This week I’m sharing an excerpt from Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife, in the hopes that it encourages you to reclaim the artist in you without reservation or apology. This excerpt is from the middle of the book…
Life is changing. I’m changing. As I face the reality that life as I’ve known it no longer works for me, I’m confronting a stream of feelings about getting older, leaving dreams behind, saying goodbye to people and plans and goals. In some ways I’m emptying my life to claim space for something I can’t yet name, guided only by the desire to express myself in new and different ways.
Ever since I was twelve years old, I’ve called myself a writer. The title felt legit. I didn’t need to publish a book or have a byline in a magazine. As far as I was concerned, the fact that I kept a journal and wrote in it nearly every day gave me license to call myself a writer. Calling myself an artist, however, has been a different story. Michael is an artist. He started cartooning in grade school and continues to this day. He also has a gift for architecture and design that is reflected in every room of our home. He’s always been the artist in the family.
Years ago during a family reunion, my brother-in-law Walter did something that roused a sleeping part of me. He created a fun family game, a treasure hunt of sorts, with personalized name tags, and when he handed me mine, it read, “Artist.” I looked at Walter, looked at the name tag, then looked back at him to be sure he’d given it to the right person. When he nodded, I stuck it to the front of my shirt. As soon as I did, something weird happened. I had a vision of a little girl jumping up and down yelling, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” That name tag was an invitation, a call to reclaim a part of me that was clearly eager for attention.
It was an invitation I ignored for the next fifteen years.
Fast-forward to the present. When Chris Northrup said that issues that hadn’t been resolved during adolescence would come around again during menopause, she wasn’t kidding. I’m confronted with the lifelong patterns that need to be healed and released—like trying to rescue people who don’t want to be rescued, or giving in the hopes of feeling worthy of love. Confronting these patterns has also forced me to confront the parts of me that are arrogant (I know what others need), manipulative (I try to get them to see it), and codependent (I care more about keeping others happy at the expense of my own contentment).
As unattractive as these parts are, I’ve held on to them. Who would I be without the roles that have defined me for most of my life?
Chris also said that when a woman deals with these unresolved issues, she has a good chance of reconnecting with the dreams that ignited her heart during the tumultuous passage of puberty. From what I can tell, these are the joyful, engaged parts of us that often get submerged by parents who push us to travel a responsible road, or by an educational system designed to produce compliance and conformity.
I’m getting reacquainted with that young girl. Turns out she is an artist, one who likes to paint with words.
Yes, I’m a writer. The blank page is my canvas. Words are my paint, my pastels, my pens. But I’m also a woman who loves to express her creativity in a variety of ways. Singing for the sheer joy of it. Transforming my office into a sensual salon. Indulging my love of fashion by choosing clothes that reflect who I am today, not who I thought I should be. A sensual woman living a sensual life.
We all want to experience the magic of losing ourselves to something larger than we are, something mysterious and light-filled and transcendent. That’s what being an artist is all about. My artist is my lifeline to truth. She’s my lifeline to joy and meaning. She’s my lifeline to my self.
If you’re looking for a holiday gift for a midlife woman who is rethinking her life and her priorities, may I recommend Waking Up in Winter? Questioning everything at midlife is a good thing .
P.S. – This week’s Facebook Live will be held on Tuesday, December 11th at 6pm EST/3pm PST. You can watch past sessions on my YouTube channel at CherylRichardsonTV here.
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