Words from wise people (not me) and some thoughts on moving on to much, much better things
Dear Reader, this is a deep and long one. Those who know me know I like to highlight the writings of extraordinary people, including the luminous Dr. Rosenna Bakari, whose life is also dedicated to helping us find our goddessness. I am deeply fortunate to know Nurit as well, and here wish to share her observations about the road we might take if we do truly wish to live the life we can.
Nurit Amichai is a bit of a wonder. Go to her website and it's almost overwhelming, all the certifications and competence. The vivid beauty and life which leap out from her eyes. She is 75, and about as vibrant as a human can be at any age.
I had popped Nurit a long email and a bunch of big questions. In her typical direct fashion, she made it deeply personal. Made me squirm, but then all such inquiries into the soul do. In such ways, be careful what you ask for, unless you are willing to take the journey. Once started, there is no going back.
Nurit gave me permission to quote her, so I am going to put pretty much all of what she said forward for this reason: it applies to all of us, including men, most especially as we pass into what I consider our goddess years, past sixty.
The day before I left for my horse riding trip in Chile I wrote Nurit a very long email about some of the struggles, dances, decisions and pivots that were showing up as I was sliding in towards seventy, including, implicitly, plenty of the kinds of comments, questions and stories I've seen from my readers.
I got Nurit's response on October 24th, precisely at the moment I was leaping back up from having done a faceplant on flagstone stairs in San Francisco de Chiu Chiu. Another lesson.
Here, lightly edited, is Nurit's response:
...First of all, I want to affirm you in your efforts to rise into your place of goddesshood (just made that up). No easy task. Requires raw and brutal honesty and a willingness to become vulnerable. I resonate with it from the very depths of my being. Vulnerability has been my Achilles heel for as long as I can remember. I’m happy to report that at this stage of my life I am finally achieving that status – not perfect, but well on the way...
...You’re questioning yourself a lot, which I believe is a good thing as long as it doesn’t end in doubting everything you’ve done, been, or achieved over the course of a very colorful and passionately-lived life. Please hold this thought as we move forward: Your life and contribution matter. You’ve had to tap into a great amount of strength and fortitude to deal with and progress beyond some of the tough stuff you’ve encountered.
...the word courage comes from the Latin root Cor. It means to be able to tell the story with your whole heart. You’ve exhibited courage over and over again as you told your story. The reality that the story is now an old story opens the door to new possibilities. You have the courage to be imperfect. Have the compassion to be kind to yourself first and then to others. It’s my hope that you’ll deeply connect with yourself by letting go of who you think you should be in order to fully be who you are. See yourself, value yourself, have empathy for yourself and it will spill out into the world you touch.
Something someone once told me about vulnerability remains a strong guide for me: What makes me vulnerable makes me beautiful. Maybe that’s because I never felt pretty and was always insecure about my looks – which pushed me to carry myself in an outwardly powerful way, despite the insecurity. Total BS.
So, maybe a good place to start is with this question: What do you most deeply yearn for as it relates to being authentic, vulnerable and truly seen as the (human) you truly are at the deepest level? Whatever your answer is to that question leads you into defining your destiny from this point.
(To explain what follows, I'd sent Nurit an article in which I acknowledged how much our society's toxic masculinity was woven into my own way of being).
Now, ... I really want to chat with you about the masculine paradigm you talk about. The reality is that for women of your era and mine, the power of the masculine influence is deeply directive in our lives. Couple that with military training and having to be tough in order to survive, as both you and I have had to do, and you’ve got a literal “tough nut to crack”. Our lives of survival hardened us into what we believed we needed to be in order to make it. The abuse, in all forms, the dysfunction, the brutality as it manifested in some of the men we allowed into our lives all served to make us hard, tough, and ultimately resilient. And it’s the resilience that we need to take out of the mix and keep for ourselves. The rest of it was life as it happened – we need to let it go. It does not define us.
The thing is, we developed a belief about ourselves during that time that has become what we believe defines us.
What does that mean? Well, I was abused sexually from the age of about five until my late teens by various and sundry male animals. I died to the emotional end of it and became numb. That translated into the inability to feel deeply, to become attached. Consequently, I could have a variety of experiences/relationships, but when they ended, I was never devastated or even hurt for more than a few minutes or hours. My belief? I am not enough … I am unworthy … I am not wanted … I am alone and I have to figure my life out by myself.
My father died very suddenly at the age of 48, when I was heading toward my 13th birthday. I was abandoned and alone on top of all the other stuff. So, I isolated. I was in deep shame and lacked the ability to feel love. Can you relate? Thought so.
As I’ve learned, the identities of shame, lack and isolation are power blocks that create inner barriers to receiving what it is I most desired to create. My identity was blocked by these beliefs – which happen to be the three most prevalent undermining beliefs held by women. What held me back, what holds any of us back, is what we believe about ourselves in these areas of our lives. Our experiences are shaped by our beliefs.
We females all have a basic disconnect, and here it is: We make meaning from our experiences as being “my fault”. It’s inbred into all females. We tend to come from shame-based meaning making, beliefs at the level of identity about “who I am”, “who others are”, “what is or isn’t possible for me”. These meanings have been made outside of conscious awareness, and are the inner glass ceiling on our potentials. We then interpret what’s happening through these experiences and create evidence for that being true as a result. Dr. Claire Zammit talks about this a lot. You know this … you wrote it in your email. This isn’t a new concept. These are old fixed meanings and they undermine any success we may reach for as we try to move forward. The safety and survival mechanisms that are hardwired into us are part of the power dynamic that presents as a pattern of having less power. By the way, it’s not only women. It’s people of color, people who have been persecuted or singled out by race, religion or otherwise .. but I’m preaching to the converted.
To touch on the idea of a woman of my age having come through what I’ve lived through into a life I feel is truly worth living -
I am now focusing my work on pre-, post-, and mid-menopausal women. That would be women from the age of about 40 until ….
The lack of positive, encouraging and truly-researched information about the effects of menopause, life during menopause and the question of whether there’s life after menopause is appalling. I am now working to address this lack within my own corner of the world. There’s a lot to be written, for sure, and I can’t address it properly at this time. However, I want to weigh in as you’ve asked in your latest email...(and with this she continued the next day)
Nurit quotes my email to her here to set the stage for her second response:
“... In your coaching practice, what do you see (common threads) as women age into their older years in terms of growing awareness, evolving into something bigger, and what it takes to let go of the burden of beliefs and assumptions which no longer serve?
“Widows, those women dealing with empty nest syndrome, all of it- there are parts of this which are likely universal...”
Women of our era have a lot of stuff in common. We grew up in the 60s – and for those who weren’t of that generation, there’s a lot they won’t grasp. In many respects, it was the beginning of the kind of free-style lifestyle most live today and think they’re onto something new and innovative. We took our cues from the Romans and did the orgy thing, drugs, etc. Now, it’s just a matter-of-fact.
For women of that era (mine & yours), close to 70 and older, there are many things that we hold inside. A lot of women came from a background of some kind of abuse which, in those days, still wasn’t a popular topic for discussion. We made a lot of shame-based meaning for the way we conducted ourselves and, apart from those who really stood with Gloria Steinem, we weren’t very effective in making our voices heard. So, we closeted our feelings, hurts, traumas, pain, and suffering and acted like we were okay. The problem, of course is the emotional disconnect that is the cornerstone of this situation.
Many of my clients are a few years younger than us, but interestingly enough have experienced much of the same sort of thing that gendered shame for them. Some learned to speak up but those in their late 50s and 60s found their cries fell on deaf ears.
Statistically, women and girls are 80% more likely to respond to challenges, stress, failures, or breakdowns by making shame-based meanings than boys and men. Women tend to avoid being direct because it triggers shame. In the face of setbacks, breakdowns or difficulties, women and girls tend to interpret these as being about “who I am”. Although these feelings are created outside of our conscious awareness, they are the very lenses through which we interpret what’s happened or is happening and thus reinforce or create evidence to make them true.
Virtually all of my clients are or have been stuck and overcome in an old story about who they are, who others are in their world and what is or isn’t possible for them personally because they’re _________ (fill in the blank). Not lovable, not enough, alone, not wanted, too loud, any number of unhelpful beliefs born in the home and family in which they grew up.
Women in my age bracket have a very hard time talking about the dirty parts of their lives. I know I did. That came from the inability to trust anybody with information that could and would be used against me. Secrets are huge for older women. That’s why it’s so very important for us to find a place that feels safe in order to download and then get the deeper truth about ourselves.
Shame-based meanings are in a fixed mindset where we feel there’s no hope for change or growth. Growth is shut down in a shame-based mindset. There’s no recognition or acceptance of the real power and strength that lies within. You can bring up all kinds of occasions when she was strong, powerful, amazing, and she’ll knock them back as over-rated.
We rarely talk about, relate to, or acknowledge ourselves with as much love and grace as we do others.
When I can lead a woman into the place of recognizing that what happened to her when she was 5, 6, 7, 13, 15, wasn’t her fault – when she can look at that child or young person, or adult, and be empathetic toward that part of her, then she can begin to step into more power.
Coming from a place of her greatest strength (remembering those times when she stood strong and was at her most powerful), she can turn toward that younger self and compassionately acknowledge that what happened sucked and life doesn’t end there. What has she gone on to accomplish?
The foremost obstacle to becoming who we came here to be lies in old, limiting core beliefs. These beliefs hold us back and of course, our brains are very skilled at finding evidence to prove these beliefs are true. This is where CBT has been so very helpful for my clients.
So, shame is the root cause of our disconnection from our true selves and empathy for that part of us that was shamed is the key to connecting with the deeper part of ourselves. When we’re in shame we are coming from our head (thoughts, voices, remembrances) and our “Self”, our true nature and knowing is outside of that place. We need to bring both into sync and connect with a deeper truth or a new story in order to transform and change what has been established by the old stories about self, life, others, God (or whatever higher force you ascribe to).
Here’s the fact:
We are authors of our stories and so, as a co-creator and the source of our experience, we have been creating evidence that keeps the old story in a loop. Our old stories hold us in a disconnect from what we really want to have in our lives.
Here’s the shift: The old stories are coming from what I would call a false point of reference. That place where the old belief took root was not a cognitive choice and was reinforced by the outside world we lived in and established by the repetition of the belief that sprung from that environment. Where we need to be in order to change things is PRESENT and aware of the goodness of life – connecting to a much larger field of relationship with ourselves and others.
I’ve spent a good many years growing myself via personal growth seminars, facilitating such events, learning a ton of modalities that will help others grow and ultimately, using these tools on myself. If I were to do it over again, I’d work consistently with a coach. The do-it-yourself method can be frustrating and often I didn’t see where I was. It would have been helpful to have someone direct me out of the shitstorm more often that I was willing to let anyone in.
(Kindly, a great truth here:)
Growing older does not necessarily mean growing smarter or wiser for some women. Refusing to look outside of our secrets and pains and seek advice, help, or support often keeps women locked into a mindset that keeps them children in their thinking. They’re offended, belligerent, immature and childish.
Yes, that’s men, too. For sure.
I firmly believe that our generation is here to teach, lead and heal the generations behind us but we haven’t known how to heal ourselves and step into the place that is rightly ours by virtue of our time on the planet. First, we must heal and transform our old unhelpful beliefs and old stories into the deeper truth of who we came here to be and what we came here to do. That happens exactly the way it’s happening for you … realization, ownership, recognition and then transformation. (author bolded).
You can tell I prefer those in my deepest inner circle capable of the most difficult of all conversations. They will by god strip the mask right off you so that you can, indeed, see what is sacred. And beautiful.
With heartfelt thanks to Nurit. How fortunate I am to have such people in my life.
For those who have made it so far, you can understand why I tossed Nurit this particular ball to run with. I knew that not only would I get deeply honest and vulernable answers, but that there would be a great many nuggets - my faves are bolded- for all of us to chew upon.
Tonight is my last night at Esterlee Motel here in Lincoln City. The above is the sunset before heading home tomorrow. I had sat with Nurit's comments since I had injured myself in October, not just because of that but also I wanted to pore over them privately.
If you read this and are male, my bet is that plenty of this resonated not only for you but also for a partner in your life. I'd like to hear your thoughts, male or female.
The sun has set on my sixties. Tomorrow as I drive the breathtaking 101 back to Eugene, stopping to take in the ocean in all its glory, I celebrate not just the time I have had, but the time I have left to me. I am surrounded by beauty, brilliance, and seriously badass friends.
Badass enough to speak truth, to invite me (and you by default) to leave our buckets of BS at the door and walk into who we were always meant to be.
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