Posts by virginiabell

Some Thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions

Some Thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions – January 3, 2016

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions years ago. It reminds me of rules, restrictions, diets and to-do lists. Having been a marathon dieter in the past I cringe at anything resembling a set of limitations and constraints. Change and growth is a process and releasing old patterns and developing new behaviors takes time and not simply turning a page on the calendar. It is determined not by will power and self-control but by self-love, self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. And it comes after (as Abraham says), making peace with where you are.

That being said, I love sitting down during these first days of January with my new journal, colored pens and drawing paper and getting in touch with what I want to create. I savor the rare silence in the city, the soft music, the candles glowing and my morning coffee. But I must remember to let my inner wise person take the lead and not my crazy inner critic. There has to be inspiration, joy and passion otherwise we simply don’t have the fire to stick to our dreams. I love David Whyte’s quote: Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

What I am trying to say, dear friends, is be gentle with yourself. Be patient. Have enormous compassion towards yourself and this New Year so young and full of promise. You may fail or falter; it’s part of the process. Make room for that. Keep in mind what Samuel Beckett said: Fail. Fail more. Fail better. And remember, we are all a beautiful work in progress.

Only dreams give birth to change, writes Sarah Ban Breathnach in her January 1 entry of her beautiful book, Simple Abundance. She ends the page with this: Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving source – a Sower of Dreams just waiting to be asked to help you and make your dreams come true.

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The Sixties – Part 3

It’s official – You’re 65 and you can’t hide!

There are certain ages that seem to carry more weight and sixty-five is definitely one of them.  We can color our hair, work out, and eat lots of kale but at sixty-five we can no longer ignore the elephant (or rather the senior) in the room. We may not feel or even look old but let’s face it, there’s a stigma attached to sixty-five; it’s serious. And once you cross that mountain it’s an express train to seventy and you know what that means; early bird specials, brittle bones and walkers – or it can seem that way! I’m not trying to be depressing but let’s face it, on a bad day we all think of these things. I know I do.

The first stage of becoming an elder is our Second Saturn Return at fifty-eight but as I wrote in the last chapter, we are merely entering that phase; we’re an apprentice elder and still in our fifties. OK, we’re barely in our fifties but hey, there’s time to deal with it or so we feel. The second phase of eldering takes place around sixty-four to sixty-five when transiting Saturn makes a square (a challenging aspect) to its natal (birth) position. No-frills Saturn is that planet of reality; cold, hard and sobering and turning sixty-five can be a wake-up call. Although it’s not a prediction, many people are vulnerable to depression at this point and depression is associated with the ringed planet.

                                                          If you fall into a rut, don’t furnish it. –Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s not unusual to find yourself in a rut once you retire. You’re used to being busy, having a career and a role in the world and suddenly there’s a void. Saturn is a “do something” planet; you need to find another role, another purpose. Once again, it doesn’t have to be an important career that pays big bucks; just something that gives you pleasure and allows you to be engaged in the world. If we haven’t done that at our Saturn Return we may find ourselves drifting and that can often lead to becoming isolated socially. Saturn represents structure; even if you’re not working you still need to create a routine and make new habits to support your current life. And if you haven’t done that, then this is the time. Saturn is a course corrector; a chance to refine and re-establish goals and priorities.

                                                                                                    Achep!

How to get out of a rut? Years ago my friend Roger was attending a spiritual gathering. A revered guru from India was seated on the stage answering questions from the audience. After every question, which included everything; health, love, money, the whole gamut, the guru would exclaim, “Achep.” Roger couldn’t understand what he was saying and thought perhaps he had a cold and was sneezing. Finally, out of frustration, he turned to the woman next to him and asked what the guru was saying. “Accept!” the woman replied. That kind of sums it up – about life and aging.

  Acceptance leads to expansive change. -SARK

What Saturn is asking us to do at this stage is to accept the limitations of aging but that doesn’t mean we have to be defined by them. In fact, once we accept something and stop fighting against it, it has the chance soften and ultimately shift. It’s important not to label or demonize it. Just be with it. Allow it to be there but also open up to what else is there. What are you grateful for, what’s good in your life, what brings you alive? As Pema Chodron, says in her book, When Things Fall Apart, “The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

That is why the Uranus phase in our early sixties is so important; taking risks, having adventures and discovering new sources of energy, creates the impetus that allows us to embrace this new elder phase with a sense of excitement and not dread.

                                                                            Happiness Peaks at age 65!

Yes, you read correctly! According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California and author of The How of Happiness, happiness actually peaks at age sixty-five! In her book she describes a 22-year study that was done with about 2,000 healthy veterans of World War 2 and the Korean War which revealed that life satisfaction actually increased over the course of these men’s lives, peaked at age 65, and didn’t start significantly declining until age 75. So if you’re not happy at 30 or 40; don’t give up; there’s still time!

                                                                                                 Transitions

One of my favorite books is The Way of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments by William Bridges. I’ve quoted it often in previous chapter because what he says about transitions is so valuable in dealing with any kind of crises and change including these generational cycles. But what I want to tell you here is William Bridge’s own story. Bridges was an author (Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes; Job Shift: How to Prosper in a Workplace Without Jobs, etc.) and a consultant to organizations on transition. Don’t you love the fact that his name is Bridges and his specialty is transitions? When he was in his early sixties his wife of thirty-seven years died and although he was an expert on the subject of transition, he wasn’t prepared for the unknown and uncomfortable place he found himself in. He suddenly felt as if he didn’t know a thing about this business of transition. Being around people was difficult; so was working. To his credit he hung out in that in-between place and mined it for all it was worth. He spent time alone; he travelled, but mostly he thought deeply and consciously about his life, his marriage and the choices he made. In a sense he did his own version of Life Review.

What he discovered made him rethink the whole subject of transitions and to open his heart in a way that had been impossible before. This led him to write the book, The Way of Transition. Unlike his other books, this one is deeply personal and intimate; he shares honestly and openly about his own struggles, the challenges in his marriage, his wife’s illness and his own journey, which is why I resonate with it; I learn best from knowing people’s stories and finding out how they transformed. Around the same time he met and fell in love with the woman who would become his second wife. He was sixty-three years old. His story is an inspiring example of what is possible when we are willing to do the inner work and how that exploration can lead to change in the outer world.

 

 The Coming of Light, By Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:

the coming of love, the coming of light.

You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,

stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,

sending up warm bouquets of air.

Even this late the bones of the body shine

and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

 

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The Sixties: Part 2

Tell Me, What is it You Plan to Do with Your One Wild and Precious Older Years?

Mary Oliver’s beautiful line from her beloved poem, A Summer’s Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” has inspired countless people. We think of someone asking that question at the beginning of their life but in fact, we can ask it at any time and at any age. Who do you want to be in your older years? What kind of life do you want to be living? Perhaps most important of all, what kind of attitude do you need? What actions can you take now to help create that future? And what habits, thoughts, and old baggage do you need to let go of? Thanks to the Uranus square, in our early sixties, we have some momentum and we can use it to move the decisions and choices we made at our Saturn Return forward.

Role Models

What we all need, whatever our age, are personal role models of living in the present – and a chance that never ends. We need to know that life past sixty or seventy or eighty is as much an adventure as it ever was, perhaps even more so for women, since we are especially likely to find new territory once the long plateau of our role is over. –Gloria Steinem (Doing Sixty)

My friend Marguerite was one of my greatest role models. When we met in Rome in the early Sixties I was just nineteen. Marg was in her early fifties, drop-dead gorgeous, feisty, and funny.  She was also an avid reader (she devoured a book a night), a world traveler, a gourmet cook, and she could repair, restore, and sew just about anything. When I was growing up, my own mother was ill, and I had to become the parent. Marg was not only a role model but the mother I never had; her home became a refuge. When she was around sixty she relocated from Rome to Lisbon. A move to another country with a new language is daunting at any age, but Marg pulled it off and made a life there. She had always loved music but never formally studied. In Lisbon she found a teacher and began studying the viola seriously; the viola became her late-in-life passion.

We’re living in an aging society. As a result there is more research, information, and inspiration about aging and the second half of life than ever before. There are also more fabulous role models—beautiful and vibrant people who are leading rich, full lives in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond. These men and women are creating a new paradigm for a fierce elder, a juicy crone. Gloria Steinem, Helen Mirren, Diane Nyad, Edie Windsor, Mary Oliver, Ram Dass, Billy Crystal, and Pema Chödrön, to name a few. No doubt you have many examples from your own family and friends. Create a vision board of beautiful and fearless older women and men. Find inspiring quotes and articles. One of the greatest things we can aspire to as we age is to become a role model for the younger generation.  Inside the elder the eternal youth remains awake to its life vision. Inside the youth an old sage is beginning to stir for knowledge. Awakened elders are necessary if youth are to awaken to the inner dreams of their lives.-Michael Meade

Wabi Sabi

I love the Japanese term, wabi-sabi which, by the way, is not a garnish for sushi. Wabi-sabi describes an aesthetic based on imperfection, irregularity, simplicity, economy, modesty, intimacy. Wabi is associated with rustic simplicity, quietness and an understated elegance in nature as well as in man-made objects. Sabi refers to the beauty or serenity that comes with age. The most common examples include a bowl, a tea cup, wood, paper or fabric. Imagine a bowl whose patina has been worn off; one that contains some cracks and chips but is well used and loved and has with the passage of time become more interesting.

Several years ago I did some work with a Jungian psychotherapist, a lovely woman who I guessed to be in her late sixties. I was talking about her with a friend who had met her. Although I could describe the sessions we had and what I learned I found it difficult to describe her physically. My friend said it was probably because she has let go of a lot of ego which made perfect sense. When I think of wabi-sabi in relation to a person, I imagine someone who has shed a great deal of ego to reveal what is essential and eternal within. It’s as if the outer veneer of personality traits become more porous so that the soul can shine through. I want to age like that; perhaps less shiny and polished on the surface but hopefully more real and authentic, fully present; at ease with myself and the world.

The Bucket List

The Bucket list is a great ritual and the perfect metaphor for this period. In our early sixties, when Uranus is making as aspect to its natal position, we’re feeling restless, frisky, adventurous and more inclined to push the envelope. You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel right but we don’t learn anything by never venturing outside our comfort zone. If you have never thought about sky diving and the idea of it makes you sick to your stomach, then it’s probably not for you. But if you’ve always secretly dreamed of going white water rafting down the Colorado river or learning to Tango, maybe even in Argentina, but simply never got around to it, then perhaps that’s something you should consider. You know it is right if, in spite of your fear, you feel really excited about doing it.

What’s on your Bucket List? What have you always wanted to do but never allowed yourself to try? It doesn’t have to be dangerous or cost a lot of money; it just has to be something that gets your juices flowing. Maybe it’s researching your ancestors, getting a tattoo, self-publishing a book of your poems or stories or finally learning to meditate. What about learning how to design a website, reading War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings, being photographed nude or learning to speak Japanese? With hundreds of websites devoted to Bucket Lists, there’s no end to the rousing ideas or possible adventures. And although a Bucket List experience may be temporary it gets the energy moving in the right direction and builds momentum. Besides, you never know where it will lead. Just like a casual date can turn into an enduring  love affair or marriage, a bucket list jaunt may transform into a late-in-life passion or career.

What’s so fascinating and frustrating and great about life is that you’re constantly starting over, all the time, and I love that. –Billy Crystal at sixty-five (Still Foolin ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell are My Keys.)

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The Sixties: Part 1

The Closing Uranus Square: Age 62-63

“Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more, and some days I feel I have wings.” -Mary Oliver

Following the Second Saturn Return (at age 58) is an aspect that is colorful, energizing and even a bit feisty. This is the Closing Uranus Square and takes place between the ages of sixty-two and sixty-three when that maverick Uranus is in its home stretch. By our early sixties Uranus has traveled three quarters around the chart and has another quarter to go before it returns to the place it occupied at birth. That happens between the ages of eighty-three and eighty-four and is called the Uranus Return. At that time it will have contacted every planet in the birth chart and ideally (as Carl Jung might say) we become fully individualized. Providing we’ve been living authentically. If we haven’t been living authentically, then the closing Uranus square in our early sixties is when a have a chance to correct that.

How? Remember, change-at-all-cost Uranus is the chief architect of our midlife journey at age forty-two when it is exactly opposite its natal position. It’s the planet of freedom, rebellion and individuation so we’ve got to break some rules, make some trouble, and take some chances. I’m not talking about rebelling for the sake of rebelling but if there is something you want to do, be, or have, then now’s the time to act on it. Who do you want to be at eighty-four? Hopefully someone well marinated from a full, rich, and juicy life; someone who is wise, compassionate and spirited; the kind of person who can look back at his or her life with satisfaction and not regret. The decisions we make in our early sixties will determine what kind of older person we become in our eighties. How’s that for incentive? Think of Georgia O’Keeffe, Diane Vreeland, Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell in their eighties. These great role models lived fully right up to the end of their lives; they didn’t put on the breaks in their sixties, they kept going!

The Showgirl Must Go On! -Bette Midler

In June of 2008 Bette Midler appeared on Oprah to talk about her new show, “The Showgirl Must Go On” that was about to open in Las Vegas. The Divine Miss M committed to performing five nights a week for the next two years; ambitious for any age let alone at sixty-two! In the beginning she alternated with Cher (also sixty-two). Bette, Cher and this fabulous show is a great metaphor for the closing Uranus square. Not everyone at sixty-two has the stamina or talent to sing and dance like a showgirl but we can all invent or reinvent our own third act and perform it will all the spunk and bravado of a star! And if we need more inspiration, just listen to Dolly Parton sing her hit song Better Get To Livin; she was in her early sixties when she recorded it.

“You better get to livin’, givin’/Don’t forget to throw in a little forgivin’/And lovin’ on the way. You better get to knowin’, showin’/A little bit more concerned about where you’re goin’ Just a word unto the wise/You better get to livin’.”

 

 

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Gloria Steinem 80!

On March 25 Gloria Steinem celebrated her 80th birthday. Still travelling, writing, and speaking out, Steinem is going strong and working hard. Here are some of her thoughts on getting older. The first is from the recent (March 22, 2014) article in the New York Times, This is What 80 Looks Like,by Gail Collins. The rest are from her essay Doing Sixty (from her book, in Moving Beyond Words). More than her words, her life with its fierce passion and commitment, continues to be an inspiration for women of all ages.

“Ever the positive thinker, Steinem composed a list of the good things about starting her ninth decade. A dwindling libido, she theorized, can be a terrific advantage: “The brain cells that used to be obsessed are now free for all kinds of great things. I try to tell younger women that, but they don’t believe me,” she said in a pre-Botswana interview. “When I was young I wouldn’t have believed it either.”

“It is different because it has a ring of mortality – so it has a big message to stop wasting time.”

“Clinging to the past is the problem. Embracing change is the solution.”

“As you can see, I’m just beginning to realize the upcoming pleasures of being a nothing-to-lose, take-no-shit older woman; of looking at what once seemed outer limits as just road signs.”

“More and more I’m beginning to see that life after fifty or sixty is itself another country, as different as adolescence is from childhood or the central years of life from adolescence.”

“What we all need, whatever our age, are personal role models of living in the present – and a change that never ends. We need to know that life past sixty or seventy or eighty is as much an adventure as it ever was, perhaps more so for women, since we are especially likely to find new territory once the long plateau of our role is over. Explorers of this region have always existed in some number, but now their lights dancing on the path ahead will guide many more.”

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It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love!

Evelyn De Wolfe has had an adventurous life and a fulfilling career; born and raised in Brazil, she left at twenty-one, traveled the world,  became an author and a journalist, ultimately settling in southern California where for forty years she worked for the L. A. Times. Widowed for 14 years, she had grown children, grandchildren, and a full life. She was in good health and living contentedly in Hollywood, California. “What better place to be at eighty-two,” she writes, in her book Five Honeymoons, A True Love Story.

Then she received a mysterious envelope in the mail  from her childhood sweetheart and life suddenly took an unexpected turn. Juan had been her first real crush at age thirteen. She hadn’t seen or heard from him for over sixty-five years. Like her, he was in his eighties, had grown children but had remained in Brazil. An old friend put them in touch and they began emailing. It wasn’t long before they fell in love and began a passionate affair. But that isn’t the most amazing part of the story; it’s the form their affair took that makes it unique. Every year for five years they met in a romantic location; a farm tucked away in the Rain Forest, Santa Barbara, Mexico, Hollywood, and Rio de Janeiro. Five Honeymoons is the story of their love affair and the cherished moments spent together. The book is beautifully written and is an inspiration for anyone,  young or old.

Another story about late in life love is Last Tango in Halifax, a Masterpiece Theater special that debuted last Sunday (September 8) on PBS. This charming British drama  originally aired in 2012 and got rave reviews. The writing and acting are superb and I can’t wait for additional episodes. Although the details are fictional the story is real; writer Sally Wainwright was inspired by her mother’s second and extremely happy marriage late in life. The protagonists are Celia and Alan who are both widowed and in their seventies. As young teens they had strong feelings for each other but when Celia suddenly moved away they were separated. Celia wrote Alan a note explaining her sudden departure as well as her new address and asked her friend, Eileen, to give it to him. Her friend never passed the note along; both Celia and Alan assumed the other didn’t care; in fact, the opposite was true. They are reunited via Facebook which their grandchildren encouraged them to join. Nervously they agree to meet for coffee and quickly discover the love they shared never died and decide on the spot to get married, much to to disbelief of their grown children.

Dear friends, it is never, ever too late! Love has no timetable and life is mysterious. As you well know, life can “turn on a dime” for better or worse. Believe in the miraculous; trust your own timing. It’s tempting to compare ourselves (and our timing) to others but ultimately destructive; we simply don’t know what’s waiting around the corner. Make peace with the present but have faith in what lies ahead. As my friend, Irene Young, always says, “Anything can happen, including something wonderful!”

 

The Coming of Light, by Mark Strand

Even this late it happens:

the coming of love, the coming of light.

You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,

stars gather, dreams pour into your pillow,

sending up warm bouquets of air.

Even this late the bones of the body shine

And tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

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Darlene Love: An Unlikely Late Bloomer

With her powerhouse voice and dynamo energy Darlene Love is one of the all time great singers. She is also one of the greatest Late Bloomers although an unusual one since from a young age she seemed to be headed straight for stardom. While still in high school producer Phil Spector invited her to join a little known girls group called The Blossoms. By the time she was twenty, in the early sixties, she was singing lead on such monster hits as “He’s a Rebel” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” except nobody knew her name; she was  hidden behind Spector’s  legendary “Wall of Sound” and The Crystals and the Blossoms got all the credit.  Phil Spector let her go and because of a contract snafu she was unable to sing lead. Her powerful voice got her work singing backup for the likes of Tom Jones, Sonny and Cher, Dionne Warwick, and Elvis.  In the seventies the music buisness changed and she ended up cleaning homes in Beverly Hills.

Dave Letterman deserves credit for helping to revive her career; in 1986 she appeared on his Christmas show to sing her signature hit, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and it became an annual tradition. She found work singing on Broadway (Grease) and acting in films. Then in the early nineties the owner of the Bottom Line  (in New York City’s Greenwich Village) created a show called “Portrait of a Singer.” In those days I still owned my restaurant on 10th Street in the West Village. One of Darlene Love’s backup singers, who was a regular customer, gave me tickets and I went. I was blown away and returned a dozen times. Like many in the audience I had grown up with her songs (“Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “River Deep, River High”) but never knew who sang them. It’s hard to imagine that one woman had so many hits. A few years later she sued Phil Spector and won; now when they play her songs on the radio she gets credit and royalties. She also wrote a biography (My Name is Love) and began recording.

There is a new documentary entitled “20 Feet from Stardom” about the talented women who sing backup but Darlene Love is clearly the focal point and the star. Recently she appeared on the Late Show with Dave Letterman, not merely to sing but to sit beside Dave and be interviewed. Another milestone. In the recent July 1 issue of The New Yorker there was an article about the documentary and Love’s appearance on Letterman. “The leap from backup to star is no larger than the gulf between singing on Letterman’s show and chatting by his side.” She has come a long way.

Most people go from cleaning houses (or waitressing, etc.) to singing backup and then (if they’re lucky) rising to lead singer. Darlene Love went from lead singer, to singing backup, to cleaning houses, and then to lead singer and star – and at 72 she’s bigger and better than ever!   

 

 

 

 

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Virginia Bell, writer/astrologer

Virginia Bell, writer/astrologer

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Virginia Bell has written columns for US Weekly, TV Guide, Huffington Post, CBS WATCH, and more...