Archive for Book Reviews Posts

published in Aging, Book Reviews, Change, Inspiration by Maryanne | September 27, 2017 | 2 Comments

Unravelling Midlife – Collection of Essays Explore the Middle Years

 

 

“I believe we have two lives…the life we learn with and the life we live after that.”

– Glenn Close to Robert Redford in the film, The Natural

And perhaps what we call the “midlife crisis” is the dividing line between the two?

I recently had the pleasure of reading an excellent collection of essays in the book, Unravelling; Discovering Our True Selves in Midlife, compiled by Camilla Joubert. All the essays were written by women and the diversity of experiences – and perspectives – reveal there is no one way of navigating the middle years.

However, in my observation, there was one common thread that ran throughout the entire collection: the need to feel some degree of happiness on a regular basis and have a sense of purpose with how one spends one’s days – and if neither of these needs are being met, we have two choices: keep on the same path or change it in some way.

Joubert was inspired to compile this collection after experiencing an “unravelling” of sorts herself…a rather spectacular midlife crisis. After picking herself up off the floor – literally – and beginning the process of weaving together the threads of her old life (and self) along with her new life (and self), she realized she was not alone in hitting a sort of half-way point on her life path and having to accept the uncomfortable fact that to take a single step more in the direction she was heading was not an option.

Here is a passage from her essay, aptly titled “Unravelling”:

“Who had I become? I was completely lost…I would walk around having snippets of conversation, shopping, washing, feeding, cleaning but I wasn’t present. I had managed to ‘exit’ my body. It felt like my soul had decided it didn’t like being inside me! There was a massive void in my life and nothing could fill it…For a long time before feeling lost, I’d felt stuck. Stuck in a life I felt I had little say or control over. That feeling of being trapped inside my head had been as visceral as the feeling of being lost and outside my mind and body.”

I was one of the women who contributed an essay to Camilla’s collection.

My essay was entitled, “The Path with a Heart.” Here are two snippets:

“Throughout all the heartache and the hurt, the hard work and the challenges, the pain and the setbacks, the sorrow and the roadblocks, I think we are on the path when we know that at the end of it all – whenever that may be – we will die a happy and fulfilled person who has achieved what we set out to do. And if we avail ourselves of the opportunities around, a heck of a lot more.”

“So where did I go to find the peace and quiet to begin to find my path? Where my heart rested, of course: John’s grave. Except that it wasn’t just his grave; it was also mine – literally. While John’s destiny was now physically carved into that stone, mine was still a blank. At thirty-two, I knew exactly where I was going to end up – I just didn’t know when. And despite the horrific hurt that comes with ‘hanging out’ with my husband’s headstone, instead of him, it was very conducive to helping me face my own mortality and what that meant for my journey.”

I love this passage from Kathi Cameron in her essay, “The Gen-Ager”:

“I was starting to feel like things were on track; I had a great career, a great man friend, and a great social network. Then, at forty-three, I heard it for the first time, that well-meaning punchline that feels like a kick in the proverbial muffin-top: “You sure look great for your age.”

And then there’s this candid insight from L. Fletcher in her essay, “The Great Skate”:

“I remember clearly a bright summer morning when I woke up, at thirty-nine years of age, and asked myself in a blur of semi-consciousness: “What am I doing? Who am I? Is this what I wanted for myself? Is this happiness?” I knew that I had, in that instant, opened the Pandora’s Box of great existential queries of midlifers the world-over. And now that the box had been opened, it had released a gnawing little gremlin that would not go away. I managed to stall the gremlin by keeping myself busy with my social life and doing everything I could to support everyone around me…Because as long as I was doing everything for everyone else, I wouldn’t have to face my own life.”

And check out this thought-provoking first stanza of the poem, “The Invitation,” that was printed in full within the essay by Casey Ross:

“It doesn’t interest me

what you do for a living.

I want to know

what you ache for

and if you dare to dream

of meeting your heart’s longing.”

– From “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

In the second part of our lives – the life we are living after the one we’ve learned with – meeting our heart’s longing (whatever or whoever that may be) is certainly a worthy goal to continue to work towards. In my experience, however, the learning never ends – regardless of our age…but the learning curve does tend to be significantly steeper in the younger years.

Thank goodness 😊

What are your thoughts and/or experience with navigating midlife?

For further information on Unravelling and/or to purchase the book, here is the link

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life

 

published in Book Reviews, Childfree, Decision Making, Family, Health, Motherhood, Mothering Matters by Maryanne | June 24, 2017 | 6 Comments

This is the 8th and final Mothering Matters blog in the Spring 2017 Blog Series:

A Must-Read Resource When Making the Motherhood Decision…or ANY Major Decision for that Matter

 

 

“When you isolate your desire first, and then weigh it carefully against your personal circumstances, it’s easier to make your decision.”

– Ann Davidman and Denise L. Carlini, Motherhood: Is It For Me?

Book Review of “Motherhood: Is it for me?”

For many women, the motherhood decision is a given. For some, the decision not to have children is just as clear. But for many of women – myself included – the motherhood decision is not so cut and dry.

In fact, I spent two decades struggling over whether or not I wanted to become a mom. In the end, life – and my choices – pretty much chose for me.

And as glad as I am that I ended up not taking the path of raising a child/ren, I could have saved myself an awful lot of time and energy…that was spent thinking about the decision, if the brilliant book, Motherhood: Is It For Me? Your Step by Step Guide to Clarity, had existed to help me work through the process of making a decision.

Alas, it wasn’t published until 2016.

But for all the other women out there, currently struggling their way through the “Should I or shouldn’t I…become a mom?” question, I highly recommend reading this book.

And yet, here’s the thing: even though I read the Motherhood: Is It For Me? book at the tender age of 49 😊 I actually found it to be extremely useful in helping me make another major life decision over the past few months (more on that in another blog).

In my opinion, that’s the sign of a very good book!

But why, perhaps you may be asking yourself, would a 49-year old single gazelle have taken the time to read a book entitled, “Motherhood: Is It For Me?” in the first place?

Well, here’s the scoop: one of the authors, Ann Davidman, contacted me several months ago, after watching our documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood.

Ann is a Motherhood Clarity Mentor and a Marriage and Family Therapist. Ann has been helping women work through the motherhood decision for more than 25 years.

In fact, the book stems from the Motherhood Clarity Course, which is a 14-week program that helps women who are struggling with indecision about whether they want to become a mother.

Ann’s co-author, Denise L. Carlini, is also a Marriage and Family Therapist. The authors know from their professional experience that an analytical pros-and-cons approach often fails to successfully answer this most personal question.

Because of the Whatever Floats Your Boat documentary and the Mothering Matters blog series, Ann asked me if I would read and review their book. I said yes. And I’m awfully glad I did.

Right off the top, Davidman and Carlini explain the difference between determining one’s desire – what the heart truly wants – and making one’s decision: what course of action are you actually going to take?

This is important because: “When you isolate your desire first, and then weigh it carefully against your personal circumstances; it’s easier to make your decision.”

So often, we get caught up in trying to MAKE a decision before we’ve taken the time to really think through what it is we truly want…and that goes for anything in life, not just motherhood.

Here are just a few gems gleamed from the book…perhaps you might find, as I did, that regardless of where you’re at on your path, there is some very sage life advice here:

“Sometimes an important piece of information needs time to completely unfold, and sharing it prematurely can disrupt the unfolding…even the most well-intentioned feedback from others can disturb the feeling of safety you’ve been creating for yourself and push you off track.”

In other words: it is very wise to keep the early part of your decision-making process to yourself. Don’t let the riff raff in until you’re ready to let them in!

“Slowing down may indeed feel uncomfortable at first, but we’ve learned that allowing yourself time and space to examine and accurately perceive the various aspects of your life is far more effective than generating those pros-and-cons lists that only seem to keep you stuck in an endless loop of indecision.”

“Thinking is good, of course, but so much more happens when you write. The writing itself takes twists and turns in a way that thought processes can’t, creating a fertile environment for more and more to emerge.”

Ahhh…music to a writer’s soul.

“Bring intention to your process while you suspend judgement, and trust that on a deeper level something is happening.”

“Most women find that when they grant themselves permission to not know, they feel less fatigue and have more energy for exploring.”

“What needs to be known first is what you want for yourself regardless of the circumstances of your life.”

“Trying to make a decision based on your internal emotions and the external circumstances in your life at the same time creates all kinds of pressure…trying to figure out your desire and your decision at the same time creates gridlock.”

“There are no appropriate or inappropriate fears. There are only the fears that live inside you for good reason.”

“Human nature compels us to seek answers actively. It can feel excruciating not to know, and fluctuating between answers creates the perpetual illusion that at any moment the answer will come and provide relief…making a case for ‘yes’ and then making a case for ‘no’ doesn’t help you get any closer to getting off the fence; it only serves to temporarily soothe anxiety, nothing more.”

“When you relax into self-acceptance, the result is spaciousness. From there you can more easily gain access to the answers that are already there.”

“When you’re able to say yes to a big dream or future possibility, whether or not you know how it will come about, you move forward toward it and life tends to meet you, often filling in the details.”

“As you imagine your future, do you feel that you’re entitled to have things go the way you want them to?”

See? I told you it was a brilliant book 😊

Here is the link for further information on (or to purchase) Motherhood: Is It For Me?

“At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

Lao Tzu

Related Blogs

Getting to the Heart of the Matter – To Be or Not To Be…a Mom?

Undecided about Motherhood? A Motherhood Clarity Mentor Shares Her Personal Story and Professional Advice on Making a Decision

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. She is the executive producer of the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

Mothering Matters is an initiative of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc.

For further information about the Mothering Matters blog series, here is the link.

If you would like to receive the Mothering Matters blogs and/or read the other blogs, please click here.

published in Anger, Book Reviews, Boundaries, Depression, Health, Saying NO! by Maryanne | June 6, 2017 | 4 Comments

In Sickness & in Health – When The Body Says No

 

“When we have been prevented from learning how to say no, our bodies may end up saying it for us.”

– Gabor Maté

If you haven’t read Gabor Maté’s book, When the Body Says No; The Cost of Hidden Stress, I highly recommend it. I borrowed a copy from a friend a year ago and read it in small chunks, here and there, as there was an awful lot of content – and supporting case studies – to consider, in terms of the role we play in our own health. It is not a particularly comfortable read but it is extremely enlightening.

“It is a sensitive matter to raise the possibility that the way people have been conditioned to live their lives may contribute to their illness.” 

– Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No

Drawing on scientific research and the author’s decades of experience as a practicing physician, When the Body Says No examines the effect of the mind-body connection on illness and health and the role that stress and one’s individual emotional makeup play in conditions and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis.

Here are a just a few highlights from the book:

“People have always understood intuitively that mind and body are not separable. Modernity has brought with it an unfortunate dissociation, a split between what we know with our whole being and what our thinking mind accepts as truth.”

“Our immune system does not exist in isolation from daily experience.”

“Many of us live, if not alone, then in emotionally inadequate relationships that do not recognize or honour our deepest needs.”

“When emotions are repressed, this inhibition disarms the body’s defences against illness.”

“Repression – dissociating emotions from awareness and relegating them to the unconscious realm – disorganizes and confuses our physiological defences so that in some people these defences go awry, becoming the destroyers of health rather than its protectors.”

“The blurring of psychological boundaries during childhood becomes a significant source of future physiological stress in the adult. There are ongoing negative effects on the body’s hormonal and immune systems, since people with indistinct personal boundaries live with stress; it is a permanent part of their daily experience to be encroached on by others. However, that is a reality they have learned to exclude from their direct awareness.”

“The research literature has identified three factors that universally lead to stress: uncertainty, the lack of information and the loss of control. All three are present in the lives of individuals with chronic illness.”

“Repression of anger increases the risk for cancer for the very practical reason that it magnifies exposure to physiological stress. If people are not able to recognize intrusion, or are unable to assert themselves, even when they do see a violation, they are likely to experience repeatedly the damage brought on by stress.”

“Physiological stress is the link between personality traits and disease. Certain traits – otherwise known as coping styles – magnify the risk for illness by increasing the likelihood of chronic stress. Common to them all is a diminished capacity for emotional communication.”

“The gut, or intestinal tract, is much more than an organ of digestion. It is a sensory apparatus with a nervous system of its own, intimately connected to the brain’s emotional centres.”

“Gut feelings, pleasant or unpleasant, are part of the body’s normal response to the world – they help us interpret what is happening around us and inform us whether we are safe or in danger.”  

“The repression of negative emotion is a chronic and significant source of damaging stress.”

“Characteristics of many persons with rheumatoid diseases is a stoicism carried to an extreme degree, a deeply ingrained reticence about seeking help.”

“Repressed anger will lead to disordered immunity. The inability to process and express feelings effectively, and the tendency to serve the needs of others before even considering one’s own, are common patterns in people who develop chronic illness.”

“The less powerful partner in any relationship will absorb a disproportionate amount of the shared anxiety – which is the reason that so many more women than men are treated for, say, anxiety or depression. (The issue here is not strength but power: that is, who is serving whose needs?)

“Healthy anger leaves the individual, not the unbridled emotion, in charge.”

“Health rests on three pillars: the body, the psyche and the spiritual connection. To ignore any one of them is to invite imbalance and dis-ease.”

For further information about the book and author, here is the link.

Related blogs by Maryanne:

Anger in the Garden – Pruning Back for Future Growth

When Our Body Says No, We’d Be Wise to Listen

Back Off Baby – You Just Crossed My Boundary

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.