Category Archives: Questions

This one’s for Barbara

My lovely friend and reader Barbara Anne has pointed out that the photograph in my most recent post is a bit doomy and gloomy. She asks for something more cheerful in lieu of a new post.

So here’s a photo I came across of sheer autumn joy. And a question: when was the last time you felt this happy, and if it’s been a while, what would make you this happy again?

Autumn joy

 

 

Spending time making a living

Wildflowers in a field

Writing my morning pages today, my thoughts were spinning on the familiar hamster wheel of keeping afloat financially.

I found myself writing the phrase “making a living” as I jotted down thoughts on how to do so. But then the peculiarity of the phrase struck me. Do we really “make a living”? What does it mean? Because the phrase is generally used in a financial sense, it seems to mean “making money”. Is having money the same as living? No.

And then I also found myself writing about how I spend my time. Again a financial reference. We “spend” money and we seem used to the idea that we also “spend” time.

These words seem very utilitarian, and if we are to live joyful lives, they can’t be utilitarian ones. This seems to be pointing me towards a shift in my thinking, towards joy, or to quote Joseph Campbell, to “following our bliss”.

I’m aware that people living in abject poverty no doubt feel both ground down and seriously pissed off when they hear about philosophies such as voluntary simplicity or if they happen to come across this Gospel verse:

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6 28:29)

But for those of us living lives of relative privilege, don’t we have a duty to think outside the constraints of “making and spending” and turn towards joy in our lives? Make our lives in the truly creative sense of the word?

I believe that in our journeying through the last part of our years on this beautiful planet, living creative lives grounded in simplicity is the way to joy. What about you?

Sleeping late

Feet-in-bed

First, I want to say how grateful I am for all the comments on the blog and privately that I’ve had from readers keen to see this space continue when I raised the question of its future recently. I’m really touched by your enthusiasm. So we will definitely keep going. I will write when I have something to say, whether that’s twice a week or twice a year. I’d also love to hear from you if you would like to contribute a guest post to Pilgrim’s Moon. A couple of people have made suggestions and I’ll be following that up shortly. Meanwhile, on with the show…

Being gentle with ourselves

Yesterday, Saturday, I slept until nearly noon. I’ve only done that on a handful of occasions since I was a teenager and used to do it all the time. I had an exhausting day on Friday, setting off at 7.30 a.m. to drive across country to a recruitment event we’d organised, arriving home at 10 p.m. having spent all day talking to strangers – interesting but never easy for an introvert like me. I had intended to get up at my normal time on Saturday but that just didn’t happen.

When I did wake up, I was refreshed. I knew my body and mind had needed that long, luxurious sleep. And simultaneously, I felt deeply disappointed with myself: I had “wasted” a morning.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to think that a little luxury is a “waste”. I wonder why. Is it a generalisation to say that women find it difficult to “treat” themselves, or is it more to do with that good old Calvinist work ethic which is alive and well both sides of the Atlantic? Is it maybe a subconscious feeling that because by definition we have less time left than say 2o years ago, taking time out for treats is taking from our remaining time?

Little luxuries

I hope many of you reading this won’t have a clue what I’m talking about. I hope that for you, taking time out for little luxuries (whether it’s sleeping late or something else) is just part of your life.

But for those of us who guilt trip about this sort of thing, let’s make a pact. As we grow older, let’s allow ourselves what feels luxurious, let’s be self-indulgent from time to time. None of us knows how much time we have left so let’s enjoy it.

What are you going to allow yourself this week that you don’t normally? What little (or big) luxury will you indulge in?

Is anything left to say?

Friends

I haven’t written at Pilgrim’s Moon for months. For two reasons:

  1. I have a “day job” which has become a multi-headed hydra taking up not only my day, but my evenings and my weekends
  2. I wonder whether I have anything left or anything new to say about women growing older in positive and subversive ways

The first reason is being given close attention, and there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

The second reason: well perhaps that’s where you come in. Are we there now, do you think? Has this generation of baby boomer women blossoming into wise crones finally turned the tide? Do we now as a first-world society finally SEE and recognise age as a gift? Is there still a need to write about it, should we simply be living it?

The arguments for

In popular culture we are represented much more frequently. For example, in film and television we now see lead roles for older people: romantic love is shown to be not only the preserve of the young and to be not the only interesting fact of life. A few examples: the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, the great new Netflix series Grace and Frankie, the forthcoming 5 Flights Up with Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman, anything with Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren.

There are so many wonderful books to read – see my Amazon store for just a few.

Individual older women are more and more prominent and influential in business and in public life.

The arguments against

And yet… women still discover my Crones Manifesto and express a sense of relief and often surprise that they are not alone. As we age, we face complex issues around health (our own and that of others), around how and where to live, around money.

Many of us still haven’t learned not to talk ourselves down: I stumbled across the wonderful phrase “hor-moaning” to represent the ways in which we are tempted to moan about our aches and pains, about our hot flushes, about how awful growing older is and how invisible we feel. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Which is not to say, of course, that women don’t have challenges around menopause and the physical, emotional and social aging process. I like what Jean Shinoda Bolen has to say about this in her book Crones Don’t Whine:

Grief is not whining. Even whimpering is not whining. Maybe some body part is not working well or is painful – and you are doing what can be done, medically and otherwise. You may have financial limitations. Whatever it is that you are struggling with can be told to people who need to know, want to know, or as updates to friends with whom you share the ongoing story of your life. However crones don’t bore others with a litany of their symptoms – organ recitals or tales of woe – that have an air of performance or bragging. A crone knows she and her troubles are not the center of the universe and knows other people have problems, too. A crone doesn’t indulge whining children, or whining inner children. Especially her own.

Many things don’t change. Women of all ages are being still being threatened and mutilated by men. Climate change deniers and religious fundamentalists are influential. Simone de Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex in 1949, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963 and still the capitalist patriarchy is our world model. I believe the perspective and wisdom of older women have a lot to contribute to all these issues.

So to those of you loyal readers still out there, what do you think, is there still a need for us to gather as friends over a virtual glass of wine or a cup of tea, talking about our experiences of growing older and looking for ways to make a difference in our world? Shall we still cackle?

Holiday hiatus days

Cappuccino, espresso, americano and latte coffee

These few days are a little strange, aren’t they? Not quite the end of the holidays, but definitely in that streeetchy time between the Yuletide festivities and the start of a new year.

Some of us will be feeling a little, er, over-nourished and physically ill at ease. Some of us have faced our first holiday season without a loved one. Some of us have been lonely, or ill, some have tried not to think about the whole thing, some have enjoyed it immensely. Or combinations of the above. And it’s easy to feel a little bit odd right now, as we wait for our lives to get back to whatever is normal for us.

To take advantage of these in-between days, it’s a really great time to do what writer and traveler Chris Guillebeau calls the Annual Review.

So let’s grab a cup of coffee or whatever your pleasure is and have a think about this.

Looking back at the year just about to leave us can be a creative and eye-opening opportunity. Where did you focus your energy and attention? How much time did you spend doing what you really love? What went well, what didn’t, what plans had to be slightly or radically rethought.

(Wo)Man plans and God laughs!

What do you want to happen in 2015? How can you adjust your course to follow what your heart longs for?

There are several practical tools to help with this process. Chris Guillebeau’s is at the link above. I’ve found it hugely helpful in the past. This year, I’m going to try another tack, which is Susannah Conway’s workbook Unravelling the Year Ahead. I hadn’t heard of her until a couple of days ago when someone on Facebook mentioned her. So far I rather like her approach.

But it doesn’t really matter what tools you use. It can be enormously helpful just to sit down and think about what you really want from life and how best to set out on the right path for this year, even while knowing you’ll reach unexpected twists and potholes. I do feel strongly that as we grow older, it’s more important than ever to focus on what brings us joy.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. (Dr Howard Thurman)

 

Light and darkness

Lofoten, Norway

‘What does he sing of?’ Arren asked the mage… ‘Of the grey whales, and the albatross, and the storm…’ (from The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin)

Beyond my window as I write this, a dramatic fire-streaked sunset is submitting slowly to the darkness of the longest night: Winter Solstice.

In Ursula Le Guin’s book The Farthest Shore, the prince Arren and the mage Sparrowhawk witness the Long Dance, performed on the longest night each year by the Children of the Open Sea. Far out beyond any land, they live on rafts, swimming like dolphins, joyful and alive. All of the longest night, they dance by torchlight, and the chanter sings, tirelessly, until dawn.

But the story tells of magic being sucked from the world by one man’s fear of mortality, leading to madness, namelessness, and to the death of dragons. And so the chanter falters in his song, for he can no longer remember the words.

Every year has its share of horror and harrowing events, but 2014 seems to have taken a sharp twisting turn towards inhumanity. I feel that hardness and lack of compassion in myself, often, sitting like a stone in my heart. Not to the extent that I could conceive of, for example, killing children in their classrooms, but I sometimes wonder how many steps away that might be for each of us. What events and convictions might make us feel that torture is acceptable, that mass kidnaps and rape are legitimate political weapons, that it’s somehow alright for carers to abuse people who are elderly or have disabilities, that buying ivory when elephants are being hunted to bloody extinction for profit is just a trinket.

I wonder if, at this sacred time, we can look openly into the darkness and find some answers there.

And I also wonder if we can find the joy in our lives. Sometimes we feel guilty about our experiences of joy, about our laughter, when so much is going on that is terrible. But that’s when we need to own our joy the most. It keeps us truly human and holy – in its original sense of being whole.

At the darkest time, try closing your eyes, and look within. In the distance is a tiny pearl of flame. This is the sun within you. As you breathe, the solstice sun grows in power; reaching out its rays, it touches your heart, bringing life, and renewal. May its blessings fill you with light. (from The Winter King by Danu Forest)

 

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