Hold that facelift! Some serene thoughts on Mid-Life…. Most Liked Hot Conversation

Let me introduce myself – I’m a woman of wealth and taste. I feel wealthy in experience, in loving connections, in my talents, in such wisdom as I’ve managed to distil from life’s inevitable pains. My taste is to savour and treasure life’s small gifts: the first fresh buds of spring emerging after a wet harsh Scottish winter, my little nephew’s occasional impulsive loving hugs and kisses. My taste is also for taking time: to be quiet, be alone, to read, to walk in Nature, to reflect on what my life thus far has meant – and what may be to come.

You won’t find me in the gym, sweating it out with my peers whose main motivation is to keep age at bay. I’m not saving up for my first facelift. I don’t look enviously at fresh faces and taut bodies. Whilst celebrating their youth, I am quite content to be no longer young.

In ancient times, when a woman reached menopause and began to feel the pull of death and rebirth into a new life phase, her tribe let her go free of duties for a year or so. She could wander, go deep into the forest, across the far hills, seeking solitude, time for reflection. She might gather roots and herbs only found in hidden places, to be used later. She had time to forge a deeper connection with Spirit than her busy life had previously allowed.

She would look at her lined face and grey hair in still river pools, sleep under the stars, slowly facing the fact that she was in the last phase of her life. By the time she returned she had deeply accepted the Great Round of birth, growth, maturation, decline, death and renewal. Having completed the mid life rite of passage, she was refreshed and ready to serve her tribe again. Her experience, knowledge and wisdom was valued and recognised: healer, midwife, mentor to the young, spiritual counsellor, she had her place in her community till the day she died.

“But this is the twenty-first century!” I hear you say. “Things are very different now.”

Serene? Well, now and again....

I wonder. Are they? It is certainly true that humans have never lived such comfortable, materially sophisticated lives as they do now, if they live in the affluent societies of the West. Within this current cultural phase, there is a powerful preoccupation with one stage of life.Youth. It is possible because of huge advances in science, medicine and technology to delay the process of aging. Death has come to be seen as a defeat, rather than a normal part of the whole life cycle.

From gnats to galaxies, everything is woven into the Great Round. Why should humans think themselves exempt ?

Everything passes, and we pass with it. Denial of this robs us of the opportunity to face and accept the flow of life as it is. Acceptance, which takes experience, courage, reflection, and time, can lead to happiness and spiritual peace. Denial of any kind usually trails misery in its wake.The mid life rite of passage is presented to us all, the choice being denial or acceptance. The latter road is slower and harder, but infinitely more rewarding in the end.

Just in case you think this is empty theorising, let me share my experience. I was a work addict until the spring of 2001, menopausal, but coping. Then, that Easter, a severe and prolonged family crisis struck. At the end of 2001 I collapsed, suffering from burnout and a severe hormone imbalance brought on by stress. My slow recovery took a long time – seven years.

The mid life rite of passage was forced on me in such a harsh way that I could not deny it. However, harrowing though it was at times, it gave me everything that the ancient peoples of matriarchal times had the wisdom to offer their menopausal womenfolk. I feel deeply enriched by my period in enforced seclusion, which is provided time to attend to my body, mind and spirit, my marriage, family and friendships. Having emerged, I getting ready to offer my mature gifts in a new life phase – starting with returning to school to do a part-time Masters’ degree in Counselling Studies at a distinguished Scottish university in September 2011 .

I hope you will follow my progress…… when I begin charting the ups and downs of cudgelling a post-WW2 braincell into adapting to 21st century high-tech-expedited education!

Photo of Anne by Lynne Connor Photography.

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Posted in Anne Whitaker, cosmetic surgery, health & fitness, other topics, spirituality.

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28 Responses

  1. Debi Drecksler Debi Drecksler says

    Great post! Good luck with your new adventures! Hugs, Debi

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    • Anne Whitaker Anne Whitaker says

      Thanks so much, Debi! I am new here so it’s great to have such an encouraging comment. I’m looking forward to sharing my new educational adventures with you and other bloggers here. I feel sure there are a few educational junkies like me hiding out! Blessings, Anne

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  2. Lynne Spreen Lynne Spreen says

    I love your attitude and wish you the very best, but I can’t say I agree with your resistance to exercise, given all the benefits. Even though I dislike it, I force myself to do it. My 86-year-old mom, who is recovering from a broken femur, was told by her surgeon that she is the strongest person of her age he’d ever had as a patient. Of course, there arent that many 86-year-olds around anyway! But she was exercising 3 days a week until she fell, and now she’s back at it. Cheers!

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  3. Anne Whitaker Anne Whitaker says

    Hi Lynne

    I got so caught up in saying other things in this post that I didn’t mention that although I do not fancy the gym, I do 20 minutes’ stretch exercises five days out of seven and have done so for 10 years. Before my mid-life collapse, my husband and I walked the Scottish hills every Sunday come hail, rain or shine (much more hail and rain than shine!) for fifteen years. And I now walk absolutely everywhere and make sure I do a 45 minutes fast up hiil and down dale circle walk in our local park three times a week. Exercise sure is a major key to keeping fit and well. So thanks for picking me up on this – I have now written half a post in response!

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    • Generic Image shimmy says

      I really enjoyed your post and especially the part about the walks through the Scottish Hills with your husband.  My husband and I love to hike here in the Pacific Northwest corner of the world.   There is nothing more soulfully lifting than sitting on top of a mountain exhausted from the climb and looking down at all the beauty that was created just for us!  And taking in all of the wonders of nature and clean air in the woods along the way to achieve the ultimate goal of reaching the top.  What a sense of accomplishment!   

      I, too, have a similar story of reflection and have been thinking about taking classes.  I have also been totally enthralled with genealogy and history and have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to some of the places of my ancestors.  This has given me so much at this time of my life when I can truly appreciate the value of the human spirit!

      Congratulations!  I know from what you have written here that this will take you to new heights and you will discover so much more about yourself that you never thought possible in your youth.  Good luck on your new journey!

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      • Anne Whitaker Anne Whitaker says

        Dear Shimmy

        thanks so much for this uplifting and supportive reply. I am now really beginning to look forward to returning to school – not for the first time, by the way! I will keep you posted re my ups and downs via VN. And good luck to you too, if your interest in genealogy takes you back to school too….

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  4. watermusic watermusic says

    “Refreshed she was ready to serve her tribe again.”  We need both sides of that, taking time out so that we may serve differently.  BTW, I used to live in Biscester in England and spent a lot of time walking and some wonderful time in Scotland and Wales.

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  5. Dallas Lady Dallas Lady says

    I loved this post, and I typically don’t quite get into deep belly button self reflection.  I’m a woman who is smack dab in the middle of the menopause year (no periods for 7 months, they returned for 2-3 months, and now seem to have left again)   AND who is facing an empty nest (one and only child just graduated high school and is about to leave Texas for college in California in a few weeks).   The metaphorical pull of a year “off” to reflect and refresh….and to envision what (and how!) is to be for the time remaining…..resonates so strongly with me.  I yearn for such an opportunity.  But alas, no matter which way I slice it, it seems I need to push through the next 3 years at the current place, pace and space and then hopefully I’ll be able to do just that.  I too don’t want to chase the fountain of youth in a gym or dermatologists office or at the end of a plastic surgeons scalpel.  I do want to drink from the cup of “enough”–and share with others of my choosing.

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  6. ThurmanLady ThurmanLady says

    I liked this very much.  Enforced seclusion may not be as desirable as not being forced, but it works.  My “enforced seclusion” came about with the loss of my job and plenty of time home (where I pretty much live alone and secluded).  I admit to enjoying that time and finding it refreshing and needed.  Now I’m just about ready to end it (I hope) but it has been a period of growth, reflection and tough times.  Maybe it’s just what I needed. ♥

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  7. Anne Whitaker Anne Whitaker says

    Thanks, watermusic, Dallas Lady and Thurman Lady. It is good to know that I have tapped into a well of fellow feeling regarding the importance of time in seclusion for allowing our mature gifts to develop and deepen. It has taken me a few decades fully to comprehend (not without some resistance!) that at times life may not always bring you what you want, but offers what you need if you can manage to see it.

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  8. Linda Secretan Linda Secretan says

    Your post elicited a kaleidoscope of reaction and reflection. I was reminded of GermaineGreer (I think?) who advised us not only to embrace “the change” but to dye all of our garments black as the village women in the Mediterranean have been wont to do.

    Then I marveled: Seven years! And thought of the pioneers Eric Erickson and Arnold Gesell who speculated on the seven year cycles of life – and, with that thought, who could avoid (or want to) the image of beautiful Marilyn standing over the sidewalk air vent in her white dress.

    So, yes, renewal, embracing what is to come, peace with the knowing that some things will never appear again — a lovely piece. A keeper.

    And a mundane question, but one that truly makes me curious: What is a “part time Master’s degree”? I understand going to school part time — and would love to join you. But what is a part time degree?
    Welcome (to me, too, I think, since this is my first time in these pages). I look forward to visiting again.

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    • Anne Whitaker Anne Whitaker says

      Hi Linda
      yes, that seven year cycle has been a very powerful one throughout my whole life, and I have often observed it at work in the lives of many other people: in essence, it signifies times where we are challenged to separate out some more from who we are not, in order to become more fully who we are. 

      Thank you for your graceful, deep and supportive comments. I am so pleased to have given you a keeper!

      Re the part-time Master’s degree: it is a postgraduate MSc in Counselling Studies, spread over two years instead of being completed in one year. I now consider it prudent to take more time over things, in order both to conserve my energies, and to enjoy what I do more!

      I do hope you enjoy being part of Vibrant Nation – I am having a good time writing for VN, as well as reading what other members have to say and benefiting from their ‘takes’ on life.

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  9. Generic Image LucyBHoffman says

    Anne, you couldn’t have hit the nail on the head more squarely for me if you had been interviewing me.  I am in a time of redirecting- rethinking – physically being forced to reconnect with myself and my life.  Thank you for this post, and I too look forward to following your educational shift and life change.  Congratulations.  As a side note, yesterday my husband and I ran into a woman we knew a long time ago.  She had apparently had a recent face lift, and it simply made me hurt to look at it.  I want those character lines that tell us who we are.  I looked, and I felt sad for her.  We all have the right to make whatever choices we want in this life, but I just don’t get it.  Thank you again.

    2 like

  10. abary abary says

    Thanks for your post Anne, it served as a jump-start to my brain which has been languishing somewhere in the ‘forced seclusion’.  Somehow along the way I lost my focus and your piece jolted me back to reality. There is so much more of me left in the 2nd half of my life and I need to get on with it.  I found motivation in the fact that you’re heading off to school again to set in place your next step on life’s journey.  Good for you.  I’m also encouraged by reading how many ladies on VN have been equally inspired by your post.  Makes me realize I’m not alone in trying to put some structure to the next phase of life.  Thanks much for sharing.

    2 like

  11. Generic Image hedda says

    Beautiful writing, with such wonderful and understanding views of the cycles of life! Thank you for expressing it all. I am a second generation Scot here in the U.S. and I wondered if your great attitude has to do with a deeper respect for mature people that I noticed in Europe vs. U.S.?
    I wish I had more women around me like you to buoy me up when I get down. FYI: i finished a master’s degree (my 2nd) at 60 years old. My only advise is this: while I did bring to the table of my studies much wisdom, the amount of work was grueling. I was out of balance (in my head more than my body) thus i gained twelve pounds and acres of stress related issues. School/college has to be kept in check so that it doesn’t ruin the few precious years it takes to complete the degree. So that is my little head’s up.

    1 like

  12. jujuridl jujuridl says

    I adore this post. Wish it were filed under something other than/in addition to “cosmetic surgery,” a section I never look at. It’s about so much more! Good luck, Anne, on your path! We need more wise women counselors in the world! I think that’s what we are here for. Other species expire when they can no longer reproduce. We are given years and years afterward, and I conclude, as many others do, that it’s because we are necessary to the survival of younger folk.

    1 like

  13. Generic Image hedda says

    One more thought: Gail Sheehy wrote a book “Passages” (also “Pathfinders”) decades ago which researched beautifully the 7-10 year cycles/decades of change in our lives. Have you come across it?

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  14. Rose Gerstner Rose Gerstner says

    Thank you for this thoughtful post Anne. It is a wonderful antidote to all the noise emitted by our youth-focused, materialistic  culture. Aging may be a difficult thing to confront, but in the end we must if we are to live out our lives with some measure of happiness. Accepting where we are in our lives is a state worth working towards.

    2 like

  15. sunsetwriter sunsetwriter says

    Absolutely wonderful post! There is so much wisdom in older women, so much creative force and it’s all been lost in a culture that reveres youth. I will be following your path this year, we need more women like you out there. Good Luck, Anne!

    1 like

  16. Becky Alexander Becky Alexander says

    I love this! I turned 50 this year and have surprisingly been reflecting on life A LOT. I think you are right–the fact that our culture values youth does not have to direct our contribution after 50. I’m ready to take my experience and blow through some new barriers!

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  17. Generic Image Jeanne Estridge says

    Great post–I’m inspired!

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  18. Anne Whitaker Anne Whitaker says

    Dear Lucy, abary, hedda, jujuridl, Rose, sunsetwriter, Becky, and Jeanne

    I logged on a few minutes ago after several days off the Web doing some housepurging – of which more anon – and was so, so amazed and pleased to find all your affirmative comments. Thank every one of you so much!!

    The housepurging comes from a deep need I have felt in recent weeks, as I prepare to return to school (thanks, hedda, for the timely advice!), to clear out the accumulated debris of my old files and dusty cupboards in order to minimise my need to do housework for the next couple of years. My husband has survived, just….

    Each and every one of the comments in response to this post is a vindication of my belief that we can be effective Elders if we really try, if we support one another, and if we refuse to be cowed by the prevailing values of this cultural phase we are in, which lacks the wisdom to value age and experience. I feel I have earned each and every one of my wrinkles and would not wish to part with them! ( Though I have to admit to being quite glad to be short sighted when I squint into the mirror first thing in the morning….)

    3 like

  19. EAB52 EAB52 says

    Thank you, Anne, for your post.  You have put into words, what I have been thinking about for some time.  Entering menopause early (naturally) at 44, brought me quickly into another phase of life, somewhat unprepared.  Aside from the physical changes, the mental journey was a challenge. Much of my reading (I’ll research and read anything on any topic) lead me in the same direction, to acknowledge the wisdom of mature women.  I have also returned to school to obtain the degree I never completed.  Now it is no longer a career decision but a personal choice.  I can study what really interests me. I know this will take longer than I want it to but I still need to continue working full-time.  With the increase in distance, evening and weekend options, I can now make this a reality.

    I have looking forward to following your progress and reading your posts. I can only echo the other comments and say, thank you again.

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    • Anne Whitaker Anne Whitaker says

      Thank you for your affirmation! It is so great to know what a community of life-long growers and learners there are, of which we are a part and to which we can and do  contribute. Every good wish for your studies too!.

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  20. Generic Image idosew says

    If only age and looks did not matter in our culture!! Alas, it does and maybe more than we know. 

    Sweating at the gym is not just for looks but so you can keep on with physically doing life.
    I have watched my mother for 15 years not being able to take care of her self because of weight and weakness. Her mind is sharp and she is trapped. Every time I check on her I workout harder and longer. 

    My mother-in-law is thin and fit. Still having an active and happy life in her mid 80s.

    Don’t think that aging is the only reason to keep fit. You are missing the important need to be fit.  

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  21. Anne Whitaker Anne Whitaker says

    Hi there!

    I don’t think you can have read my response of 15.7.11 to what Lynn rightly said about exercise so I will repeat it here: “…..I got so caught up in saying other things in this post that I didn’t mention that although I do not fancy the gym, I do 20 minutes’ stretch exercises five days out of seven and have done so for 10 years. Before my mid-life collapse, my husband and I walked the Scottish hills every Sunday come hail, rain or shine (much more hail and rain than shine!) for fifteen years. And I now walk absolutely everywhere and make sure I do a 45 minutes fast up hiil and down dale circle walk in our local park three times a week. Exercise sure is a major key to keeping fit and well. So thanks for picking me up on this – I have now written half a post in response!…

    0 like

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