Memory…is the diary we all carry with us.
Sometimes I’m unable to sleep because I’m so jazzed about something I’m working on that sleep seems like a waste of time. However, this time it’s something else. I’m pretty sure it has to do with closing in on fifty-one, hormones, grief, puzzling rage, extraordinary joy, occasional alien identity theft and letting go.
Sometimes it all actually feels this alien to me and I barely recognize myself. I know that non middle-aged women tend to believe (at least from my experience) that menopause is an excuse to explain away shitty behavior, lack of energy or out of the blue tears. It’s really not an excuse and it’s often as confusing to me as it is to my poor family.
A generation ago, it was less frequent that Moms would be going through menopause with teenagers still in the house. Not that it didn’t happen, but it was less common. I feel sort of sorry for my twin daughters right now. My relationship was different with their brother. He was not twins. He was never a 17-year-old girl. He’s not living at home right now. He was not a mirror to me the way my girls are.
My girls are living with the Many Faces of Mom during their stressful last year of high school. Sometimes I freak out thinking that I haven’t taught them what they need to know before they head off to college in a year. I have to trust that I have and allow them to learn the rest on their own. It’s time to let go a little bit more.
However, I feel like after going through pregnancies, nursing and giving up my sense of self to care for these little monsters (that I heart breakingly love) that I’m due a little break now. Is that so wrong? Isn’t that what menopause is? Transition from one stage to another.
Nothing in my life has been as dramatic of a shift as becoming a Mom…and now in some weird way, when my girls are a year away from leaving home, my body is making me feel like I’m in the first trimester of my pregnancy.
Fatigue. Uncertainty. Cravings. More fatigue. Headaches and more even uncertainty.
Nature’s cruel joke or a reminder of how tied to them I am on a cellular level?
Last week I was in South Dakota for a funeral and a wedding. In between those emotional events I found some time to drive back roads with my husband, see the stunning late August countryside and find some much needed quiet. I’m always reminded of how much the prairie landscape resides in my cells, bones and heart.
This landscape gives me clarity, helps me understand my choices and guides me back to my personal True North when I get off course a bit.
South Dakota is my interior geography, no matter where I am in the world.
Recently, I had to draw a compass at Courage Camp in Bristol, Rhode Island. I laughed at myself because the way I still figure out directions is to imagine I’m standing on the front porch of my childhood home. It’s there that I’m most confident in knowing my directions. (photo below)
Standing on the porch I know which direction the sun sets and how to get to Nebraska. With that knowledge, I can find my way most places.
I often think of my intrepid ancestral homesteaders who ventured West, uncertain of what they would find in the Dakota Territories. However, and more importantly, perhaps they knew they could handle whatever the prairie offered them.
I understand that now, at the tender age of 50, in a way I didn’t when I was younger. I don’t know what’s next, but I know I can count on my interior geography to help guide my way.
listening to my AUTHENTIC SELF even when my SOCIAL SELF is screaming at me to act in accordance with societal expectations and not listen to my inner voice.
AUTHENTIC SELF: who I am at my core, the true substance of what makes me uniquely me, how I desire to live in my heart and soul, who I am when no one is watching
SOCIAL SELF: who I am in relation to others, more protected and very concerned about how others see me, often scanning for what’s appropriate in any given situation, ego
When my authentic self and social self are out of whack, things get pretty weird and I can feel like a fraud. I don’t want to feel like a fraud.
However, now that I’ve identified what courage is for me, I’m noticing which voice I’m listening to much more quickly. I think simply noticing is a great first step.
I believe right now in American history is an important time to explore what courage means to us on a very personal level. I’m working on a mission statement for myself, a courage mantra in succinct language I’ll be able to summon when needed.
I’ve scribbled and doodled and drawn circles and arrows, however, I don’t quite have it yet. I’ll let you know when I do. I would be curious to know if you have a statement of this nature that you would be willing to share.
I hope you have a uniquely courageous day.
One of my favorite books is Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC. She writes about creativity and what type of energy we let dominate our lives. She boils it down to two types.
The martyr OR the trickster?
“Martyr energy is dark, solemn, macho, hierarchical, fundamentalist, austere, unforgiving, and profoundly rigid.
“Trickster energy is light, sly, transgender, transgression, animist, seditious, primal, and endlessly shape-shifting.”
“I believe that the original human impulse for creativity was born out of pure trickster energy. …Creativity wants to flip the mundane world upside down and turn it inside out, and that’s exactly what a trickster does best. The trickster is obviously a charming and subversive figure.
—Elizabeth Gilbert/BIG MAGIC
Martyr energy is a total bummer.
If the universe is meant to be played with, then we must PLAY. This doesn’t mean we can escape the mundane parts of daily life, grief or death. However, deploying our creative trickster energy when needed (even in very difficult passages of our lives) gives us more options and lets us access more creativity.
The trickster trusts and doesn’t let doubt or paranoia get in the way of a good time.
Tonight I asked myself what do I want to understand a little bit better about America? There’s something happening that feels very unique now. Unfamiliar. I paid attention to where my line of inquiry lead me.
First, I GOOGLED: What makes people curious?
“…’Curiosity’ is a discrete psychological trait that varies within human populations just like other personality dimensions such as extroversion/introversion and agreeableness/aggression.”
OK, some people are born curious and others aren’t. Well, that makes a lot of sense, right? Then I started wondering what’s the opposite of curious? Skepticism? No, skepticism plays in the same sandbox as curiosity. Disinterested? Unconcerned? It wasn’t very clear to me in any way.
I asked myself a question—How do I feel when I’m not being curious?
I think I might feel certain.
I make assumptions based on my gut or environmental factors/circumstances.
I don’t feel very curious. I don’t value other people’s ideas. I don’t listen.
So, next I GOOGLED: What makes people certain about things?
“,,,Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason. Feeling correct or certain isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us…” Source: “ON BEING CERTAIN: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not” by Dr. Robert A. Burton
So, certainty is actually a biological feeling, a mental sensation independent of rationality or reason? We choose certainty because it’s easier?
Damn, that’s really interesting. Now what? CERTAINTY is so polarizing in America (and in my own home with young adult children). It’s a conversation killer. It’s a deal breaker. It keeps organizations from growing. How do we find common ground in our nation now? It’s late—2:53 am—this is way too much for my very tired brain.
I had to further narrow my inquiry.
HOW DO CERTAINTY & CURIOSITY MANIFEST IN MY LIFE?
Curiosity results in greater understanding & builds trust.
Certainty tends to make me rigid & judgmental.
I don’t want to be rigid & judgmental.
I want to be curious.
Whew, that was interesting and pretty exhausting. After many hours and lost sleep, I’ve confirmed that my desire is to be a curious person and that few things in life are so certain that they don’t require some investigation. Life is really funny sometimes.
My husband, Jeff listened to a book about Jim Jones and told me about it—fascinating and horrifying. I needed to know more. Curiosity takes us on interesting journeys, huh? I’m not going to read the book (39 hours of audio). Jeff told me enough to want to know a more. I stumbled upon this information.
I don’t know where all of this information will lead me. I guess I wanted to better understand cult leaders. This made me think about “ABC After School Specials” in the 70s and 80s when kids had to be “reprogrammed”. In my memory, Jodie Foster was constantly reprogrammed after having fallen prey to a cult leader.
Good golly, I’m certain it’s time for bed. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz