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.