What about tomorrow?

image by gwire

I bet you thought that for this third stop in our time machine we were going to travel to the future, didn’t you?

Well we are, but only to tomorrow. More about that in a minute.

Don’t live in the future

I don’t know about you, but I spend too much energy imagining what the future will be like, and too little time living here and now.

It’s understandable; we want to believe that in some mythical future, we’ll be perfect, our lives exactly as we want. But let’s be honest, now we have more time behind us than in front, it’s important to live right now.

Balancing our lives

So then how do we balance the past, present and future?

If you’ve been playing along with this series of posts, first you will have visited your teenage self. As teenagers we dealt with core issues of identity fuelled by raging hormones… hmm, well perhaps those long-ago selves were dealing with transitions not so very different from those of us who are menopausal!

Which brings us to our examination of the present. What did you discover? What delights you, what do you experience as negative?

We’ll talk about the negatives in a post next week, but for now, let’s talk about your unexpressed dreams and how to knit them together with your delights.

How are your teenage dreams reflected in your life now? What part of those dreams was deeply true to your real self? And which of them do you still yearn for?

Unrealised dreams

image by seyed mostafa zamani

Sometimes, what we think we want actually reflects a slightly different yearning. It can be helpful to look at early dreams as an indicator of the gifts you are called to express.

Was it your dream to be a vet? Perhaps what’s really important to you is to develop a talent for healing, or to rescue mistreated animals. A dancer, singer, artist? Perhaps your truth is to create beauty of some kind, or to entertain others. A perfect wife and mother? To nurture and teach. A business mogul? To lead, to make a difference, to wear wonderful clothes. (Just kidding with the clothes. Mostly.)

Visualisation

So choose one of your unrealised dreams and take it for a mental test drive. What would your life be like if this dream had come true? Sink into it, live it, visualise it. Ask yourself ‘how do I feel’. (This is often difficult for those of us who think too much, but our emotions are signposts to our lives.)

What about tomorrow?

So tomorrow, take the kernel of that unrealised dream – the feeling that it provoked – and think of one small action you could take that would move you closer to that feeling.

I can’t tell you what it might be for you, but I’ll share my own dream.

I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to enter that magical world of creation in which just the right pattern of black and white marks on paper spins golden threads enclosing a universe of wonder. And the feeling entering that dream gives me is one of connection with some current around me, some force (and I say that on Star Wars Day!) that I can feel but not see.

So I’ve decided that my one small action tomorrow will be to go out into my garden early in the morning, and to write a haiku based on whatever it is I see there. It doesn’t matter if what I write is objectively good, it will be a way of tapping into the seen and unseen world around me.

What about you?

Time machine: to the present

Last Friday’s post invited you to travel back to your teenage years and ask that younger self a number of probing questions.

Who are you right now?

image by sharon d pruitt

Today, let’s climb into that time machine again and travel to the present. Now I’m just guessing, but I suspect that much of your life today is far removed from what your teenage self thought it would be. I’m also guessing some things are wildly better than she imagined, and a few feel like you’re being strangled by some parasitic plant.

This stop in our time travel requires the notebook you used to travel back to your teenage self, a sharpening of your instincts and some honesty (no-one will see what you’re writing).

Put your feet up. Reflect on your life as it is now. Do not over-think this.

Quickly write down four things about your life now that fill you with delight. Now describe two things that make you feel sick, angry or despairing to the pit of your stomach.

Use your instincts and your heart to identify these things. Do not think about what should delight you. If you think spending time with your cousin should be wonderful and in fact it depletes your energy and you dread seeing her, stick that in the negative column. Often we can identify what is destructive in our lives by our energy levels and by an instinctive sense that we are not being true to ourselves. Joy means living in ways large and small that are congruent with what we believe in and with our deepest, most real selves.

The next stop

So gather those clues together with your teenage story, and at the last stop of the time machine on Wednesday, we’ll begin to unpack it all.

Elsewhere today:

By serendipity, there’s a great post on congruence at Christine Kane’s blog today. And while I’ve been writing this, my mind has gone back again and again to today’s announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s death. We mustn’t make this about hatred. Heather Plett puts it well here.

Travel in a time machine

So catch me if you can
I’m goin’ back

Dusty Springfield (song written by Carole King)

image by guy david

In my post Growing older disgracefully, I pointed out that one of the major advantages of getting older is the opportunity to pause, take stock of our lives, to adjust our path and reinvent ourselves.

Explore your early hopes and dreams

So we’re going to find out exactly how to do that. First, we’ll climb into our trusty time machine and go hurtling backwards to revisit our younger selves.

If all goes well, you’ll spend a few hours exhibiting irritating signs of vagueness and preoccupation. You’ll exclaim in amazement, mumble to yourself, get misty-eyed, angry and laugh out loud.

Why?

Because exploring our early hopes, dreams and actions is a really fine way to bring ourselves up short and steer a new course into the future.

Oh I know what you’re thinking (at least some of you are): we can’t plan the future, something will always happen to interrupt our plans. Well yes, of course, that’s life. But if we focus on our dreams and hopes we stand a much better chance of living the way we want than if we just sit around waiting for things to happen.

And this is pretty much the last chance to reinvent ourselves: after all, we’re entering the home stretch now!

Stepping into the time machine

I want you to carve out a few quiet hours for yourself with a notebook, a pen and your imagination. If you live alone, switch on the answer-phone, if you live with others, go out and find a quiet table at a coffee shop.

Now pick a memory of yourself as a young teenager and write it out in detail. Write in the present tense. For example:

I’m sitting in my room listening to Jefferson Airplane, it’s a sunny day and I’m supposed to be getting ready to go to church. I really don’t want to go, but Mum and Dad will be so disappointed…

What are feeling, what are you wearing, what do your surroundings look like, is there anyone with you, what can you touch, smell, hear?

That’s your starting point.

Ask yourself some questions

Who were you as a teenager? Write down the answers to these questions:

  • image by ladydragonfly

    Who did you love?

  • Who did you hate?
  • What was your greatest hope?
  • Your biggest fear?
  • What music did you listen to and why?
  • What books did you read and why?
  • Did you love your family or hate them, or a mixture of both?
  • How did you spend your time?
  • What clothes did you wear and why?
  • What did you feel about school?
  • Who were your friends and why?
  • What sexual feelings did you have, who were you attracted to?
  • If your teenage self had three wishes, what would they have been?
  • If you could choose an animal to symbolise who you were as a teenager, what would it be?
  • What were your assumptions about your future?
  • In your deepest, wildest, most secret imagination, how did you see your future?

Reflect

OK, that’s our first stop in the time machine.

Reflect on your answers and look out for the second part of the journey on Monday.

 

Growing older disgracefully

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun
Katherine Hepburn

portrait of jane birkin by olivier pacteau

I‘m so glad you’re here, reading this first blog post on my new site for women wanting to grow older on our own terms.

Have you ever felt a frisson of rebellion at the idea of aging elegantly? Is there only so much good taste and good grace that a woman can stand? Do you feel there must be space somewhere between a blue-rinse perm and a genteel updo?

Yeah, me too.

And yet rebellion for the sake of rebellion is another type of conformity.

So how can we enjoy and value what our years bring us?

Looking back

We may not feel we’ve changed much inside since we were younger, or perhaps we look back on our younger selves with amazement or disdain. If we’ve had children, they’re probably grown. We may have a life partner; we may live alone; we may live in community.

Perhaps we sense in some ways we’re beginning to come full circle. We begin to remember those early days of full-on activism and radical feminism. Or perhaps we begin to regret that we were always too reserved or uncertain to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into what seemed a bit too much for us. Perhaps we’ve learned some harsh lessons over the years.

Renewal and opportunity

The joy of growing older is the new opportunity it provides to pause, take stock, to take a deep breath and decide how to spend our remaining years, to celebrate our lives.

Community

Perhaps every generation feels it’s special, different. I know I did as a teenager, growing up in the counterculture of the 1960s and early ‘70s. But there really is something special about this generation of women reaching our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond in the Western world. We’ve grown up with unprecedented access to education, career opportunities and healthcare. Our expectations are higher than those of our mothers and grandmothers.

And now we have access to a form of easy, cheap worldwide communication and knowledge – the internet – which allows us to find each other and to explore together our vision of what it means now, in the twenty-first century, to be powerful and vital older women. To share and laugh and pray together, to organise and struggle for what’s important to us and this beautiful planet we live on.

Come on in, the water’s lovely!

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Women growing older with grace and gusto