Blogger Judy Freedman describes how she's slowing down to care for her mind, body and soul as she faces cancer and loss.
Sep 30, 2019Menopause & Aging Well
It's been about 10 days since I wrote about my burnout and need to create a new relaxation game plan for my life after 60. Many of you responded affirmatively as I shared my need to de-stress and slow down and said you did too. "Let me know how you intend to do this," said a reader, who indicated she was moving at record-speed all the time.
I realized from the comments, emails and text messages that came my way, that I had hit a hot button with other women my age and younger ones, too. So, while I said I wasn't going to blog as frequently, I wanted to share some of the small self-care steps I've been taking to heal my mind, body and soul.
Self-care step 1: Healing my mind
When I lost my spouse in 2007 and emptied my nest in 2008, my therapist, Dr. F, was there to walk me through these significant changes in my life. She also helped me when I lost my mom, retired from my full-time job and sold my house. I don't think my transition from loneliness to loveliness would have happened without her strong listening skills or thought-provoking questions.
When she moved to Florida several years ago, she left me in great condition to fly solo. Now with my recent anxieties about my health and the loss of my sister-in-law, I realized it was time I sought out someone new. I checked out the Psychology Today website. It provides a wonderful list of registered therapists in each state and their specialties. I found Dr. R who is great. She is challenging me to think differently.
I'm taking her advice and doing the best I can to limit my vocabulary about yesterday. "I used to be able to do this, or, I used to be able to do that" sets me back into my past which is not where I want to be. With this new awareness, when my mind wanders, I'm doing a better job of catching myself when I do use these words and bringing myself back to the present. My goal is to be grateful for all that I can do right now.
Dr. R is exactly the therapist I need to heal my mind at this moment.
Self-care step 2: Healing my body
To heal my body, the first thing I did was find a new general practitioner. It's so important when you're not feeling well to have a health care professional working on your case whom you can trust and who can provide the right guidance. Thanks to recommendations from my BFF L, I'm on track.
"You've been through so much in the last six months," said my new internist, Dr. M, as she listened to me talk about my health issues with bladder cancer, new cholesterol treatments, and the loss of a family member. "Take the next two months to do things that relax you. Find what calms your anxieties and do those things. Don't do them just to blog about them or teach them to others. Do them for yourself. Let your body heal."
It took me 15+ years to switch general practitioners, but I'm so glad I finally built up the courage to make a change.
Dr. M is exactly the doctor I need in my life right now.
I'm equally happy to tell you that my September bladder scope was clear of tumors. The BCG immunotherapy continues to work, and I will have more treatments in October.
I loved this sign that my son D created to hang in his apartment.
Self-care step 3: Healing my soul
My soul searching at sixty-something has begun just in time for the autumnal equinox, when the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. Ooh, ooh, ooh, more night hours—that's not so good for a postmenopausal woman like me who has insomnia and anxiety.
Shannon Roche, CEO of Yoga Alliance, says it's a good time to "mark this moment of change by pausing to look inwards together to rediscover the clarity and wisdom that exist within us all." Yes, Shannon, that's what I'm doing—taking a pause so I can slow down and find my inner wisdom. It's one of the most challenging assignments I've ever had. I hear it. Slow down. It makes perfect sense. Slow down. But I cannot always do it.
Practice, Judy! Think of it like your yoga and meditation. It's a practice. Take the perfection out and add in patience. Let go of your ego. Let it go, you don't need it anymore.
So that's what I'm doing. To heal my soul, I'm letting go. I'm practicing being instead of doing. Ooh, ooh, ooh, it's SO HARD! Don't worry, Judy, you got this. It may take more time than you thought, but you got this!
Taking things one day at a time is what I need to heal my soul today and all my tomorrows.
Reading about self-care and slowing down
I've also been reading articles and books about self-care, slowing down and letting go. There's an abundance of content on these matters. One of my recent favorites is NBC News special anchor Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper essay about finding stillness and dealing with her grief after the death of her cousin's daughter this summer.
Maria says that before her August break, people asked her if she was "worried about losing her momentum on social media or other assignments." She knew she might lose some momentum, but she was certain that what she would gain in return would be more meaningful.
Maria went to Utah to visit her son and found herself on a mountaintop "sobbing uncontrollably." She says, "I sobbed for my cousin, I sobbed for all those who are suffering, I sobbed for my own grief, sadness and fears. I thought I was done grieving the death of my mother, my father, my uncle, my marriage and my old identity—all of which unfolded in rapid succession over the last 10 years—but turns out, I wasn't. I thought I was done grieving my youth, my children moving out, past mistakes, unrequited loves, etc., but turns out, I wasn't. I wasn't done with grief, and it wasn't done with me."
Gosh, Maria, that's how I've been feeling these past few months. This next transition into my authentic self is unfolding, and it's really shaking my foundation.
Maria says that when she stopped crying, she was in stillness. Her extraordinary revelation was that within this stillness she was OK. About her quiet mind, she says: "It allowed me to realize that I was proud of myself for so many things. It allowed me to even realize that I love myself. Sitting there alone I felt all that I am, instead of all that I am not. I felt it for perhaps the first time ever."
The LOVE sculpture on the Highline in New York City sent me a sign.
Wow-o-wow, I hope through my own slowing down and soul searching I can reach a similar extraordinary revelation.
Maria, who is 63, goes on to say, "The stillness and simplicity I had been yearning for wasn't outside. It was within me all along. It's just that I'd never slowed down long enough to gain access to it.… My new narrative is exactly the opposite. Today, it brings me joy to be who I am. I feel good knowing that I am here to be of service. I am here to share my story—the dark and light of it. I am here to use my voice whenever I can to help others."
Yes, Maria, yes. That's what I hope to do, too. And while I'm not writing about my exciting travels to Italy or Lapland, I feel like my blog posts about my self-care and slowing-down journey are more meaningful to me at this time. It's what I need to write right now.
As they say at the end of Jane the Virgin, a fun tele-novella my sister N suggested I watch as part of my small self-care steps, this sharing is "to be continued."
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.