Tag Archives: Women

When Good Is Good Enough

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I have been the MAD Goddess for so long now I have to dust off my math skills to figure out that this alter ego, the Middle Aged Mouthpiece in me, has been around for almost half my life.

At early 30-something I was, maybe, inching my toes into the stream of midlife. Never-the-less, the MAD Goddess voice was strong and she had a lot to say about aging while female in our American society. She still does at 60.

I may have been young in years then, but I felt old emotionally, if not physically. I had aging parents, three children and a husband. I worked part-time and honed my writing skills in whatever minutes were left over. I was always in the middle of something and being pulled in more directions than I cared to follow.

I came of age during the first wave of women told we could have it all. I’ve often said women were not having it all, so much as we were doing it all; and most of the time we were doing it all by ourselves, despite spouses and extended family.

For women in two career households, there might have been extra money for living the good life, whatever that might be. But more often than not, it ended up being spent on childcare and hired help to do the domestic chores—formerly housework, still largely women’s work.

Even now we continue struggling to figure out the pros and cons of all this upward mobility, and don’t even get me started on how the prevalent middle class dream paints a pretty picture of white-privilege America, while brushing over the class subjugation of people of color.

But there is something else on my mind today. Prompted by a social media post, it’s something I’ve been noodling over for a while now. I call it the ugly duckling syndrome, the idea that we have to undergo personal transformation to be shiny, happy, better people than we are.

As with much in our society, there is a money trail to follow. The pursuit of perfection is big business in America. We’re told daily that we must have perfect, white smiles, fit bodies, eat super-foods, wear dazzlingly laundered clothes, live in Pinterest-perfect homes and shit in sparking toilet bowls.

If it isn’t bigger, better, new or improved, it isn’t good enoughAnd that includes us. So, not surprisingly, with the arrival of middle age for the women who’d been doing it all, came a new industry—personal reinvention. Now that he kids were at least old enough to be somewhat self-reliant, possibly even old enough to leave home, middle class women had a sliver of time on their hands and money in their designer bags.

Instead of forking out their hard-earned cash for child care, they could hand it over for courses of self reflection and personal development that encouraged them to re-imagine their life, presumably one that was better than their current situation. There was a lot of misdirected belly button gazing going on, a lot of faux spiritual connection and self-care than translated to spa services. We were all supposed to come out virtually glowing with the outward perfection of inner enlightenment.

As the MAD Goddess, I was on that bandwagon for a while. I became a certified personal coach, a midlife midwife. I developed a four step process for achieving desired, measurable outcomes, whether a client wanted something as straightforward as finding a better job, or as esoteric and finding deeper purpose.

Being the rebel that I am, or that the MAD Goddess in me is, I focused my coaching on finding the right fit, not changing to fit in. I didn’t work with clients to reinvent or reimagine themselves, as if they were somehow inherently flawed or a broken thing that needed to be repaired. Instead, I encouraged them to rediscover who they’d always been,  to remember what gave them joy—or at least satisfaction if joy wasn’t in their emotional took kit. I led them in returning to their core values and embracing good enough.

Self improvement is not a bad thing. I think we all secretly desire to be better in some aspects. I’d like to be a better artist, I want to play an instrument, I want to write a best-selling novel, I’d like to eat healthier, be more physically active, and dress better. I think I should be a more patient wife, a less demanding mother and a more involved grandmother.

Some of those desires are to please me, and some are to please others.  The motivation behind both is the desire to meet some standard of my own design that is a combination of gut feeling and what I’ve been spoon fed to believe. Bottom line? I believe I should make changes that would presumably make me a more likable and lovable person to others. Pressure!

One thing about moving from middle age into Crone, is that I’ve stopped obsessing over what others think of me, if they like/love me or not. My circle of loved ones is growing smaller all the time, because I no longer have the inclination for wearing many masks or doing the exhausting work of pleasing everybody.

Because I love my husband and kind of want him to stick around and keep loving me, becoming more patient and understanding is worth the effort it takes. Same with going a little softer on my daughters and being a more hands on grandma. And as much as I like being all hermity, writing, painting, gardening, foraging and wildcrafting with plants and herbs (basically being village witch), I nudge myself to make time for my friends, because they are an important part of my life that I don’t want to lose.

And here’s the thing, these people who I love and who love me, they know my house is a mess most times, they know I’m a sort of absent-minded professor too focused on my projects, they know I’m mostly low energy and would much rather sit on the deck and share a bottle of wine these days, than go out to make a show of having fun.

These people don’t care that I’ll never play an instrument, that my art is mediocre or that my novel didn’t make any lists, let alone best seller. I’m good enough for them just the way I am.

More and more, I’m finding I’m good enough for me.

 


The Ties That Bond

Sandy & Judy - 80s

Bad photo – good friends. circa 1986

I reunited with a very good friend last year. She is one of those friends that you wish was family, until you realize if she was family, you’d probably kill each other. I was seventeen when we met, she was 23 and newly married.

She likes to tell people she taught me everything I know about dating and men. I was young and didn’t want to be tied down in any serious relationships. She gave me tips on dating two guys at the same time. They key was, they had to be from different schools. We still laugh about this.

The first time we drifted apart, she was getting divorced. It was complicated. We’d met when my folks and I moved into the house next door to Sandy and her husband. My 24-year-old brother had just died from leukemia and Sandy’s husband helped ease our loneliness.

Neither my parents nor I took sides in their divorce, but Sandy was the one to leave the house next door, so we had more ear time with her husband. It turned out, he wasn’t always truthful. Eventually, the wolf came out from his sheep’s clothing and moved on to his next prey.

I married, and in a very odd turn of events, my husband and I purchased the home Sandy and her ex had lived in. I found some of Sandy’s personal things left in the house. In returning them to her, Sandy and I drifted back together and for the entire 23 years I lived in that house, despite extensive remodeling and doubling its size, she called it her house.

There were new bonds to deepen our friendship. Sandy had remarried and we were both at the point of starting families. I easily become pregnant, Sandy had difficulties. My second daughter was a year old before Sandy and her husband adopted what would be their only child. It had been a long and frustrating journey for them, and I still remember the early morning call announcing, finally, their success.

Miffed at being waken before dawn, I grumbled at her that whatever she was calling for had better be good. It’s another of the things we still laugh about.

Through raising our kids, working, and stumbling through the ups and downs of marriage, Sandy and I were inseperable. Not a week went by that we didn’t get together, and most of those times we were cooking up some fun.

There was the Halloween she showed up on my doorstep, after kids and trick or treating were well over. “Can Judi come out to play?” she asked my husband. There was a band and costume contest at a nearby pub. Neither of our husbands were socialites, making Sandy and I each other’s best dates.

“I don’t have a costume,” I said. She was wearing her husband’s letter jacket, had her hair  pulled back in a high ponytail, jeans rolled at the cuff, and white tennies on her feet.

“You have your husband’s letter jacket, don’t you?” Our husband’s graduated from the same, rural high school. She knew there was a jacket matching hers, hanging in our closet. In five minutes, we were out the door—rock and roll Bobbsey Twins.

More precisely, thanks to the mock 45-records Sandy had pre-made out of cardboard and that we pinned to the backs of our letter jackets, we were the Sue sisters—Peggy and Run Around. We didn’t win the costume contest, but we got a fair share of attention.

Ours was that friendship, there for the good and the bad alike. The bad included two more divorces, one for each of us. I took to saying we’d been to hell and back together.

We both remarried, and for Sandy the third time was the charm. She finally found her soul mate. Three years later, he died of brain cancer.

His funeral was 65 miles from my home, and smack in the middle of a week that brought a hundred year flood to our area. Major highways washed out, bridges collapsed. Everybody cautioned me not to take the chance of traveling. Everybody except my husband, who hugged me and said he’d get me there.

After that, we started saying we’ve been through hell and high water together, nothing could separate us. We were wrong. Grief separated us.

Approximately a year after the death of Sandy’s husband, I suffered a huge falling out with my youngest daughter. I pressed too hard. She ignored calls, blocked me on her social media accounts and finally threatened to exile me permanently if I continued my relentless pursuit to “work this out”—it felt like her death. I’m happy to say it was resolved after a period of estrangement.

Grief is complicated, and there’s no rhyme or reason to how any given person navigates their journey of loss. Sandy and I drifted apart. Perhaps it was because where one of us had always been the shoulder the other needed, now we both had need and no capacity to give.

There were a few attempts to pick up the pieces, but one or the other of us was always too busy, not motivated, weary of trying . . . That went on for almost four years.

Last summer, my hubs and I were hosting a yard party to thank a group of his friends who’d helped us replace our roof when winter damage and then heavy rains caused major leaking. I texted my old friend: Having a Raised the Roof party. Would love to see you here, plus one if it applies.

To my great surprise, she responded almost immediately, I’ll be there.

I wondered, and worried a bit, over our meeting again after such a long separation. Would it be awkward, cool and cautious? When it happened, the heart took over where the brain hesitated. The minute I saw her approaching, without a second thought I jumped up and ran to her. We came together, melding in a tight hug.

Sandy and I picked up where we left off, never missing a beat. We have not spoken of the separation. There is no need. Just as we still finish each other’s sentences and laugh at all our private jokes, we both know the path of grief and pain the other had to walk alone.

Our friendship has new parameters. She travels, a lot. At any given time I have no idea where she might be. I send texts, Where in the world is Sandy Carmeneigo?”and receive answers, Skiing in Wyoming, Hiking in the Boundary Waters, or Visiting the grandkids!  

It doesn’t matter that we aren’t joined at the hip, as we once were, we know this is for the long haul. We used to laugh about spending our final days on this earth together, terrorizing the staff at some nursing home. I hope that’s at least another twenty years off, but, more and more, I’m beginning to think that’s exactly how this story will end.

 


The Lie in The Power of Attraction & Positive Thought

revelation-2937691_640There is an entire industry built around the (false) premise that if your life is in the crapper, you have nobody to blame but yourself. You just aren’t trying hard enough, you don’t have the willpower it takes. You simply aren’t attracting positive energy into your life.

Books on the power of attraction and manifesting your dreams fill the personal development/self-help isle at bookstores and libraries. Self-help gurus have made fortunes telling you how to erase your tapes, design your dreams, and create your destiny.

In a second level iteration, the positive thought programming has filtered into the world of multi-level marketing, an industry weighted toward attracting women (mostly) with the patronizing promise that they can make six figures or more if they just put their mind to it and stay positive.

I once bought into that multi-level, positive power, attract your dream, and live the life pitch, in what seems like another lifetime. It lasted about three months for me, until I heard the motto T.D.T.D, too dumb to doubt. Just do everything your upline associate tells you without question and you too can be driving a new car, wearing a mink coat, and earning six figures a year.

The lie at the core of manifesting your success/dream from nothing but willpower and grit, is that if you fail, you simply didn’t try hard enough. It’s all your fault.

If the single mother, going to school, burning the midnight oil to pass her tests and taking care of her children every day, fails in a multi-level business that requires her to be a sole entrepreneur and keep a team of downline associates motivated in order to increase her income, she just wasn’t trying hard enough.

Or the woman who lives in an urban neighborhood where the median income is below poverty level and she doesn’t know a single soul who can spend one dollar on miracle make-up, miracle diets, magical healing oils or overpriced clothing that WOPs (women of privilege) wear to run errands, she wasn’t aspiring high enough.

Or the woman trapped in an abusive relationship, whose neanderthal husband does everything in his power to see her fail (details not necessary) wan’t owning her own power.

The truth is life is a crap fest, shit happens and chaos abounds. And just because really bad shit happens to you once, doesn’t mean it won’t happen again—and it sure as sugar doesn’t mean you somehow attracted it. I know. I lost a step son and a future son-in-law in two separate car accidents six months apart. Having received that 3 a.m. call every parent dreads once, and then again, that I’m somehow immune to the tragedy repeating itself.

The truth is, we don’t have control over everything. We can direct our lives, we can conduct our behavior, we can work really hard and we can succeed, but if we don’t it’s not necessarily because we weren’t trying hard enough—or that we’re unwittingly asking for it.

The trick in success, I think, is to know what you want, to take action that moves you towards your goal, and avoid behaviors and actions that don’t support your outcome whenever you can. Then hope you catch the right breaks.

There are certainly self-development tools and techniques that help, and accentuating the positive can’t hurt. Changing the way you perceive a challenge can change the way you approach it and improve your chance of success. Self-fulfilled prophesy really does work to an extent, because it seems that the brain doesn’t distinguish between reality and imagination or visualization.

Tell yourself something is true often enough, and you’ll begin acting as though it is. Act as though it is, and chances are it will become true. Of course all this success manifestation is limited by the laws of nature, physics and odds. If you are 5’6″ and well beyond the age of growing, you cannot think yourself into being 6’2″, and odds are a miraculous medical procedure isn’t going to do it either.

But, what about magic? What about witchcraft and spell casting? Is it all a hoax, or maybe a lot of coincidence we just want to believe is magic? Well, think about this: everything that exists in this world outside of nature began as nothing more than a thought.  From the wheel, to the device your are reading this on that allows me to type words and you to read them 100, or 1,000 or 10,000 miles alway in a matter of seconds was once just a thought. And would have once, most definitely, been thought of as magic.

Creating something from nothing more than a thought must mean our thoughts are, or at least can be, incredibly powerful when backed up by intention and action. So think positive, work toward your goals and dreams, recognize any limitations, ask for help when you need it and can get it, and don’t blame yourself for setbacks beyond your control.

In other words, go out and give it your best shot—make magic happen.


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