What we are passionate about changes after age 40. Outer successes—career, family, and community—are replaced by inner seeking of answers to the great philosophical questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What can I do to make a difference? We need both courage and compassion to face fears of change and letting go, while at the same time honestly answering those great questions about what engages and feeds the soul. How can we find what we are passionate about? How can we fan the flame of our hearts? This episode focuses on the nature of friendship and its continual celebration, midlife miracles, and the quest for what keeps us excited, motivated and feeling alive.
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How She Move
Leigh and I have been best friends for over 30 years. Leigh is the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. I can list her qualities and accomplishments endlessly. Yet, if you asked me what first attracted me to her, I wouldn’t say her sharp intelligence, endless kindness, amazing sense of humour, steadfast loyalty, warmth, heart- no, I would have to say- boy, how she move!
It was the early 80’s- a time of big hair and bad fashion. Our dear mutual friend Lorraine decided that Leigh and I should meet, and to that end took me to Leigh’s aerobics class. I arrived in the school gym not knowing much about aerobics. I prepared for what I had seen on TV – I had the headband, the wristbands, a yellow and fuchsia polka -dotted leotard, with fuchsia tights and legwarmers. How could Leigh have missed me? She looked like she popped out of an aerobics video — lean and graceful in her purple leotard, with long dancer’s legs and infinite smiling patience with her students who did not know left from right and were always a beat behind. We warmed up for several songs on a tape played through her ghetto blaster, until we hit our stride with “Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show. That’s when I knew – that’s when I really knew. When I saw how she moved, how she felt that music and moved, I knew we were sisters in dance. Everything grew from there.
And, that one brave act of showing Leigh myself, my awkward yet enthusiastic self, changed everything for me. It created an open lane for fun, happiness, and goofiness that I had not ever allowed myself. To be seen and to be accepted moving in that lane was a complete surprise and gift to me. To that point, I had been the good girl, the calm girl, the serious girl, the problem solver. Suddenly, to the beat of those 80’s tunes, I became someone more. In our friendship, the fun we had in the gym doing aerobics went out into the world as we went out onto the dance floor in our local Arthur Murray dance studio and watering holes. In aerobics, and then in dancing, I felt my inner power and the power of my physical body come together in the perfect expression of my true self — powerful and free of others’ opinions. Doing it with my best friend magnified the good feeling in the sharing of it.
For Leigh and I, there has been so much dancing since then: dances in bars and night clubs before we were married, dances at our weddings, dances at parties, dances on vacation, and now dancing into midlife. You might even see us dancing down a beach, arm in arm and singing.
When I hear Dr. Northrup talk about the importance of moving through space to be an ageless goddess, I know in my bones and in my muscles she’s right (Goddess Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-being) . She emphasizes the importance of functional fitness in getting older without aging. To that I would add, when it feels so good, just do it.
Beginning with our connection through fitness and dance, Leigh and I have remained over the intervening three plus decades, flexible, fit, trim, and best of all optimistic about the future. When we spend time together, we love to get out and walk or hike, swim, ride bikes, or play volleyball or tennis. Dance remains at the top of our fitness pyramid. We are not shy, nor are we retiring, in our dance floor forays. This is where our bodies, hearts and minds join joyously in a celebration of what it means to truly be alive. Our Young adult children would be embarrassed, and yet we are exhilarated. When I dance now, especially with Leigh, I am in that same timeless lane of fun, happiness and goofiness I entered into that gym in the ‘80s. We literally shake up and wake up.
Sometimes I dance alone, especially if I need to cheer myself up. Neuroscience tells us that there are pleasure and reward areas in the brain, some of which are connected with motor areas. This explains why dancing can be pleasurable. Dancing with another might even add more pleasure because the cerebral cortex contains mirror neurons, neurons that are activated when we perform an action and as we watch someone else do it. According to Scientific American, September 26, 2008, neurologist John Krakauer speculates that when watching someone dance your own brain’s movement areas are activated as you unconsciously plan and predict how the dancer might move. The speculation is that this leads to the pleasure of seeing someone execute a movement with expert skill. When this is combined with music, which helps us refine our movements’ timing, coordination and rhythm, even more pleasure is added. In short, it’s pleasurable to watch others in motion, to be in motion ourselves, and to move to the music.
Yes, the pleasure center in my brain needed me to be teacher’s pet – I fell for my aerobics teacher and she fell for me, leading to a lifelong friendship, and much dancing into our 7th decade of life and, I hope, well beyond. Boy, how she move!
How will you move in midlife and beyond? When was the last time you did something physical with abandon? What simple steps can you take — perhaps even beginning with walking — to bring movement through space into your daily life to improve your fitness level? Who might you invite to join you for a walk, a swim, a dance?
Like many of us baby boomers I had a kaleidoscope as a young girl. You know those cardboard canisters with a bold ring of red wrapping around the tube. I would hold up my kaleidoscope to my right eye and turn the bottom enchanted with the beautiful changing forms. An assembly of mirrors, angles and ordinary objects working in a very scientific way, creates a kaleidoscope’s intricate symmetry but to me, it felt more like magic.
No matter how long I played with that fascinating device or how many times I turned the bottom barrel, I would never see exactly the same pattern twice. I loved that! Even the simplest beads and buttons, lacking any real beauty on their own, were in my kaleidoscope’s magic tube transformed into endless beautiful designs. The secret of the kaleidoscope is the principal of symmetry as the tumblers shift and sort new items into view and the mirror reflects that into beautiful patterns.
Wouldn’t we all like to turn some tumblers on our own midlife lives and create something beautifully pleasing and uniquely ours like the kaleidoscope patterns?
Passion is what we can tap to do it.
Passion is what we use to create and make things we love, big and small.
Passion coaxes our creativity to breath and grow, and color begins to seep into our lives like a damp brush on white linen. We enjoy our own company as we happily lose track of time swimming in this creative flow. Some of you know your passion already. It’s that thing you can do that never tires or bores you.
It’s that pleasurable process that takes us out of ourselves, if only for a little while.
We are all born with passion.
Yet some may not know, at this time in their life, what their passion is and will need to explore. Passion can change and go through a complete metamorphosis in Midlife.
How do I find my passion? That’s a big question — think smaller- and think -What have I always been curious about? What do I find fascinating? Chances are that curiosity will steer you towards what spark of passion lies hiding.
You can also discover your passion by asking,
When did I hear about someone else’s success and feel slightly jealous it wasn’t mine?
Jealousy is often a good indicator that there is something your Passion recognizes as also belonging to you and wants to use it.
Passion doesn’t like being rejected or ignored. Passion wants to play!
And Passion performs best when it gets a daily workout.
So enjoyable this creative playtime!
It’s powerful energizing spirit gives your day a new uplifting perspective, as you make and create, and allow new projects time to incubate and grow. Be careful of who you share your work with, too, in these early stages.
If you share too soon and get criticism or resentment, it could drive your Passion underground. Wait with your new found friend, until you are both more confident of its talent.
Our Passion to create, be it art, poems, furniture or fashion, Is what separates us from the rest of the species. It is what we are here to do!
When we fail to tap into our Passion color drains from our days like a picture left in the sun.
We feel restless and uneasy. We feel empty, really, working without satisfaction.
Passion is our Midlife disrupter. It magically transforms the ordinariness of daily living and like the glass beads and buttons in our Kaleidoscope transforms our world into intricate designs of great beauty and we feel the peace and clarity that cones with authentically connecting to our source.
Pick up a deck of cards from the Thrift store, and see what you can color, paint, decoupage, draw, glue, stick, trace, and stencil onto the playing card. Leave an area on the back, that you can add your contact info. You can cover up the entire card, or incorporate some of the hearts or diamonds. I like to trim my cards with different scissor cuts which remind me of my Mothers pinking shears.
They are quick and easy to do, or as elaborate as time allows.
You can bundle some themes together, or make a set of cards, maybe one for every Pillar of the book completed. Send one, send nine, send often, and of course, post your best Spark card on the jppmidlife.com website.
Here is an example of two that Crystal sent me in the mail today!