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Archive for the ‘mid-life’ Category


A comment by Annie Liebowitz has really gained a foot hold in my psyche, naming the amorphous ramblings in my brain about what might be next for me.  She has a new photography book out called “Pilgrimage” and she was recently interviewed about it by Dominique Browning in the Times.  She wrote it to “save myself,” she told Browning, “to remind myself of what I like to do, what I can do.”

She was looking for a way to nurture her creativity in a new raw, rather primal testament to where she stands in her life now – and she photographed objects instead of people.

For some reason the thought of Annie Liebowitz experiencing a creative crisis is anathema to me.  She’s certainly among the most well-known photographers of this era, amassing a healthy livelihood along the way.  And yet she reached a point in her life where she questioned, what’s next?

Her talent is photography; more importantly, she’s able to communicate a mood, attitude of a subject that transcends the page and penetrates our soul.

What is this nebulous noun, talent, and how is it recognized and, ultimately, grown?  According to Liebowitz it can disappear.  “It needs to be nurtured, taken care of.”  And that’s why she’s forging experimental terrain with her “Pilgrimage” subject matter.

Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The...

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Oprah’s talent is communication and empathy.

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

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Steve Jobs married intuition with innovation to realize his blazing talent.

Thomas Friedman, American journalist, columnis...

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Thomas Friedman blends the gift of writing with insight and intellect to manifest his talent.

What about the rest of us?  How do we grow our talent, help it to blossom and bear fruit?

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My neighbor was walking the neighborhood this morning with her grown daughter, deep in conversation as they passed by Pogo and me.  We share the daily ritual most days – usually my neighbor is with her husband and dog.  On weekends her daughter joins her.  It seems they use the time to catch up on intimacies from the past week as they lead their independent lives.

“A mother’s treasure is her daughter. “~ Catherine Pulsifer

Watching that close repartee sparked a yearning for the same.  I miss that kind of friendship between mother and daughter, a relationship I never actually experienced.  I’m not sure how you can miss what you never really had, but somehow I do.

“The mother-daughter relationship is the most complex.”  ~Wynonna Judd

My mother was my biggest supporter as a child; she schlepped me to one audition after another as I chased my dream of being on stage.  And after each rejection she comforted my heartbreak by telling me that someday she just knew my time would come.  Just persevere.

And when my heart was breaking from a boy I loved who wouldn’t be mine, it was my mother who helped me recognize that life wasn’t over.  And it was also she who comforted the boys that loved me but weren’t able to win my heart.  She counseled them on the phone and encouraged them to move on.

It was also my mother, and only my mother, who came to my piano recitals, choir performances, plays (as a chorus member), and later – talent shows and performances at college.  She rooted for me in everything I did and felt that I could hang the moon if I wanted to.

“1 mother + 1 daughter = 2 best friends”  author unknown

But she was never my friend.  As I grew older we continued to talk, but we grew farther apart never really learning much about what makes the other tick.  She was consumed with her frustrations and I with a need to offer her ways out of them, though she never heeded any of my suggestions.  She was not a mother who pulled her children close to her, in fact, she looked forward to the days when we’d be out on our own and she could fly solo again.

I have a few women friends who adore their mothers, respect and admire them and spend as much time with them as possible.  I’ve always envied them; I wish I’d known that closeness.

What’s your relationship like with your mother?  And how has it changed over the years?

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Last week’s exercises in my non-fiction creative writing class were interesting ones.  We were asked to list obsessions and strong memories, then expound on them.  A collective sigh came from the four of us until the juices started flowing inspiring each of us to become absorbed in our unique internal lives.

Early on it became clear that this assignment would offer each other glimpses into who we are.  We met as strangers from different parts of the area and today we’d share intimacies – because of a writing exercise.

A single woman in her early 30s struggles with a driving desire to find herself, to one-day have the courage to leave her job of 12 years and follow her dream.  Trouble is, she can’t identify that dream.  Maybe this writing class will coax that passion to the surface.  Or maybe writing will help her understand why each new relationship ends up falling apart as she wonders on paper whether this current beau will stand the test of time.  She’s plagued by the need to compare herself to peers with husbands and children which feeds a certain panic in her soul.  Now we understand her a bit better.

The woman to my right obsesses about her weight and writing and, hopefully, earning money from her prose.  She used to be a teacher and grew very frustrated with the politics of education and students’ lack of interest.  She yearns for the day when the solitary hours spent putting thoughts on paper will be validated with a check in the mail.  She and her husband are retired and she struggles with the balance of taking care of him and the urge to spill herself into her fingers on a keyboard.

Then there’s the woman whose childhood trauma sparked a love for poetry.  Pouring her tortured heart onto paper somehow eased the pain of losing her mother when she was nine years old.  A drunk driver slammed head on into the family car while her mother was at the wheel.  While this girl waited outside the car for an ambulance to arrive she remembers hearing her mother gurgling, still trapped behind the steering wheel.  Those injuries proved fatal.  The father spent days in the ICU recovering from his physical injuries, though his heart never healed.  So that nine-year old girl and her siblings were shipped out to be cared for by others. Today this now grown woman has a deep story to tell and skimmed the shallow surface with us.

As for me, I wouldn’t say I have obsessions, per se, what I have are driving passions, one of them is horses.  Though I’ve never owned a horse, I usually find a way to be around them; lately it’s volunteering at a horse rescue where we rehabilitate neglected and abused horses.  This past week I also attended horse camp where we brushed up on our riding skills mounted on Paso Finos and Tennessee Walking Horses.  Their strides are smooth as velvet and much easier on the legs and back.

Eye of a Horse (Andalusian)

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They say that horses are windows into your soul and maybe that’s why I’m filled with emotion when grooming them.  Watching their powerful, graceful bodies prance around a pasture fills me with awe.

There are a lot more stories inside us waiting to be coaxed to the surface.  We humans are fascinating creatures – each with a unique story to tell to the right listener who extends a sincere invitation.

What are some of your stories?

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Sheet music to "Give My Regards"

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Lately I’ve started writing much more than years past (have you noticed this blog?) It feels like the right creative outlet especially as I explore this new period in my life, Act Three.

Creative expression has always been a driving force for me. When I was a kid I dreamed of singing and dancing on Broadway – heck, I’ll say it, I wanted to be a star.  My mother schlepped me to auditions all the time, each with the same heartbreaking result – CHORUS! Evidently my voice sounded great to me and had I been the casting director I’d have won the lead hands down.  But – c’est la vie.  As each heartbreak gave way to the next bout of courage and the next resounding NO THANKS I finally figured it out.  My future wasn’t going to be on stage.  Time to move on … and then I discovered… back stage!

Voila!  Back stage became the perfect fit — stage manager, show producer – change to radio producer, on to TV producer, then into management, and on to departmental leadership.  Once I set my new sights I started hearing yes yes yes yes, which is a lot more fun than a childhood filled with no’s.

A passion was ignited and my drive was born.  I couldn’t get enough of work – it’s all I wanted and the only thing I did.  Weekdays consisted of a minimum of 12 hour days and weekends were spent perusing magazines, newspapers, books or watching TV – all in search of the next great idea for a show or a promotion or a special or a series.  And I never got tired of it until … I did.   More than 30 years later.

Shockingly my drive has let me go.  It no longer consumes my waking hours, nor does it deprive me of sleep.  I’m blissfully free of its grasp.  And I don’t miss nor mourn it.  I’m enjoying the sense of freedom from the need to keep pushing.

Equally surprising is that my interest in making a creative contribution hasn’t waned.  In fact it’s starting to blossom again.  But it’s not associated with need to do.  It’s more like inspired to do.

Is it possible that I’ve actually kissed my drive goodbye?  I guess time will tell.

How about you?  What drives you?

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A beautiful quote that captures the essence of Iyengar Yoga by its mastermind BKS Iyengar.  All yoga is rooted in the blend of mind, spirit and body.  But this particular style emphasizes correct physical alignment while contorting the body into prescribed poses.  It aims to use the concentration necessary for correct posture as a tool in teaching meditation.  In order to bend and stretch as required, each pose is deconstructed into its minutiae parts forcing concentration on all nuances of muscle and bone configuration.  And that trains the mind to focus.

Petra's Yoga Poses around the world

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I’ve been practicing Iyengar style yoga for 14 years and it’s made a significant difference in my flexibility and attitude toward life.  (Though this gorgeous pose is, sadly, not me.)  It has also enhanced my meditation practice by quieting the mind and tiring out the body, readying it for silent focus on the breath.  And, in all those years, I’ve had just one injury to a shoulder because I rotated my arm farther than my body was ready for.

Recently I’ve branched out to experience other teachers and styles of yoga, maybe because my attitude is one of experimentation these days.  I’ve enjoyed the change and the atmosphere in the different studios, but I’m grateful for my Iyengar training because without it, I wouldn’t know how to properly practice the pose.  And neither do the other students, evidently, as I scan the room and notice poor body alignment.  The teacher may demonstrate the pose correctly, but none explains the process to the students.

A yoga class.

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Knees and thighs are not charged, leg rotations are not accurate, spines are not straight, ham strings aren’t being stretched – the list goes on.  And the teacher says nothing, does not walk the room and adjust the poses.  All students are being left to interpret the instruction on our own.  I’m waiting for injuries to occur all around me.  It surprises me how teachers can teach without teaching.  They demonstrate, they talk the pose through – but none has ever explained flexion of muscle, rotation of limbs, proper knee placement and more.

My suggestion for all yoga enthusiasts is to start with a few series of classes to learn the Iyengar method in order to know how the poses are supposed to be aligned before launching into any other style yoga.  Injured necks, backs, limbs and more are painful, in some cases, long term problems that can be prevented with the appropriate instruction.

What are your yoga experiences?  And how have they affected your life?

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So far, my 50s are the best decade yet.  For a long time I’d been in denial of getting older.  Age 50 seemed light years away with plenty of living and achieving to accomplish before reaching that dreaded decade of my parents. My mother always told me that one day I’d get there and the only way I’d know would be to look in the mirror.  In other words, I’d feel exactly the same inside, just the outside would change with the years.  And you know what?  She was right on both counts.  Now that I’m facing the waning years of my 50s I still feel like 30 something, only happier and more at peace.  Recognize this age-old adage by George Bernard Shaw?

Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw

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“Youth is wasted on the young.”        Now that I understand what it means, I couldn’t agree more!

When I was a kid, 50s was considered old age.  And old people didn’t care about experimenting with life anymore.  Their kids were grown, they’d become grandparents and life was spent in front of the TV or on the proverbial front porch swing.

That’s not even close to today’s reality.  What is true is that traditional advertisers don’t think we count anymore after age 54.  The sweet spot for TV advertisers is the demo 25 – 54.  After that they think we don’t buy as much and when we do we gravitate toward the same habitual brands.  Like kids do, they think we no longer experiment with life and products.  Well, in truth, many of those media buyers are kids themselves – of course those are their prevailing viewpoints!

What IS reality is a renewed vibrance for life.  And that includes experimentation of all kinds:  hair, clothes, weight, adventure, relationships, jobs, hobbies, houses – you name it, we’re open to it.  In most cases the kids are grown and have moved on with their own lives; we women are now free to rediscover ourselves.  In my case there were no kids, just a life consuming career that involved moving around the country and growing in new jobs.

Now with no job that demands my attention, each day offers new discoveries.  The stress has been lifted creating more room for free thinking and exploration.  I’m happier, calmer, feel more love and offer it more generously.  And the surprise is my new-found attitude that what people think about me doesn’t matter like it did during the first bout with my 30s.  I’m now healthier and more physically fit, read whatever I want and become ensconced in activities that appeal to me.  And I still feel sexy.  Plus I’m wiser and smarter than I was 20 years ago.  You know — “if I knew then what I know now…” kind of thing.

Most other women in their 50s feel the same way!  Many of us have disposable income regardless  of  what those young media buyers think.  And the smart advertisers are figuring it out.  Why there are now websites dedicated to boomers and they’re filled with ads.  Imagine that.  We’re actually avid internet users!

I love my 50s and embrace the peeking onset of the next decade.  Who knows – by then I may want to live in a green and purple house or maybe add some purple to my hair!  Love that color!

How do you feel about this so-called middle period of life?  Do share!

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