Contemplating the lines life has marked into my skin

 

“I wear my wrinkles like battle scars, having earned every last one slaying life’s dragons. They boast of my victories and some defeats while their beauty is a wealth of wisdom gained.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons

I caught sight of my face, now aging, the fine lines and the not so fine lines criss crossing once smooth surfaces.  Some I dislike, others worry me not.  Those emerging, vertical puckers above my top lip repel me (can I say they are from a lifetime of kissing and thus portray myself as a passionate woman? I think not). Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?

According to the pagan stages of womanhood I am on the cusp of Crone; no longer a Maiden and leaving behind the bounty of Mother. You know what? I am not associating with that label any more.  Once it did not concern me.  I embraced the wisdom of Crone but now, standing in this place, I reject the western connotations of Crone being dried up, past a used by date.  Instead I step into the Maga phase and embrace it.

Jane Hardwicke Collings explains that now women live longer and that motherhood begins later an additional phase of womanhood has emerged; that of Maga.  This is the extended Mother phase, after Mother and before Crone. Maga is the autumn season of a woman’s life, the harvest, an integrative place. The Crone is the winter season, the season of “retirement”, life review and letting go. The Crone’s life is inwardly focussed, she is in contemplation mode, a distillation of her life lived. She philosophises, tells stories, prays, gardens and gathers with other Crones. The changes to her body and brain necessitate a quieter existence, which enables a ripened access to spirit. She is the wise woman.

I’m not yet Crone and recent upheavals have helped me see I am not ready for this stage. Very recently I have been sent spiralling (when I know how I will write about it). The path before me and the environment around me changed suddenly, through no choice of my own, and while fearful, there is a future I have yet to create and I know am far from the retreat of Crone.  I am seeing a strength I had forgotten. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I have and continue to collapse into tears of heartbreak and eddies of despair but I glimpse an inner fortitude that is shining away – ready to light my path.

I reflect on my earlier questions – “Am I past my used by date?  Washed up, damaged, diminished?”  Oh, for sure, I have been damaged along the way but I am fuller and more sturdy as a result (or soon will be). Diminished – hell no.  Life throws many things at us and we can choose how we respond.  I am choosing to place delight and mystery, joy and love  of self back on the shelf.  I will no longer be sucked dry of them.  I allow the hidden order and secret meanings of my life to reemerge, into full view, and explore how that feels. I choose to bring my life into better alignment with my values and beliefs.

Am I past my used by date? No way. I sense already, while not fully transitioned from my old life into the new, that I am arriving at myself.  I can see a freedom that comes with a developing confidence; a lightness at shrugging off imposed (many self imposed) boundaries, routines and habits that kept me from being my true and authentic self. I kind of like the idea of recreating my life (deep breaths to stave off panic). Like Salvador Dali, I am open to life teaching me, even if that means more of those fine lines and wrinkles but if I never look in a mirror perhaps they don’t exist. Right?

“Let the labyrinth of wrinkles be furrowed in my brow with the red-hot iron of my own life, let my hair whiten and my step become vacillating, on condition that I can save the intelligence of my soul – let my unformed childhood soul, as it ages, assume the rational and esthetic forms of an architecture, let me learn just everything that others cannot teach me, what only life would be capable of marking deeply in my skin!”
― Salvador Dalí

A year of inspiration: Inspired by the daily prompt; wrinkle” and by my loving son who helps me to see the light.

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Heartache to happiness

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”
 John Joseph Powell

As as pondered what I had learnt this week and what I could share that was interesting and meaningful, I scrolled back through my posts. I’m not sure what compelled me to do so but I stumbled upon this unpublished draft and wondered why I had shelved it. Even as I wondered I realised, despite my willingness to share and be vulnerable, that perhaps this was too raw, too private, something to be kept under wraps. As I write this introduction I have second thoughts about sharing. I have a gnawing unease. Will people think I’m mad? Probably. Will people think less of me? Does it matter? Will people judge me and ridicule? Perhaps.

Then another set of questions were raised. What’s the point of sharing? What’s the value in it? Is it self-indulgent? Is it interesting and meaningful to others? Oh, heck. I don’t know. Maybe it is self-indulgent but perhaps it could be cathartic and healing. This story might set some eyes a rolling but then it might also hit a nerve for one or two. Interesting? Most assuredly not. But confirming and validating for some, perhaps.

Well, I figure, you  can’t change if you don’t feel uncomfortable. Right?  I’m feeling VERY uncomfortable. But it’s interesting too, to see that so much has changed in 12 months. This post was written a year ago (I had almost forgotten how desperately dark and ill at ease I was) and maybe that’s why it’s begging to be released now. When all is said and done I believe there is a place for celebrating change and growth and new found peacefulness. There is room for celebrating life and choosing a different focus. Life can change. We can change it with small actions and with a choice to be, think and act differently.

Okay, here goes. I have resisted making any changes to the original post, it is as I wrote it all that time ago.


Moved to tears over years of anguish. And for what?

I recently read a brilliant post by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she shared a personal experience of releasing pain after fifteen years. She eventually. After trying everything sat quietly and asked her body what it wanted her to do to heal a knee injury. She got a clear message and was from then on able to move freely after following the advice she received.

I’ve tried this strategy myself many times with mixed degrees of effectiveness. Too often my rational brain pops in to make its voice heard, as does my ego.  Anyway, I felt, after reading this I’d give it another go.

I sat quietly, hugged my knees to my chest and asked my body what it wanted me to do to help it heal. The answer brought tears to my eyes. Very clearly I heard the words “Love Me”.

I cried for several reasons. Imagine being unloved for 40 odd years. I cried too because after 40 or so years of not loving my body, I didn’t know what that meant. How was I to do this?

Suddenly all the hateful self talk, all the anguished bathroom mirror rantings and frustrations flooded back to me, all the times I’d compared myself to others and felt lacking, all the times I’d ‘hidden’, dressed in nondescript clothing, refusing to wear make up, not wanting to stand out, came flooding back to me and I was ashamed. I was also suddenly aware why things weren’t working, why there were imbalances, why there was extreme fatigue and lethargy. Wouldn’t anyone feel this after being treated so poorly?

I saw the pattern of my behaviour over many years mapped out in an instant behind my closed eyelids. I recalled too an agonising self depreciating tirade my sister had delivered just the week before. She was on a diet. Another one. To lose weight for a wedding in which she is to be Matron of Honour. My sister is the mother of four beautiful children. She is stunning. If you were to see her you wouldn’t think she needed to lose weight at all. She looks fabulous, stylish and she is an outrageously entertaining woman. I asked her why she thought she had to lose weight. Her response was that all the other bridesmaids were younger and skinny.

She felt she had to be skinny to be accepted, to be worthy. All this was said in front of her teenage daughter.  I couldn’t help but wonder how very damaging family patterns can be. I’ve read a lot recently about the importance of mothers teaching their daughters to love their bodies. How can broken women do that? How can years of patterning be reversed? Do we even realise these patterns exist? Does our walk match our talk?

I remember saying to my niece that our family had always equated being thin with being valued. That she should be aware that she was so much more than her body and that her personality, her intellect, her talents and skills were the bigger parts of her that contributed to the world, that her body needed to be healthy to help her reach her goals. There I was, telling her the very thing I couldn’t and had never been able to do for myself – value me for me and be grateful to my body for enabling me to move through life. There I was encouraging her to ignore what she heard us say and saw us do. I was asking her to understand what she’d just heard her mother say about her own body was unhealthy, irrational and unfounded. I was so impassioned that my beautiful, strong, energetic, sporty niece should not go down the same path we did, without realising I should have been preaching to myself.

I recall too, many years ago sharing my self loathing with a massage therapist and she didn’t understand. She had never experienced it. Her story was equally foreign to me. She told me she often looks in the mirror appreciatively and thinks “Hmm, looking good!”.

What to do? I’m thinking start small. I’ve been writing a gratitude note each day this year. I’m just going to shift my attention to focus on my physical body and thank it for something each day. Surely gratitude is one step along the path toward self -love.

I can barely see through the tears in my eyes. I guess I’ve just found a kernel of truth right there.

Sending you all love and wishing for you great wads of self-love and appreciation.

Transforming the meaning of struggle

Image courtesy of Tribesport

Image courtesy of Tribesport

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Albert Einstein

I am excited. My skin is tingling. I feel like all the neurons and synapses in my brain are firing all at once. I feel like there are hundreds of tiny catherine wheels exploding all over my body. I have that ‘just stepped off a roller coaster rush’ (not that I do that too often).

I had the opportunity to hear Dr Carol Dweck speak this morning. Dr Dweck is a leading researcher in the field of personality, social and developmental psychologies. She is a professor at Stanford University and is well-known for her work on mindset.

In a nutshell, a very small nutshell, Dr Dweck’s work looks at two types of mindset, growth and fixed mindset. When we utilise a growth mindset we believe skill and intelligence can be developed through effort and practice. With a fixed mindset we believe intelligence or skill can’t be changed.

Today Dweck said something that really got me thinking. She challenged us to transform our meaning of effort and struggle. Our current value system associates making mistakes and errors as something negative, something to hide and shrink from. Whereas obtaining new skills and knowledge with ease is praised and respected. There is a widespread belief that if you are smart things should come naturally.

How often have you heard comments like “You did that quickly and easily. That’s impressive.” or ” Well done, you got them all right. You must be really smart”?

What if we changed our value system and easy meant boring? What if we thought that anything we could do with ease was really a waste of our time? What would that sound like?  We’d hear things like “You did that quickly and easily. You must not have been challenged. Would you like to work on something that helps you learn and grow?”

What if we changed our value system and struggling with something, making and then processing our mistakes meant we were working on something worthwhile? What would that look like?

What if we changed our value system to reflect that struggle means we are working hard on something we value?  How would that feel?

I believe this would change everything. We wouldn’t bemoan our areas of growth. We’d share them with enthusiasm, in a collegial way, to gain understanding, insight and momentum for change and improvement. Instead of deficit thinking we’d approach our life lessons with innovation. We’d start to love ourselves a little more. We’d become more confident that we could face any new challenge with effort and the right strategy.

This concept has so many implications, for all of us. It’s got me wanting to race outside and turn cartwheels. It’s also got me wanting to process it more and work out ways to enact it in my life.

What messages have you heard recently that resonated with you?

Shannyn