Unfinished Thoughts from Joan Anderson
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January '09 Retreat Location
Chatham Bars Inn
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Aug '08

Summer is almost over and before you know it, fall comes, the holiday season begins and so does the hustle and bustle!  That is why I have scheduled a restorative retreat mid-winter a the Chatham Bars Inn.  Treat yourself after the holidays to some much needed rest and rejuvenation!!  Or better yet, put this retreat on your Christmas wish list!!
Some Thoughts About Change 
Joan AndersonYou Don't Get A Gold Watch For Menopause!
A while ago, before the "change of life" was a reality I fully understood, I was sitting in my best friend's backyard ruminating about the prospect of our lives with our children grown and gone. "We have to start making some decisions for ourselves," she said, with a righteous tone in her voice. "After all, you don't get a gold watch for menopause."
"No kidding," I said, breaking out into hysterical laughter at the combined pithiness and poignancy of her statement. Having now lived halfway to a hundred in a fairly prescribed way-marriage, children, house in the suburbs, volunteering at the kid's school-I wasn't able to imagine life without all of its familiar parameters. But I also knew I wasn't ready to be put out to pasture just because my body was soon to retire from one of its most noble acts--the producing and feeding of children. Sometimes I felt as if my very femininity was being called into question and I hadn't the faintest idea what to do about it. But I wasn't about to up and quit.
"Who wants a gold watch anyway?" I finally said. "After so many years marching along to everyone else's schedule, a watch is the last thing I want. Frankly, I'd prefer to be off the clock and on vacation. After all, we have more than earned our stripes in the name of service to family. I couldn't begin to calculate the thousands of dinners cooked, errands run, doctor and dentist's appointments kept, or holiday celebrations produced. To be honest, the "pause" part of menopause was looking pretty inviting.
Now a decade later, I know that menopause is actually a chance for liberation! Culturally we tend to focus on what menopause means in terms of a woman's body. It is a drying up, a time of newly emerging wrinkles, sagging flesh, blurred vision, and horror of horrors, a rounded belly. For those of us who crave the gold watch, an appointment with the plastic surgeon is the answer. But I can't bear to think that I would have to deal with perpetual care for the rest of my life. I'd rather write my own prescriptions, to work with nature and embrace change.
Life keeps moving on, and as the years go by, I've learned that I can't control its course; I can only adapt. We mark graduations, marriage, birth, even death with celebrations and fanfare. Why not menopause? What if there were rituals that recognized a woman's achievements-- crises managed, lessons mastered, attitudes and ideals reversed-and then launched her into her PAUSE in order to regroup and replenish.  Maybe the physical changes would be easier to accept if we honored the journey that preceded them. At least we'd be spared the depression that often comes when we long for the way we were in favor of celebrating what we've become.
For as my mentor, Joan Erikson said: "Life is a progression. We are meant to be aware and eager to greet the next passage.

So, the thought to post for today is: "This journey is not just progressing through the world but moving through stages of understanding."
                                                                        Joan Anderson 

Summer Musings
"I had forgotten that sunset is my business."
  Abraham Heschel
Summertime with its leisure and little or no agenda enables us to become whimsical and playful, especially when we are surrounded by children. Such was my circumstance during the past few weeks as grandchildren and others made their yearly pilgrimage to Cape Cod. Each day, it seemed, a fresh attitude arose out of the most ordinary endeavor.
Most days began with a hot breakfast-the smell of sizzling bacon permeating the house as one grandson after another peeked around the kitchen door knowing that pancakes and syrup would complete the meal-fuel actually for a day out of doors. On Cape Cod nature becomes our playmate. We only need to decide in which environment we are to play. Will we find bait and head to the harbor to fish? Or, choose one of the numerous beaches on which to surf. If it is overcast maybe we'll hit the bike trail or simply go off to fly a kite.
Whatever evolves, each diversion generates joy which in turn always takes me away from the mundane and into this endless imaginary world of three, five, and ten year olds. "And a child shall lead them-"says the Bible, and so once again have my grandchildren.
And then there was one very special moment. It was late at night near the end of their stay. We had a party complete with Tiki torches, a steel drum band, the Limbo, a conga line and lots and lots of sparklers. I pulled back from the scene and noticed one five year old on his father's lap looking up at the sky. Coming from the city this little one had always thought that stars were airplanes. But on this particular summer's night he was to learn that the sky is more than a course for planes. Sharing that special moment with my son and his child reminds me not to miss the stars or the sunsets offered to me as well.
Summer's lessons just might be the most important of all.

Responding to my own thoughts
All good things must come to an end-or so the old adage says. Indeed, the family reunion is over. Gone are our two sons, their wives, and five grandsons. Also taking leave were various nieces, nephews, and an assortment of cousins. Each summer they bring so much energy with them and then suck it out when they depart. I am looking out the upstairs window at my husband who is wandering about the yard collecting various trucks, beach toys, second hand bicycles all to be deposited in the shed until next year.
A certain melancholy lingers. I can barely remember each moment and will need to depend on the photographs I took to fill in the experiences. What I will not miss is being in the midst of the fray and wanting it all to work-making sure there is a menu planned for dinner, biting my tongue when I wanted to insert an opinion that would only get me in trouble, wishing for private moments with each of my sons who are too busy being fathers and husbands to find time for such, fighting against being the matriarch when there are several others who have stepped into that very role. 
Although my illusion about family reunions and celebrations always holds a hope that all will feel like it once was when we were a family of four, I need to remember that that family worked well because we were our own little unit, not part of a extended group and as such I need to give my grown children the autonomy they seek. Still, that leaves me feeling relegated to the back row even though the grandchildren come to me with requests that are an automatic no-no from their parent's point of view. 
Still, as one who aims to please I found myself sitting on my hands, biting my lip, directing requests back to parents, and attempting to stay neutral when usually I'm the first to take hold of the reins. Like menopause, you can't control when all will change. You can only adapt when the change occurs.
The torch has been passed. My forty-something children are more than launched. I produced individual thinkers who married even more individual thinkers. There is no longer room to impart my wisdom. What's more I don't ask questions as I've found that questions are so often seen as judgment. Instead I have finally let go - not willingly, mind you, but because it is time and they no longer need or want to listen anyhow. "Besides," as Joan Erikson told me over and over again, "holding onto anything ruins it."