Friday, April 18, 2014

START SPREADIN' THE NEWS...

Back in February two of my gal-pals cooked up a scheme for the three of us to take a spring trip to New York City.  Hmmm…  Well, I don't travel much.  And never without Hub.  I'm not particularly proud of of this.  I want to be seen (and want to see myself) as a free spirit, ready for adventure.  The truth is, I've been sort of an anxiety-ridden, stay-close-to-home gal for a few years.

I didn't used to be this way.  This anxiety grew stealthily -- rooted in an overwhelming desire to protect my children, to keep us all safe; rooted in periods of anxiety and deep depression -- generally overwhelmed by the life I was living; rooted in a job that was all about anticipating worst case scenarios and avoiding liability for wrong decisions; rooted in a health issue that kept me from moving more than two feet from my cell phone or leaving the house without a friend or family member -- or ever staying home alone.

Fear seemed to grow around me like the English ivy we planted 30 years ago that now threatens to choke out all the natural growth in an area of our property.  We were naive; we did what we thought was right at the time.  We now live with the consequences and the painstaking and back-breaking work of undoing that which we had done.  Suffocating, it's time to rip out the roots of this creeping, confining thing that engulfs and constrains, both in the yard and in my psyche.

Every New Year I make an intention (something more solid and thoughtful than a resolution) -- something I will manifest as a personal growth goal.  My 2014 intention is "I will say 'yes' with a discerning heart."  I have spent the past couple of years with "no" being my default response to invitations and opportunities.  Or I would say yes and then regret it deeply, wishing I'd said no.  So, when this intention came to me at a ritual gathering to honor a dear friend's transition into retirement, I was surprised.  I threw the word "fear" into the raging fire over and over, and felt myself opening up to something new.  I felt myself saying "yes" and decided to get out of my head and let opportunities and invitations sink into my heart, following my intuition instead of the lists of pros and cons my mind created.

So, I said yes to New York.  My mind wanted me to know I would regret this decision, while my heart wanted me to get excited and feel happy.  So far, 2 days from boarding my eastbound plane, my heart is still winning the battle.  I keep waiting for the dread, the pit of my stomach tied in knots, the tears and terror.  Instead, I'm reading guidebooks, planning what to pack, visioning myself in Central Park or at MoMA or at a Broadway show.

No one is more surprised than I.  Something has shifted.  Something new is happening.  My life is opening and my heart is happy.   I see the old predilection toward saying no and being afraid as a time of dormancy, a time of transition, a time in the darkness.  I want this to be the start of a new era in my life, which would be so amazing -- to be on the cusp of yet another "lifetime" within this singular grand and amazing stint on earth!

So, this big experiment is underway.  Stay tuned for more from NYC….cause if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere….

At least, that's the view from here…. ©

Monday, April 7, 2014

WISE TO BE W.I.S.E.?

Why do women squabble and quibble?  Do men do this?  If we are dabbling in stereotypes anyway, I suppose men do have their career hierarchies, muscle mass, and penis size issues to deal with.  But, being a woman, I think I have a pretty good view from the front on a lifetime of tits (haha) for tats that females seem to bandy about.  And we all have our Egos which, poor things!, just insist on having their way.

So, over the weekend I was at a party when a woman from my church, maybe 10 years my junior, and whom I admire for many reasons, said she needed to talk to me about something.  That "something" was the name of the women's group I've facilitated for over 4 years.

We call ourselves the W.I.S.E. Gathering -- Women Investigating, Supporting, and Exploring.  It's a group formed to give voice and visibility to women over 60.  So yeah, we card at the door; gotta be 60.  We love welcoming those into our midst who have "come of an age" to join in.  Initially we got some guff for what some called our practice of age discrimination (there were numerous other all-ages women's groups and gatherings, just sayin'), but that criticism has largely passed, I think.  Yet now I was hearing this:  It's really the name of the group that is the rub.  "If you are the WISE women does that make us (younger women) the "dummy" women?"

My initial thoughts, upon hearing this were along these lines:  "Hmmm…no, of course not!  Hmmm…I feel bad about this.  Hmmm...this is pissing me off.  Hmmm….interesting that I am being triggered by this feedback.  Hmmmm…what the hell?!?"

I was determined not to be defensive, to breathe, breathe, breathe, and keep listening.  The name, it was suggested, should be something like "Silver Sages".  (Uh-huh, not too keen on using stereotypical physical characteristics as an identifier, but maybe that's just me.)  The rationale she shared is that wisdom can be gained at any age, but you have to be old to be sage.  My take?  Semantics.

But I have been pondering this ever since.  I am sort of amazed that some women in my congregation are annoyed by our group because of a word, one that in traditional cultures is an honorific used to denote an age and stage of life.  I agree, age does not automatically confer wisdom.   I know some batshit crazy and very unwise women of all ages.  

Yet…having lived a long time means having (usually) gathered the experiences and perspectives that seem to even out the psychological volatility and emotional vulnerability of a more youthful age.  It seems to focus one in a way that was not possible when younger.  There is time to reflect, to see the end times not that far away, to wrestle with the urgency of life and to do the work and feel the joy that commands our immediate attention.  But this time of inner exploration can often force us into a state of marginalization by our culture (and our friends and families.)  There is a drive to "keep busy" so we can still feel vital and be seen as such.

So what jazzed me about starting this group was to keep us more than "busy" with kitchen duties and social event organization and book club facilitations -- all incredibly noble and worthy pursuits, but not at all the complete picture.  I was starting to see a "kindliness" veneer slapped over the fire I knew was still smoldering.  I wanted to make a place where we could shout out our anger, pain, sadness, and JOY at living fully, completely, and meaningfully as Elders.  I wanted to create a place where the word "elder" didn't get mistaken for "elderLY".

At our first meeting 4-1/2 years ago I expected maybe 5-6 curious women to show up.  The small room overflowed with 24 women -- and we have averaged about 18 for each session since.  Struck a nerve, apparently.  Filled a need, apparently.  We did a little consciousness-raising exercise that first afternoon.  I asked women to shout out cultural stereotypes of aging women.  The list we came up with consisted of 24 negative characteristics and 8 positives.  After meeting together monthly for 8 months, raising consciousness, rejecting society's biases, and forming a sisterhood of women sharing passions, activism,  hopes, and dreams, we looked at the stereotype exercise again.  By our last gathering of that first year we had accumulated 81 positives against 39 negatives!

And to me that was what this is about:  remembering who we are.  Or maybe for the first time affirming who we are.  At 63 I am among the youngest in our group.  That means that most are a good deal older than those who take exception to our name.  It seems there is never an end to discrimination against women, both overt and covert, but for most of the women in our group they came of age at a time when women were denied so much in so many ways it's almost comical to think of it (if it wasn't so sad.)

I became an adult in the early 70's -- a time that swept me up in women's liberation activism and created opportunities that were unheard of for women 10 years my senior at the same age -- and not even recognizable to women 10 and more years younger, who reaped some of those benefits.  (I will never forget a woman in her early 30's who publicly thanked me and my age cohorts for the work we did that allowed her to take so much for granted in her own life -- to play sports, go into a non-traditionally female career, to own her own home.)

Reading Mark Nepo's "Finding Inner Courage" this morning, I ran across his reference to psychologist Erik Erikson and his work on identifying psychological stages of development.  The task of old age (he says 65 and over) is to "find meaning in the whole of one's life in the face of one's immanent death, and the good outcome (of this search) is expressed in the virtue 'wisdom'."  We are doing this work together in W.I.S.E. and I hope I don't sound defensive when I say that whatever wisdom we have come by, those of us born before 1954, was hard won and ours to embrace in a name that affirms.

And I know well that all of us, regardless of age and regardless of what name we give to our gathering spaces, need a place to come together to do the work of our distinct ages and stages of development-- honoring, supporting, and cheering each other on wherever we are.  Maiden, Mother, Crone, or Wise Woman, Sage, Elder…we're all in this together.  Let's get on with it.

At least, that's the view from here…. ©


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NEW NAME, SORTA

Happy April!

This is no joke, just an explanation.  I decided to change the title of my blog slightly when I googled "The View from Here" and found about a million websites and blogs already with that name.  So I got all creative and decided to call mine "My View from Here".  So clever!

Also I changed the blog address from that long and unwieldy one to a shorter version that I can actually remember.

And I added my first name.  Slowly but surely coming out of the shadows!  (But you can still call me Ivy -- my hippie name.  :)  )

Thanks for your support of this blog by reading and commenting.  I love you for it!