry about the cost of everything you do.
So, one can opt out of the fast life and redefine success, but the trade-off is often lower wages, because big salaries and big benefits go with big cities and, until I left DC, I didn’t actually know that on a gut level. Nor did I know how poorly a well-educated person could be paid. I see women every day, working passionately in a job they love, earning low wages. Women work hard, often without benefits, and it’s not always because corporations don’t have the resources to pay them. Sometimes, those businesses don’t give benefits simply because they don’t have to. You see, where I live, and where many Americans live, some folks think if you’re earning $40,000, that’s a good wage. Oh sure, I live in the mountains and have a great view and wouldn’t go back to the big city, but even in small towns, women are overworked, overwhelmed and basically depleted. For many working women over 50, retirement is nowhere in sight.
My women friends and colleagues aren’t complaining about wanting more success or power in conventional terms. We’re not even complaining about working, being a parent or cleaning the house; we just want more money when we work so we have more choices when we are not working. We’d love to go to Bali with our girlfriends for a retreat and we’d love to have more time for our aging parents, not to mention the resources needed to keep them comfortable during their elder years. So for men and lots of women I know, money is still high on the ladder of success. Only it doesn’t represent power in an egocentric or dominant manner — it represents freedom, pure and simple.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women’s conference, “The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power” which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.