Hot Flashes Warm Bottles: First-Time Mothers Over Forty

Hot Flashes Warm Bottles: First-Time Mothers Over Forty

by Nancy London, Nancy London


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780890879719
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Publication date: 01/28/2001
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.08(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.57(d)

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Chapter One

Age, Sex, and the

Fortysomething Mama

I don't think of myself as middle aged, although when I think about that logically, if I'm not middle aged now, how long am I going to live?

Colleen, forty-eight-year-old mother
of six-year-old Zack

You've probably noticed: Our society worships thinness, beauty, and youth, and at the feet of these false idols, we tend to regard aging less as a natural process and more as a personal failure to remain young. If a woman's self-worth rests primarily in her appearance and sex appeal, she may find herself at midlife inhabiting a kind of limbo-land. If she turned heads when she was in her prime, now she feels stripped of the personal power and privilege that such youth and beauty bestowed on her, and daily slips into an ever-deepening invisibility where buff young guys call her ma'am. For the woman who has hung the hat of her self-esteem on her looks, this passage from bud to full-blown rose is a land mine of nagging self-doubts and insecurities, compounded by a glaring lack of guidance from any inspiring role models who have made this treacherous journey before her.

    Certainly our cultural prejudice against the aging woman, the "crone," predisposes us to view the inevitable signs of aging—lines, wrinkles, loosening skin, maybe even warts and moles—with disgust and perhaps shame. We turn away from the image we see in the mirror, feeling betrayed by our younger self who promised never to leave but now hasslipped out silently in the night leaving no forwarding address. If we struggle to "retain our youth" in ways that seek to deny our age, we run the risk of looking foolish, even to ourselves. To all things there is a season, and midlife is without doubt the end of high summer.

Nobody whistles at me on the street anymore so I've decided to wear comfortable shoes.

Kelly, forty-six-year-old mother of four-year-old Eric

What can we expect in terms of cultural support? Industries that "attack" aging and coincidentally make billions of dollars in bottom-line profits off these tender female vulnerabilities and insecurities. Cosmetics that will turn back "the ravages of time" and cost a third of the monthly mortgage. Shots and pills that target a libido that may be—God forbid—flagging just a tad. Liposuction to make smooth and firm all the cushiony places that made Grandma cozy. And miracle diets that deplete the midlife woman of those five extra pounds where her body, in its infinite wisdom, is storing the reserve estrogen she just might need for a rainy, strung-out day.

    Most of our cultural icons seem as confused and conflicted about the aging process as the rest of us. I have watched Oprah's weight yo-yo up and down for years now. She is one of my heroes, a woman I respect and admire, someone who has the courage to play out her struggles in the public arena, mirroring the confusion most of us feel in private. One minute she is militantly in shape, the poster girl for "just do it"—fighting off the ravages of time, beating off the demons of frumpy, dumpy, and lumpy, and pounding the pavement at 5 A.M. The next minute, she's flirting with what my mother would call "letting herself go." Go where? Into the realm of the comfortably plump, the round, sigh, older woman? I approach my TV with trepidation whenever my daughter is catching Oprah's afternoon show. Which Oprah will greet me? Her seemingly sudden shifts from—pardon the pun—one end of the scale to the other affect me deeply. I want her to choose so that we all can choose. Are we fighting the good fight to stay young and thin, or are we succumbing? I want to beg ... Oprah, please make up your mind.

Taking joy in life is a woman's best cosmetic.

Rosalind Russell

    In all fairness, I am certain there are many women who have wholeheartedly embraced this transition. I am sure there are women who look in the mirror tenderly and with deepest acceptance and affection for their wrinkles, sagging skin, and Greek goddess hips, women who never yearned for a push-up bra or a face-lift, but to tell you the truth, I can only count the ones I know on my fingers and a few of my toes.

Hot Rashes, Warm Bottles

If making the transition out of the bloom of youth into middle age is dizzying and disorienting at best for any female in our society, it is even more fraught with contradictions for the fortysomething woman with a young child. Statistically, half of all the women who have hot flashes will begin feeling them while they are still menstruating normally, starting as early as age forty. This of course means that our midlife mama just might be having hot flashes at the same time she's warming a bottle or nursing her baby. Night sweats, heart palpitations, outbursts of temper or tears (or both), migraines, itchy skin, insomnia, and incontinence may also accompany her perimenopause. Whatever impulse she might have toward surrendering gracefully to the emotional and physical imperatives of aging is strongly undermined by her deep desire to stay looking and feeling as youthful as she can for the sake of her child.

    Women come to my support groups grateful for the opportunity to unburden themselves of these incongruities. "I'm lactating and incontinent at the same time," June all but shrieked. "I'm using KY Jelly and changing dirty diapers in the same evening!" That definitely started the ball rolling. Each woman present knew exactly what June was trying to describe: aging is happening too soon, my kids are still young, and I'm too young to be old. "I'm not ready to embrace cronehood," she yelled, and like a war cry it elicited groans, sighs, howls of sympathy, and stories from other women.

    "Okay, listen to this," Debra said. "Yesterday I was reading Dr. Seuss to my daughter and the mailman brought me my introductory offer to join AARP. I felt like the earth was splitting under me. I had one foot over the hill and one foot in the nursery." More confessions: "How the hell can I revel in my wrinkles when I just found out my daughter is lying about my age?" Elaine's thirteen-year-old daughter told her that being in the eighth grade and having the oldest mother was so "awesomely uncool" that she lied and told her friends that her mom was forty, a sleek five years younger than her best friend's mom, and a full eighteen light-years away from the truth.

    This is how the conflict feels to Lucinda: at fifty, with a five-year-old daughter, she is blessed with natural dark brown hair and skin that reflects the waters of a good gene pool. "But," she said, "my eyebrows are becoming the real symbol of my struggle with aging. They're sprouting white hairs. Sometimes I pluck them because I think Sophie will feel better if I look younger, and sometimes I keep them because I look so dignified! I want to be recognized as a wise woman, but Sophie is pulling me backward into youth."

    Annie captured the ultimate moment of dissonance when she described filling her prescription for the estrogen patch that was to help smooth over her extreme midlife moodiness. "So there I am racing out to the Walgreen's parking lot, ripping open my jeans, and sticking on this patch, it was absurd," she laughed. "I had my toddler with me!"

    It's not that we didn't know we were going to age, it just always seemed like it would happen some time other than now. Our kids would be grown. They'd be sending us extravagant bunches of flowers for Mother's Day, reminiscing about the good times, the years we had together that prepared them for their current good luck in love and worldly success. We'd be wise, we'd be well off. The money we used to spend on the kids could now be lavished on ourselves—spas, facials, lunch with the girls. We'd have the time to finally learn computer science, hydroponic gardening, sushi making. We'd find renewed sexual vigor, buy lingerie from Victoria's Secret, know what to do for vaginal dryness. If we had to age, it would be with style and panache, grace not grit. We would go gently into the autumn of our lives elegant, rested, and wise. Never did we imagine we'd be expressing milk while we were losing our memory, or watching Sesame Street with bifocals.

My daughters want me to dye my hair, but really, it's time to be proud of my age. I'm coming out as an older parent!

Nellie, fifty-year-old mother of six-year-old twins,

Amanda and Sierra

    These private, startling moments that alert the midlife mother to the obvious fact that she inhabits two distinct worlds become magnified when she steps outside. There, the inescapable evidence that she is out of sync with the mainstream awaits her, as well as the dawning realization that she can never catch up.

    Women who tell me they never thought of themselves as old until they looked in a mirror now have their age reflected back to them in society's mirror. "I had a midlife crisis the first time I took my son to school," Allison told me. She is forty-six years old, with a six-year-old child. "There were all these young mothers there who were either pregnant with their second baby or talking about having another. That's when I started to feel old. They're young and still having kids, and I can't do that anymore."

Nobody dies from lack of sex. It's lack of love we die from.

Margaret Atwood

    Iris is elegant at fifty years old, with long gray hair she wears in a thick braid. She adopted her four-year-old son from India three years ago as a single lesbian mother. Last year she helped organize a playgroup with mixed-age moms, and for the first time, became acutely aware of her age. "The trouble was," she told the support group, "when something spilled or something went wrong, the older mothers didn't get up and do anything about it. When the kids were having trouble or needed something, we just sat there. It was the young mothers—the thirty-year-olds—who got things for the kids or pulled them around the yard in their wagons. We fifty-year-olds, we were tired. We were sitting down. I had never really noticed the difference in age until then."

    Ginger's epiphany happened on a bike trail. Last year at forty-nine, she and her husband began an exercise program to lose weight and build the endurance they needed to stay active for their four-year-old daughter. "I was pushing myself to get fit," she told us. "I knew it would help me stay healthy and feel like I could keep up with Hannah. I didn't want her to have a fat, tired mom. Last week we were biking in the mountains. It was one of those days when I felt perky. We stopped to let this woman go by. She was about twenty, pushing two kids in a stroller. Actually she was jogging uphill, pushing the stroller. She had an athletic twenty-year-old body. All of a sudden I felt really old. Her kids were going to have a totally different experience with her physically than Hannah will have with me. I stood there envying her youth and her stamina."

   "In Texas, most of the moms I met at day care were twenty-two or twenty-three, and had flat stomachs a week after they had their kids," Madeline laughed. "I can remember all the snide and disparaging remarks I'd make to myself looking at them: 'They must waste all their time exercising,' 'She's skinny now but wait until she turns forty.' One woman in hot mini shorts and a halter top with zero body fat said her baby weighed only five pounds at birth and I remember thinking, 'Yeah, you probably starved yourself and your kid has brain damage because of it.' And then," she added, "she had the nerve to ask me if I was my son's grandmother."

My after-forty face felt far more comfort able than anything I lived with previously. Self-confidence was a powerful beauty potion; I looked better because I felt better. Failure and grief as well as success and love had served me well. Finally, I was tapping into that most hard-won of youth dews: wisdom.

Nancy Collins

    These stories are filled not only with humor, but with subtle incriminations as well: "My body betrayed me by aging." "Our youth culture has abandoned me. I feel ignored and cast aside, and I'm struggling to maintain my self-esteem." "Help! Nobody told me this was about to happen! Nobody warned me. What do I do?"

    The answer emerges for each of us at a different time and pace, but I believe it always involves taking steps toward reclaiming our power, vision, and purpose as midlife women. We yearn to claim the wisdom we know on a cellular level is our birthright, but we have to struggle to honor it in a society that reduces its elders to blithering ineffective caricatures in cartoons and films.

    The wisdom and power that is potentially ours at this life transition is enormous. It is, in fact, exactly what our society, which is teetering on the edge of ecological disaster, needs desperately. In many Native American societies, the warriors are prohibited from making war without first being granted permission from their elders. Forget Hollywood's version of Big Male Chief with Headdress. Most often the elders are a council of older postmenopausal women, revered for their vision and capacity to cherish and preserve all of life. But we can only access this power and destiny if we have the courage to face our society's marketing demons that would marginalize us and have us believe aging is ugly, lacking in vitality and wisdom, and is best kept out of sight. When we dare to challenge these assumptions, we help make real the future we yearn to bequeath to our children.

The "G" Word

Mention the word out loud—grandmother—and you are flooded for better or for worse with images from your childhood. The grandmothers of your youth—yours, your friends, those belonging to your distant relatives—were so old as to seem ancient. A breed apart. Moving in the slow lane, life had already happened. Grandmothers were wrinkled, often benign, certainly sexless. Imagine, then, the cognitive dissonance a midlife mama feels when she is mistaken for her child's grandparent. She has come to motherhood at a point in her life when she feels young and vital. Of course, occasionally she'll hear of a high school friend whose kids are off to college or even of a friend who has, in fact, become a grandparent, but for the most part the truth that she herself is now old enough to be a grandparent doesn't register on the Richter scale.

    Until. Until someone smiles and tells her how lovely her granddaughter is, or coos at her new "grandbaby" and shares photographs of their own, or marvels at how much vitality she and her husband have to share with the grandkids. Confusion. Shock. Disbelief. Who the hell are they talking about?

    Pam told the group that when she and her husband adopted their daughter she was forty-four and he was forty-seven, older than either of the birth mother's parents. When Pam and her husband arrived at the hospital the day their daughter was born, the nurse greeted them warmly and asked if it was their first grandchild. Pam remembers feeling embarrassed, confused, and above all stunned into an awareness that she looked her age.

Was I concerned about the inevitable issues of age and mortality when I had my child? No. If I had worried about all those things, I probably wouldn't have done it.

Martha, fifty-year-old mother of two-year-old Millie

    Lucinda, our friend who can't decide whether or not to pluck her white eyebrows, remembers the day after a camping trip when the whole family hadn't showered for a week. "The waitress at the restaurant asked my daughter if she was having fun with her grandparents. I said we were her parents and we were all having a delightful time. I felt bad—really bad—and embarrassed for Sophie and I thought, 'Man, do I look that old today?'"

    "I was so shocked when it first happened that I lied," Debra laughed. "I was out with my little girl buying her an Easter outfit. The saleswoman cooed at us and said, 'Oh how sweet, spoiling the granddaughter!' I actually didn't know what she meant for a moment. Then I lowered my voice and whispered, 'Yes, her mother died in a car crash and now I'm raising her.'"

    When the jokes die down, and the outrageous revenge fantasies have run their course, I often find that acknowledging the inescapable evidence of aging gives women the freedom to talk about some of their other concerns, specifically a growing desire to slow down, their somewhat restricted options for retirement, and a new sense of their own mortality.


"If we hadn't had a kid so late in life, we could have afforded to retire sooner than we can now," Madeline mused. "When I've had a bad week at the office, I come home and say, 'God, look at how much longer I have to work!'"

    Even for women who enjoy their work and have no immediate plans to retire, there is the awareness that the midlife impulse to downshift is at odds with the demands of parenting young children. Elizabeth, a sixty-year-old college professor who is in the thick of raising her fourteen-year-old son, told me, "When it's ten o'clock on Saturday night and my son is out, I want to go to bed but I look around for something to do that's going to keep me up. I remember my parents were up when I got home. I don't want him to come home to a dead house. I want to keep a semblance of life in the house because otherwise it's depressing for him. It's a big struggle. My son needs a lot of active engagement. My need to slow down is completely at odds with the next four years of parenting."

    Madeline spoke for the group when she voiced her concerns: "I'm hoping there will be some time toward the end of our lives that my husband and I can have for ourselves, but jeez, what shape will I be in? My parents got to retire in their fifties. We'll be closer to seventy!"

    Ticktock. Suddenly midlife mothers are measuring years and milestones. "I'll be sixty-two when my daughter graduates from high school." Their own mothers, who may have looked older than the hills to them when they were children, now appear ridiculously young in retrospect. "I was graduating from college when my mother was my age," said the mother of a toddler. Women wonder if their health will hold up over the next critical twenty or so years as they raise their children, and if they will be around long enough to plan weddings and get to know grandchildren.

We've lost a lot of friends to AIDS who were our peers and contemporaries, so we definitely have a sense of our own mortality. So the aging process, although difficult at times, is really a kind of gift.

Lydia, forty-five-year-old mother of three-year-old Brad

    Time is fleeting and the evidence is upon us: we are aging. Our bodies are morphing, our libidos are wavering, and men hold doors open for us for all the wrong reasons. Given this realization, some women want to spend every precious moment possible with their child who is growing up at an alarmingly fast rate. For others, the "life is short" realization propels them into living more authentically. They seek to cut through any false sense of familial obligation to the heart of freedom and personal fulfillment. This knowledge of the passage of time offers you the choice to make changes in how you live, moment by moment, and day to day. You might experience a greater sense of urgency for the things that matter most to you as an individual, parent, and partner. You might discover a patience and humor rising to the surface of your heart and mind that was buried in the rush of life. You might do everything differently, or keep everything the same. Either way, living with the awareness of your own mortality holds the potential to renew and enrich your relationship with life.

Can This Really Be Me?

No discussion of a midlife mother's gains and sacrifices would be complete without talking about the one area most fraught with quicksand changes in self-image and self-esteem—her sexuality. Or the lack of it. Women who just a heartbeat ago were taking romantic vacations with their partners and who counted themselves happily among the sexually active and adventurous, are now crawling to bed in their flannel pajamas at 9 P.M., lusting after nothing more than sleep. For these women, having a child later in life has exacerbated midlife fatigue. Add to that the physical exhaustion that comes from having her hormones spiking and falling several times a day (or an hour) and we have a midlife mama who may no longer feel like a hot young thing ready to jump in the sack.

It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

    "I honestly can't believe what's happened to me sexually," Debra told the group. "Being sexual used to be a huge part of my identity. It's how I related to the world. Now I'm either with my kid or at work all day. Either way, when dinner and story time are over, I'm finished too. More than anything, I don't want anyone making one more demand on me. I know that's not a fair thing to say to my husband, but I can't help it. He doesn't pressure me, but I feel bad for him. It's something I feel guilty about."

    The group knew Allison's husband, a musician, was six years her junior. Maybe we thought it exempted her from the I'm-too-pooped-to-care-about-sex club, so we were surprised when she said, "I thought that having a younger husband would be stimulating sexually, but there are times I wish he were older than me. His idea of a good time is hours of lovemaking. I don't have the heart to tell him mine is a lavender bath and ten hours of sleep."

    Now that the ice had been broken, Annie was eager to share. "I don't know why having a three-year-old has changed my sexuality so much, but it has," she said. "When I look at our situation, it shouldn't be that much different than it was before our son was born—he's still in a crib and we don't have to worry about him walking in on us—but everything's changed. I guess I'm not comfortable admitting how tired I am most of the time."

    "Sex has always been a complex issue for me," Ginger said. "I was sexually abused by my father when I was quite young, so I grew up believing that I had to be sexual in order to be loved. Now I'm in a good relationship and I rarely feel sexual. Partly it's because I'm exhausted after having a baby two years ago, and partly it's because I feel safe now and don't have to be sexual to be loved. That's good, but it's also scary. I see other women eyeing my good-looking husband, and I think, 'Great, here I am in my bunny pajamas at eight at night.' So I had to say to myself, 'Look honey, these pajamas are over the line. Put them in the back of the closet and at least go to bed in a nightgown.' We're going to start small, but we are going to start."

The birth of our son and the fatigue that followed definitely changed our sex life. Now intimacy means that my husband and I sleep snuggled up together after a hectic day or enjoy a quiet cup of coffee together before the day begins.

Hannah, forty-eight-year-old mother of six-year-old Jeremy

    And so it is that starting small—in fact, starting at ground zero—is exactly where many midlife mothers begin when it comes to rekindling their waning libido. "I always start out minus one on the scale of desire," Annie laughed. "But once we've made love I'm always glad I did. I usually think, 'Hey, I like this. We ought to do this more often. This isn't drudgery at all!'"

    Far from drudgery, good sex can be the antidote to feeling undesirable in the eyes of society and is one sure way to reclaim our sense of worth, beauty, and desirability. Good sex that involves the heart as well as the body connects us back to the passions that can remind us of who we were for the decades preceding motherhood, and most of the women I counsel find that making the effort is worth it.

Saving Face

Many midlife mamas confess to having toyed with the idea of cosmetic surgery to shore up various sagging body parts. "My stomach looks like the old cat dragging around the house." "I'm beginning to trip over my boobs." "My daughter looked at my wedding picture and said, 'Who's that?'" Older moms are often in the company of younger moms—at preschool, PTA meetings, the pediatrician's, Little League, and Disney matinees—and there is no doubt that there is a temptation for many to surgically remove the signs of age that time has wrought. Those who actually do it say that while they knew it was superficial and temporary, it was the only solution they felt they had to deal privately with our society's very public prejudice against aging and aging women in particular. "If only I could have seen my aging face as beautiful instead of ugly," my client, who opted for surgery, said sadly.

    This led me once again to examine the images of female beauty and desirability presented to us by our culture. I was hard-pressed to find images of women at midlife who were aging with any degree of grace and self-assurance, let alone ones with small children in tow. The women in magazines look barely old enough to baby-sit, or they are proud to be fortysomething with their wrinkles and cellulite airbrushed away. It's no wonder we're reluctant to let our true face show. Everyone else seems to be hiding theirs. The good news and the bad news is that since there are no decent role models around, tag, we're it. We now have the opportunity to model aging with grace and acceptance.

    But accepting ourselves isn't the same as neglecting our selves, and so for that reason I have four very practical suggestions for preserving and enhancing your beauty and life force.

    Don't diet. I knew you'd like this one. We all know that being overweight isn't good for us and is implicated as a risk factor in a host of diseases. But did you also know that your fat cells will freak out once they get wind of your intention to diet and they will store everything, even rice cakes, as fat to compensate for what they perceive to be your desire to kill them? Destroy all the diet books and articles you've collected over the years. Rip them apart page by page. Better yet, burn them in your sink, while chanting, "No!" Instead, figure on eating five smallish meals a day to stabilize your blood sugar and your moods. Add some tofu to your diet if you don't already eat it. It's extremely high in protein and contains phytoestrogens that may offer some protection from breast cancer.

I want to grow old without face-lifts. They take the life out of a face, the character. I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I've made.

Marilyn Monroe

    Drink at least two quarts of water a day. It's great for keeping your skin moisturized and your tummy full between snacks.

    Give in to your food cravings every now and again. Chocolate increases two of the brain chemicals—serotonin and endorphins—responsible for a feeling of well-being, no surprise to many of us. Ignoring these cravings when they first announce themselves often leads to eating more sugar, starch, and fat when our resistance has finally been worn down. Again, no big surprise. Besides, life is short, and chocolate is a little bit of heaven. As Erma Bombeck quipped, "Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart."

    Exercise regularly. I know, you've heard this a thousand times, but bear with me. Midlife women who exercise aerobically gain only half the weight of women who don't exercise. If you're not already in the habit, and the very thought of it sounds like as much fun as a trip to the dentist, here are a few things to consider:

· Exercise actually combats fatigue. It also helps with PMS or menopause, smoothes out stress, and encourages the production of mood-enhancing brain chemicals.

· Exercise boosts the midlife metabolism that is naturally slowing down so that we burn what we eat much more efficiently.

· Exercise builds bone mass and helps to prevent osteoporosis.

If you know all of this and exercise still sounds like punishment, I encourage you to find some form of aerobic movement that is actually fun for you and give it a two-month try: gardening, hiking, biking, in-line or roller skating, swimming, dancing, even jumping rope with your child. Walking is great—it's the easiest, cheapest, most readily available form of exercise.

    Start by doing any of the above at least three times a week, and I guarantee you'll be hooked on how energetic and frisky you start to feel.

    Add five extra minutes every week until you reach your time goal. It will give you an Olympian sense of personal accomplishment and fulfillment that has a way of positively affecting the rest of your life. Personally I cherish my time alone sweating on the treadmill, but many women prefer exercising with a friend or their partner.

    Beg, borrow, or steal this time. Use your lunchtime at work or the hour before your partner leaves in the morning. Swap childcare with a friend, hire a sitter from the local college, or strap your child to your chest and take off. Please, please, please give this piece of advice a try.

   No one can imagine what it is going to feel like to be middle aged, nor understand the consequences of becoming a parent at that age, least of all the twenty- and thirty-year-olds we used to be. In truth, this inability to take into account the fact that being older will actually feel different is part of human nature. Yet despite the flagging energy, the body changes, the unexpected mood swings, and the public and private realizations of a youth now fading, most of the women I have worked with welcome the passage of time and the changes it has brought. They feel infinitely more patient as an older woman, and better equipped psychologically to be a parent; they believe having young children keeps them young in spirit and prevents them from becoming prematurely sedentary and set in their ways; they relish leaving behind the White Rabbit pace at which they used to live and love watching ants climb trees with their kids. These are the moms who may be so tired they wonder how they'll get their kids to baseball practice, but do, and whose desire to participate actively in their kids' lives propel them out of the rocking chair and onto the ski slopes. These are the moms who feel enriched by their children no matter what the sacrifice.

I think it's easier being an older parent. I have more patience and I know myself better, so I can separate what I'm feeling and why PMS, bad day at work, fight with the boyfriend, etc.) from what she's doing and why (usually tired or hungry)

Gloria, forty-five-year-old mother of three-year-old Carrie

The Journey Book

There will be a section at the end of each chapter where I recommend that you work with a Journey Book, so when you have the time, get yourself a blank notebook, some glue, and some scissors. You'll also need a container, like a box with a lid, a basket, a folder, or a big envelope. Find a place to keep it safe—in a closet, under the bed, in your drawer—so that you feet confident that your entries will remain private. If you haven't already begun the habit, start collecting pictures or images from magazines, the greeting cards you just couldn't throw out, newspaper ads, pictures from last year's calendar, poems, and old letters. These are the ideas and images that speak to your soul without you necessarily knowing why: they are the tools that will take you on journeys into other parts of yourself, past and future.

Six Months to Live

Imagine that you have just learned that you have only six more months to live. Write for fifteen minutes on how you would respond to the news. Are there aspects of your daily life that you would change? Would you nurture yourself differently? Would you make any changes in your relationship with your child? With your partner? As you review your life, what causes you regret and what brings satisfaction? Are there ways to incorporate these insights into your life now?

Saving Face

Spend some time looking through magazines and ads for an image of a woman five to ten years older than you. She needn't be famous, but if she is, be sure that what you're seeing is the real thing, unaltered by plastic surgery or computer science. You might need to seek out magazines that cater to special interests, like art, psychology, archaeology, or science, where women actually do things and are engaged in interesting lives. When you find a face that has a quality that moves you, cut it out and paste it in your Journey Book.

    Look at the image you've put in your book and write about what you see in her face that inspires you. Maybe it's how the wrinkles let you know she laughs a lot, or how she is not ashamed to show her sorrow. Write about what you've seen in your own face that reveals the truth about you.

    Leave plenty of blank pages for this exercise and come back to it whenever you need to process your feelings about aging in a youth-worshiping culture. Over time it has been my experience that this exercise leads subtly toward a gradual acceptance and affirmation of the potential beauty inherent in aging. It also opens us up to the possibility of meeting what the Buddhists call our "Original Face," the one that lives behind the mask. Reassured that we do not have to depend on our bodies for our worth, we are free to redefine beauty and show a truer face to the world.

We Have The Power

In your Journey Book, write prose, make a collage with photos or images, or make a list that declares your power, vision, and unique gifts. What talents and skills do you intuitively know you are developing as an older woman but are hesitant to acknowledge? How might you share them—with your child, your partner, your community, society as a whole? Do you know other women who might share in your growing sense of empowerment? Is there the potential for a collective vision or collective action?

    Write about the power that is yours to be claimed. This is the power that has the ability to nurture the sacred spiritual life of a family and a community, and that has led other cultures into periods of great prosperity and peace. Know that this is your birthright because of your age, not despite it.

Murder Me Now

By Annette Meyers

Mysterious Press

Copyright © 2001 Annette Meyers. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Prelude Too Tired to Be the Tooth Fairy1
Chapter One Age, Sex, and the Fortysomething Mama13
Chapter Two The Clash of the Titans: Motherhood Meets
Chapter Three Honoring Our Choices: Balancing Work and
Chapter Four Midlife Moms and the Infertility Mill77
Chapter Five The Long Road Home: Adoption103
Chapter Six The Sandwich Generation129
Chapter Seven The Second Batch: Second-Time Mothers over
Chapter Eight Out of the Mouths of Babes165
Appendix Curriculum183

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