It will come as no surprise to anybody for me to say that … a LOT has happened since I last posted on LOACA Life’s Blog site!! Life has changed for all of us in ways we never could have imagined.
I already thought my retirement had been anything but smooth. I was already wandering around in the wilderness looking for the path that would lead me to discover the retirement-life person I was supposed to be. What was my new purpose? Little did I know that rather than orienting, I was about to be thrown into a huge disorienting place (along with all of you!). In reality I had been in a place of disorientation since I made the decision to retire! I was moving further into a larger place of disorientation and disorder!
According to Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and contemporary theologian, we are now living out a time of Order, Disorder, and Reorder.* In these recurring times, we find ourselves in what is called liminal space. These are the spaces in between what was and what has not yet come. We go through smaller and larger times of liminal space all of our lives. That is where we find ourselves now in the midst of a huge global time of disorientation, change, crumbling understandings of how we live our lives, much divisiveness, and a very uncertain path.
I am reminded here of my retirement mantra. Three years out from my retirement that mantra, “Not all who wander are lost” still gives me some hope! It has been a time of much sickness, death, upheaval, injustices, and much grief, sadness, and sorrow. However, wandering in the liminal space is not all bad and indeed opens the door to much possibility for fresh new perspectives and change that has needed to happen for a long time. If we are willing to listen and try new things there is possibility for something good to come out of the ashes of the grief and sorrow.
We are in the midst of these difficult times as Ladies Of A Certain Age, whether or not we want to be – or even recognize that we are. The best way to orient ourselves is to be open to the new ways of life that are manifesting. LOACA women are already in a time of change, aging, and reorienting! We are uniquely positioned to move forward in the new ways of being that are before us!
What I found during my time of Sheltering in Place for over a year due to the Corona Virus, and in the midst of such global disorder, was a new sense of contentment. As an extrovert living almost like a hermit no one was more surprised than me! This contentment did not always keep the anxiety and fears at bay, but it helped me to come back to a realization that even in the midst of chaos, contentment is possible with a willingness to change our focus and perspective. This does not mean we are not sad, grieving, and even angry at what is happening. It means we can find a place of balance and resilience in the midst of the emotions we are feeling.
On my daily Seize the Day calendar, the quote was:
“A contented heart is an even sea in the midst of all storms.”Anonymous
How is this possible?
In about 62 AD, a man named Paul, who was one of Jesus’ earliest followers, wrote a letter to the congregation in Philippi, Greece. In the four Chapter, he writes:
I am not saying [these things] because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him [Jesus] who gives me strength.
Verses 11-13 of Chapter 4 in The Bible’s New Testament Book Philippians
The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder by Richard Rohr, OFM (Franciscan Media, 2020)
On July 1, 2018 I entered onto a most unfamiliar course. I retired at age 71!!
That day I journeyed from a familiar, well-traveled course where I knew what I was doing, who I was, and what my gifts and skills were … that day I began journeying on unfamiliar course to what I would find was a wilderness place.
I launched on this journey exhausted. I had just downsized over half of my belongings while working my normal 50-70 hours a week and always being always on call. Yet when I finally got to a rest stop I found myself one hundred miles away with a garage full of boxes, no office, no title, no colleagues and coworkers just down a hallway, no daily structure, and … quiet. Actually, the quiet part was really nice!!!
It didn’t take long for me to drop a heavy box on my big toe, resulting in a lost toenail a few months later. In the middle of September I fell and broke/crushed my shoulder, resulting in a reverse shoulder replacement … a high-fracture risk diagnosis due to significant osteoporosis … high blood pressure … very high glucose levels (I was diagnosed with diabetes less than two months before retirement began but now the numbers were spiking) … months of physical therapy (which resulted in sciatic issues from the exercises) and, as though all of that wasn’t enough …an issue with the meniscus behind my knee from climbing on an elliptical….
And, oh, I almost forgot to mention that one of the first surgeons I saw after crushing my shoulder walked into the room and his first words were “I hope you now how badly you have damaged yourself….”
It felt like my whole life had been damaged! In less than three months, the previously strong, confident, knowledgeable understanding of myself had changed into a “damaged, aging, exhausted old woman” who for months wouldn’t be able to put on her makeup or fix her hair, would have trouble getting dressed, and who would find herself living in elastic-waisted pants!!
I was truly on an unfamiliar course, wandering on a wilderness road I had no idea how to navigate! I was in between what was and what would eventually be. I needed to ascertain my bearings; acquaint myself with the environment I seemed to have landed in; and adjust to the facts of my current situation.
Ascertain. Acquaint. Adjust. These are part of the definition for the word orient, as in orienting oneself. When I was asked to consider writing this Blog on the concept of orienteering, I wasn’t even sure what that meant (and, honestly, I am still working on it)! What I’ve come to know without a doubt, though, is that I was in need of orienteering myself to a new way of life.
My mantra for my retirement was: “Not all those who wander are lost.” I knew I would need to wander for a while in the new retirement environment, but those first six months were not what I had in mind!!
You may know that my Retirement Mantra is a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s a line in a longer poem that now seems quite appropriate, although I hadn’t seen the longer quote until recently.
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
Although I’ve lifted this out of the context of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythical world, it does ultimately reflect a lot of the hope that I have as I reorient from my “damaged” life.
It’s taken a lot of new work, learning, and prayer. The doctor I ultimately found to do the surgery (not the “damaging” one) came in to do the normal now-which-shoulder-is-it? check just before the surgery. As he checked and marked my arm, he saw the tattoo on my wrist and asked me what it meant. I told him it was the Tree of Life and represented my faith journey. He said, “Well let’s breathe some new life into this arm!!!”
And the journey began from damage to new life. It is a continuing journey. One that will take more time and reflection.
Join me next month to learn how my orienteering pilgrimage began and where I am on the unfolding journey!
On the way home from a sales meeting, my new manager praised me for my confidence. She went into detail about the way I look, my energy level and valuable work experience. My mood immediately improved as I responded to this unexpected display of admiration.
I am courageous, I explained. I take on situations most people wouldn’t want to. I always have and always will. Why? I learned courage by moving every one to two years of my childhood. Over and over, I was the new kid. I had to prove myself to teachers, classmates and coaches. I didn’t see failure as an option. Thus, I stretched myself, working hard in school, trying new sports and volunteering. Most of the time, I succeeded. Then, I got to do it all again at a new school in a different part of the country. These repeated efforts built my confidence and gave me courage.
What if I had grown up in one town and had lifelong friends? I ask myself this question often. When I compare myself to people with more geographic stability, I feel a deep longing for roots. Yet when I go inside for the source of my confidence, I know the frequent moves made me who I am today.
I am a woman who has made the most of life. I raised four children and have had several rewarding careers. I’ve lived in 11 states, owned six houses and made friends around the world without leaving the United States. I’m physically active. I learned to ski at age 48 and now can tackle most mountains. I’ve prac-ticed yoga and meditated for ten years. I celebrate my 55th birthday this week and feel fantastic.
My life hasn’t always been a bed of roses. At 37, I was a divorced mother of four including three-year-old twin boys. My older children were aged 12 and 9.
The divorce was devastating for them. That was tough, but I was grateful for the release from my burden.
My kids’ father and I had married in college. As devout Catholics, we saw marriage as our next right step. I quickly found out he had anger issues. He broke my tennis racket in one fight during our first six months of marriage. I knew I had made a mistake. But I stayed in the marriage for 16 years because I believed God wanted us to stay married forever. I don’t believe that anymore. I believe God wants us to love one another and love ourselves. Staying with a man who was verbally abusive was not loving myself. I finally got the courage to leave when he locked himself in the bedroom all day on Christmas because he was upset about something my dad said to him. A friend said I had a long rope and it finally broke.
My ability to take care of myself financially had a significant impact on my ability to leave my husband. For the first 12 years of my career, I was a television news producer. Not only is this career super-stressful, but it is also relatively low-paying. After the twins were born, I quit my producing job at WDAF-TV in Kansas City to care for my kids full-time. The twins were almost three when a friend called to ask if I wanted to work in public relations for the Kansas City School District. I jumped at the opportunity. The position paid well so I could afford day care. And I felt passionate about the mission of helping inner- city children learn.
One phone call from a friend had ignited my new career in public relations. Breaks like this are a notable part of my journey. By following friends’ invitations and my intuition I have moved almost effortlessly from one position to the next.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” the Roman philosopher Seneca said. I prepared for my TV news career by attending the Missouri School of Journalism. When I began working in PR, I attended state and national conferences. I eventually became president of the Missouri School Public Relations Association. I studied for a year for the exam to become accredited in public relations. Having that credential boosted my confidence and increased my stature in the field.
The third phase of my career began in 2005, when I landed a development position at the University of Missouri, Columbia, my alma mater. The university was in a billion-dollar campaign. I had the honor of recognizing million-dollar donors with parties, media placements and publications. My manager, Linda L’Hote, taught me everything she knew. A dozen years later, I continue to be challenged and motivated in the development field. Today, I own Beth Hammock Philanthropy, a Kansas City-based consultancy helping nonprofits raise additional funds for their missions. I’m paying it forward—teach-ing leaders what I know about development, marketing and communications.
Now that my kids are grown, I look back and wonder how in the world I juggled demanding jobs and raising good kids. I give credit to the Innergized Life. Through yoga, prayer and meditation, I stay connected to God. I have access to the power of God anytime, anywhere. God is so many qualities, including love, wisdom, joy and prosperity. Knowing I am a living display of these qualities helps me show up in a positive way wherever I am called.
I have always felt close to God. My parents took us to mass every Sunday. By the time I was in high school, I was a lector, teaching Sunday school and leading retreats. When I got divorced, my husband and I had been presenting Marriage Encounter weekends for three years. I valued marriage, but not enough to stay in a bad one. Continuing in the Catholic Church was difficult for me because I felt guilty every time I went. I was supposed to have stayed married, I thought.
My counselor suggested I try Unity. My first experience with Unity was at Unity Temple on the Plaza, the Unity movement’s flagship church. I cried then and at many Sunday services thereafter. I was crying for both joy and in grief, letting go of my relationship with Catholicism.
Unity recommends meditating daily. Adopting this practice changed my life. I can settle my anxious mind and find a place of peace through meditation. I often hear God speaking to me when my mind is clear. Love wells up inside me and I am prepared for whatever comes my way.
At the suggestion of my brother, Dr. David Kearney, I added yoga to my self-care practices. David’s research is about the impact of meditation and mindfulness training on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. He recommended I take a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction class, so I did. This class gave me a foundation for using yoga and meditation for creating more peace in my life. It works.
I’m a firm believer in re-creation—getting out of the office to give myself time to think. I have a lot of my best ideas while walking my dog. A daily connection with nature is a must for me.
When I travel, either for work or to visit my children, I seek out the most beautiful place around and spend some time there. For example, when I flew to Spokane, WA to watch my son play college football, I gave myself four days for the trip—two for travel, one for watching the game and one for me. Immediately after arriving, I went to Anthony’s, a seafood restaurant perched above Spokane Falls. I indulged in three of my favorite foods: salmon, peaches and raspberries on a salad. Then I sat there and worked for a couple of hours. I chatted with the staff and felt right at home.
After my visit to Anthony’s, I wandered along the river and came upon a food truck festival. Since I had just eaten, I relaxed by getting a chair massage. Then, it was off to Sandpoint, Idaho, about an hour northeast of Spokane. I had been to Sandpoint once before and fell in love with its sandy beach and mountain views. My Airbnb host was surprised I had just one day for the visit. Being content with a one-day retreat is an essential component of my Innergized Life. The highlight of my visit was practicing yoga on the water’s edge on a perfect day. Blissful moments like this re-charge me.
I have written this chapter one day after moving from St. Louis to Kansas City. I am surrounded by boxes and one may think my life is in disarray. I know it is in perfect order. Three months ago, I hung photos of peonies on the walls of my new apartment in St. Louis. Six weeks later, I received an offer to work with Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden. I decided to move back to help raise more money for Powell Gardens. I visualized being surrounded by flowers and now I am.
This story first appeared in Living the Innergized Life, Transforming Ordinary Moments into Extra-Ordinary Memories, a book of inspiring stories by women compiled by Cathy L. Davis (2017). To purchase a copy for $12.95 plus shipping, contact Beth Hammock at Beth@HammockCommunications.com.
HAVE YOU SCHEDULED YOURS YET?
As Summer rolls out, many of us are ready to enjoy the fruits of Spring’s labors. Despite the heat, we’re looking for opportunities to venture outside where we can stop to smell some roses and watch butterflies and dragonflies and, if we’re lucky, some fireflies fluttering with the wind.
Nature’s changes – whether they’re associated with a season, equinox, solstice, or moon phase – inform us both consciously and unconsciously. When we take the time to anticipate or pay attention to them, Nature’s changes can support the changes in our own lives: whether those are changes we’re contemplating or changes we’re in the midst of experiencing. Unfortunately, though, our personal changes too often capture our attention, stop us in our tracks, and hold us hostage; and we’re unable to find the support they offer us.
This is when we need someone to walk and talk with us, but not just any someone. We need someone who can draw us outside of ourselves – someone who can help us recognize, see, and use the support that’s waiting inside. This is when we need someone who can help us become aware of the winds of our changes, recognize our budding possibilities, and fasten our gaze on our future opportunities, the blooms, that are waiting to appear.
This is when we need a Nature Walk/Walking Retreat.
A Nature Walk/Walking Retreat is different than merely taking a walk with someone. Soul Speak Nature Walk/Walking Retreats take place in local parks and are personalized for each Retreatant’s needs. Some Retreatants come with a theme in mind or an interest they want to explore. Others come to consider concerns they’re having or a decision they have to make. Still others come because they need someone to talk to or a safe place to vent.
A Soul Speak Retreat begins a couple of days before your scheduled Walk, when you answer a few questions about the perceived purpose of your Retreat and whether or not you have any requests, needs, or physical limitations. With your responses in mind, your Retreat Facilitator designs a short series of activities that you will do together during your Walk, activities that have been intentionally chosen and personalized just for you.
The in-person segment of our Nature Walk/Walking Retreats last approximately three hours (no, we don’t walk for three hours!) We spend the first thirty minutes or so greeting one another, reviewing the path of your Nature Walk, and becoming acclimated to our surroundings. When we finish Walking, when we have about an hour left, we’ll spend time reflecting while we enjoy light refreshments.
Your Retreat doesn’t end there, though. Two days after our Walk, we’ll provide you with a brief Follow-up Session to talk about any additional support or direction you may need.
Nature Walk/Walking Retreats can be created around any theme and have proven helpful for individuals, couples, and small groups of up to five people. To get more information or to ask questions – or to schedule your Summer Retreat! – you can reach Philana at PhilanaCrite@Yahoo.com or 937.346.7384.
My Sunday morning walks of late have included box turtle rescues and Great Blue Heron sightings. I often look to see what the spiritual meanings of these encounters might be. Turtle, as you can guess, means to slow down, change your pace and enjoy the scenery. It asks that I connect with my creative inner self and get or stay grounded. I have also encountered the Great Blue Heron, flying overhead or standing at a pond as I drove by. I have a long fascination with this big water bird. As I searched the spiritual meanings, I felt deeper messages surface. Heron brings the message of stillness, determination and independence. Patience is essential whether hunting in a marsh or discerning an emerging opportunity. More importantly, Heron lives in three elemental worlds; air, water and earth.
Paying attention to the natural world and all its signs and wonders, I ask myself many things. I reflect, like the heron, on the past while hunting in the present. I focus on what supports my growth and well-being. Turtle reminds me I have all I need within and without. The ability to create the life I want to live is as close and integral a part of me as the turtles shell.
Like each of these creatures I move between worlds; earth, water and air. This holds true for you as well. As we face ourselves in this time of sheltering in and opening up, it’s no surprise at the protests that are surfacing. I/we have seen and learned things about ourselves; some of which is distasteful, unattractive, disturbing yet undeniable. And even more we know to continue to deny our revelations will result in fates potentially worse than death.
As we move into more new phases of life and living the deeper message seems to be remember to secure stillness and tranquility of spirit for yourself. The natural world is right outside your window, in your gardens and on an evening walk through your neighborhood or local park. Pay attention to your self, the people you encounter and the creatures large and small you share this planet with (plants included). Receive them and use this time with all its elemental surprises as part of a daily retreat. Remember to share and give thanks; there’s more to come.
We live in a disembodied culture that does not easily tolerate or honor the challenge of change, and it is often invisible to us. In a recent New York Time’s article about Disney reopening the doors to its theme park in Florida in the midst of the state having record breaking new cases of Covid19, the writer said, “There are signs at the entrance reminding visitors, ‘Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.’ No matter how terrible things seem outside the gates, here is the place where everything is ok.”
According to this writer, Disney is where we can all go to make everything ok, even in the most terrible of times. All of us … unless, of course, you happen to be a Lady Of A Certain Age, and then you are usually the villain or the Wicked Witch like Ursula and Cruella De Vil or, possibly worse, simply non-existent like all the mature mothers and grandmothers and aunts missing from all the fairytales.
Of course, Disney is not to be held solely accountable for purveying the idea that there is something wrong with ladies of a certain age, or for the idea that we must buy our way into being okay. We live in a culture that, in general, focuses on dysfunction, pain, and ways to escape. We tend to overlook that we live in a body that is designed to respond to change from the moment it came into existence until long after it has taken its last breath. We may deny it but we are a part of nature and, like nature, we have the capacity to be truly whole. Susan Aposhyan in her wonderful book Natural Intelligence puts it simply (emphasis is mine):
If we examine the natural world, we see integration and wholeness…Where there are two impulses, both are integrated. We do not find conflicting impulses anywhere in nature, except the human being. Somehow we have developed body-mind dualism, the ability to repress and ignore parts of ourselves which often results in opposing factions within our beings.
What Aposhyan calls “body-mind dualism”, I often call an “anti-body attitude” or “real body oppression.” We live in a disembodied culture.
In my work I’ve come to understand that most of us are not taught any sort of language that honors the diverse, dynamic reality of the experience of living in a body. We are taught to focus on the actions our bodies can perform and the things we produce, especially what thoughts the thinking brain organ might be creating. When we do focus on and try to give language the physicality of our bodies, it is often because we are experiencing stress, pain, and/or judgement. Rare is the template in our culture that helps us understand that the body communicates with us: it constantly shares information of balance and ease as well as the loss of each. Unfortunately, so much of our experiences create overwhelm in our nervous systems to such a degree that we have communally lost our ability to access our body wisdom. Although we have little awareness of it in our culture, there is a language of the body that originates from and supports acceptance and curiosity.
Moving from Disembodiment to Embodiment
The language of embodiment is what I invite you, LOACA, to consider learning, possibly for the first time. I believe it is imperative.
It is my impression that most women whose bodies are experiencing some part of the natural process of the stages of menopause will be, in some way, pathologized, shamed, experimented on by the medical establishment, possibly surgically altered or urged to consume products, diets & exercise programs promised to restore them to some semblance of the fantasy of “youth.”
Ah, fantasy. I love fantasy. It has been a major coping strategy for me for most of my 56 years, especially when things have gotten really tough. So, if fantasy has been your go-to coping tool, feel no shame. Claim it.
And also know this: fantasy can be dangerous, it is dangerous, when it denies the reality of your body, when fantasy shames or negates the body that you are in, YOUR body, right in this moment. It is unsustainable and depleting. This is a fantasy based on the pervasive oppression in our culture against real, living, moving bodies. This kind of fantasy destroys creativity, beauty and authenticity, and does not support a LOACA Life.
To live a quality of life focused on thriving with a sense of purpose and ownership, you must actively practice loving your whole self.
To age without getting old, you must embody the process of aging as a process of change.
Living an Embodied LOACA Life
How do we do this? How do we create the space needed to live a LOACA Life? Here are some suggestions I’ve found work for real women like you and me:
- Explore ways to be and move with more comfort IN THE BODY YOU ARE REALLY IN. Not what someone says you should. Not the ways you moved twenty years ago. Learn to be in your body FULLY … RIGHT NOW.
- Take the time to slow down and consider the sensations of your body.
- Consider the sensations you are experiencing as information calling your attention to what you need to tend, for you.
- Give attention to yourself and your body. Take time to tend to your whole self for the sake of itself. This is your time to learn how to care for you, maybe for the first time or maybe more deeply than you’ve ever done before.
- Of course, to do this you’re likely going to have to replace your destructive thinking with constructive thinking; and
- Overcome the stories our culture’s dominant paradigm tells about LOACA.
Of course, all this takes a bit of energy and intentionality and can feel like too much to do on your own. Don’t give up before you’ve started. Find some already-empowered women who have embraced the Crone within themselves to talk with you and to support you in your journey. You are worth it!
Victoria Day is indeed a loud and proud LOACA! Victoria practices living life fully for herself every day with dance; meditation; gardening; and laughing, loving, and eating good food with her partner of sixteen years. She spends her days supporting others to live life more fully, in whatever way this means for them, through their processes of change into their bodymindspirit. You can find out more about Victoria by visiting Embodiment LLC – Live Life More Fully and Victoria Day LPC LLC on Facebook. See our about-us page for more about Victoria and how to access her!