And I Heard the Door Open From Below….

This is part 2 of the blog post:  “Staying Alive and Following Your Dreams”

—————–

The other day I posted about Janice Butler and her “It’s a success” strategy for, you guessed it, success.  Today, I’ll recount the rest of the afternoon….

Location:  The Lakeview, Hamilton, Ontario

Purpose:  Professional development day.

Just before we broke for lunch we had a visit from Dr. Cooper who works in the Centre for Student Development.  He’s a psychologist specializing in addiction and gambling.  He’s your typical college psychologist, Birkenstocks, cords, untucked shirt, long hair, funny.  He took us through a relaxation exercise that I just wasn’t into.  He was really good at it; I peeped through my eyes and looked around the room, everyone seemed right relaxed.  I was, at first, for about 10 minutes, then I started getting antsy and fidgety in my seat.  He was going just too slow.  I needed to be relaxed faster.  When I heard the door open downstairs and footfalls echoing up through the stairway I thought, that must be her, and then for sure the session was over for me.  But I sat there and waited before I jumped up and went over to introduce and impress myself in her future only to get her name wrong in the process.  Can you imagine, I called her Mona Raynard?  Of course that would happen to me, the opportunity to be memorable for the tarnish rather than the polish.

She sat with us at our table during lunch.  And good thing there were other people or I would have totally monopolized her time with questions, questions, questions.  Mostly about writing, getting published, women’s issues and, of course, the perks of editing a women’s lifestyle magazine.  But my mother taught me to share and I refrained from taking over the talk.  It was more an opportunity to talk a bit about us, who we are and what we do.

After lunch Rona stepped up to the front of room to talk.  Slim and petite, she used an ipad for her presentation so she could free herself from the podium.  She was dressed in black pants with a black, white and grey flecked wool jacket, cropped at the waist. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.  But I was interested in what she was wearing.  Are you kidding?).  I was going to ask her the label and engage her in fashion talk, but that’s another blog.

She  stated right off the top that self-care is not selfish.  That’s a message that the women in the room know well and that we tell to those around us, but we often fail to take our own good advice.  It was good to be reminded.

As I listened to her recount her life and work  experiences, questions formed in my mind.  How do you adjust after life in the fast lane to not driving at all?  How do we relax enough to allow renewal when we’re so busy running from one aspect of our lives to another?  We are so caught up in our professional identities that provide us with real-world value in terms of jobs and occupations and life and death decision-making, that when we no longer are in those positions, we have no idea who we are or what makes us happy.  Couple that with the reality that retirement in the traditional sense is now considered a career transition as we prepare for longer periods in the workforce than our parents did.

It’s a brave new world for women in the workforce, with retirement plans contingent on lifetime earnings which run 60% of what men make. Older single women, living in poverty, longer and with more morbid health conditions than men, or serving as their partners caregiver, the future for the elderly woman can be a bleak one.  Best to keep opportunities, techniques and tactics that encourage renewal, of mind, soul and body.

Using her personal experience with change and depression, Rona mapped out the highs awarded by career success as well as the lows of being away from it that swung her into a debilitating depression and her subsequent success at the helm of Chatelaine.

Her description of the Chatelaine work-world was captivating. The excitement, the challenges, the problems to solve, the importance to experience.  When she spoke about the connection she made to the women who wrote in to comment about stories in the magazine, especially her appeasement of Mrs. Outrage, I felt a similar connection.  I can do that.  But I think I can do anything.  Don’t you know I’m Wonder Woman?  The truth is, I can barely maintain my blog empire never mind create a national women’s magazine every month.

I took notes.

As I said, Rona’s talk focused on renewal, how does it happen, why is it necessary, how do we benefit from it, where to find it.  She noted that for her, as for many of us, “the ultimate act of renewal is to move on”, from a job, a relationship, a friendship etc.  I know a few women who are in that process right now.  Scary, but exhilarating at the same time.  It’s in those times of renewal that we surprise ourselves by discovering new interests, new skills, new people, new ways of being.

Rona’s advice on managing renewal:

  • Stay fit
  • Remember to be grateful
  • Stay inspired

In response to a question about how to support someone who is depressed and suicidal, she offered the following words of wisdom:

  • be there
  • ask how they are
  • bring food
  • help with the kids
  • understand at work
  • listen
  • do unto others

I particularly like the last one.

After she left Chatelaine, Rona wrote a book, a memoir about her relationship with her mother, Fredelle Maynard, a Radcliffe-trained academic.

A quotation from the book’s dust jacket sums up nicely the significance of mothers:

A woman’s identity is forged in her relationship with her mother, whether close and tender or fraught with conflict.

I’d say I agree with that, speaking from my experience with my own mother, who taught me the important life lessons like sharing, the value of relationships, trust, and reciprocity, love, understanding and acceptance.

Her mother, Fredelle Maynard, authored the book Raisins and Almonds, which I was first introduced to in grad school studying immigration history.  Her book is a collection of finely crafted stories drawn from her experiences growing up on the Canadian prairies, the daughter of a devoted father, a Jewish girl in a land of often unkind gentiles, a 20th-century, educated, modern woman.  I checked it out of the library on the way home from work yesterday.  I’m looking forward to reading it again, as a prelude to reading Rona’s memoir of her relationship with her mother.

Rona gives workshops on memoir writing.  She brought copies of her book, one of which I walked away with.  I paid for it first, of course.  That’s 2 books in one week, directly from the hands of the authors (dedicated and signed!).

Do I sound like a groupie?

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One response to “And I Heard the Door Open From Below….

  1. Margaret, you just made my day. This blog post is destined for my compliments file (nothing like a compliment to blunt the sting of non-constructive criticism). It was a pleasure to meet you at the conference. I hope you enjoy my book–and would love to know what you think of it.

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