Monday, June 30, 2008

EveryWoman And Sex And The City

I think I’m the next to the last woman in the country to see Sex and The City. Better late than never, I say. I finally saw it and I’ve been racking my brain to figure out what I could say about it that was brilliant, and profound. I mean it’s not really a brilliant, profound movie is it? If you’re up to here with commentary on it, I won’t hold it against you if you stop right here. No spoilers here though if you decide to read on and you’re one of the few who haven’t yet seen it.

The truth is I liked it a lot. It wasn’t always that way.

I was a slow convert to being a fan. I did not watch the show during its original airing, I felt it was beneath me somehow, way too popular. I only caught it later in reruns and even then I thought those girls were awful, awful and shallow. I know I’m being a hard ass, give the girls a break, they were 30 somethings, girls just want to have fun, for God’s sake!

But, slyly and insidiously, they crept under my skin until I would catch myself on Wednesday evenings arranging my schedule to watch the latest rerun. Still telling myself they were terrible, but going out of my way to watch the show. Unh hunh. By the last episode, I had melted and was proud of all of them for showing discernible and quite respectable personal growth.

Their fashion-saturated, hip hanging out, cocktail sipping, glamming it lives are just irresistible. How could you not be seduced by it? Weeellll...that’s a different post, so onward.

Why do they have such universal girl appeal, to young and more mature alike? It IS the girlfriends for life thing, no doubt about it. Where would we be without our girlfriends? And, I think it’s because, despite their completely unrealistic lifestyles--it would take several tens of thousands of monthly dollars to live in NYC the way they do—still, at bottom, they are just regular girls like the rest of us trying to figure out love and life. Making just as many mistakes as the rest of us, suffering heartaches just like the rest of us, struggling to maintain their sense of identity in the face of these crazy, mystifying things we call relationships.

Granted they are doing that more glamorously and beautifully coiffed and coutured than the rest of us could hope for, but nonetheless....

That’s as brilliant as I could get, sorry. So now, let’s turn to the completely girly, gossipy part!

I mean, the clothes! The stupendously fashionable, clothing–as-art, over the top clothes made my mouth hang open at every scene change. I’m not a fashionista by ANY stretch, but honestly, I LOVED THOSE CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES!! If I ever manage to look even remotely fashionable, I usually run out of steam (and money) at the accessorizing stage of things. Which is why nobody would ever mistake me for even a fashionista wannabe.

The girls all looked absolutely FABulous, even better than in the TV show, didn’t ya’ll think? It was gratifying to see Kim Cattrall play the hottest 50ish woman on the screen in recent memory (Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair was a close second). I think they must have put all four through a 6 month daily training regimen prior to even beginning to shoot. What would it be like for your JOB to be working out with your trainer 2 hours every day, getting your hair done, visiting the aesthetician for a little Botox, and all the rest? I'll certainly never know :)

Anyway, enough of that. Bottom line is, I can forgive the outrageously unrealistic, glam lifestyle portrayal and impossible stereotypes of beauty they present, because the bottom line is, those girls manage to pull at our heartstrings.

They couldn’t do that if they didn’t have something of the Every Woman in them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Juno On Giving Away Our Power

Last week, WomenBloom published an interesting article by Rebecca Hamm, a Master Sufi and therapist, about personal power. How we give it away, or not. Basically, Rebecca explained that when we put someone else’s needs, expectations, or demands in front of our own, in a way that ignores our higher good or our own ‘truth’, we are asking for trouble.

Basically, the concept as I see it means putting the responsibility for stuff smack where it belongs. We always have a choice to keep our power even if we think we don’t. If we think we have no choice because it would upset the spouse, or disappoint our mother, or a million other things, it usually just means the choices are sucky and we don’t want to make them...but alas, it doesn’t mean they aren’t choices we have.


I watched the movie Juno over the weekend which seemed like a great illustration of what I’m talking about here. It was a great lesson in keeping one’s power. Juno could easily have gotten an abortion and given her power away by saying she had no choice, she was only 16 and too young to be a good mother. Or, she had no choice, she couldn’t embarrass her parents by going through a pregnancy. Her choices were pretty sucky, but she didn’t blame anyone for her predicament, and she got in touch with her own ‘truth’ which was to have that baby and find a loving home for it.

That might not have been someone else’s ‘truth’ but it was hers, and she endured quite a bit of hardship for her choice, and for keeping her power. Her internal truth revealed that for her an abortion would not be in her highest good even if it might have saved her a lot of embarrassment and discomfort in the short run.

Thankfully, her parents supported her but if they hadn’t, it would have been easy for a 16 year old to put the embarrassment of her parents before the lifetime of regret she would endure for making a choice she felt wasn’t in her highest good. In other words, it would have been easy to give her power away.

Just to be clear, I intend no judgment on whether abortion is right or wrong, the answer is different for everyone. It’s about the difficult choices one young woman had before her, and whether she made the one that was right for her.

One thing Rebecca said that stuck with me was that giving our power away often comes from the assumption that we are solely responsible for someone else’s emotions and psychological well-being. That we have to control and manage their feelings because they can’t, or won’t. We treat them as if they are powerless to do that for themselves. It often means giving way to someone else’s feelings even if it means doing something we know isn’t good for us.

Juno’s parents no doubt endured some embarrassment and angst about her decision, but rightfully, they took that on as their own responsibility to deal with and trusted that their daughter was doing the right thing for her.

In the process, Juno learned some valuable lessons about love and the messiness of life.

Which begs the question....Why is it that we usually have to learn valuable life lessons in the midst of messy/painful/challenging/sucky situations?? That’s a whole other subject....sigh.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Midlife Gals: This Is Not Your Mom's Middle Age!

Whoo hoo! I have to just tell you about my friends, the Midlife Gals!

We bumped into each other by accident in cyberspace several months ago as the three of us middle aged women were trying to figure out the derned blogging/social networking thing. Well, after an email exchange or two and realizing that, as luck would have it, we lived in the same wonderful city of Austin, Texas, I knew I had to meet these two wild ladies!

We met for lunch, bonded and became fast friends. These are two funny, SMART women. They are poster girls for WomenBloom’s mission of highlighting the fact that we are NOT living our Mom’s Middle Age! At least we don’t have to :)

These late 50s gals didn’t know what a blog was a year ago, but they decided they should have one. Did I mention they were smart?? They figured out the blogging thing AND the video thing with a vengeance. They were featured in MORE magazine a few months after getting started, were finalists in SXSW Interactive’s On Network Project Greenlights award, and have got PAYING blogging/video gigs with a large health network site.

This morning, as I sat down bleary-eyed to sip my cup o’ tea and read my newspaper, there they were!!! Featured in the Austin American Statesman’s Masters Of Their Domain section that features cool websites.

HELLOA!!! All this adds up to some pretty groovy press for what midlifers can learn and accomplish. I love it! If these two aren't helping change the perception of middle-age, I don’t know what or who is!

KK and SalGal, keep on keepin’ on, sistahs!

And now, for your viewing amusement....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Real Secrets of The Secret

Most of you have heard about The Secret. Haven’t you? You know. That slickly produced and marketed, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’/History Channel looking, prosperity promising book and DVD that was all the rage a year or two ago?

Don’t get me wrong. While I sound a little disdainful, it’s only because I’m jealous that Rhonda Byrne made a bazillion dollars re-packaging a concept that can be found in no fewer than 257 (I made that number up) self-help books and seminars. It’s the Law of Attraction which says that you attract to yourself people, situations and experiences that match how you think and what you think about.

I used to teach critical thinking in a university and I will tell you that once you understand how humans’ perceptions form, and how those perceptions then determine their choices and decisions, the Law of Attraction makes a lot of sense. Human beings see what they expect to see, we have filters that screen out what doesn’t fit our beliefs. We take actions (this is important) that tend to reinforce what we believe and see. That means you often get what you expect to see. If you expect a certain outcome, it’s more likely to happen.

Therefore, I believe this principle even while I think Ms. Byrne’s product takes such a superficial and overly materialistic view of it that it does it a real disservice.

Regardless of my cynicism around her take on it, I must tell you that I have had, and several friends have had, this last year astounding experiences with this concept.

Really astounding.

The latest is a friend who about a year ago decided she was going to get a great job for a certain state agency, and she was going to have that job by the end of June this year. She set a salary figure she wanted and wrote it on a piece of paper that she put on her nightstand.

Then the heavy lifting began which incidentally is where the Secret falls short in my humble opinion.

This friend, myself and a few other friends have all set intentions around certain things we wanted to accomplish, visualized them in great detail, we journal about them, and focus all our attention and energies on them…and then have consistently made decisions, sacrifices, and taken action that 'fit' what we wanted to see. The Secret makes it sound like you sit in your easy chair, just visualize and think about it and voila! No, no, no, Glasshoppah! You have to take focused and consistent action toward it.

Despite fears, discouragement, and other obstacles, we have kept our focus and attention on our goal. And, in the course of our line of action, each of us has numerous examples of asking the Universe for the next step, or the next contact, or the person with the answer we needed…and gotten it, sometimes almost immediately. It has been downright spooky at times.

That isn’t to say the next step or person or whatever always look the way I expect, but without fail what has come up has been one more helpful step towards my goal. And, most of the examples I have in mind are not about money although money is part of the outcome we’ve envisioned. It’s been more about stretching ourselves professionally or personally.

Back to my friend, after a number of interviews and offers of several jobs at this agency that didn’t seem like the right fit to her, she got an offer yesterday for a job that is a perfect fit…and the initial salary offer was $10 less than that figure she had written so many months ago. And, with 2 weeks notice, she should start right at the end of June.

I’m tellin’ ya….

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cougaring: Older Women On The Prowl

I like to think of myself as a pretty hip 50 year old but there are times when I realize that there are, er, a few gaps in this hipster’s knowledge base.

So, I’m at a party this last weekend and I was introduced to a new concept…’cougaring’. I had the vague feeling I had heard this term floating around but I was flat-footed and clueless when two middle-aged women began talking about it with glee.

For those of you who, like me, need some elucidation, a ‘cougar’ is an older woman who dates younger men. The term refers to the ‘older’ woman who has reached some professional success, who is fit and powerful. Get the feline allusion?

Supposedly the way this works is that she fulfills the young man’s fantasy of being tutored by a sexually experienced (and assertive) older woman. And, he fulfills her…well, I think we all know what he fulfills for her. Think Samantha from Sex and The City and you’ve got the picture.

This has some biological basis according to some. Women hit their sexual peak in their 40s while men hit it in their 20s.

Well then. Sounds like a match made in heaven!

While I can certainly appreciate the stamina and sexual intensity a 28 year old would bring to the bed, I’ve always wondered…what in the world would you talk about after the sex? Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always found that life has a way of kicking you around a bit, or a lot, in your 30s and 40s. It’s when a man learns that he isn’t bullet proof, and he gets a bit of patina and experience on him that things begin to get interesting.

Like any good blogger, I turned to YouTube for further research on the subject.

Nice, am I the only one who thinks this is bizarre?? Clearly, Samantha and the women attending Cougar Camp aren’t placing great emphasis on stimulating conversation. It seems to me they are mostly wanting to turn the tables on men and use their professional success and looks to assert their power. That’s OK if you’re into that sort of thing I suppose.

Most of us middle-aged gals out there, however, haven’t got that particular kind of power. We don’t look like we just walked off the catwalk, nor are most of us pulling in the 6 figures necessary to exert financial power. I think a bit of caution is called for.

Nothing wrong with an age difference, but I think it’s not that easy for women to have easy sex for sex’s sake.. We do tend to want a deeper connection ya know. Seeing any relationships for what it is is the key. And, that isn't always easy.

One of the women who was telling me about her cougaring experiences had begun her story in a cocky, braggadocio tone. But, as the conversation went on, she became quieter and quieter. She finally admitted she’d just given up, the young guy was being kind of flaky, wouldn’t call back, clearly wasn’t looking for that deeper connection. I got the feeling ‘given up’ went deeper than this particular man.

She sadly wandered off and I didn’t see her again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Midwives And Doulas To The Dying

I spent part of last weekend at a conference for women called Remarkable Women. It was very well organized and clearly the organizers put heart and soul into it.

While I learned some great things and met a lot of wonderful women, one of the sessions made a particularly strong impression on me. It was about the concept of midwives and doulas to the dying.

It seems to me that we ‘do’ death so badly in this country for the most part. We take such care for births, baptisms, confirmations, bar/bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, and weddings, but we somehow have a much harder time giving the same attention and intention to dying. A lovely funeral comes a little late for the loved one who has passed on.

That is why, when a friend recently told me about a friend of hers who was training to support terminally ill people and their families, I was deeply touched. This goes way beyond hospice care. Making dying as intentional and loving a process as possible seems so important to me and I was very eager to learn more.

Deanna Cochran is the certified hospice and palliative care nurse who conducted the session. She is part of a growing movement to help manage the emotional, spiritual, and palliative care needs of a dying loved one and his or her family. I spent only an hour with Deanna but I can see that she is following her calling. What a loving and supportive energy she gives out.

Here are the 3 things I learned that are important to offer to those with a dying lvoed one, among others:

Be conscious of the primary caregiver’s and the dying person’s comfort zone. You must be tuned in to their needs and leave your own discomfort and baggage behind.

Shut up and listen. Being silent can be the hardest work of all. But that provides the sacred space for them to go as deep into their pain as they choose.

Advocate for physical relief of symptoms. This is called palliative care and it’s a relatively new concept (I have to shake my head over this) to the medical community for the most part. Deanna is very clear that there is NO reason for someone who is dying to suffer physically. There is always something that can be done to alleviate pain and discomfort. You may have to contact a number of physicians to find one who will work with you on it, but they are out there.

There is much more, but I simply encourage you to go to Deanna’s site to learn more about this very important and sacred service. We also have a WomenBloom article on palliative care written by Dr. Sue Bornstein, former Associate Director of Baylor Medical Center’s Palliative Care Program, if you'd like to know more about how the medical community is thinking about this.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Inner Game of the Job Search

A few weeks ago, I did a couple of posts about women in their 50s having a tough time finding a job. There are of course puh-lenty of external factors: society’s view of older women, technology advances driving rapid change in how one conducts a job search, and a recession.

But, there is also the internal game that has to do with how confident we are within ourselves and the kinds of unconscious messages we send based on the stories we believe about ourselves. If I lack confidence in myself, that is likely to show up in subtle and not so subtle ways my job interviews. And, the rest of my life as well, but that is another story.

That’s the unfortunate thing…we believe we mask these things so well. Or, perhaps, we aren’t trying to hide them because we are unaware of them. But the truth is they are usually quite visible to others.

Rats! What’s a girl to do??

This week, I’ve engaged in a conversation about the Inner Game of the Job Search with Nancy Oelklaus, a coach and author of Journey from Head to Heart: Living and Working Authentically. It has been an ongoing conversation that continues in the Forums on WomenBloom.

We are talking about ways to surface these internal limiting beliefs that get in our way as well as a few strategies for dealing with them.

Job searching is challenging enough without us stumbling over ourselves.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Freedom From The Tyranny Of Cell Phone Carriers

As I’ve mentioned, I am MOST fortunate to have some guy friends who are total geeks, er, I mean extremely tech savvy. They are my translators for the world of computers and other tech gadgets. I frankly don’t know what I would do without them since I don’t have teenagers.

One of them, Greg, recently put me completely in the picture of something called unlocked phones.

Well, who knew? I had grudgingly resigned myself to the fact that I was just at the mercy of my cell phone provider’s whims and caprices. NOT SO!

Greg tells me that I can actually buy a phone from Motorola (and others I believe) that is not tied to any one carrier’s plan. That means I can sign up for service on a month to month basis. I can be on the lookout for the best priced plan instead of being locked into an expensive 2 year commitment that includes my first born and a second on my house. If AT&T runs a special deal I can jump on board.

Ha, freedom from tyranny! I’m in the driver’s seat!

In the lucky event, I’m headed for Europe, I can swap out the SIM card I have that is limited to service in the US to a SIM card that I can use in Florence (I wish!). I can buy pre-programmed SIM cards that are like a debit card that give me a specific number of minutes. I can also see this as handy if you have kids whose phone use is hard to control.

These little babies are also chargeable by USB hook up instead of by those little proprietary chargers I’m always losing. And, you get to keep your same phone number if you swap phones. Very cool.

The downside is you pay full price for your phone instead of the carrier giving you a deal. So, if you like to change out frequently to the newest newfangled thang, this approach might not work for you. But, if you have an old unlocked phone lying around and you drop your new one and break it, you can just take your SIM card out and swap to the old phone, and, voila, you’re in bidness.

Basically, your phone’s identity sits on the SIM card instead of the phone, sort of like a PO Box that stays the same even if you swap residences.

Don’t you love it?? And, Greg tells me, there is the bonus of deeply impressing techie guys with your tech brilliance.