I invite you to participate in the beginning stages of a research project titled: Single, Female, & Alone: Experiences of Surviving & Thriving. I welcome your input about challenges and successes with being over 40, single, and without children. My intention for gathering these experiences is to broaden women’s sense of community and to increase information about strategies and resources for surviving and thriving.

Although my direct interest is about single, childless women age 40 and older, I also want information from women with partners and/or children; all women have useful information, ideas, and strategies for each other.

After I have designed a formal questionnaire, I will conduct follow-up personal interviews with all willing participants. In the design and implementation steps of this research project, all information will be confidential. When requested, participants’ input will be acknowledged.

Although other authors have written similar books, the combination of my Jungian perspective (wholeness and individuation) and use of practical information will offer an additional source of information and support.

Please see the following links; the first two links are my other blogs; the third link is the professional organization to which I belong.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Affirmation for the Crowning of the Crone

I am a woman of old though not of years
but of wisdom and spirit.
I am full-fledged priestess.
I am a crone.

Within my belly resides
the wise-child
and the wise-woman
of my ancestors.

I am both whole and holy.

I go forth to replant
and reseed my people
with the wisdom I have learned
on my long journey inward.

It is with a light heart
and a strong mind
that I recant the story of my travels
for I am a seeker of the Truth
and a daughter of the highest being.

I am a woman who has made it
to the ends of Mother Earth
and back again.

Boylan, K. M. (2000). The seven sacred rites of menopause. Santa Monica, CA: Santa Monica Press LLC. 

Glossary of Terms from The Seven Rites of Menopause

Adrenal Glands - The two glands located just above the kidney that produces hormones and control stress.
Androgens - Although considered to be male hormones, androgens have a very significant role in the female body. They are responsible for a woman's libido, muscle strength, and overall sense of well-being. 
Avalon - The island of paradise in Arthurian legend where the Goddess was worshipped. It was where King Arthur was taken when he died. During menopause, it represents the inner isle of a woman's soul.
Barge - The ethereal vessel that symbolizes a woman's ability to transport herself through any crisis.
Crone - At one time it depicted an old and haggard-looking woman. It is currently used to describe a postmenopausal woman who shares her wisdom with the outer world. 
Endrocrinologist - A physician who treats the endocrine system. He/She often specializes in hormonal imbalances. 
Estrogen - A hormone secreted primarily by the ovaries, adrenal glands, testicles, and fat cells. The three major types of estrogen are estradiol, estrone, and estriol. Estradiol is the estrogen that is produced by a woman's ovaries, and is the strongest and most active of the three. Estriol is the estrogen that a woman's body produces during pregnancy. Estrone is made from estradiol and stored in a woman's fat cells, and is the least, or weakest, of the three estrogens.
Excalibur - The legendary sword of King Arthur. During menopause, forgiveness becomes the excalibur, or swift sword, of the journeying woman who wishes to free herself of past experiences. 
Follicular Phase - The first half, or first two weeks, of a woman's menstrual cycle. During this stage, the uterus is building up its lining in preparation for the egg that is about to be released from the ovary. 
FSH - Follicle Stimulating Hormone. Produced during the first half of the menstrual cycle by the pituitary gland, FSH moves through the bloodstream to the ovary and stimulates it into producing eggs. FSH also stimulates the production of estrogen.
Grail - According to medieval legend, it was the large, round cup that was used by Jesus during the last supper. This cup was sought after by King Arthur's knights, and is often used to signify other holy quests. 
HRT - Hormone replacement therapy. It refers to the artificial replacement of estrogen and progesterone in a woman's body. 
Hypothalamus - A gland in the limbic area of the brain that puts out the releasing hormones that tell the pituitary gland when to stimulate the ovaries into producing sex hormones. 
Hysterectomy - The removal of the uterus. 
Inner World - An internal existence where the majority of little girls live before puberty, and where the majority of women retreat when they go through menopause. Being in the inner world means being fully present in the inner, spiritual world of one's being. 
Initiation - The onset or beginning of a new experience. During the journey of menopause, a woman in initiated into her wise-women years during the phrase known as perimenopause. 
LH - Luteinizing hormone. It is produced mainly by the pituitary gland and is released during the second half of a woman's menstrual cycle. The secretion of this hormone is responsible for the egg bursting from the ovary. 
Menarche - Typically used to describe a woman's first menstrual cycle. But it also denotes the journey through puberty. 
Menopause - Typically used to describe a woman's last menstrual cycle, but it also denotes a woman's journey through the final years of menstruation. 
Menses - The menstrual flow or discharge of menstrual blood. 
Micronized - The reduction of substances to particles so that they can be metabolized easier.
Outer World - An eternal existence where women find themselves spending the majority of their childbearing years. Being in the outer world means being an active participant in the comings and goings of the physical world. 
Ovaries - The two female reproductive glands that produce eggs and hormones. 
Pilgrimage - A spiritual journey.
Perimenopause - The five to ten year period before the cessation of menses. It is often the most difficult time of a woman's journey through menopause. 
Pituitary Gland - Located in the limbic area of the brain, it sends out the stimulating hormones that tell the ovaries what hormones to produce. 
Progesterone - Derived from the word "gestate" which means "to bring forth." It is a hormone that is produced during the second half of the menstrual cycle and it is what prepares the uterus for the fertilized egg. It is also what sustains the lining of the uterus during pregnancy.
Progestin - A synthetic form of progesterone. 
Rite - A sacred or ceremonial act. 
Soulskin - The sacred covering of a woman's spirit that protects her from harm in the outer world. 
Testosterone - A hormone that is made by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and testes. Although found primarily in men, women's bodies also make and depend on testosterone to build muscle. 
The Mists - The transparent dividing line between the inner and outer world. They keep the physical and spiritual worlds separate. 
Waning - To decrease in size. During the lunar cycle it represents the last quarter when the light of the moon is decreasing. During a woman's menstrual cycle, it represents the luteal phase, or the time after ovulation and before menses. 
Waxing - The molding or making of something. It represents the first half of the lunar cycle when the moon is becoming full. It also represents the first two weeks of a woman's menstrual cycle, or the follicular phase, when her uterus is building up its lining before ovulation. 
Wise-woman - A woman who has arrived at the land of her sacred being, had her last period, and then journeyed back to the outer world to share what she has learned with others. At this stage in her life, a woman is said to have accumulated the wisdom of the universe, and holds the "wise blood" within. 

Boylan, K. M. (2000). The seven sacred rites of menopause. Santa Monica, CA: Santa Monica Press LLC. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wisewoman Power

Gail Sheehy

     Women who no longer belong to somebody now can belong to everybody - the community, a chosen circle of friends, a worship group, or even to the world - by virtue of contributing knowledge or creative insight or healing gifts. In fact, the elder women who survived in ancient or tribal cultures developed a way to further species survival independent of their wombs. These women became sources of experience and wisdom and were often venerated as shamans with healing powers, upon whom both individuals and tribe depended to handle crises. As the influence of female deities increased steadily up to 500 B.C., the role of medicine man was assumed by medicine woman. "The fact that women were shamans during this period indicates they had entered into the most authoritative and honored ranks of healers," writes Jeanne Achterberg in Woman as Healer.
     Wisdom, or the collective practical knowledge of the culture that is more simply termed common sense, has continued up through history to be associated with older women. Even in postmodern times, when Christianity rejected females as deities or primary healers, great public women did emerge and exert their influence through the religious system. Some became prized as advisers to emperors and popes, turned to for their healing powers, venerated as holy - and it turns out that they were usually near fifty when they took on this aura of wisewomen.
     Today's pioneering women in postmenopause in advanced societies eventually give up the futile gallantry of trying to remain the same younger self. Coming through the passage of menopause, they reach a new plateau of contentment and self-acceptance, along with a broader view of the world that not only enriches one's individual personality but gives one a new perspective on life and humankind. Such women - there are more and more of them today - find a potent new burst of energy by their mid-fifties.

Sheehy, G. (1991). The silent passage. New York, NY: Random House. 

Postscript from "The Silent Passage"

  Gail Sheehy

   To mark my own rite of passage through menopause I gave myself a few days alone in the mountains. I wanted to honor my graduation into the new stage of Second Adulthood and to reward my body for all the days it had already served me. On the last day I awoke after a full refreshment of sleep on a nearly empty stomach and opened the curtains to a dazzling sight.
     The moon hung full over the hills. Unhurried by the day's first light, she reveled in her fullness. I went outside to sit in contemplation of her, and we faced each other in utter equanimity: She who had pulled the tides of my inner sea for 450-some months, powerfully, capriciously, violently, now had relaxed her hold on me and left my waters calm as a lagoon after a tropical storm. Emptied, I sat there in the twig-brushing breeze and savored the quiet aliveness that had come to me at last. 
     The moon began to sink, and I rose to fill my container with the new day. I felt pulled to hike once more up a mountain considered sacred by shamans who once ministered to the Indians of this valley. Even then this mountain radiated a spiritual energy that drew those with the most subtle attunedness. Here the shamans marked rites of passage and performed rituals for birth and rites of fertility. It seemed an apt place to create my own ritual for marking this third blood mystery of a woman's life.
     On the approach to the mountain my senses were quickened by each patch of herbs - the snap of sage, the tickle of thyme, the melancholy of rosemary, and what was that? The swoon of honeysuckle? Soon the scents were left behind as the bare rock and silver stubble of the foothills asserted their elemental simplicity. No frills here, only endurance. The wild herbs and grasses and desert flowers have the look of all healthily aging things: silvery gray, with strong roots, their flexible stems able to bend in the storm, their flowers calculated to bloom in the fissures between. All that is most creative and startling in life springs up in the cracks between. 
As I followed the spiraling path up the mountain, lifting out of myself, I felt my inner world merging with the outer world. It was a world of silences, broken only by the munch of football on the crumbled earth and the sucking of Santa Ana winds. The moon was still in place. All at once the sun carved a dipper out of the opposite mountain and ladled its liquid gold down the face. The pure energy was almost overpowering. A sparkler of red and green spun for a few seconds in a mirrored circle beneath the great ball.
     Then I sat for an undeciphered period of time in meditation on the brow of the mountain. Honor the mellowed silence in you, I thought. Mark these moments when you are aware of not doing, not wanting, not preparing for the next activity, but simply filling with the moment. The more still I became, the more I was able to feel the earth traveling beneath me. I could see the sun hung over one horizon, ravishing, while behind me, in exactly the same position over the shadow of the mountain, the moon was fading. The symbols of day and night hung in perfect equipoise. The wind quieted. 
     Then all at once I felt a surge of energy. Warm, whirling, giddy, it moved upward, setting words to buzzing in my brain. A sense of such exultation filled me. It was as if the hourglass had been turned over and the crystals of creative energy were flowing in reverse - from womb to mind. I couldn't wait to get back to my laptop...my writing... my passion. 
     We are all pilgrims together, finding our way, but the markers we lay along the trail will beckon future generations to even longer lives. Let us mark the way well. Filled with new life and license, let us bring the symbols of light and shadow together and begin again. 

Sheehy, G. (1991). The silent passage. New York, NY: Random House.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011


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