Full disclosure: on Saturday, I did not march in the biggest women’s march of my lifetime (so far). I was at home recovering from a very long bout of the flu. Still, I sent my energy out to the marchers as I excitedly watched CNN covering the speakers at the Women’s March in Washington. They sent energy back and it moved me. Gotta say, I got high from all the signs! I rocked to the beat of Ashley Judd’s recitation of the poem “Nasty Woman”, cheered out loud for Madonna when she dropped the “F-bomb” twice, and listened actively and intensely for the wisdom in the words of my hero, feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
This moment in herstory, when hundreds of thousands showed up out of concern for the future and were joined by others at home like me, is the beginning of something. To take it forward, Michael Moore’s encouragement to everyone is to run for office and to phone their senator. That idea dovetails with the email I received from Why I March entitled “10 Actions for the first 100 days” which suggests that we each write a postcard to our senator (or in Canada our MP), make them our own, and share them with the world by posting them to social media. Certainly, crafting a unique postcard to send to government expressing my position appeals to me as a midlife woman and a creative person.
And, my midlife wisdom tells me that my first step is to Pause to find clarity about what I want next. Although composed well before the women’s march, this passage, written by Leigh in our upcoming book Just Push Play on Midlife , describes this moment so beautifully:
The Pause is what Crystal and I call those moments in our lives that push us to
really examine what’s next. Markers that by Midlife, ask us to be honest about
what we need, and what we want moving forward. Divorce, deaths, dramatic big
shifts at any time in your life, can bring on a Pause, but sometimes, it just
happens almost out of the blue. Some of you may be feeling it now,
as you choose this book to read, knowing
some wish is stirring inside you, causing uneasiness, as that deep desire, that
big idea, that craving, is forced to sit quietly, waiting and watching. A
Pause that happens in Midlife, has a profound chord structure. It’s a sound that
almost always includes notes of change.
Important questions, often from seeds as younger women we were
uncomfortable with, now need exploring. Questions we left unanswered perhaps
because we had difficulties vocalizing them. Midlife is as good a time as any, to
find your voice. This moment in our life forces us, no really demands us, to ask “What’s next?”
and at our age and time , “Is that all?”, and my favorite, “Why not me?”
When I see my generation and others joining in right action for women’s rights as human rights, my heart sings the very chord that Leigh describes, and poses the question, “What’s next?”. Today and each day I will Pause to playfully invite in the many wishes, cravings and big ideas that are awaiting this playdate. I will create and send that postcard and post it here. From its content, I expect that other actions will grow. Watch for it.
Perhaps you will try your own PAUSE and see where it leads you. I believe that when we are honest with ourselves, go inside and take our guidance from a deep knowing within the truth of our bodies, our power differs and is marked by compassion and connection, promise and process. Having begun the process with the Pause, we then may proceed with connection and love, rather than from command or demand. Let’s keep sharing that energy and keep moving in the right direction to that profound tune of change.
I am repurposing for myself, and you can do it too, yet another festivity originating in Mexico. Day of the Dead, also known as All Souls Day, is celebrated on November 2 (unless it is a Sunday). It’s a day to celebrate the dead in light-hearted, good-spirited ways, including by lighting candles and incense, and placing special items on a Day of the Dead alter, such as fresh flowers, favourite foods and fruit, sugar skulls, photos and other mementos of the dead. Another sort of offering is to tell a touching or humorous story about the dead. Leigh and I have done lots of that in Just Push Play On Midlife. By including stories about parents and grandparents, we are keeping our family histories alive. Today, I will tell my son a funny story about his great grandpa, who lives on in both of us. Problem is, there are so many of those stories, it’s difficult to choose one. I hope you also have the good fortune to have many stories from which to choose. Feliz Dia de Los Muertos!
In Mexico on November 1, sweets and toys adorn alters in many homes to honour the souls of lost children. In our book, we write about the importance of revitalizing or creating rituals to mark the passages of our long and varied lives.
Today, I will create an alter to my child lost to ectopic pregnancy over 22 years ago. I spent the last 21 years raising my child’s younger brother. Recently, with parenting the latter almost done, I began to feel pangs of loneliness for my first baby. Gone and not forgotten, that child and I can have our special time today.
I know Leigh and I are not alone in having lost our long-planned for, very wanted and much loved first children. Although the statistics vary, it looks like at least 15 % of pregnancies are lost. We needn’t be silent about them or ignore their ongoing role in our lives. Our midlife rituals and conversations may even celebrate them and our experience of them, just as we celebrate others we have lost.
- an unfilled space or interval; a gap.
“the journal has filled a lacuna in Middle Eastern studies”
- a missing portion in a book or manuscript.
Pause is also a synonym for Lacuna, a cool noun which means an empty space or a hole, where something should be. It’s used a lot when we talk about missing parts of books or manuscripts that have been lost, or had parts removed by censors.
What now, in Midlife, is your lacuna or unfilled space? What empty gaps are there that need words to tell the story, or laughter to fill the hole? What is missing, and yet, used to be part of your life story? These empty spaces, will become your portal for discovery.
This tree burns scarlet
Opening my heart and soul
Last message – Beauty
“I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard. My friend and I were some of the only women in the room. I was feeling nervous. I was a senior in college. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. And while we’re waiting for the exam to start, a group of men began to yell things like: ‘You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.’ And they weren’t kidding around. It was intense. It got very personal. But I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t afford to get distracted because I didn’t want to mess up the test. So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room. I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.” Hillary Clinton
Yesterday, I saw this quotation on my adult niece’s Facebook page. It reminded me of my own experience (and, no, I am not comparing myself to Hillary Clinton, I am observing our shared experience.). Clinton started at Yale law school in 1969. I started UVic law school in 1988, 19 years later. Still, at my going away party in Regina in June 1988, I was told by a friend that she did not support me going to law school because I was taking the place of a man who would have a family to support. Our society is so full of overt and covert messages about what women should and shouldn’t do. It continues to this day as so many American voters oppose Clinton for president, in whole or in part, on the basis of her gender.
I agree with Clinton that there is a quiet strength that comes with keeping steady during these storms, a strength that is often misinterpreted as being emotionally cold. This criticism of a woman would most likely bring praise to a man.
For those of us post menopause and returning to the intense creativity of our girlhood, I feel we need more than ever to find words and deeds and understanding to grow and nurture our strength as the foundation of our intense creativity. It will come from deep within us from our life experience, from our lost and found children, from our foremothers, and from our community of JPPers. I believe this is the next step to JPP.