You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Above all, be the heroine in your own life…
~ Nora Ephron
February 19, 2016
At some point in our lives, we realize we have an opportunity to chart a new course; do things differently; head out in a new direction. At what point in time this happens will vary, depending on life circumstances. But for many women it is after the age of 50 and usually later. There are some practical reasons for this. Children; parents; work and so on have occupied so much of our time. But there does come a time when we can take a breather and revel in the freedom of being able to step out the door without multiple contingencies in place to cover family needs. And we may actually have the energy to undertake something different!
I like to think of this set of circumstances as life handing us an opportunity for a new beginning. Are we doing what we want to do? If so, that is great. Perhaps, though, we want to make a shift. We don’t have to run off to the Amazon, but we may want to create space for something new. And it may be as simple (or difficult) as changing our perspective; challenging assumptions; or finding time to be alone. Changing life patterns takes time as we slowly acclimatize ourselves to a new way of thinking and being. This is no small feat. And how do we do it?
The simple answer is to tell someone to set a goal and then take steps to achieve it. That works best if you know what you want. Many of us, though, experience some blurry idea of wanting something different; perhaps a restlessness. But we may be at a loss to explain it to anyone. And the difficulty of course is that there is no road map for the long and winding road. The path is unique for each of us. There are a multitude of wonderful resources to help us think about what we would like to do. However, another way to look at it is to spend time creating the conditions that could help us realize possibilities – conditions that could draw ideas towards us. Suggestions made by two friends independently of each other are worth considering:
Start with the body – that wonderful body of ours that enables us to live and move and have our being. It’s not rocket science, but taking extraordinary care of ourselves (e.g. getting enough sleep; thinking about the food we eat; good coffee; and moving our bodies by walking or through exercise we love to do) and pampering ourselves with fine things such as a good book; flowers; fancy soap or bath salts; tea in a beautiful cup – all these things remind us how deserving we are of the best, including great opportunities. We send a clear message out to the world that we are ready to take on something else. And in the meantime, we become strong.
Find an ally – Who has your best interests at heart? Who will listen without judgment as you give voice to the doubts, dreams, and questions? Who will be with you when you take that step through the murky waters of uncertainty? Find that person or persons who you trust and with whom you feel safe. In my Saturday morning running group, there is a network of support that helps put the wildest thoughts into perspective and urges going forward.
Is this about being perfect and always disciplined? NO. Does this mean we never eat chocolate cake again in our lives or have another glass of wine? I certainly hope not! But feeling good about how we take care of ourselves is an act of integrity. And having an ally or friends who are with you means you don’t have to do any of this alone. We may not know what the road ahead is or where we are headed, but we can be the heroine in our own lives by honouring our bodies (body and mind) – thanking it in fact every day – for all it does on our behalf. And we can be courageous as we travel along the bumps in the road, knowing there is someone to catch us if we fall and who will encourage us to get back up and keep going.