Like many of you, I woke to the news of the tragic events in Florida. I spent some time in meditation, sending love and compassion to the families and friends of the victims.
How was it for you? Did you feel angry, sad, powerless? Is there a creeping sense of numbness that you don't want to admit is there? Don't feel guilty, that sense of detachment is your brain trying to help you cope.
Developing an inspired personal response to bad news is another Not Your Mama’s Midlife moment. We have the wisdom within us to respond as leaders; I’ve included a strategy in the link below to help you frame it, claim it, and share it to inspire and comfort those around you.
Go to Post
The sad truth is, its becoming obvious that this is not the last time we will experience a mass shooting in the United States. I live in Mexico right now, a country with its own problems with drug related violence.
I’m not discounting yesterday’s tragedy with the rest of this post. What I’m doing is saying that bad news is nothing new and it will continue as our society makes its way through some very challenging times.
What IS new is the way we are assaulted with the information, and we need a framework for coping and not letting bad news literally “bring us down”. We need a plan for consciously processing bad news and setting a healthy example for the people in our lives that we influence.
Here is what is new versus what we grew up with, see if any of this sounds familiar, and think about the effect it has on you and your loved ones:
You are scrolling through your social media when you see news of a friend’s baby. The next post is photos of shooting victims that someone has shared.
Bad news is only a tap away on our cell phones as we check in with social media. The buffer between social chatter and terrible news is gone.
Today as I saw someone on Facebook refer to teachers as "liberal idiots" in a comment thread on a friend's post. I don't know that person, don't want to know him, but seeing that comment evoked a stress response and anger in me. For my body, the damage was done. See how this works? Can you imagine the impact on your health after a extended immersion in Facebook around a controversy or tragedy?
Dozens of comments from friends and strangers magnify the impact of news we see online. In the past, if you saw something disturbing on the nightly news, you had to pick up the phone to have a conversation about it outside of your family circle. Now you can be caught up instantly in an online conversation thread. Even if you don’t participate, just seeing some comments can raise your stress level by activating anger or fear.
Your daughter (or niece or sister or friend) is having a good day and goes online to message a friend about a fun event they are planning. She gets caught up in the posting of bios of the latest school shooting victims and 30 minutes later emerges from behind her phone feeling depressed and sad.
Events can be streamed on social media as they are happening. We can access a constant flow of updates from different sources. This is different from in the past when we had to wait for updates - on the radio, nightly news, or in the morning paper. Today you can spend your whole day following and “checking in” on a news story.
Photos in the paper and film on nightly news were censored in the past. Now anyone with a cell phone can post images and video. Images are extremely powerful, they instantly imprint a visual attached to an emotion, planting an echo of depression and despair that may linger for months if not years. Studies have shown that our emotional response to a memory or a photo from the past is the same as when we are in the moment.
If you or a young person in your life are “visual” - meaning you learn best from seeing and remembering images, you literally have to protect your mind’s eye and teach them how to as well. My son and I are extremely visual. I started very early with him on this practice, and he continues to guard his visual exposure even as a young man in his 20s. if you need some suggestions just let me know.
Your attention is precious. When we talk about “paying attention” it is true - you are spending a precious resource.
The direction and quality of your attention has a direct impact on your life and those you influence.
Creating more intention for where you spend your attention is the key.
Last year, after the tragedy in Charlottesville, I posted a framework for dealing with bad news.
You can see the post here.
I hope you find it helpful in tapping into your experience to create a resilient response to challenging events. The world needs more of the collective inner wisdom from midlife women in these times, wouldn't you agree?
What tips do you have to weather bad news? Did you learn anything from your grandmother around this topic? Please share below.
I like men and I enjoy being in relationship. But I don’t need that be content. Ironically, I think this is a big reason why my relationships tend to last awhile.
I don’t look to a partner to provide my air, water, food, shelter, peace of mind. When I was married with small children, our cooperative arrangement was that my husband’s work take priority; he made more money and it seemed logical. But I never felt fear that if he couldn’t bring home the bacon than my children would starve. I knew if I chose to, I could make more money.
This is not because I’m special. It was a gift from growing up in a US middle class white household - true poverty was never a threat. We received good educations, our parents modeled a consistent work ethic, and we had healthy social connections.
After children grow and move on, relationships often face a big challenge. Even if children are not in the picture, its a time of change and both parties may not see eye to eye.
In an interview on NBCNews.com, Joseph F. Coughlin, director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says:
"The number one divorce rate in the country is among the 50-plus, mostly initiated by the woman.
When we talk to men about what they think retirement is going to be, it’s almost celebratory: If they’ve saved their money, they see it as a time to play golf, take that trip, buy that new car. And they often talk about spending time with their wives.
I can’t tell you how many women have told me, ‘I don’t know who this man is on my couch but I wish he would just go and get a job. I have routines, I have things to do and he’s always there and he’s always asking me what to do next.’
I have a friend with healthy self-confidence and boundaries. Her partner once said to her, “I’m just trying to figure out how to be with you”. Her independent mindset feels like distance to him.
On the other hand, I talked to another woman in her 50s who is scared to tell her husband she wants to go on a yoga retreat without him. She has never taken any trips apart from him, although he travels extensively for business. In her words, he has a “bit of a controlling personality”. A man accustomed to a routine may feel threatened by his wife’s desire for evolution in midlife.
Power struggles aside, I learned years ago that when I’m irritated by something in my partner, it’s a useful pointer to something I’m not happy with in myself. Not always, though.
I do have some baselines for relationship - should I call them needs? They are the non-negotiable elements I require to stay in a relationship, not because I need someone else to provide them, but because I expect them of myself, first.
I call it my soul-house. Its a place inside my soul, built from stones I’ve gathered outside of my comfort zone, placed one at a time as I earned them, like the houses in the Mexican pueblos.
If you have done the work to build a healthy, clutter free soul-house, prepare to be invaded. Do you know the story of Jesus’ panic attack when all the people crowded around for healing? Bingo.
I think this is a challenge for women particularly. We are home personified. Even if we haven’t had children, we still embody the nurturer.
I saw a post in a forum from a woman who had done the hard work of disentangling from a long term relationship with an alcoholic. Her ex refused to leave her alone and did not want to move on with his own life.
On a lighter note, I had a friend with 5 kids all in pre-teen to teenage stage. When she asked them to clean up, she got the predictable rolling of the eyes, the declarations that their messy rooms were “their space”, that they preferred living in squalor because they were not all uptight and controlling like her.
OK fine. The interesting thing was that when my friend reorganized her own room, creating some order, adding plants and candles to a newly decluttered space, guess where the kids all suddenly wanted to congregate and lay on the bed to chat?
My soul-house shelters these values: mutual respect, positivity, curiosity, bravery, an open mind, and taking risks in a continued engagement with life.
People may visit, I may make tea or coffee for them, share a story or two, but if they threaten or are threatened by the clarity in my house, they are not invited to stay.
If they start to bring in their unmet wants, asking me to carry that bag for them because they don’t want the responsibility, it causes stress because I don’t have room in my soul house for lots of baggage and clutter.
The soul-house is a great filter, too. Just today I looked at my values and compared it to why I’ve been annoyed recently with Sergio. Hmmm. I see that he actually continues to show up to the values that live in my soul-house.
So guess what? The stuff I’m annoyed about? It matches up with some stress and fear I’m feeling, some areas where I feel I am falling short right now. I’m projecting.
Everyone's soul-house looks different. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be, don’t you? Its part of the work and reward of partnership.
So what I’m doing now is being more curious about my partner’s soul house even as I continue to hold the ground on mine. I’m trying to remain aware of the times I want to pick up my ray gun and let loose.
I picture us building our shared Casa de Alma in the middle, where we spend more and more time together. For some people this shared house goes up quickly. Culturally for Sergio, it popped up 10 minutes after we met. He regularly refers to me as his wife, even though we are not married and have no plans to do so.
Its taking me longer to meet in the middle.
So in this month of hearts and arrows and too much candy - where are you on this spectrum? Are you feeling pressured by someone else’s perceived “needs”? Or are you feeling a lack of something from your partner - attention, affirmation, something else?
Try this - journal or draw your soul house. Is it pretty clear to you? If not, can you do some work to get clearer on the core values that you embody? If you are single, this is a golden opportunity to do this work free of distraction and strengthen your base.
If you are with someone, imagine your partner’s soul house. See where the floor plans match up and start having juicy conversations about how you can take mutual action around those values.
Big Love - Kala
If you found this helpful, please consider sharing with a friend.
I'm on a call with Neil Murthy, a successful entrepreneur and mentor in Houston. I have my list of questions, most of which focus on prioritizing goals in the very early stages of a business.
Like a good mentor, he takes that line of questioning and blows it up to the stratosphere. He says, “I want you to step back from this week, month or even year. Your biggest goal should be that which you cannot complete in your lifetime. What impact do you want to leave behind? Then you work back from there.”
We may think that’s crazy talk, but in reality, it is a truth that is simply asking us to be intentional about our biggest life. When we die, it’s not like all trace of our life here on earth is wiped away immediately, right? What would you like to see still up and running the day after you are not? If your biggest goal doesn’t make you a little bit embarrassed to talk about, its not big enough.
If you have tried and failed with starting from today to map out a path to a big awesome long term goal, you are not alone. Our fear based brain undermines us quickly with overwhelm and doubt. Instead, start with the end in mind.
A note about being realistic about your goals:
For your biggest dream, go ahead and be crazy. I'm not saying that to be trite. There is a practical reason for this that I explain in a minute.
If you want to be an astronaut, put it down. If you want to be president, an elite athlete, a movie star, the best doctor on the planet, a real estate mogul - go ahead and write it down as if it has happened.
Then work backward in the way we’ve described above to what you should be working on today to make that happen.
Does this mean that by starting at 40 or 50+ years old you will actually be able to become an astronaut in 10 - 15 years? Probably not.
But don't let it stop you, and here is why:
In the process of breaking open what that big dream contains, you will discover the do-able thread that isn’t really about becoming an astronaut after all. It will likely be about something related to science, or teaching, or adventure that is eminently doable. There are thousands of steps one must take to become an astronaut, its in the journey that you will find the true outcome reveals itself.
Will I ever really own and run a gorgeous retreat center in nature? Maybe not, but that dream is rooted in some of my core values, and so I trust that letting it dictate some of my direction will lead me to meet the right people and take the right actions.
It provides part of the motivation that keeps me investing precious time and money into building a business when I could settle for living on a beach somewhere, work a lot less and scrimp my pennies until Social Security kicks in.
That wraps up the first step to setting the stage for Midlife Transformation - figuring out where you are going. Why doesn’t everyone do this? Why do we lose enthusiasm? Because its scary and involves risk. I talk about that in this blog post: How our Cave Woman Brain Keeps us Stuck.
In an interview with Oprah, Jim Carrey tells this story about achieving his dream. Years ago, he put the number $10,000,000 on a piece of paper and carried it around in his wallet. One day, after the movie Dumb and Dumber had become a commercial success, he found that piece of paper he had forgotten about, still in his wallet. Guess how much he had made from that movie? $10,000,0000.
Of course it was not a magic piece of paper. The magic was in the hard work in between. The point that both he and Oprah agreed upon is this: You can’t just "put your dream out there". You have to see it as a goal. A goal is a dream with an action plan. As he put it, “You have to do the work, you can’t just go have a sandwich”.
Do you set goals? Whatever the answer, step back for a minute and think about how you are different now versus a few years ago. On the one hand, most of us have limiting beliefs we have carried around for years. “I’m too old, I don’t have enough time or money, I don’t know how, it’s too late.” There are ways of getting around our limiting beliefs, as I detail in this 10 part series on midlife limiting beliefs.
On the other hand, we know a hell of a lot more than we used to. Every experience you have had in your life happened to bring you to this point.
One thing I do know - goal setting is essential for most of us if we want our life to have impact. Perhaps there are gurus that wake up every day and just react to their routine and surroundings. I did that for years and it led me to depression, not enlightenment.
I wasn’t tapping into my inner guides. For years I did not even know I had another inner life. I thought I was my thoughts. We are not our thoughts. What we “are” is our deepest truth and inner wisdom.
If you are over 40 and do not set goals tied to your inner brilliance that wants to be expressed, you are literally at a crossroads. From my research and observations, if we continue on auto-pilot into our later years, we will spend the last half of our life spinning around the same set of issues. Growth slows. It doesn’t necessarily mean that life will be terrible, it simply means it will be a ghost of the brilliance that is possible.
The first step in the 5 part Not Your Mama’s Midlife transformation system is to get Intentional - set your long term goal and see how your mid and short term goals flow from that.
People talk about goals being SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time defined.
Forget about that for a minute. We’ll come back to it but for now, try this instead:
Before you set your goals, be sure you have a technique for getting that guidance out of your soul and into your life:
Start to really pay attention to what shows up in your life
Here is just one of many examples of the way it works for me:
It’s 6:00 am in early January. The room is cold, I’m tired, a bit uninspired, but I’m showing up to my morning routine.
Guess what signing up for that race has done for me? Made me ACCOUNTABLE. I have been slowly progressing but I have not missed a training run since that time.
Obviously, practicing accountability and focus is the message for me for a few weeks.
So that’s the formula - engage with your inner self on a regular basis, cut out negativity as much as you can, be as present as possible in the moment, and your goals will evolve differently.
Speaking of goals, In the next post, we talk about how to set your goals in a way I bet you haven't experienced before!
Last week Sergio and I found ourselves in a heated discussion (ie fight) in a park in Oaxaca City. Yes, I was full-on channeling my inner Latina, yelling at my boyfriend in a park. It had been a tiring day on our trip and don’t tell me you’ve never had a road trip brawl.
All I can say is, Spanish is a super satisfying language to fight in, and once you can have a verbal disagreement in a second language, you can say you are truly bilingual.
It was the end of a week of mostly beautiful experiences and laced with some relationship tension. Almost anytime you travel with others for more than a few days, this will come up.
That’s how it was for me when I first started traveling. Now, several countries and thousands of miles later, I’ve developed not only an appreciation for solo travel - ha! - but also a more flexible internal response to traveling with others.
But that doesn’t mean I never have days of fatigue or annoyance, and this day was one of them.
My sweet man and I are at a transition point where we’ve uncovered each other’s current no-budge zones. We are now at times asking for that which the other feels they cannot give. Its not a death knell for our duo by any means; I think all authentic relationships have this phase.
The following morning, in the clarity of those first waking moments, I thought, “What are my needs? If I get clear on that and get clear on his, than we can figure this out, right?”
It was weird, it felt like an echo of an old recording of the past.
Then next thought, clearer and fresher than the previous, was, “What? Kala, ‘getting your needs met' is the wrong basis for a relationship with this man, with friends, family or anyone else.”
Really, is "getting our needs met" not THE most childish thought pattern we carry into adulthood? I can see our inner toddlers, red in the face, fists clenched, wanting that cookie, NEEDING that cookie, and mama says no.
The phrase “get my needs met” comes up so often in American conversations about relationships that we’ve become accustomed to thinking it is a reasonable expectation. Google the phrase and you will see dozens of blog posts from supposedly credible sources, like Psychology Today, for example.
“I need to get my needs met” is a passive statement that sets up expectation from someone else. Dangerous territory from the get-go.
To state the obvious and reset to zero: A true need is something our body requires to stay alive. Our most basic need is for air. Then we need water. And food. We must learn to source these things to survive.
Humans have developed cooperative ways to source and share food, of course - so we don’t have to be the lone hunter. When the tribe bought back the buffalo from the hunt, everyone shared in the distribution because it was a community effort. No one sat on a rock and demanded that their needs get met, except maybe the 2 year olds.
We are mammals so we don’t develop properly without human contact, but we don’t die. Some people say sex is a basic human need. Who has ever died from not having sex?
So lets say the definition of a true need is something that if we don’t get it, we will die or it measurably increases our chances of death.
Because we are complex humans, we obviously don’t stop there. There is an infinite list of wants that we confuse with needs because they make us happy or content or make us feel safe. Or, on a less healthy note, things that feed a dysfunction or enable an addiction.
This gets tricky because very often that which we think we need isn’t really the response that is going to make us happy and content after all.
The marriage counseling industry has a steady demand based on this dynamic. We fight to get our needs met, and then realize, huh, that really wasn’t what I wanted after all. Our partner, who we have asked to stretch to meet our need, is hurt, and the damage is done. Or vice versa.
Humans are masters of projection. What we think we “need” can be a projection of something we lack in ourselves. This is where the idea of "you complete me" starts. It may be something that we need to work on in ourselves, but don’t, because that is the really scary hard work.
It’s much easier to load up our ray gun and spray our relationships with expectations of unmet needs and then point the finger and feel hurt because they are not giving us what we want. Most people have been experienced both sides of this dynamic.
In the next post we'll talk about your soul-house, a visual construct you can use to create and protect peace of mind and contentment for yourself, without relying on others. This is important work, because women over 50 are initiating divorce at the highest rate of any other group.
Big Love - Kala
If you found this helpful, please consider sharing with a friend.
If color has a hometown, it must be Oaxaca City, Mexico.
The streets, stores and people are brimming with colorful handmade items. Food here is a picturesque patchwork of dishes that satisfy before you even eat. The flowering trees lining the stony streets mock the stern reserve of the Spanish architecture. It is a beautiful, energizing place to reflect on the changes happening for the women here as well as some conversations I’ve had recently with American women. It has me thinking about the colors of our dreams.
The conversations I've had recently were with women in midlife around changes they would like to see in the next 6 months. Nearly all of them referred to some sort of change in their work.
It’s not always comfortable but it’s totally normal - it makes sense that after a couple decades of working we would step back and say, huh. What am I doing and why?
I’ve thought about that as I’m learning more about the changes that are occurring as Oaxacan society continues to respond to an increased demand for weavings and other crafts that started in the 1970s. Oaxacan women and men have participated in efforts to retain majority control in the development of their economy. Women are now better educated and leading in ways they did not before; managing businesses, showing up at meetings that were previously male only, making collective decisions that may have previously been handed down by one or two male leaders.
(That gives a very broad brushstroke to a complex subject that I can’t cover in depth here. I’ve noted a reference that I’ve been reading at the bottom of the blog post. )
We can see an analog in the U.S. with female entrepreneurs, especially women of color. An American Express Open study from 2016 reports that women-owned firms are increasing at five times the national average rate, and nearly 8 in 10 new women-owned firms are being launched by women of color.
Like the women in Oaxaca, many female entrepreneurs of color in the U.S. are organizing around a common cause - to share learning and resources, to have a say in how changes affect them and their families, and to keep each other accountable to their bigger goals.
Contrast this with another approach that many women fall back on. They have worked like crazy for years, many have gotten to a place of accomplishment, but are feeling like something is missing.
What got them there isn’t interesting to them anymore. One woman said “I tend to be extremely resilient, no matter what comes up, I focus, follow through, and then get back to where I want to be. Until now. I just can’t seem to find that motivation right now. Its really surprised me.”
The challenge I am observing ( and have lived myself) is one reason we get stuck is that we are bringing the same set of tools that worked before for us (or our mothers) to try to progress, or bump along, or even procrastinate to stay in our comfort zone.
Does this sound familiar - “I need to think about it, do some reading, research, plan a little more, see where I’m at in…” - in when?
I’m not saying that research and planning are unnecessary. I am saying that by this point in our lives we know a hell of a lot more than we give ourselves credit for, and for sure more than our culture gives us credit for. Why don’t we give ourselves credit for our hard-earned moxie?
We live in a society that is so obsessed with youth that American women, with all our education and first world trappings, are less validated for our wisdom than middle-aged indigenous women in Oaxaca!
The messaging of our popular culture is this: the older you get, the more irrelevant you become.
Try this: take a moment and disconnect how that feels emotionally - step back and look at that as a fact and not have a feeling about it. Now, who or what is served in our society by this messaging?
It serves commercial interests, primarily.
I’m calling it out because we cannot expect the message to change for us.
We can choose to see it for what it is and to take action in spite of it. We can choose to work compassionately with our fears around money, aging, our changing body. (More on that in future posts, I only bring it up here because nothing in midlife happens in a vacuum. If we are disconnected with and resentful of our amazing bodies, it affects everything else. )
What is happening, especially for this generation of women in midlife, is that we are being called to leap.
In general women in midlife way overdo the planning and thinking. Studies and our experience tell us that women are actually fairly confident in our zone of expertise. We are much less confident than men when we are out of known territory. One study showed that women were much less likely to apply for a job if they couldn't check off every requirement. Men applied even if not completely qualified. Men tend to do, women tend to wait
Yes, there are external obstacles to our progress, but we also hold ourselves back.
f you’ve been feeling unsettled or discontented for awhile now, you don’t need to think, research, plan or see how it feels 2 weeks from now.
You need to take some action, something sharp enough to get your attention, something that pokes a hole in your routine or comfort zone.
Macro view: As I’ve pointed out before, while this generation of midlife women was growing up, the world began trending at an exponential rate on almost every major indicator. For those of us in midlife, it may not seem like it matters personally, but changes in society and the planet are moving faster than ever and it IS the energetic backdrop of our lives.
Micro view: Many of the women I talk to are accustomed to figuring out their lives by themselves, really. Some have had extensive leadership development paid for by their employers, and that's fabulous, but we all know that we show up differently to things when we have sought it out and paid for it ourselves.
In my own journey, I woke up one day at 52 years old, newly single, with lots of question marks around my “job”. I had always put my spouse’s career first; he made more money, and we unquestioningly prioritized money as the priority goal in designing our lives as a couple with young children.
After my divorce, I had some savings to work with. I looked at it and thought, I could shrink my life, get 2 jobs and several roommates (I was living in Northern California at the time), and spoon feed my retirement account in little bits for the next 15 years. I could spend my 50s - the last decade or so of relative youth and energy - working for someone else. I could put my faith in the questionable ethics of Wall Street and cross my fingers that the market wouldn’t crash again in the meantime.
For what? Let’s face it, at 52, if you don’t make much money, the amount you can put into savings is not going to move the needle much in terms of return. I’m not a financial planner and actually would love to find a brave one help me create a chart of diminishing lifestyle returns.
What is the flexion point in your 50s where saving doesn’t make much difference to your retirement budget unless you can sock away a good chunk from one salary or double income?
For me, the outcome of being “sensible and safe” would have (maybe) been a few more dollars every month from Social Security at 65, at which point I would shrink my life even more, and probably still work at least one job on the side for low pay so as not to endanger my monthly check. That seemed like a life drained of color.
Leaving my former husband was the hardest thing I have ever done. I didn’t tear a piece out of my family’s heart to settle for shrinking my life.
I decided to sell what I owned, get scrappy about side work and cutting expenses, take some risks, see the world, meet a bunch of new people to enrich my network and influence - so I can begin to contribute to them and others as well.
I’ve had anxiety attacks looking at my numbers sometimes, but I’m the Boss of Me, right? I have a plan and I’m working it. My progress is imperfect and fabulous. Money doesn’t get to rule my life anymore, it’s a part of the puzzle but it's not the only goal. And right now I’m working to make ends meet, just like most of you and the women I have talked to.
This is my experiment now. Unlike most “how I did it” stories on the internet, I can’t tell you that this approach has made me wealthy in monetary terms. (Yet!)
I can tell you that I’m living my dream. One of my motivations is I'm creating a scrapbook for my 80 year old self (Try it!)
I show up to life in full color. I’m traveling the world, living where I want to, and making significant trade-offs (such as drastic downsizing) to make it sustainable because I don’t have a trust fund or alimony to rely on.
I’m not saying that my dream is yours or that it should be. Its different for everyone.
What I am saying is I know you have a dream, and I know you are capable of so much more than you probably give yourself credit for. It is the risk is what makes your dream pop! It fills your dream with colors. If it wasn’t risky, it wouldn’t be a dream because you would be doing it.
How do we do this?
If I had stayed where I was, trying to figure it out on my own, as I had always done, I would have stayed stuck.
Its almost impossible to blaze a new trail in your heart, soul and life alone. The difference is I am connected to and accountable to other women now. I have a mentor and a coach. When those arrangements end, I’ll look for creative ways to replace that accountability.
The reason I’m so passionate about connecting us to one another is that it’s the only way to make our own rate of change and progress match the rate of change in the world around us.
And that is the way our contribution stays relevant and we increase our influence, something the world desperately needs right now.
I invested in some personal development programs and coaching in the last couple of years. What I see is that there are basically 2 camps.
The women who break through and really leverage what they have learned the first half of their careers are the ones who invest in themselves - yes, spend money on a program or coach - so that they are accountable to other women for some significant stretch goals. This is because knowing we have to show up pushes us to move a little faster and take a little more risk.
The point is, I used to sit on my couch, alone, and try to recreate my life in a silo. Guess what happened? I was chronically discontented with my progress. I had friends and clients, of course - but that is different from the accountability of other women when you have put some skin in the game. That is what gets us taking action and risk, learning faster, and increasing our impact.
And here is the proof: The women who are changing society and their lives in a big way are organized and accountable to one another. Just ask the strong women of Oaxaca and thousands of female women of color entrepreneurs in the U.S.
Our apt. looks like a hurricane just hit - its that intensely chaotic state that makes me crazy, right before my sweet man takes all this hot mess and packs the bags neatly into our car. We are heading out to Oaxaca today, I'll be working and playing from that beautiful state in Southern Mexico for about two weeks.
I've been supportive of women's international entrepreneurship and micro-business formation for years, so I'm especially interested in learning more about the women's cooperatives there. Many of them are built around regional crafts - you may have seen the colorful shirts, capes and skirts in the marketplaces of Mexico, with large, densely embroidered flower motifs. There are also weaving cooperatives. Textiles are one of my favorite things, in a parallel life I'm sure I'm a gypsy rug dealer. Magic carpet anyone?
Weaving and rug production became an industry in Oaxaca after tourism increased in the 70s due to the completion of the national highway that leads right to Oaxaca City.
If you are interested in what women are doing in microbusinesses all over the world, check out KIVA, a portal that allows individuals to invest small amounts of money in tiny businesses all over. KIVA is our pay-it-forward partner at YinCaravana, where we have a small but growing portfolio of loans.
There are also some complex societal twists in southern Mexico - in the Zapotec culture a muxe is an assigned male at birth individual who dresses and behaves in ways otherwise associated with the female gender; they may be seen as a third gender.
Check back in this week, we'll be posting more info and pics at Instagram, too!
Here is some more context if you are interested:
I want to start this post with the Truth.
The promise of midlife is this: Your experience is ready to come together and renew you in a way you cannot imagine. Your brilliance is already created for you, all you have to do is claim it if you haven't already.
But it doesn't always feel that way, does it?
Have you noticed lately? Everyone in stores and restaurants looks about 24 years old.
We have to speak up to order at the bar whereas before we attracted attention just by standing there.
The man who smiles across the room is looking behind you at a younger woman.
We show up to situations feeling the same inside and people begin to react differently based on our changing looks.
These moments can ruin your day, or your week, or your life, if you let them.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You may be jolted with the realization your family hasn’t seen you for years.
Did you see the movie Bridges of Madison County? Francesca, Meryl Streeps character, is a WWII Italian bride, living on a farm in Iowa years later with her husband.
He and her children have a very specific mirror they hold up to her, the only problem is the reflection is a simplistic line drawing that only reflects her domestic role in the family.
She has an complex, passionate colorful dimension hidden inside that is unleashed by a handsome stranger during a visit one week when her family is out of town. With him, she feels “seen” for perhaps the first time in her life.
If you saw that movie, I imagine many of us were holding our breath as Francesca sat at a red light in the pickup truck with her husband, debating jumping out and rushing through the rain into the waiting arms of her lover, who was in his truck just in front of her about to make a left turn on his way out of town.
How did you feel when the light turned green, and the truck in front didn’t move, and still she stayed put? When her lover finally turned left and drove out of of her life. When her husband switched on the radio as she started to cry?
That scene still gives me chills to this day. And to think the book was written by a man! Wow.
But we are not in a movie.
Feeling invisible is something we need to tackle head-on, because its the biggest threat to you living the most amazing 20 - 30 years of your life.
Its the biggest threat to you staying with or finding a passionate relationship.
Its the biggest threat to our responsibility to be strong, positive mentors for our young people.
Its a big threat to society because it weakens our collective contribution, from a generation of women that is quite frankly the best equipped to be leaders in this moment. It’s not the Boomers and its not the Millennials. Its Gen X.
I do not feel invisible. My outline is crystal clear now, I know who I am now and don’t care too much what others see or don’t see in me.
However, it is pretty rare for an American woman to come to that place of confidence without a fight. Losing my edges was the core of my midlife crisis, and something in me that refused to become invisible rose up and fought back.
Redefining my edges again is the outcome of my midlife transformation.
Before we go on, I want to put “feeling invisible” in perspective.
I saw a poignant response in a FB group for midlife women where the “I feel invisible” thread was on fire. The comment was from a woman in a wheelchair who had never felt conventionally attractive. She pointed out that there are many of us who have been “invisible” our whole lives.
Minority women have also grappled with feeling invisible for decades.
We can learn from and admire women who craft inspirational lives even though they were never celebrated in our mainstream cultural messaging to begin with.
Can you imagine a teen girl who may be realizing she has no interest in attracting boys, trying to sort out her emotions while navigating the hypersexualized ads targetted at young people? Where does she “see” herself in all of that?
This at the same time when her straight friend is suffering a lack of self-esteem from over-identifying with advertising, beginning to believe that she has to be thin and sexual to be noticed.
And that, of course, is where it all started for most of us. Our looks = attention = approval = being seen.
Here is another truth: whatever our situation, once we get clear on our edges and our gifts, we will attract people and attention that is authentic, not just based on what we look like - which is mostly about their ego noticing ours.
We feel invisible because we don’t know what we look like without someone else’s mirror reflecting back to us. We look to others to define our edges.
Feeling seen is about self-acceptance and self-confidence. Its about recovering your feminine brilliance no matter what society says. Then we can be strong mentors and help the young people in our lives navigate toxic media, too.
The inner critic starts out there
If you are in midlife - your 40s and early 50s - you probably already know you are sandwiched between 2 huge, very different demographic groups - the Baby Boomers and the Millenials.
Marketers have tripped over themselves for years in a frenzy to be relevant to one or both of those demographics. Women do 85% of the buying in the U.S. - so you can imagine the amount of ads targeted at women over the years.
For better or worse, in the U.S., marketing defines the collective ego of our culture. Marketing messages are woven into storylines of popular shows; product placement in shows, movies and videos accelerate this affect. Marketing has become our social narrative.
Midlife women today, who are by default members of Gen X, are not very well represented in this narrative. A study of midlife women by SuperHuman marketing agency found that 91% of midlife women don’t believe advertisers get them.
So in a society where marketing is so influential and pervasive, it is easy to confuse being invisible to marketers with being invisible in general.
Let’s turn that around and consider it a gift that we have not been as heavily marketed to as women in their 60s and 70s.
I have interviewed many women over 65, retired from successful careers, lives filled with contribution to family and community. For too many, you would never guess that from talking with them.
Their language is peppered with self-doubt. Second guessing has become a reflexive habit. I have a theory that life long exposure to advertising is one reason for a lack of generational confidence among many (not all) baby boomer women - which is crazy considering what they have accomplished.
For decades, on a daily basis, society’s messages have told them that they are lacking and need to buy product x to be whole, beautiful, loved and accepted.
Fast forward to today, where the marketing landscape for women is all about the millennials. In the same SuperHuman survey, 84% of the (midlife) women surveyed used products and services they felt were aimed at younger women. This is why we raid our daughters’ closet.
This is potentially toxic for us as we spend time immersed in advertising and media that is aimed at younger women. That is not going to help us feel better, much less celebrate, our middle age changes.
Internal vanishing point
When we are young, we see ourselves through our parents. Later, through our peers and still later through our lovers and partners. Some women see themselves through their children.
This is natural, I think 99% of women do this to some extent without knowing it.
In our 40s and 50’s, we start to look for ourselves again. Who am I without my roles - if my parents pass on, I split from my partner, and my kids leave the nest?
We feel invisible because we have lost track of our definition. After so many years of seeing ourselves through others, we can’t even feel our edges anymore.
Here is the problem: If you feel invisible, you are looking for validation in an unreliable place - other people.
Can you see yourself in any of the following?
If you feel invisible, try this:
Think of Francesca in the rain - will you turn left into the unknown with a new muse to rediscover yourself, or stay comfortable and rarely seen on the straight and narrow?
Choose to fight for your visibility and brilliance - it is one of the turning points in midlife.
Questions? Beginning February 7 I'm once again offering a free 30 minute Mirror Your Brilliance Sessions, including a Dream Speed Date. Book your session here.
Think of someone you know who self-sabotages.
When they are facing a risk, or a difficulty getting to the next level of a stretch goal or life change, how do they they distract themselves in the moment and never quite get around to the next milestone?
Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD) says "Turns out there are many reasons why, instead of shooting for the moon, we end up aiming right for our foot. Self-sabotage is any action that gets in the way of your intent."
Now, think about yourself. How do you get in your own way and stay there? I offer several common examples later in the post; I have used each one at some point. You may be able to relate.
But first let’s look at Why do we do this:
We are afraid. Of what?
So how do we go all crazy on your dream and get that premium pass to spend some time bingeing on the possibilities and making passionate progress?
I have a theory that one reason the motivation industry thrives in the US is because we have an individualistic culture. Our starting point is with the individual. We fail and think its because we need more self-motivation, self-discipline, knowledge, etc.
But I am pretty self motivated and I believe the main reason its almost impossible to make consistent progress by yourself is this: Lack of accountability to someone other than ourselves.
In other countries and cultures - think of China, Mexico, India - the starting point is with the group - family, friends, associates. In Mexico, doing anything by yourself is pretty rare. Shopping for new undies? The whole family comes along. Starting a new business? Talk to every cousin you have, and their cousins and friends. You’ll find what you need launch in a week based on what and who they know.
So to wrap all this up:
In our culture, we have to create accountability for ourselves. We have to “nurture our alliances”, “build our teams”, “recruit others to our mission”.
Or maybe just find a friend or group of friends.
Finding an accountability buddy will help mirror back to you how you get in our own way. Once you push past the resistance to quit, the reason you wanted to try in the first place gets clearer and clearer.
Our Mirror Your Brilliance circles are an excellent option for women who are truly ready to stop kidding themselves and want to get started on what is next.
If "what is next" isn’t clear, we can help. Sign up for a one-on-one session where I will mirror your brilliance and also facilitate a Dream Speed Date - you’ll come away with renewed enthusiasm, a first draft picture of your Big Picture and 3 immediate actions steps.
This offer ends on January 19, which is in 2 days by the way.
Sign up for your Mirror Your Brilliance session HERE
You will receive an immediate email confirmation with more details.
OK see you tomorrow, when we close with a doozy -
Boss of Me Series #10 - I Feel Invisible.
Big Love, Kala
Got time for one more?
Boss of Me Series #8 - I'm Worried About Money
Reference link to good article about self-sabotage: