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Workshops and resources for women over 50

It’s About Time.

What have you noticed about the passing of time these days? In my research with women as they age, the word “urgent/urgency” kept cropping up.

Jennifer at 56 said, “I feel an urgency to keep doing and staying flexible mentally, whether it’s learning something new or just letting go of stuff around the house.” Pat at 62 said, “Time is no longer unlimited. I’m ignoring some things, but know it’s urgent that I finish others.”

I remember just a few years ago, sitting in corporate meetings, no longer active in the never-ending game of who can talk the longest/most buzzwords/sound the smartest. Instead I sat there stewing about how they’re wasting my life. How I could be doing something – ANYTHING – that would contribute to society more than whatever the topic of discussion. Even if I was just surfing the net or practicing Italian.

I came across this thought-provoking article on luminosity.com from April 30 about how we perceive time.  It talks about research that’s been done, but I was most intrigued by the following paragraph.

            We experience nearly the same throughout our life. Remember, being small children, we perceived every day as a year because each day was  full of new knowledge and experiences. Adults are more familiar with the world as a whole, they do not consider it so unusual, and so they receive much less new experience. That is why the older we get, the faster the days go by. Therefore, filling our lives with new experiences, we can slow the time down.

What a great reason to travel, for lifelong learning, for going to that new Peruvian restaurant, for just talking to new people…to slow down time. I hope you’ve learned a bit, slowed down time and put the right things on your “urgent” list. And “staying flexible mentally” is one of those things, Jennifer!

http://luminosity.com/article/10042, April 30, 2014

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That 6-letter word we dread…”SENIOR”

I came face-to-face with fears of being called a “senior” recently when I was contacting local “heroes” in the Oak Park, IL area to be recognized in our “Celebrating Seniors” program. People are nominated based on their service to the community and then are chosen to be included in the “60 Over 60” events. This includes their names, photos, age, and experiences in a section in the local paper, special events, etc.

Some folks were honored to be chosen. Others horrified! They didn’t want to be associated with “Seniors”, even though a few were in their 70s.

What is it about the word “SENIOR”? It’s great when you’re 17 years old and are a senior in high school because you have the world in front of you and can rule the hallways for your last year. It’s fine when you’re getting $2 off at the movie theater. But “call” someone a “senior when they’re not psychologically prepared and you have just flung the rudest insult at them!

“Senior” is especially alienating to the new generation of active, healthy, vibrant seniors, no matter what their age. (A friend calls these “junior seniors” – a much better descriptor!) Earlier generations saw seniors being infirm, sometimes a burden on their children, wearing knee high hose – often rolled down to their ankles with an handkerchief tucked into their sleeves. (When was the last time you saw a handkerchief???)

At 64, I sometimes have my senior moments – not being forgetful but feeling a new ache or looking in the mirror and seeing a much older person. But these are moments and not a mindset! I go for a relatively brisk walk or color my hair and I’m back to my youthful self. We all do this.

So if we don’t want to be called “seniors”, what DO we want to be called? “Boomers” is one term often used, but that only represents one group born between 1946 and 1964. This doesn’t include the spry 70 year olds. We’re looking for a term that describes the life stage, not the cultural generation.

I love the term “adultescents” coined by my psychologist friend, Liz Monroe-Cook. It works because our life is very similar to that of our “adolecence”, again a transitional time of physical and psychological change. Instead of raging hormones, rash decisions and risky actions we’re more likely to be safer, saner and in control. The life stages are very comparable, yet “adultescent” doesn’t trip off your tongue as smoothly as “senior”.

We have “encore careers” and a great website for the “vibrant nation”. Carol Orsborn calls us “Fierce with Age”. We’re “mature”, “grown-up”, “elder”, and “over the hill”. And we STILL need a better term for this alive, often active, sometimes couch-potatoish, wise and funny life stage – that doesn’t make us dread hearing.

Any good ideas, please send them to me. And I promise to lead the biggest PR campaign to change the world when we find the right word!

Baby Boomer Aging Survey – Your Input, Please

What have you noticed about your life as you age?

I’ve noticed that my life is NOT at all like the photos in the ads – a happy couple holding hands, riding off into the sunset in a golf cart! (Or worse, staged relaxation in bathtubs!) And people I know have a different reality than what’s pictured in the media.

Here’s your chance to share what YOUR reality is. Please take this survey that asks you to reflect on what your life is like now. It takes about 15-20 minutes and most people have said they’ve enjoyed the thought-provoking questions.

This link will take you to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GZBQBT2

Please complete the survey by Friday, December 6. (I know it’s a busy time…)

Also, share this survey with friends and family, ages 40-80. While the substance of the study is Baby Boomers, it will be interesting to see how Boomers’ realities compare to other ages.

The goal of this survey is to get a better “photo album” of what matters to a new generation of adults who are “aging”. Never before have people lived as long and as healthily as we do now. At 50, 60, 70 and even 80 we have a lot more time on earth to make the world a better place. So I’d like to use your answers to help create a more accurate, respectful representation of our generation.

Thank you SO much for your responses and sending this survey on to others. I hope to share results with you all in the future.

One last thing – survey results are ANONYMOUS! You can even use a fake name if you like. Be assured that specifics will be held in strict confidence. And if you have any questions or thoughts  about this survey, please email me at chauri@ mirrorwomen.com or call 708-533-2888.

It’s Not All Sunsets and Golf Carts

Are you fed up with the image of how we’re expected to age? Walking on the beach, hand-in-hand with the partner of our dreams, heading to the golf course where we meet another smiling couple, ready to hand us a tall, cool glass of iced tea? Or dancing into the night, remembering to throw your head back in joyous laughter?

If that’s not your life (it’s sure not mine!), please read the latest from Carol Orsborn, Ph.D. She takes AARP to task for their Pollyanna views of aging in the most recent issue of their magazine. And this viewpoint is SO REFRESHING!

Sadly, I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt guilty when getting a hip replaced because I was showing the world that 63 year olds all can’t dance! Or feel left out because I’m not planning a major trip this year because I don’t have the money. Or sometimes want to hide because I don’t look like a Chico model and am looking for clothes that don’t look bad around a plus size butt!

Aging is not for the timid (said either in a Hallmark card or by Dorothy Parker or some other clever wit). Those “senior moments” are real. So is that alien face in the mirror. And those blood pressure numbers. And hearing issues. There is loss and we’ll be faced with tough decisions.

What Dr.Orsborn is fighting for is our ability – our choice – to face aging and embrace the humanness of the experience. I encourage you to read her blog or pick up her book or visit her website, Fierce With Age.

In the meantime, appreciate your aging wisdom by visiting or calling a friend who you’ve been thinking of, and having a really good laugh together! That’s what good aging is all about!

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What makes you go “Hmmm”?

What are the things that make you sit up and take notice? Something you hear on the radio — maybe new revelations about a rock musician you never knew. Or a friend’s Facebook posting about some struggle she’s having. Or an article on organizing that suggests something new (even though you’ve read – and plan to file – just about every article ever written).

My latest big “Hmmm” came while watching the excellent 60 Minutes interview of Bill Gates and the breakthrough ways he’s addressing health in developing nations. His stories are about using creativity and technology to solve problems – toilets that don’t require fresh water, solar-powered refrigerators to keep vaccines fresh, and more. After a “WOW” reaction, I moved to “Hmmm”. What are the implications of this? How will all these people, who likely would have died of disease and famine, live in the future? Are their community infrastructures set up for meaningful lives?

This is not an article about Bill Gates and whether or not he can save the world. It’s an article that asks you to go “Hmmm” and be aware of what captures your attention.

A few years back when I was in a Masters program at DePaul’s School for New Learning, our lead professor consistently invited us to note the things that made us go “Hmmm”. We were delving into mindfulness and how to be engaged in your own life. He wanted us to grasp these notions that make us think deeper and, maybe, differently.

When we go “Hmmm” we’re raising a flag to stop and pay attention. “Hmmm” topics deserve a little time – some internet research, a discussion over a glass of wine, a trip to the library. They also ask us to ask “why” did that topic bring about a “Hmmm”. It warrants reflection on our personal history of why is this important to me today. And what is my thinking about this topic – and does it challenge or change my values in any way?

Let’s take “Hmmm” in a few directions. I had another “Hmmm” the other day – “Hmmm, I don’t seem to have any eyebrows left”.  Where did they go and what should I do about it? (This proves the “Hmmms” do NOT have to be earth-shattering, heavy topics!) Why is this important to me? It’s another external sign that I’m aging and I don’t like how I look without good eyebrows. (And I spend good money getting them shaped – HMMM!) What am I going to do about this? Invest in the best eyebrow shadow and learn a technique that won’t make me look like Aunt Sophie when I apply it. What else? When I dig deeper, I realize this is about loss of my youthful looks and how I need to accept what I can’t change. (Beyond that great eyebrow shadow – which is from Smashbox, by the way!) I’m going to read more to understand acceptance.

Another “Hmmm” – a good friend was diagnosed with a bit of breast cancer (italics are mine – I really don’t understand the medical explanation at all!) Had a little bit of surgery, no chemo or radiation needed but still had some tense hand-holding times. Big “Hmmms” here – when was my last mammogram? With a strong family breast cancer history, how might I prepare if I heard the same news. How would my “tribe” feel and be different if we lost our dear friend. And how might we appreciate each other more deeply and often to enhance our bond.

You can see that “Hmmm” can take us a lot deeper than what we normally think about every day. And when we dig deeper, explore new territories and engage in our lives, we’ll find there’s a lot more meaning hidden under the surface.

What made you go “Hmmm” today?

(A special thanks goes to Russ Rogers, Ph.D., at DePaul for making us “Hmmm”.)

Life Sort: Prioritize Your Life – River Forest, IL

On request…

Or on request. We’d be happy to conduct this for your group of 4 or more.

If you’ve been wondering how to spend the rest of your life, spend lunch with Chris Hauri and Liz Monroe-Cook as they take you through Life Sort. Using a simple card-sorting technique, you’ll identify your strengths, concerns and passions. From these we’ll brainstorm a “life plan” — ways to spend time doing the things that are most meaningful. You’ll leave with a much better understanding of yourself and your future.

$100 per person

River Forest, IL

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Meet that wonderful 4th Grade girl.

In our LifeSort workshops, Liz often mentions how our identities are shaped when we were girls – before the constraints of womanhood and reality steered us away from what we really ARE to what we think we should be. Based on what our parents tell us. Based on what other girls are doing. Based on what the media shows. Based on anything but what we feel in our hearts.

So I was intrigued about this enough to pick up an out-of-print book at the library, The Girl Within, by Emily Hancock. Emily was interviewing women for her doctoral dissertation and uncovered this realization that the years between 8 and 10 are a turning point in the development of our identities. It’s a time when we’re totally competent in whatever we do – and if we’re not – it’s okay. We’re smart and strong and have grandiose imaginations. We are adventurous and aspire to being anything we want.

“…Even in unhappy circumstances a girl this age possesses an uncommon clarity. No matter how repressed she is, she has the bility to get outside herself.” (p. 16) Well, bring me an order of that! Uncommon clarity! When was the last time you experienced uncommon clarity around anything, much less your identity?

Think about yourself in 4th grade. What did you love doing? What could you do that surprised you? Who were your friends and how did you play/work/communicate? What were you afraid of and how did you  overcome fears? Try to envision a specific event during those years and bring to life as many of the details as you can. Write about it or draw it or mindmap it in whatever way you can capture that image.

Now think about the woman you are today and see if you can make connections to that 4th grade girl. What are the things you miss about her? What did you take with you into womanhood? What did you leave behind that you can resurrect.  What about her might make life a little better today?

I’m off to meet some moms of 4th grade Girl Scouts tonight as we’re prepping a series on Self-Esteem. And I can’t wait to talk tot hem about the power of the 4th grade girl. I bet they’ll look at their daughters a little differently at bedtime.

If you want to work more on the 8-10 year old girl within, let me know and I’ll write more about it and create some exercises we can do together. I’d bet my paper doll collection that you were one smart, talented, fun, strong girl!

Our Pursuit of “Normal”

After one of our more animated LifeSort workshops, Chris and I were chatting about our participants and how they seem to be looking for a bit of normalcy in their lives. Which got me thinking… what’s normal?

Chris, you asked me to think about what’s normal for a woman fifty plus?  Well, you know that’s the kind of question that gets people like me (psychologists) to say, “it depends.”

First of all, who is doing the defining of normal and what does that mean?

I think there’s probably a larger range of “normal” psychological responses for anyone of any age than we typically think.   Definitions of normalcy differ from region to region, culture to culture, person to person.  I know, I know – I quibble.

If you’ve seen the movie, “Babies” you will no doubt have recognized how different “normal” childrearing is in different cultures.  That movie was also a good reminder that some developmental things are universal, mostly in the physical realm, but also in the behavioral realm.   So I’d like to encourage people to recognize both the wide range of things that are normal for women of our age while giving a nod to the universals (e.g., menopause, diminished physical capacity, signs of aging, etc.)

So much of what we read about this stage of life talks about the transitions involved in being 50+.  Some of these transitions are as monumental as what we experienced at puberty, yes?  Remember those oh-so-discreet books from Kotex about menstruation, “You’re a woman now”?  I remember feeling like they offered comfort but didn’t quite spell out all the answers, particularly about why the grownups were so mysterious about it all.

Today, who’s offering those gentle, discreet, comforting messages?  “You’re a woman of a certain age now” might be the title and I think a lot of women feel like they could use some comforting messages even if mystery remains.  But now that we are of a “certain age,” we seem to be expected to figure out the mystery ourselves; we are the grownups.

What if I’m feeling anxious about my relationships at this age?  Normal.  How about worrying about my appearance when I never seemed to worry before?  Normal.  How about not caring about my appearance like I used to?  Normal. Still feeling like I’m a pouting teenager with my parents?  Normal.  Feeling rebellious about my work?  Normal.  Wanting to move on to different work?  Normal.  Loving the empty nest?  Normal.  Hating the empty nest?  Normal.  Feeling afraid that my body will betray me one time too often?  Normal.  Wondering how many times I’m going to have to work a familiar issue out?  Normal, normal, normal.

You get the picture.  Maybe one thing in the new normal of getting older is that we now have the life experience to help us recognize and celebrate our resilience as we experience new challenges (along with some of the old ones, too, of course).  And we do have the capacity to figure out the new normal for ourselves at this age.

(Our Pursuit of Normal, cont.)

Below I’ve listed some starting points for writing your own edition of “You’re a Woman of a Certain Age Now.”  (What do you find normal for you?  What’s important to you?  Where are you headed with…?)

  • Menopause
  • Relationships with others
  • Concern about our place in the social structure
  • Independence
  • Physical appearance and who finds us attractive
  • Empty nests
  • Care for aging parents
  • Career transitions, retirement, productivity
  • Loss of physical capabilities or experiencing serious illness
  • Thoughts about our own mortality
  • Freedom
  • Life’s meaning

All normal.

Liz

We’d love your comments or questions about how you feel ”normal”. Post a comment with your normal thoughts, please.

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Where does our time go?

I went to the retirement party of a friend who has been passionate about work for the last 40 or so years. As we walked around his house, it seemed that EVERYTHING there was a future “project”, from cleaning out the garage to installing backyard lights to getting a dog. He mentioned he’s been doing a lot of volunteer work already and he hopes to expand that. Plus weekends away with family and friends. Sounds good. I’m sure he’ll get the dog and maybe finish the lights, but we’ll never see the clean garage!

Other people commented on how they are or plan to spend their retirement time. Travel, golf, family, scrapbooks, shopping…and I started wondering about how we spend our time. And what might be a better way than frittering it away as many of us seem to do.

So I made a list of the things I get the most satisfaction doing and a list of the least. (While I’m sort of retired, I’m still trying to make a living as a consultant, so I’m not to the “golf stage” yet.)

Satisfaction… giving tours of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings to the interested public, gardening, lunch with friends, seeing great theater, cleaning out anything (PURGE!, the new Boomer war chant), hugging my dog, classes at the Apple store, Costco surprises, walking with friends

Low satisfaction… going through junk mail (including emails), sitting in meetings, watching most TV (not Project Runway or Mad Men), looking for things, talking to people I don’t find interesting or happy, doing errands, housecleaning.

Thinking about what we get satisfaction from is darn interesting. Why? What’s so cool about throwing things out, yet housecleaning is dull? Or how I can sit in a Mac class but am pained sitting in meetings?

So I took my lists and compared them to my “goal mind map” I have on things I want to accomplish and realized that things I get satisfaction from are directly connected to things I want to achieve. Goal – car in garage. Goal – learn my Mac. I have no goal of a clean house or advancing my career in the corporate world.

One of the workshops we run is “LifeSort”, basically helping you discover what you want to do for the rest of your life. We look at your strengths, passions and concerns and deep dive with interviews and visioning exercises. And I’m always so delighted when our participants leave having a real sense of how they can spend their time to achieve the most satisfaction. It’s gratifying to see them get excited about pursuing something they really care about. One woman is opening a communal art gallery, another diving into spirituality to feed her lifelong curiosity. Another woman has gone back to work, after retirement, and is so much happier. The list goes on.

My challenge to all of us over 50 is to think about what will give us the most satisfaction and then be creative about how to get more of that into our lives. And less of what is not satisfying. Some people find taking classes or starting a degree program is a way to involve themselves in new satisfying topics. Others volunteer or travel or make new friends.

I’d love to hear how you all are finding the best ways to use your time. I hope it’s for something really satisfying.

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Better Than You Expected!

Today, I’m asking you to take a moment and reflect on something in your life that turned out better than you had ever expected the results to be. It may be something like:

– Your son’s wedding (you knew it would be wonderful but never expected to have SO much fun)

– A really great haircut (think of the women on “What Not to Wear” and their looks of delight)

– Reunion time with your high school girlfriends (see photo)

– Your best performance review at work (in the words of Sally Fields at the Oscars — “You like me! You really like me!”)

– Coffee with a new-found friend (relaxing in the commonalities and learning in the differences)

– Dessert (mine is the first bite into fresh, flaky strudel or the complex flavors of tiramisu, heightened with real whipped cream)

All too often we set up expectations in our minds of how something will turn out. We anticipate the situation, the way an event unfolds, how we’ll feel about it afterwards. Maybe we feel obligated to attend. Maybe we’re SO excited that nothing short of “the next coming” can live up to what we have created in our imaginations. Maybe we even feel dread – because of “a bug” we put into our heads about what is going to happen.

Yet, one of life’s great pleasures is being surprised and delighted by reality. I have to admit to a world-class imagination that has served me (and my imaginary friend, Holy Zimmer) well throughout my life. It got me through many hours of Mr. Hanna’s social studies classes in Jr. High. And helped make me successful in a long career in marketing. Yet, led me to a panic attack in college, thinking about going to a fraternity toga party. (I don’t know WHAT I was expecting, but I’m sure I didn’t miss anything!) And felt let-down when no one at work paid attention to the great project I finished on Comfort Foods. There should have AT LEAST been cupcakes!

We can’t necessarily control “what’s to come”, but we can control our expectations. We can keep our imaginations in check and we can shut down those “bugs” that take us to ugly possibilities. In creativity training, we’re taught to “suspend judgment” so that ideas come freely without mental editing. In Eastern religions, we’re taught to live in the moment so that we fully appreciate what we have now. Yet anticipating what’s to come often adds richness and excitement to life. And preparing for these moments often lets us experience them more freely.

So today, let’s think about managing our expectations while enjoying our better-than-expected (b-t-e) moments. Try this:

1) Put aside 15 minutes for you and make a healthy b-t-e treat, like a tea that was b-t-e when you tried it or b-t-e piece of fruit.

2) Write down a b-t-e time in your life when you were truly surprised and delighted.

3) For this  b-t-e time, write down at least 7 ways in which the outcome surpassed your expectations.

4) Go off and create a b-t-e moment for someone else today.

And then share your b-t-e experiences by posting a comment.

By the way, I had a HUGE b-t-e surprise today with a wonderful article about Mirror Image, Julie Judd and me in today’s Chicago Tribune. Huge thanks to very-talented writer, Darcy Lewis, for capturing the essence of what we’re doing with women over 50. We share 8 tips for dressing like yourself – not your daughter or your mom.

Have a better than expected day!
Chris


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