THE ELDERWOMAN NEWSLETTER
Issue #5, March 2004
Welcome to the first "Elderwoman Newsletter" for 2004.
View from the Desk
Once again, it is Spring here in North Devon, the season of yellow, with daffodils, primroses, celandines and forsythia all shining brightly. In weeks to come, the yellow will gradually yield to the pink, white and blue theme of April/May, as the campions, stitchwort, wild garlic and bluebells all begin to appear.
I love being in England at this time of the year. But it is a long haul from Christmas to the first warm weather, so Sky and I did sneak off, this month, for a couple of weeks' vacation in the south-west of Crete. There, we hiked, soaked up sunshine, feasted our eyes on views of blue sea and snow-capped mountains, and ate so many Greek salads that we got through two and a half bottles of olive oil in fourteen days.
I loved seeing the Cretan grandmothers with their silver hair, their black clothes and their character-filled faces which can look quite stern at first but crinkle into wide smiles when you exchange greetings with them. How I wished that I knew enough Greek to ask them about their lives and about the changes they have seen on the island in their lifetimes. I'll bet they would have a lot to say.
While I was gratefully baring my skin to the warm sun, those of you in southern climes have been breathing sighs of relief as your cooler weather comes again. There, as the long holiday ends, and the youngsters with their backpacks have flown home again from their travels, it is the time of year for new beginnings, new projects, perhaps new courses to attend or groups to join. Enjoy!
Our mailing list continues to grow, and the Elderwoman website is getting an increasing number of hits each week. Which pleases me no end.
A reader from Wales tells me that the copy of Elderwoman in her local library is being constantly borrowed, and it appears from the statement I recently received from the Public Lending Rights office, that quite a lot of libraries carry both my books. I would love it if you could check to see if yours does - and if it doesn't, suggest to the staff that they purchase them. (Let me know if you would like publicity leaflets to give them, and I'll send you some).
Return to top
For various reasons, which I won't bore you with, I decided against having our discussion board on the OmPlace website, as previously planned. Instead, I have launched an Elderwoman Discussion Group under the auspices of Yahoo.
Yahoo discussion boards can be a bit of a pain because of all the advertising. However, with Yahoo Groups you don't have to go to the site at all - except to do the initial registering. Once registered, you can join in the discussion via your own e-mail program.
I have made it an "invitation only" group, so that only people who are signed up for this newsletter will be allowed to join.
Therefore, in about a week from the time you receive this, you'll receive an invitation from Yahoo to join the Elderwoman Discussion Group. If you DON'T WANT to receive this invitation, please let me know, within the next few days, and I won't include your address on the invitation list.
Return to top
The Lilypad ListThis, my next book - on simple living - is to be published by Findhorn Press later this year. If you belong to a simplicity circle or know of any in your area, or have any ideas for helping me promote this new title, please get in touch. As you probably know, authors these days (except the ones in the J.K. Rowling category) have to do most of their own book promotion. Unless of course they can afford a publicity agent. Not an option for me, I'm afraid, as a somewhat impecunious old age pensioner! So I need all the help I can get.
Return to top
Check out the latest in Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God series. This one's called Tomorrow's God and it's great. Just the sort of God the world needs - a genderless, grown-up kind of a God with a sense of humour who points out that if we humans don't get our act together, stop squabbling and messing our planet up, then it's no good looking to Her/Him to rescue us. But if enough of us reject all the old (false) versions of God that the various religions have invented and start tuning in to the truth that we are all one consciousness and that whatsoever we do to the Earth and its creatures we are doing to ourselves, then wonderful changes will come about - and very soon. Perhaps within the next few years.
Return to top
(FAIR USE NOTICE
This newsletter contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always
been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material
available in my efforts to advance understanding of social justice and women's issues,
etc. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as
provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title
17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this newsletter is distributed without
profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included
information for educational purposes. For more information go to:
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted
material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you
must obtain permission from the copyright owner.)
Return to top
Marta sent this - it's a great article about aging, (even though it's written by a youngster!)
"49" by Anne Lamott (from 'O' Magazine)
I was at a wedding Saturday with a lot of women in their 20s and 30s in
sexy dresses, their youthful skin aglow. And even though I was 20 or 30
years older, a little worse for wear, a little tired and overwhelmed by
the loud music, I was smiling.
I smiled with a secret Cheshire-cat smile of pleasure and relief in
being older- 49 - which even I would have to admit is no longer
extremely late youth. But I would not give you back a year of life
Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life-it gave me me. It
provided the time and experience and failures and triumphs and friends
who helped me step into the shape that had been waiting for me all my
life. I fit into me now-mostly. I have an organic life finally, not the
one people imagined for me or tried to get me to have or the life
someone else might celebrate as a successful one-I have the life I
dreamed of. I have become the woman I hardly dared imagine I could be.
There are parts I don't love-until a few years ago, I had no idea that
you could get cellulite on your stomach- but I not only get along with
me most of the time now, I am militantly and maternally on my own side.
Left to my own devices, would I trade this for firm thighs, fewer
wrinkles, a better memory?
On some days. That's why it's such a blessing I'm not left to my own
devices. Because the truth is I have amazing friends and a deep faith in
God, to whom I can turn. I have a cool kid, a sweet boyfriend, darling
pets. I've learned to pay attention to life, and to listen. I'd give up
all this for a flatter belly? Are you crazy?
I still have terrible moments when I despair about my body. But they are
just moments- I used to have years when I believed I would be more
beautiful if I jiggled less; if all parts of my body stopped moving when
I did. But I believe two things now that I didn't at 30. When we get to
heaven, we will discover that the appearance of our butts and skin was
127th on the list of what mattered on this earth. And I know the truth
that lam not going to live forever, and this has set me free. Eleven
years ago, when my friend Pammy was dying at the age of 37 we went
shopping at Macy's. She was in a wheelchair, with a wig and three weeks
to live. I tried on a short dress and came out to model it for Pammy. I
asked if she thought it made me look big in the thighs, and she said, so
kindly, "Annie? You just don't have that kind of time."
I live by this story.
I am thrilled-thrilled-ish-for every gray hair and achy muscle, because
of all the friends who didn't make it, who died too young of AIDS and
breast cancer. And much of the stuff I used to worry about has
subsided-what other people think of me and of how l am living my life. I
give these things the big shrug. Mostly. Or at least, eventually. It's a
I became more successful in my mid-40s, but this pales compared to the
other gifts of this decade-how kind to myself I have become, what a
wonderful, tender wife I am to myself, what a loving companion. I get
myself tubs of hot salty water at the end of the day in which to soak my
tired feet. I run interference for myself when I am working, like the
wife of a great artist would: "No, I'm sorry, she can't come. She's
working hard these days and needs a lot of downtime." I live by the
truth that No is a complete sentence. I rest as a spiritual act.
I have grown up enough to develop radical acceptance. I insist on the
right to swim in warm water at every opportunity, no matter how cold, no
matter how young and gorgeous the other people on the beach are. I don't
think that if I live to be 80 I'll wish I'd spent more hours in the gym
or kept my house a lot cleaner. I think I'm going to wish I had swum
more unashamedly, made more mistakes, spaced out more, rested. On the
day I die, I want to have had dessert. So this informs howl live now.
I have survived so much loss, as all of us have by our 40th-my parents,
dear friends. my pets. Rubble is the ground on which our deepest
friendships are built. If you haven't already, you will lose someone you
can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad
news is that you never completely get over the loss of a beloved person.
But this is also the good news. They live forever, in your broken heart
that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It's like having a leg
that never heals perfectly-that still hurts when the weather is cold-but
you learn to dance with the limp. You dance to the absurdities of life;
you dance to the minuet of old friendships.
I danced alone for a couple of years, and came to believe I might not
ever have a passionate romantic relationship-might end up alone! I'd
been so terrified of this my whole life. But I'd rather never be in a
couple or never get laid again than to be in a toxic relationship. I
spent a few years celibate. It was lovely, and it was sometimes lonely.
I had surrendered;
I'd run out of bullets. But I learned to be the person I wished I'd
meet-at which point I found a kind, artistic, handsome man. we have been
together 20 months now, when we get out of bed, we hold our lower backs,
like Walter Brennan, and we smile.
Younger women worry that their memories will begin to go. And you know
what? They will. Menopause has not increased my focus and retention as
much as I'd been hoping. But a lot is better off missed. A lot is better
not gotten around to.
I know many of the women at the wedding fear getting older, and I wish I
could gather them together again and give them my word of honor that
every one of my friends loves being older, loves being in her 40s, 50s,
60s, 70s. My Aunt Gertrud is 85 and leaves us behind in the dust when we
hike. Look, my feet hurt some mornings, and my body is less forgiving
when I exercise more than I'm used to. But I love my life more, and me
more. I'm so much juicier. And, like that old saying goes, it's not that
I think less of myself, but that I think of myself less often. And that
feels like heaven to me
Return to top
Good News for Women
by Katha Pollitt, The Nation, January 12, 2004
Return to top
Working with Dreams - Part One (by Marian)
Hooray! Now I have something to work with. I have been wanting to do an article on dreams, and wondering if anyone was going to send me one. To my great delight, a few days after the last newsletter went out, Ann shared the following dream with me:
"This dream struck me with such force that I wrote it down. I've been writing many of my dreams down ever since.
I was inside some sort of walled city in a desert. High walls - sandstone/adobe. It was night-time, but light enough to see clearly and to see the colours as you would in an Henri Rousseau painting of the night. #
I was in an alleyway off the main street and there was a kitten / young cat nearby.
Some sort of 'contretemps' was going on. A woman - the leader of a group - dressed like an Arab, complete with turban swept down the street past me, followed by a large group - I don't know if they were guards or just her followers.
Then I was outside the city, in the desert. It was still night time and the colours were beautiful - pale sand and deep blue moon lit sky. I'm looking across at the city - I seem to be moving past it quite fast. But it is camouflaged - and I know this. I can see how it looks like a huge hill or mountain rising from the flat desert, with cliffs and gullies etched in the sand and stone that it is covered in to make a disguise.#
I am aware of singing. Is it me? Or the stars? Or is it someone singing to me?
Switch to hill top village, with a man and woman either parting or going down to the desert city. Are they singing to each other?"#
I came to the conclusion that the woman was a part of myself which has been unacknowledged for a long time - or rather, the lid has been kept on her. To do with power.
I can't for the life of me work out the significance of the cat - unless it is a guide.
And I wondered if the hidden city was some sort of symbol for my higher self , with the man & woman being possibly the male and female parts of myself. Perhaps it is part of life's task to integrate these aspects of the self - and maybe the singing represented the harmony which ensues from such an integration. Maybe that's why they were going from the hill village to the hidden city.
They are just my thoughts on the dream. It was very vivid - my dreams often are, and it is the oddest one I have ever had. "
Ann had mentioned to me, last year, that she had a cancer scare. So I found the following comments of hers highly significant:
"Another odd thing I realised when I found out I had the 'delinquent cells' is that I've always felt somehow invincible. That I could forge through things somehow, and sort them out. (That woman in the desert!!) I wondered what I had to learn from the experience, and decided that perhaps it was to be vulnerable, and to allow others to help me - albeit whilst still doing my best to help myself. One of the wonderful effects has not been on me, but my husband. He has never been a very demonstrative man, but it was as if he was suddenly allowed to show his feelings - almost as if a dam had burst - very disconcerting at first, (I started to think the doctors had told him I was worse than they'd said!) but truly wonderful. What is also wonderful is the fact that the cancer cells had completely disappeared when the histology results came back. The consultant actually phoned me up to tell me and kept wishing me a Happy Christmas. So the healing worked, along with the apricot kernels, pineapple juice, colloidal silver prescribed by the healer, and the vitamins I put myself on. I also started talking to my sub-conscious every day, telling it that I knew it knew how to heal me, and thanking it for its continual efforts! The whole experience has made me feel much loved and also very, very grateful. I had asked the Great Lady of Healing for help, and she certainly listened."
This is a beautiful dream, and obviously very meaningful. It is what the dream experts call "A Big Dream."
Big Dreams are not necessarily epics, or even dramatic. Their bigness lies in the fact that they have a certain quality that almost forces us to remember them, write them down and work with them.("This dream struck me with such force that I wrote it down....")
Carl Jung, in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams Reflections, tells of a dream he had in childhood which was still vivid when he was an old man, and which did not reveal its full meaning to him for many decades. Most of us have had dreams like that. We remember them clearly upon waking, they stay with us a long time and they seem to pulsate with meaning, even though our logical minds often have no clue as to what that meaning might be. So Ann's dream was one like that. And although she tried to figure it out at the time, and at least one image seemed to have a message for her (the powerful woman in the turban) it was years later before the full import of the dream started to come clear.
By creating the image of the high-walled city, Ann's unconscious already knew, back in August 2000, that her feelings of "invincibility" were actually a defence against something. And it dropped a sweet little clue about what was being protected inside that defended city. (What better image for vulnerability could you find than a little kitten? !) Ann did not realise all of that at the time. It was only when the cancer scare happened and she did some deep work around that, that she uncovered her fear of becoming vulnerable - to life, to relationship. Which is a fear that most of us share.
Ann's dream signalled to her that she was capable of moving outside of her defended state (going outside the walls into the desert) and quite quickly, too. (Remember how she was"moving fast"?) And it was not scary out there either, but quite beautiful. But her conscious mind, at that time, was still "in the dark" about it. And her defences were "camouflaged," patterned to look like their surroundings in order "to make a disguise." So she is hiding her vulnerability from the world. And her dream is hiding from her. But she is uncovering it. ("it is camouflaged - and I know this") # (click here if you want to scroll back to the dream and "#" to return here)
The cancer scare came as a surprise in 2002. Yet back in 2000, Inside the city, there seems to have been some hint of trouble to come ("Some sort of 'contretemps' was going on") and whatever it was would involve the powerful woman. But the woman had others around her, and we learn from Ann, later, how supportive other people were when the cancer scare happened.
We might have been wondering why the sudden switch of scene to the man and woman on the hilltop, possibly singing to each other in the starlight, had Ann not told us about the sudden switch that took her relationship with her husband to a higher level (the hilltop village?).
Since the dream ends with the man and woman either parting or heading down towards town, it could be that Ann and her husband have now "parted from" their old ways of relating to each other and after singing together on the hill (delighting in the greater closeness) are now in the process of grounding this new intimacy in new ways of living their daily life together (moving down into the city). But that's just a guess.
However, as Ann so rightly says, the man and woman in the dream may also be the masculine and feminine parts of her, learning to harmonise better. That's one of the wonderful things about dreams - they have onion-like layers, each layer valid in its own right, and all of them saturated with meaning.
Ann's friend asked her the essential question that started off her journey of understanding: "What does the woman represent to you?"
Another question might have been "Who does she remind you of?" followed by "What attributes do you tend to associate with that person?" The friend obviously knew that the people and symbols in a dream are unique to the dreamer. Our unconscious minds use our own, personal symbols as their code. If I dream of a snake or a boat or my cousin George, the important thing is not the qualities generally associated with snakes or boats or George but what their unique meaning is to me. Snakes often turn up in people's dreams, and sometimes they mean danger. Classically, they are associated with healing and also with sexuality. But they may turn up in my dream as a symbol of a happy childhood because I once had a pet carpet snake. Boats to you may mean leisure, fun and sailing, to me they may mean danger of drowning. George may be a great guy, and mayor of the city, but if he and I played chess together every Sunday when we were kids, it may be George as a chess player (and therefore my competitiveness, perhaps, or the way I plan the key moves in the game of my life) which is significant. He may even be a symbol of Sundays.
As you can see from Ann's account of her efforts to understand the dream, she is doing a lot of it with her intellect. She "wonders," "has thoughts" tries to "work it out," and "comes to conclusions." All thinking words. She gets there in the end. But sometimes it works best to get inside the dream again, at a feeling level.
One way to do that is to tell our dreams in the present tense. (Note how Ann switches to this, part way through the telling. She starts out in past tense but obviously gets more in touch with it as she tells it, so switches intuitively into the present tense).
Then we can enter the dream and take the part of each element in turn. "I am a woman dressed as an Arab, wearing a turban. I am walking quickly down the street....."
By being the woman, and feeling her from the inside, Ann may soon begin to feel her own invincibility. And more of the woman's story may emerge.
If Ann had "become" the kitten, and told the dream again but this time from the kitten's point of view, she may possibly not have had to wonder so long about its meaning. ("I am a kitten or a young cat, and right now I feel ......")
It is not just the live elements that we can "become." One of the most vivid examples of this in my own dream life occurred way back in the days when I had just graduated as a social worker and was excited about starting my first professional job. The night before I was to begin the new job, I dreamed of riding my bicycle happily down a path and noticing that the cement was not yet fully dry. It was only when I "became" the cement path and heard myself saying to the person on the bicycle "You can't ride on me yet. I'M NOT QUITE READY!" that I got in touch with the fear that underlay my confidence as a newly-minted social worker taking on a responsible job.
So Ann can become the city, become the desert, become the alleyway (we still don't know what part of Ann has chosen to be in an alleyway rather than in the main street. Neither do we know what the alleyway represents for her, so we must not draw our own conclusions from that. Yes, maybe she is lurking, hiding her talents. Or maybe she is following the more adventurous "road less travelled.")
And what does Ann feel about Arabs? About turbans? About the work of Henri Rousseau? There may be many more treasures still, hidden within this Big Dream. (Ann has continued to work with it, and I'll reveal, in the next newsletter, what she has since come up with).
In dream groups, when a dream has been fully explored by the dreamer, other people are invited to add their feelings and impressions about it. Sometimes, that process can yield even more riches. So if other readers have ideas about Ann's dream, I'd love to hear them and I expect Ann would also.
It is only after all that has been completed that we might turn to dictionaries of symbols, just to see if there are further clues there. Since we are all connected, at a deep level, there are some symbols which resonate in the same way with everyone, and occasionally it helps to recall these universal meanings. But apart from that, please stay well away from books and articles which purport to decode your dreams. Your dreams are your own wonderful, meaningful creations, and the keys to the code are right there, within you. We should never consult decoders before we have done our own dreamwork.
There is more I want to say on dreams, and how to work with them, but that will do for now.
Thank you so much, Ann, for sharing this great dream. I couldn't have wished for a better example. We'll look at this dream again, in Part Two of this article, which will be about "active imagination," "owning the Shadow" and "grounding our dreams." That will be in the next newsletter, in June.
Return to top
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Today, in sudden clarity I saw
That all our lives are patterns in the sand.
A new-old thought. An old-new freedom rose
Like champagne bubbles in my weary blood.
But next, the voice,
What shall I do with this ? The answer came:
I'll write a book called 'Patterns in the Sand.'
I'll be the guru of the formless form,
Sand pattern expert of the century.
And then I laughed;
Laughed at absurdity until I ached;
Laughed until the laughter turned to pain.
For even then, I could not free myself.
The anecdote was begging to be told.
Laugh with me, friend.
Play, as the tide
© Marian Van Eyk McCain 1998
(from Pam Godman - thank you, Pam)
The Fight Between Two Wolves
An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life.
One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too."
They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied... "The one you feed."
From Julia Vincent in Australia...
Upon reading your 'View from the desk', I am reminded about the
From Linda Ball in London....
I met you in England last year and have so enjoyed your newsletters, but now I feel inspired to write and tell you a little about myself, and the great adventure I am embarking on next year.
I'm sure many of my friends think me quite mad, but most are getting used to my unconventional attitude to life. An old birthday t-shirt with the logo...I'm not 40, I'm 22 with 18 years experience!'... just about sums me up, and nothing much has changed in the 14 years since then. My philosophy has always been to trust the universe, and so far it has rarely let me down. The opportunities, experiences, and above all, friends, that have been sent my way are a constant delight!
Now, I have always loved the idea of visiting some of the world's wild and sacred places and I am finally getting the chance to see Machu Picchu for myself! I don't know which will be the bigger challenge - getting fit for the 10-day trek, or raising the £3000 of sponsorship I need to secure my place!
The Trek takes place in June 2004 and the money raised goes to a London-based Charity called 'Help a London Child' who support many local projects for under-privileged children. So I get an unforgettable 'holiday', while they reap the benefit of my efforts... winners all round I think.
If anyone out there has done anything similar, any advice, encouragement, support, (or donations!) would be most welcome.
I can be contacted by emailLinda.Ball(at)kingsch.nhs.uk and will keep you up-dated with my progress.
Wish me luck...
What a great project!
If anyone would like to send a donation to help Linda realise her dream, let me know and I'll tell you how and where to send it. And do please send her all your blessings and bon voyage messages, won't you? ( Remember to replace the word (at) in her email address with an @) sign. I know it's a pain when you can't just click on email addresses, but because this newsletter is posted on the Web, it is vulnerable to the robots which automatically harvest email addresses for the spammers. Removing the @ sign prevents this)Return to top
(Marsha sent me this, and I love it. I don't know who said it - and neither does Marsha - but if you do, please let me know. It is a wonderful elderwoman attitude!)
-----"LIFE IS NOT A JOURNEY TO THE GRAVE WITH THE INTENTION OF ARRIVING SAFELY IN A PRETTY AND WELL PRESERVED BODY, BUT RATHER TO SKID IN BROADSIDE, THOROUGHLY USED UP, TOTALLY WORN OUT, AND LOUDLY PROCLAIMING----WOW----WHAT A RIDE!!!"