Friday, October 25, 2019

Late Bloomer Online Video Challenge

Welcome back to the Juicy Years!

If 15 months have flown by since I last posted, then it's time for me to more fully embrace every moment of every day of my life hereon in. 

I've just completed a 5 Day Video Challenge in an online Woman's Dharma group, facilitated with much care and compassion by the wonderful, Ann Manatt who is dedicated to helping female entrepreneurs launch their online businesses.  

It has been one of the most rewarding and empowering activities I've done in a long time. 

(image: valerie elash)
After the 5th video was done and uploaded to our group yesterday I experienced one of those moments - you know the ones - where you suddenly feel an energy flow through you and your heart wells up. This energy was one of JOY,  accompanied by the thought "wow, how did all this happen in 5 days?"

Our challenge was really a 7 day one. 
Though it was very time consuming, and often kept me awake at night, I somehow found the energy to keep going. Was it because after each video a sense of achievement was felt, thereby being an impetus to go onto the next challenge?  Perhaps so.  In a way it felt like group therapy. I'd experienced sisterhood in an online Sadhana group, and in womens' circles, but the actual doing of something tangible, of creating content in this group, took us one step further.  Speaking and recording ourselves in front of an inanimate object - our phone or laptop camera - was foreign to many of us. It highlighted our lack of confidence in public speaking. It brought up feelings for some of not being 'good enough' to have a voice.
To be heard. 

Or even seen. 

I had the double whammy of feeling a little anxious if my old speech block would rear its head, as well as remembering what to say, attending to lighting, the backdrop, or any background noise.  I was so engrossed in videoing and attending to self, that I didn't hear my grandson's staffy dog snoring in the background. It didn't occur to me that she featured in my video until another sista pointed it out!   

Sharing our fears and speaking them, takes away their power, said Ann.
We were able to witness each other's videos, gather tips and insights into their lives and struggles which were quite similar. Most of us experienced childhoods where we were not heard, many not valued or allowed to have a voice. And much more. 

This safe and confidential space gave us permission to share our authentic selves knowing we wouldn't be judged, but affirmed and encouraged. We offered and received support to each other, with presence and compassion. In 5 days I met some wonderful women from all over the world, and I'm so happy and blessed to have made these connections.

I also learned many technical tips that will stay with me, thank you Ann.

I don't know what's next - if I'll make more videos or build on this learning - but the growth and joy has been so worthwhile.

(image: author's November rose)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Are you a Bibliophile?

Hello bibliophiles...for some months I've needed to press the Pause button on this blog as other life priorities took precedence.   

But here I am again, coincidentally, with the upcoming annual Byron Writer's Festival that promises us lively conversations, workshops and talks.   

My recent dive into a fascinating book from my library 'Women Who Love Books Too Much: Bibliophiles, Bluestockings & Prolific Pens from the Algonquin Hotel to the YA-YA Sisterhood, by author Brenda Knight, inspired me to start a book discussion group on this same topic. 

An yes, I'm a Bibliophile like Brenda!

Though I've read about and studied many of the women in this book, there are many more who I hadn't heard of. 

Could other women be interested as well, in learning and discussing them in a group?

Brenda pays tribute to a range of pioneering women who've paved the way for us. Many escaped the public eye, some survived jailing, name-calling, rejection and many were black-listed for speaking up, or writing about their religious passion or about life. 

From the first recorded writer of either gender - Enheduanna from Sumeria - to modern mystics, novelists and literary laureates, I believe this book is worth sharing. I was surprised that our Australian feminist scholar, Germaine Greer, was not profiled - a tendency I've noticed a few times by American authors.
This Women Who Love Books Too Much discussion group will commence mid August in Mullumbimby just after the festival, so hopefully some of you will feel your juices flowing to join me. 
You can email me marianatrapera @ for details.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Positive Ageing - a State of Mind

Growing old gracefully ...disgracefully ... outrageously ...or whatever other term that's been used to embrace ageing in the last few years, has now been replaced with a more optimistic term "Positive Ageing" - the principles of the Positive Psychology movement.

Our ability to have a more positive experience, compared with peers who are perpetuating the old paradigm (that ageing is fraught with misery), has a lot to do with our attitude, personal qualities and flexibility.

Cultivating flexibility I think is a key indicator of how we reframe our lives in these years. It requires us to feel and think differently, to counter any maladaptive patterns by engaging in life-enhancing practices. Some of these are altruistic, others may be practising gratitude, and appreciating what you have to offer to the world.

Go on now, write a list of your qualities, skills and resources! And think about how some of these could be used creatively to enhance your life or the life of others.

For instance, in the last 2 months I've become immersed in intuitive painting. I've always been creative, but never gave myself permission to paint. Having said that, I've gone without a few other needs to achieve this. The JOY I've felt, plus the wellness benefits that flow on from this, are priceless - my daughter commented recently that she notices a difference in my being. So as well as it benefitting myself, I intend to offer it to other women in the near future so that they too can benefit.

Do you also have a gift or experience to share? Resources you could utilise?  A new skill you could learn this year?

Jean Shinoda Bolin encourages us to turn to the Greek Goddess, Hecate, who can midwife us if we face a major transition, or need to birth new aspects of self.   A Hecate woman is also one who pays attention to synchronicities and dreams and draws upon past experiences and intuition for guidance.

These years don't have to end in illness, regret or worry. Most often we need to adapt to possible declining health or stamina, but we CAN adapt. We can choose to embrace life-enhancing choices over ones that limit us. If we marry these with our values, and choose from our heart, we're better able to live fulfilling and meaningful lives way into our 90's. Whatever ailments we might experience, there's a way to still enjoy our lives, but maybe a little slower.

I'm finding that my mind is just as sharp as it was 20 years ago, though sometimes a word or two takes longer to recall. Our mature minds also work better in later life - we use the left and right hemispheres together more effectively. New learning is great for our mind, and we need to exercise it, as Joan Baez says as she begins her Forever Young song.   

A couple of times when I've needed a pick-me-up I've played this song!  

Lastly, don't forget to call forth more LOVE into your life. Did you know that love increases our endorphins and endogenous cannabinoids? It also increases the secretion of nitric oxide that allows our arteries to relax, reduces your blood pressure, and improves circulation. Love also improves our DNA, enhances our wellbeing, and inspires us to care for self.

Being open to love, loving self, loving others and your life, is the key to positive ageing, in my opinion.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Art of Living Alone

Alone versus Lonely has come to my attention lately when I read that more women are living alone today than at any other time in herstory. 

Given that therapists in the USA are a little concerned about the emotional health of these millions of women, it piqued my interest.  On googling this topic it seems there are many variables when it comes to how people feel about living alone.  As I'm a passionate informal researcher (post Social Ecology academia) of our 3rd chapter, I will continue to gather stories, and the next 20 years will no doubt attract much interest from other social researchers.
To give you a glimpse of the growing singledom status, let's look at the USA for example. 
  • 1/4 of adult American women have never married
  • Divorce has tripled since the 1950's
  • Nearly 12 million women are widows
  • 51% of women live without spouses
The number of single person households and life alone has been gathering public health attention especially in relation to possible long term emotional health consequences. And studies in the UK revealed that loneliness is in epidemic proportions across the lifespan. So it appears its not just we older folk.  I'm sensing though that one's economic situation has much to do with one's emotional health at any age, whilst living alone.
image: dearielovie

So what does it take to live artfully alone? Without feeling the pangs of loneliness.

Most would agree that having a sense of purpose, feeling connected to others or one's community, feeling resilient and vital, having a sense of adventure, a faith to fall back on, and a feeling of Joy about life, are important ingredients when living alone.

On the occasions I've felt lonely during my single life of 25 years, I've learned to not deny these feelings, and to dive in deeper with them. Thankfully, as I've aged I've become more accepting of my solitude, and view it as a space to follow some long-held dreams or interests.  Lately its painting!! 

Could the stories we grew up with, the "get married, live happily ever after" ones, continue to impact us across the lifespan, and how we view our single lives?  Since my research and listening to Bella, I think so. There seems to be a culturally induced fear of being alone, and the pressures of how a woman should be. Bella, who is 63, has been single her whole life, and is an academic studying the single life. She says the "happily ever after" story was not her story, and has made it her life's work to find true stories of single life. Bella's video brought me back to myself somewhat. 

I also resonated with her view that the good life is not just about finding love, but much more.  It's about finding meaning, autonomy and achieving mastery... and having children and a family if one desires.  In retrospect, I've only been able to grow, to follow my dreams, and to finish University studies, post marriage. I always felt held back by partners.  Often when coupled, we lose a sense of ourselves having invested much of our energy into the other.  Florence Falk shares how she mentors women to discover their deepest longings and connection to self.

However, if these happily ever after fairytale stories are still playing out unconsciously, self doubt and shame could be hiding. It's possible that many women lack awareness of this shame - of being single, of it being a personal failure of the loss of a marriage or partner.  Or if we were more successful, we wouldn't be alone?   

There are, of course, huge differences in women and their needs. Some are introverts and are comfortable living alone. For me , though I need solitude and re-energising periods, I'm an extrovert and love connecting with others usually on a daily basis. Being out in the world, involved and sharing myself, is essential to my wellbeing and soul. And many rejoice at finally only having to look after themselves.  I've heard this often! Remember Barbara Feldon, Agent 99 in the Get Smart TV series? She's now 83 and shares how living alone became one of the most enriching and joyous period of her life, and her secrets for loving it.  

This post is mostly for we elders, but a post by a younger woman, Alethia  and her peers who are loving their single lifestyles, paints a different story. I wonder...if they're still single when they reach 50 or 60, without having partnered up, or had children, might they feel the same?   Only time will tell.

Further into my research, I googled 'single grey nomad' and was stunned to find so many websites supporting the single travelling life!  So I guess many women have let go of the romantic myth of finding a partner, riding off into the sunset as a coupled grey nomad, but are living their own dream!  


One of my friends, Rafaela, in 2014 then around 55, did just that. She travelled from the Blue Mountains to South Australia, then up to Uluru, across to Queensland and her final destination was the Northern Rivers.  
I think she is still tripping about!

I hope the following links where women are nomad-ing alone, inspire some of you to get up and get going!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Holding Space for Elders

Recently I developed and facilitated two Writing Groups for Elders in my local community.  I believed it was important for them to explore topics and emotions that might normally remain hidden, for healing in their 3rd Chapter. To hear others' stories and realise that they are not alone.  
beginnings . . .
I set about creating a safe container for these feelings and stories to flow, in a non-judgmental way, where they could feel safe in sharing their life if they chose to.  They also had the opportunity to practise writing more creatively.

The feedback from participants has been encouraging, and positive. And I am grateful for their trust in me, in each other, and their own process. 

One said she "liked the topics and themes that you suggested for us and the quotes and poems were a bonus...I loved the warm feeling that was created in the group and I think one of the reasons for this was the way we were led into some deep little recesses of our lives that we felt secure enough to share with the others because of the 'keys' that you gave us in your guidance."

the facilitating . . .
I've held space for many, many clients over the years, facilitated an Art Therapy group, co-facilitated a women's circle, but have never facilitated any class before in a formal setting, with a group of people and a variety of personalities. At times the learning curve was rather steep.

With my gathered years and experience, with my heart open, I didn't foresee any challenges. Only a little anxiety about putting on a new hat - holding space for my peers. A time to tune into their feelings and experiences, to write about them, and share.   Simple.   Aha.. There I made an assumption!

I was so passionate about my project that it didn't enter my consciousness to consider anything but smooth sailing, though given the topics I chose for them, it was clear they would be tapping into some deep feelings - grief, loss, longing, etc.  After an experience when I appeared to show too much empathy, I quickly gathered myself and tossed the Therapy hat in the bin!  I took the middle path - not as a teacher or a therapist, but a facilitator, whatever that means.

I shared with a friend how things were for me. She was empathetic but said that "teachers have to develop a tough skin". This felt alien to me. Firstly, I'm not a teacher, per se, but a therapist. I value my highly tuned senses that a tough skin would affect as it would inhibit my ability to tune into the subtle nuances and non-verbal behaviour. Having said that, perhaps there is a middle way.

After much reflection and research on this topic, holding this space has also been a valuable one for me. I've learned heaps!  About myself, and about my peers. Understanding as I do with clients, if one is still running their child story, then the child is bound to come out to 'play', and some transference can occur.

It would be my guess, though intuitively I had a sense, that in nearly every one of my participants, mother love, or the lack of (neglect, abandonment, not understood, needs not met), was a factor in whether they felt relatively at peace in their elder years, or not. As mothering is often a tough role to play, I had immense empathy having experienced my own challenge. 

As most of us live in stories designed by our 3 year old, we can stay trapped. There are many voices and selves that propel us subsconsciously to behave in ways that our reasoning mind would not. And these outdated narratives are still causing some misery in elder years. Also, we're often carrying around a backpack of stuff from our past lives to further inhibit us.

Given my own narrative that has hopefully now run its course, I'm feeling more compassionate for self and my participants when I reflect on this facilitation experience.

So, how would I hold the space differently next time?

I would put my Therapy cap back on, when appropriate! As I began with a deep respect for my peers, I would not assume, whatever age someone is, that they have 'done the work'. 

I would weave into the exercises, more theory and therapeutic insight of how our stories influence our present lives, and hinder us from feeling fulfilled. Without even our adult selves being aware!  

Life is a story we tell to others, and it plays out in our life, in our behaviour and actions. So if we can change our story, we'll get to experience life differently.   I would also help my participants "learn how to distinguish whether they're living in an adult narrative or one crafted by the mind of a child" (Rosamund Stone Zander). If they were of the latter, I'd encourage them to shift themselves into a new story, thus liberating them to live with more contentment, peace and wellbeing. 

As upgraded stories are catalysts for transformation, rewriting our stories in elderhood should have a flow on effect to our future generations, changing the patterns and offering a new story of elderhood.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Turning Back the Clock

I shared a memory with a friend recently, on Facebook. It was a photo of us 20 years ago that evoked a feeling of shared joy. But she also commented that she'd like to "turn back the clock".

That started me thinking about how life would be, even if we turned the clock back 10 years, to pre FB. How might we be using these hours in a way that nurtures us more deeply? The time that social media has snatched from us?

And who would we be without our technology? Michael Harris, in his book The End of Absence suggests that soon enough people will struggle to remember life before the Internet. 

Would we be more engaged in our local community? Be more able to churn out that book, or paint more pictures?

So how do we extract ourselves, even a little, for fear of losing our seemingly community of 'friends'. Many would have withdrawal symptoms. The longest offline time for me was a week. 

Michael goes on to say "And today’s rarest commodity is the chance to be alone with your own thoughts". Thankfully I still make time for a lot of that. He urges us to look up from our screens and to remain awake to what came before. What did it feel like then? And this same topic is what I brought up with another friend recently. I expressed wanting to return to a time when I wasn’t plugged in (I wanted a few days to be free of my Smartphone). This time was only 16 years ago, in 2000. Yes, I needed to remember what it felt like then!  

The days of only having a landline.

Michael says that "if you were born before 1985, you are one of the last people, the last generation on Earth who will have known a pre-digital world. Who will know the difference between Before and After."

One of my loves is to capture the natural world on camera - wanted to be a photographer once - so the other day when I had the impulse to stop my car on a country road, and capture the roadside pinkish grass that danced in the wind, I didn't, as I heard the words "who wants to see your grass pictures?!" This prompted me to think about why people share so many images of what they are doing, and who they are with. I wanted to go deeper into the Why?

Prior to Mobile phone cameras, when we printed out our photos from our cameras, we usually only shared images of the birth of a baby, a wedding, or holidays. And when people did I would hastingly bypass the landscape ones as I found them a little boring. I wanted to see people in the images.  But now, when I see a beautiful sunset or field of flowers on FB, I am in awe. 

So what has changed?

Could it be that in an increasing digitised world, though it might appear we connect to so many virtual friends, make a comment here and there, or have a virtual conversation, still our soul is crying out for a deeper, day to day, real life experience where we are met and heard in the presence of another soul? And in an attempt to feel even the slightest of soul time, the only way is sharing what moves us, online, whether it's a selfie, a scene, or something one is eating.  I drove the rest of the way home feeling more at peace as to why I love to share what moves me, or inspires me, in images.

Thankfully I stopped using Instagram, and found it hard to learn how to Tweet! There's two techno bits I don't have to concern myself with anymore.

Michael Harris says we have formed a deep intimacy with our gadgets, much like a lover, and because of the need to connect with others, our technologies are good at providing this intimacy.

Who would love to turn the clock back to the days of receiving and sending letters and birthday cards? I tend to prefer the paper variety of correspondence.  Even though we spoke on the phone weekly, Mum and I would still send each other a letter, sometimes with enclosures. Reading these letters was a treasured moment of my week.

There is now no need to wait for the postie til 2 or 3 in the afternoon when we have instant contact with 'friends' all over the world. I would hazard a guess it's one of the first things most people do in the morning, checking into FB.

Meeting 'Wonder Woman' at a Design Market on the weekend took me back in time. On her stall she was selling beautiful, colorful, hand-crocheted shawls and blankets. She told me she also had a full-time job when I inquired as to how she had the energy to crochet all these goods. And she has four children!  

I forgot to ask her for her FB page!  Perhaps she hasn't the time to have one.

Returning now to we Elders in wanting to turn the clock back. 

Albeit technology has slowly crept into our lives, it has also taught us new skills, and connected us up with a wide range of people. And though it's possibly caused us to be more sedentary, the benefits of slowing down and reflecting on our lives, might counter any negatives. 

So why would we want to turn back the clock, to the 'old days' when we can write about a lifetime of memories, plus remember all the selves we have been, or imagined our selves to have been?  And let's not even contemplate any baggage we've held onto. Hopefully most of us have lost it somewhere in our travels!

On reflection, perhaps we have the best of both worlds.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Meaningful Elderhood

In these winter months it's an opportune time for reflection. 

What makes your life meaningful in your elder years?

As our lifespan is greater than any generation before us, we can shape ourselves into the kind of elder we want to be. It's an extraordinary time to be alive! 

We now have a smorgasbord of activities and experiences to delve into.

Waking up feeling optimistic about your day is a sure sign that your life has meaning. 

For many, this time is for re-defining oneself. 

Perhaps mourning the loss of our younger self, or identity? 

Letting go of one's former identity can be difficult for some.

In our quest to live meaningfully, I believe it’s to live authentically, in alignment with our values and personal ethos. With renewed confidence and a “so what” attitude, our 3rd chapter can be the most joyful and meaningful time of our lives.

Have you ever asked yourself "Who am I ?"

During our early years we may have searched outside for meaning, but who we are usually results from an inner search. So you could say that ageing is an inside job!

In the past, ageing was usually associated with growing old, disease and ultimately death. But no, ageing can be a source of growth, happiness and wellbeing, and the cultural narrative we've been given has got it wrong" (William Thomas). 

It can be seductive to buy into the 'forever young' look, or see hope in a bottle, and deny reality. Our lives are etched in our faces. What is the point of gathering years of experiences if only to erase them?

We can certainly feel vibrant and look young, but the value and meaning of our life experiences cannot be forgotten.
(Image source: unknown)

Even the gathering of wisdom is meaningful, don't you think? As is the remembering of our own unique life that is full of gifts, like the Elder tree in your garden.