"In the Western world, we live in a culture that highly values productivity, assertiveness, aggression, drive, forward motion, which we like to consider as progress and have traditionally aligned with the world of work and the Masculine. We spend our lives with the on button pressed all the time, work work work. Being productive is good, however, we've created imbalance in banishing the day off, the Sabbath or rest day. The softer, inner values of rest, reflection and cultivating the artistic, inner soul qualities have become secondary. But that is exactly what we need as an antidote to being overly busy and exhausted. Getting in touch with the Feminine is an important survival tool for our planet right now, especially at mid-life, especially those in the caring professions. Taking a little down time to rest should not make us feel guilty, but somehow it does." from The Tao of Turning Fifty, Valuing the Feminine.
Today in the Globe & Mail, two articles caught my eye. One was about a book called Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink. Alcorn writes that the solutions lie not in individual treatments for anxiety and mental illness, but in activism and workplace reform. http://tinyurl.com/k7887ld
The second article, on the Facts & Arguments page, was an essay about a woman whose son is learning about menopause in school: My 12-year-old son’s not ready for menopause is the title. So the Life section of the G&M today is dealing with two of my favourite topics - moms being stressed out and menopause. At mid-life, even stay-at-home moms, who are often crazy-making busy with volunteer projects and house management, let alone chauffeuring their kids, sometimes get into this feeling of being Maxed-Out, or overwhelm.
When I was in the throes of peri-menopause in my forties, (the pre-menopause period last 7-10 years before you are official menopaused, or have no more periods for 13 months), I also had two pre-teens on the cusp of puberty. I remember overwhelm as the major constant feeling at that time, and on some days when I felt myself losing control and shrieking, I wondered if they should put me in a straitjacket. My precocious daughter would write me birthday cards that said, I love you Mommy, in spite of your mood swings.
Part of the problem was giving myself permission to just nurture myself and care for my own needs. When you're on call 24-7 as a mom, and some moms are on call all day at work as well, the fight or flight hormones are always on too, and you never seem able to relax, get a good night's sleep, or even take 15 minutes to yourself to read the paper without being interrupted. You learn to respond, you learn to take really good care of others - spouses, children, parents, co-workers, siblings, but you tend to put yourself last on the list, skipping meals, rushing around like Chicken Little yelling the sky is falling.
It's a mindset, and a powerful social belief system, that pushes us to go faster and faster, achieve more and more, get more things crossed off the list. We are also highly addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes from stress and deadlines, so when it is calm and quiet, we wonder what to do with ourselves, and feel antsy or anxious. I can't even watch a 30 minute video anymore without checking my emails, going on facebook, constantly distracted and scattered. It's a real struggle to be centered and calm, even for a quiet hermit like myself whose kids have flown out of the nest and only bug me when they need more cash in their bank accounts.
So this little book I wrote while going through menopause, was all about Valuing the Feminine, valuing my down time, getting help from whatever modalities I could, osteopathy for sore shoulders, acupuncture, Reiki, reflexology - blessed moments of calm in a turbulent week that were like an Oasis of sanity. Self-care became my mantra, my crutch if you will, my absolute need - because if I cracked up and did need a strait-jacket, who was left to run things and take care of the household?
It really is in our best interest to slow down, do less, revise the list of things to do, cancel a few extra projects, not work until 8 pm, eat regular meals, do yoga and practice some form of centering technique whether tai chi or mediation or chi gong. We cannot serve our children, our jobs or our communities when we are fried, maxed out, and overwhelmed. Mid-life and menopause are forcing you to call a halt to the "too much" syndrome. If it's all too much, scale down. Do less. And if you need extra help from medication, hormonal treatments, herbal remedies, by all means, hunt them down. Find out what works for you. Girl friends are also great allies - just talking to someone about how you feel like you're going crazy can help you find some sanity.
Your sanity is important. Your health and well-being are crucial. You, mid-life mom, are the fulcrum, the center everyone is leaning on for support. You must be solid yourself before you can be there for them. Don't wait until you have a breakdown. Take a break, a serious reflective break, and make room in your life for your Self. If that means having a serious talk with your spouse or boss, please find the courage to go there.
The Tao of Turning Fifty is a workbook with exercises and journaling questions to help you put priorities where they belong. I'm headed to a book club meeting tonight, my first one as an author, and six or seven women will be discussing my book and looking for answers. I know it will be a rich and rewarding evening.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
I was brought up the eldest daughter in a fairly happy, Catholic, and wholly dysfunctional household with a brood of seven siblings (and depression and alcoholism in the family tree). Somehow this grew me into a highly functional, overly demanding perfectionist –harder on myself than others, with a strong tendency to morph into the Overarching Boss of Everything once I became a Mom.
My journey through midlife has partly cured me of this kill-joy attitude, by bringing me nose to nose with this miserable character (being with my kids helped too). Perhaps someone else who is just realizing they are their own worst party pooper will read this and gather some hints about how to relax and enjoy life.
1) Kindness to self and others: no belittlement, bullying or harsh criticism allowed. Not even yelling obscenities at aggressive drives that cut you off! Send them blessings instead and it will boomerang back to you.
2) Right eating: finding the balance between the desire for pleasure and fun, and real nourishment, what truly feeds your body. There is no one-size fits all in terms of food – experiment, be curious, don’t follow fads. I have gone from extreme vegan to macrobiotic to carnivore before finding the right food for my body and blood sugar (steak ‘n eggs for breakfast)!
3) Energy In is greater than Energy Out: ask yourself, what drains me and what feeds me? the two best questions to finding balance. If you are exhausted and cranky, how can you be of service to others, let alone yourself?
4) Peace in the Heart: inner bliss, find the oasis within in stillness, submerse yourself and dive in regularly, every day if not every minute. Life is short. Heaven is now.
5) Ease: catch up on the sleep deficit induced by all work and no play, take more down time to chill and learn the power of doing nothing: nap often.
6) Allies and Friends: never underestimate the importance of being seen and heard by friends who love and fully support you, accept you as is.
7) Gratitude Attitude: appreciation is a wonderful antidote to bitterness. Give thanks, give back, pay it forward. It’s a practice that feels forced at first, but grows your bliss.
8) Creative expression: let your soul out to play: collage, art, doodling, weaving, singing, dancing, bass lessons, tai chi; include your five senses and get a whole body rush, while being in the Flow, lose track of time, rediscover childlike wonder. A powerful game changer.
9) Embrace your shadow: accept your faults, withdraw projections onto others (the blame and shame game); practice saying “I am flawed and fabulous”, “I am Enough.”
10) Emotional Wisdom: let tears flow, and laughter ring, give hugs aplenty. Feeling is Healing. And PAIN stands for Pay attention inside Now!
OK, I left out something rather important for a blissful life, Sexual Pleasure and Fulfillment. This one took me a long time to allow (must be all that religion, wanting to be a saint and being celibate for ten years). All I can say is, allow, allow, allow.
There are many elements to happiness, of course: where you work and play, how many friends and companions really see you and ‘get’ you; the health of your children, parents, tragedies that occur, but one thing is for sure: the size of your house, car and bank account are way down on the list.
The worst Bliss Busters? Besides perfectionism, the worst Bliss Buster seems to be the pushing, striving, nose to the grindstone attitude until either burn-out, extreme fatigue or death by heart attack.
How can you find ways to move into more body ease, more supple enjoyment, more light and laughter? Put on a soothing music CD, light a candle and write about this in your journal right now.
If nothing else works, pray for guidance from your angels and guardian spirits. Our purpose on earth is to enjoy, to be in Joy, as much as possible. Besides, self-flagellation is so passé….
Jennifer Boire is a recovering perfectionist and the author of The Tao of Turning Fifty. She leads retreats and Creative Journaling classes for women in the Montreal area. www.jenniferboire.com
first published on MindBodyGreen July 2013
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Friday, October 18, 2013
She pictured herself hanging on with all her fingers to a wooden dock, and then, after hours of cramping hand pain, finally just lifting off her fingers, letting go of the dock, letting the gentle water and waves pull her backwards, like a pair of huge motherly arms gently tugging on her from behind, guiding her down river. It would be so easy, to just fall back, stop striving, stop rushing, stop getting things done, move backwards instead of forwards. Why do we always have to run forward, move forward, progress? The sense of accomplishment was nothing to her now. It only burdened her, the constant list of things to do. She wanted to refuse to function with lists, although all her life it had kept her organized, sane, functional.
Now she simply wanted, if she could admit to the truth without guilt, she very much wanted to let go, and stop. Everything. Deadlines. Doing. Shopping. Decorating. Renovating. Driving. Registering. Volunteering. Managing. Coping. At a very deep level, the fear of her inner blank slate was going away. She wanted that white room. Actually, the fear was rising to the surface and she was seeing it, instead of hiding behind the business. And now that she looked at the fierce holding on out of fear in the face, she no longer could do it. Something, some vision of a deeper life, some need for inner psychic peace and ease, called to her.
How ignore it now, when she was so exhausted anyway?
excerpt from a short story I am writing, started in 2005, and finally I am re-reading it and recognizing the truth of that moment.
ps I just posted this on Facebook on the Tao of Turning Fifty page
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
This journey you are embarking on somewhere in your forties is a deeper phase to your woman's journey, a developing and a continuing and it involves a lot of unknowing. It felt to me like being in a labyrinth in the woods, a circular path that branches out and leads in so many different directions it's really easy to get lost.
What is the path of a woman's life? Especially a woman who decides to have children, who gives over her body to create another body. How does she regain her center (if she has lost it) and how does she keep those boundaries clear - me, us, them? How does she find herself again? Menopause is part of that journey towards finding yourself in mid-life.
Menopause is not an overnight thing. It creeps up on you slowly. You don't notice it happening until one day you realize your period hasn't come this month, or maybe you’ve skipped two months and your pregnancy test comes back negative. Then it comes back again for six months, so you forget there's something going on. Or suddenly you notice your PMS has increased to two weeks out of the month, and if you really stop and look at it, you see your emotional landscape is a little out of whack. Or maybe you just aren't sleeping well at night and all the Chamomile tea or hot milk can't calm the hyper little gerbil running in its cage between 2 and 4 a.m.
There are many different physical symptoms and lots of websites to describe them to you, everything from sore joints to hot flashes and heart palpitations. What my blog tries to point to is not the symptoms, but the journey. It's as if you are on the highway to Ottawa from Montreal, and took a side road without realizing it. You look up and wonder where you are, the landscape doesn't look familiar, the trees are in the wrong place, and the road signs post names of towns you don't remember or recognize. You need to figure out where you are.
One way you can honour your not knowing is by standing still. The first thing to do when you feel lost is to stop running in circles, stop pretending you know where you are. Stop and ask for help.
Someone who has been there before may help you. Someone who has been lost and found the way home again.
This mid-life woman's way has been largely uncharted till recently. The women who came before us perhaps felt 'women's stuff' didn't matter, or the subject was so taboo, no one actually talked about it. Or they were told it was just their uterus being hysterical. The male hero story describes the quest of the masculine, but where are the stories of the Feminine Quest?
It is time to honour your own knowing, your own woman’s journey. Questing. Know that the way out is the way in. Going down and in will lead you up and out.
To help you with this rite of passage, I have written The Tao of Turning Fifty, What Every Woman in Her Forties Needs to Know. Check out my website at www.jenniferboire.com for a free excerpt.
Take good care now, and stay in touch,
also on Facebook and Twitter
Sunday, October 06, 2013
I spent a lot of time blaming menopause for these symptoms, until I began to do some reading on the wonderful website of www.womentowomen.com. They have a ton of great articles dealing with women's health issues, and particularly issues that come to light at mid-life.
It's no secret that many women are overtired from trying to perform as SuperWoman, SuperMom or some combination of the two. Yes, we have more freedom to work in whatever jobs fulfill us, and attend school and marry who we like.....but more and more women are suffering from burnout and fatigue. With peri-menopause adding hormonal changes to the picture, starting anywhere in your early forties (you may have 7-10 years of pre-menopausal symptoms till you are officially 'menopaused' at average age of 51), it's easy to be confused about the cause of your fatigue.
Recently I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue in the second phase, by a functional integrative health coach. Now my doctor does not believe such a thing as Adrenal fatigue even exists, so I went on a web search for articles to send her. My search led me back to http://www.womentowomen.com/adrenalhealth/naturaltreatments-adrenalfatigue.aspx.
It may, in the beginning, look like a thyroid malfunction. My levels were low at my last blood test, so I'm being followed for hypothyroidism. But being more prone to finding natural solutions and working with a naturopath as well as my GP, I began to wonder if there were herbs I could take or dietary changes to make to help improve my health and overall well-being. This led me to the health coach, who gave me a survey that revealed the adrenal fatigue, but also that I was a metabolic protein type, (I've had blood sugar problems for years), and needed to eat more meat protein to balance my system (as well as cutting sugar and carbs). I won't go into the list of supplements I'm taking, but suffice it to say, I am also supporting my liver and adrenal glands with herbal supplements.
Four months after implementing these changes, my energy levels are back up, I feel less tired and draggy, and my mood is distinctly calmer. Soon, we will retest the leaky gut and adrenals, and see how much improved my health is from the inside.
Bottom line is, don't blame all your tiredness and fatigue on menopause, nor on your age. If something is out of whack, if you're not sleeping, or sleeping too much, do some reading on this very informative website. Check with a health practitioner, and be open to learning something new about the way our bodies operate at mid-life. We're going through changes that are not just hormonal, but it's all one package - our digestive enzymes are less efficient, we react more strongly to caffeine and alcohol, our libido is affected; if we have adrenal fatigue, we may be dragging our feet and even have signs of depression.
Unfortunately, not all medical doctors agree on this issue:
While adrenal fatigue is well recognized in other parts of the world, there has been some skepticism about it within conventional medical circles here in the US. Many physicians are quick to point to other health issues (depression, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism) that cause similar symptoms. We’ve found, though, that many times these issues are related to an underlying adrenal problem, and that treating them on their own with medications generally doesn’t solve them — but supporting adrenal function often does wonders.
Conventional testing only looks at extremes
Unfortunately, current tests that doctors are likely to recommend will look only at the extremes of adrenal imbalance that require immediate medical intervention: Addison’s disease, which occurs when the body’s cortisol production is severely deficient, and Cushing’s syndrome, in which the body produces excessively high levels of cortisol. http://www.womentowomen.com/adrenalhealth/effectsofhighcortisollevels.aspx
Being stressed around the clock, working two jobs - one at work and one at home - raising teenagers, caring for elderly parents, dealing with hormonal changes - women are increasingly called on to be always on, 24/7. This puts us in 'fight or flight' mode, coping with physical and emotional stressors that drain our capacity to respond. If you suspect this might be the case for you, consult a health professional trained in Functional medicine, or begin by reading the articles on womentowomen.com.
Hope you find this information helpful,
Friday, September 27, 2013
What I really am doing these days, besides resting in the sun? dancing in a Musical theatre show every night this week, and preparing for an interactive lecture at Beaconsfield Library, Tuesday Oct 1, 10 am.
And thinking about how wonderful my fifties have been.
And thinking about how wonderful my fifties have been.
There's a life coach somewhere who said we should keep track of our victories, especially when we feel a little down on ourselves for not accomplishing much. Looking back at my fifties so far, I can see a lot has happened.
My kids hit their teens, then grew up enough to leave home and attend University in 2 different cities.
My husband has joined three different bands, and I sing along in one of them.
I wrote a book, self-published it, and attended many workshops on how to promote and publicize in this age of social media. The Tao of Turning Fifty is popular with the women who attend my classes and retreats.
Am leading more and more weekend retreats for women, and day-long mini-retreats.
Learned how to SoulCollage(R) and became a facilitator, so I can share this intuitive and creative process of self-awareness with others.
Hired a web master and created a new website to share the books, CD, and classes.Took fab author photos (bartered with a student for a class).
Recorded Musemother Relaxation CD, at home, while looking at the lake.
Sang, recorded and helped produce Friends of Peace album in our home studio.
Began teaching Creative Journaling from my home, and now am calling it the Creative Circle.
Volunteered at the West Island Cancer Wellness Centre teaching journal writing for one year.
Organized a fundraiser Golf Benefit Tournament in Montreal 2012, with my husband, for TPRF and 60 Million Girls foundations.
Helped organize a Concert for Peace at the Hudson Music Festival summer 2013, fundraiser for TPRF.org and wrote an article about the successful (and unforgettable) musical event.
Recently enrolled in a year-long course (in French) to become a Facilitator of Rituals, with Ho Rites de Passage.
Performing with my quartet and in some group numbers, Still in the Mood, musical revue with Hudson Music Club at the Village Theatre. (a life-long dream!)
Performing with my quartet and in some group numbers, Still in the Mood, musical revue with Hudson Music Club at the Village Theatre. (a life-long dream!)
so there it is, only some of what I've done in my fifties,
I feel better already!