Last week I flew into Bordeaux, wearing my other "hat" as a Portrait and Personal Branding Photographer. I had three lovely ladies to photograph, all entrepreneurs, plus some "action shots" of the Business Retreat, run by coach, Karen Kissane. As I was there for the whole three days, I got to take part in some off the sessions and took advantage of the time to take a step back and really think about the direction I am taking with both my work and personal life.
Why am I telling you this? Well, it struck me that some of the exercises I did and the epiphany that I had might be relevant to many of my fellow "midlifers"!
This is a time for us to stop and reflect, a time of so many changes, challenges and opportunities. The Midlife Movement is about so much more than just the menopause!
The exercise that gave me most pause for thought was one on values. We were given a sheet of paper with lists of words like "family", "independence", "trust", "home" etc - you get the picture. The idea was to underline the words most closely aligned with your values, then narrow them down to a list of 10, then put them in order so you had your top 3-5.
As Karen pointed out:
"When the things you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good - you're satisfied and content. But when these don't align with your personal values, that's when things feel...wrong."
It's more difficult than you might think! Mine came out, as always, with family, kindness, empathy and authenticity coming out on top. But as we went around the table and others started to talk about connection, independence, wealth, ambition... I felt a little stirring of something like rebellion in the region of my heart.
My relationship and family have been my world for my entire adult life. They have been my focus to the extent that my SELF at one time had almost disappeared. (You can read about that time and how I worked my way through it in my book, "Oh Crap - I'm 50! A Journey from Fearful to Fabulous (Sometimes)" My children are now all grown. Two have children of their own and I LOVE being a grandma.
My husband has his work and his hobbies that are unchanging - he hasn't been affected in the same way as I have by our empty nest. Nor has he been as affected, emotionally, by the boomerang-ing that goes on and the various ups and downs our children have experienced, whereas I have always been there, as chief counsellor, holder of space and secrets and stayer of emotional tsunamis. Whilst I take on that role willingly and with love, there's no getting away from the fact that it's bloody tiring!
I came home with the determination to work on my relationships, to bolster the "values" I have always held. But something happened when I got home. I slotted back into my role and realised that, like a jumper that's shrunk in the wash, it no longer felt comfortable. It didn't quite fit. I went to bed feeling unsettled and discombobulated.
I guess my subconscious mind got to work while I slept. I tossed and turned and woke up several times. And in the morning I had an epiphany. It was as if someone had opened the curtains and let the light flood in and everything became crystal clear.
Sitting the two members of my family who were home down at the table, I told them (lovingly!) how things are going to be from now on. Something along the lines of - I love you, I will always be there for you when you really need me, but from now on my priority is going to be me.
What does that mean? I wrote it down, so I can see it every day at my desk and keep myself accountable.
My priority is to make The Midlife Movement a success. Why?
To reach and help as many women who are struggling as possible
To create wealth so that I can help some of those who can't afford to join, and to create independence, security and freedom for myself
To have fun and enjoy my life
If that is selfish, then I am embracing selfishness. All that I know is that I feel energised by my decision to put myself first. I think it's about time.