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The Tao of Turning Fifty: An Interview with Jennifer Boire

by Holly Osterman

The Tao of Turning FiftySometimes, life feels like a journey along a winding path. And that path has detours, dead ends and road signs that can be hard to read.

So how do women find their way when it seems like we have no sense of direction and are utterly bewildered? Well, according to Jennifer Boire, MA and author of The Tao of Turning Fifty, we might already have the answers. We just need to ask the right questions. Jennifer has written a wonderful workbook to help us learn more about ourselves and identify some of our own needs.

What Does Tao Mean to You?

Since life doesn’t come with a roadmap, a simple set of guidelines might come in handy. Coming up with those guidelines, though, can be a challenge. After all, life happens and the “me” part of all of us can get swept under the rug. The Tao of Turning Fifty nudges us to look at all those issues we’ve been sweeping aside. When was the last time you tried to figure out what your body was trying to tell you or why you’re just so angry all the time? By journaling and actively using the workbook, you’ll start filling in the blanks. And isn’t that what life’s all about?

As for the Tao (an ancient Chinese word pronounced Dow), Jennifer uses it to mean “a way, a path to represent the circuitous path of a woman’s journey through mid-life.” And it’s a completely perfect description of this winding road you might find yourself on, whether you’re turning fifty, still in your forties, or entering the hormone-crazed stage of menopause.

 Jennifer’s Road to Writing a Book

jennifer-boireWe recently had an opportunity to chat with Jennifer, learn more about her own path to writing the book, and get her insight on how we can better manage our journeys.

Jennifer has an interesting background, having published two books of poetry and surviving menopause while shepherding two pre-teens through puberty and supervising construction of a new home. She has been blogging about menopause and mid-life since 2006 (over 50,000 hits). In her research and many interviews, she discovered what women need to hear most is that they are not going crazy. She leads Creative Journaling classes and retreats for women at mid-life to help them cultivate faith in their inner resources.

Jennifer, you mentioned a few points in your life when you reinvented yourself, but what inspired you to write a book?

In 2006, I had the chance to get away for a week long writer’s retreat in Taos, New Mexico, and my idea was to bring all my creative projects, a poetry collection, a play idea, short stories and get some advice or inner clarity on which ones to devote my energy to. At the same time, I was just hitting menopause and wanted to write about it. I ended up not working on any of the creative writing projects. But one of the retreat leaders met with me and suggested I start writing a blog, and get out of the literary arena since my ‘fun’ was not there anymore. I realized what I wanted to do was to reach out to other women going through the mid-life transition and share what my experiences were. The blog turned into 3 blogs, one of them called Ms Menopause, and that one expanded into book form. Writing a blog was a good way to practice writing, do research and generally follow my bloodhound nose on the trail of the mind-body connection and how best to take care of ourselves during this menopausal journey.

You dedicated a chapter of the book to your inner Bitch Goddess. I think a lot of our readers can relate. Exactly who is she and how do you keep her under control?

Ah, who is she indeed! She is the alienated one, the forgotten one, kept chained up in the basement because she isn’t nice and her growl scares people. But her bark is definitely worse than her bite. She is so worth getting to know. I had a lot of anger and resentment bottled up in me, and through therapy I discovered that being ‘little mother’ to my seven siblings at a young age had set me up for feeling a heavy burden at motherhood. So ever since becoming a mom, I had been going to workshops, reading books, trying to get a handle on the explosive angry self that took over my mild, loving side at times.

With PMS increasing to two weeks out of the month at peri-menopause, I had no choice but deal with it! And that meant listening to the Bitch Goddess, getting down in the dirt and rolling around with her a bit, finding out what was causing her to lash out at my loved ones. I did it for me, but I was really forced to do it for my kids, before the little white men came to lock me away. What helped? Journaling – dialoguing with my Inner Angel and Inner Bitch, some herbal therapy and talk therapy. I remember my therapist told me I had to learn to be more selfish. Hah! I thought I was too selfish already. I had to learn how to be less harsh and more gentle with myself, and rock my anger like a crying baby who needs attention, an idea I explore more in the book.

It seems like the most common symptom for the women in our menopause forum is anxiety. Is there any advice you can give to our members who are struggling to keep it together?

It’s true, that’s a big one, and it hit me unexpectedly. I never thought of myself as an anxious person before that. I do yoga and meditate – but, suddenly the hormonal yo yo started and I was nervous driving over bridges and things I normally didn’t bat an eyelash at. I even had a panic attack one morning in the shower, for no apparent reason. I talked to my naturopath about it. I was relieved to find it was a symptom of menopause, and not me going crazy. I’ve tried different herbal remedies, but since my hormones have stabilized, the anxiety has gone down significantly. (I was menopaused at age 51, and I’m now 59).

I still remember the sleepless nights with the whirring hamster wheel in my brain worrying about every little thing. One herbal remedy I found in Susun Weed’s book, Menopause the Wise Woman’s Way, really helped take the edge off – it’s called motherwort and it’s available in tincture form. Check it out with your natural health care provider.

Of course, meditation and any activity where you have to slow down and get in touch with your breathing helps, and if it moves your body, too, even better. My gentle yoga class is my sanctuary on Thursday mornings. They say forward bends are very calming for the mind. Sometimes we just think too much, and need to switch it off. There are several different relaxation and centering breath exercises in my book.

Talking with other women who are going through Menopause helps too. Just knowing that you are not alone relieves some anxiety. You are not going crazy, you will get through this. I had a women’s circle who met twice a month, and on the days we met, I always felt better afterwards. It was like a magic pill.

You host workshops to help women relax and slow down. What would you suggest for women who can’t attend, but still need to find their balance?

One day I will offer on-line classes and mini-retreats. In the meantime, I suggest making yourself a little mini-retreat at home. On my website, there is a simple description of how to do this on the Retreat Page. Unfortunately, we all wait a little too long before we stop the 24/7 crazy-making schedule and collapse.

Start by giving yourself permission to have one hour alone per week. One hour is very do-able. Find some soothing music, and even if it’s just a quiet corner of your bedroom, make it your special time. Remind yourself, you are worthy and deserving of loving kindness. You are worthy and deserving of doing something to feed your soul, something beautiful and simple and just for you! I wish we could all let ourselves off the hook a little and not be afraid of being selfish.

While you were writing The Tao of Turning Fifty, you interviewed several women at different stages of their lives. What was the most important thing you learned during those conversations?

The most interesting things came up in those interviews, which I am still doing by the way. I love how mid-life women are reinventing their lives – going back to school, quitting soul-killing jobs and starting new businesses, learning how to take better care of their health after a crisis, or just doing less, and incorporating work-life balance into their too busy lives. I think the most important thing I learned was that we have to do it for ourselves. We have to be our own caretaker. We are so good at taking care of our children, our parents, our friends and family. But where are we on the list?

Bottom line is, baby yourself a little. Don’t push yourself to the breaking point – there are consequences for lack of sleep, skipping meals and workaholism. Too many women hit the wall of extreme fatigue at menopause before they are willing to give themselves a break. I would like to give every woman in her early forties a big heads up – put yourself on the agenda. Stop stretching yourself too thin. Drop the Superwoman cape, and be good to yourself. Only you can do that.

I would like to warn other women not to be as stubborn as I was before reaching out and asking for help. Women have very broad shoulders, and we feel responsible for everyone’s wellbeing. The funny thing is, when you start to slow down and give yourself more play time, more down time, you become happier, and you are a much nicer person to be around. So you’re doing it for them too!

It’s been lovely chatting with you! Thanks for inviting me to Menopause Chit Chat.

Jennifer blogs as Musemother. You can check out her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And you can pick up a copy of her book, The Tao of Turning Fifty, at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Della Bercovitch March 10, 2014 at 6:13 am

Good morning Holly,

On behalf of Jennifer and Book Marketing Services, I would like to thank you for hosting Jennifer today on Menopause ChitChat. She is thrilled to begin her tour with you. If anyone has any questions and/or comments they would like to share with, please leave them in the comment box. Jennifer will be by later in the day to respond.

Jennifer is having a giveaway during her tour. First prize is an autographed copy of The Tao of Turning Fifty, Musemother Relaxation CD, and a $25 Amazon gift card; second prize: Autographed copy of The Tao of Turning Fifty, and Musemother Relaxation CD; and third prize is an autographed copy of The Tao of Turning Fifty. You can enter through the link on Jennifer’s Facebook page http://tinyurl.com/nq7vgxl.

Shelley March 10, 2014 at 9:33 am

Fabulous insights – great support for all women!

Jennifer Boire March 10, 2014 at 4:18 pm

thanks Shelley, it’s good to know it’s been a help for you.

Brigitte March 10, 2014 at 10:01 am

Everything you need to know about menopausal anxieties,
Overwhelming emotions and hot flash help found in
Jennifer’s astounding self-help book. Read and
Follow the wonderful road back to feeling more
Normal, more quickly than you thought!

Jennifer Boire March 10, 2014 at 4:19 pm

thanks Brigitte, I’m glad the book helped you feel better. That’s my goal, to help women feel less alone.

Irene March 10, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Amen! We are NOT going crazy. Thanks Jennifer, for your guidance and wisdom.

Jennifer Boire March 11, 2014 at 6:54 am

thanks Irene. At least, it’s only a temporary crazy. Not long after being officially menopaused at age 51, I felt the even keel come back into my life. (I have to say that having my kids move out to university may have been part of this – empty nest? nope. creative home space)

Jennifer Boire March 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Holly, I want to thank you for adding this blog post to your excellent website. I got a chance to chat with some women on the forum as well. I will certainly be back, and will let other women know about this place to hang out with other women at menopause.

Véronique March 15, 2014 at 3:04 pm

When I started listening to my heart and following my soul-path, the menopause symptoms vanished and my new life unfolded. Life begins after menopause!! Thanks Jennifer for all your insights! xo

Jennifer Boire March 17, 2014 at 10:41 am

that’s amazing Veronique. It appears that for you, menopause symptoms were a message to follow your heart and change your life.

Some women may have a more challenging time with symptoms, and need temporary help from medications and/or herbal helpers. Red Clover was a great help to me with hot flashes.
(I know a few women who desperately needed to get some sleep and balance their hormones just to be able to get back to work).

thanks for the comment, and happy soul path!
Jennifer

Anne O'Connell (@annethewriter) March 28, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Ah the ‘Bitch Goddess’! Thanks Jennifer! Finally you’ve given me a name for her. Like you, I tamed her by writing a book about her called Mental Pause (fiction, of course). It was a confusing time for me because I started perimenopause quite early. I knew something was going on but when I suggested the possibility, doctors said it was ‘way too early for that’ and prescribed anti-depressants (which I never took because I knew better… my sister had started early too). Writing was cathartic and didn’t make me catatonic 🙂 I can’t really say my inner demonic persona was necessarily a bitch, but I did have to get down in the dirt with her a few times.

I’m off to buy a copy of The Tao of Turning 50 as it is fast approaching for me (this July)! Looking forward to reading it!

Happy Days!
Anne

Jennifer Boire April 3, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Dear Anne,
am happy to hear that writing is your medicine! I think one day all doctors will have sufficient training in women’s health and menopause – but sometimes it feels like we are on our own to find out how best to take care of ourselves. Good for you, for getting to know your inner demon. She tends to tone it down when we listen to her! let me know how you find the Tao of Turning Fifty, and happy 50th in July!

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