Saturday, October 30, 2010

Embracing the Invisibility of Middle Age

I was never a beauty.

In fact, I was a plain, awkward and shy teenager who sat home dateless on prom night and who would listen, with an aching heart, as guys -- who considered me a great buddy -- asked me for advice on how to capture the affections of my female friends. While rumors swirled around some classmates at my Catholic girls' high school that this one had French kissed and that one had actually flirted with third base, rumors about me centered on my alleged post-high school plans of entering a monastic convent in the South where the nuns beat themselves and slept on straw.

My mother, a popular beauty in her youth, tried to console me by taking my head in her hands and telling me to just wait, that my time was coming, that one day I would wake up and look just like Elizabeth Taylor.

My Elizabeth Taylor moment never arrived.

However, in young adulthood, I blossomed into enough attractiveness to prompt whistles when I walked past construction sites, propositions from colleagues at out of town conferences and, to my considerable relief, the romantic attention of some very good men. And I would sometimes even catch the eye of an occasional celebrity. In one memorable incident when I was a young magazine reporter, I was having lunch at Hollywood's legendary Brown Derby restaurant with an aging television star whom I was interviewing about his endorsement of a major political cause. Near the end of the interview, he leaned over to me, wheezing slightly, and said, off the subject and out of the blue, "You know, I've had a vasectomy."

Equally memorable is the day I realized that my maximum visibility, my time in the sun, had vanished and that I was slipping irrevocably into the invisibility of middle age.

I was plump, on the edge of graying, and in my mid-forties. On a whim, I had stopped at the construction site of some beachside condos to look at the model homes and dream a bit.  The construction zone around the parking lot was teeming with young, burly construction workers.  I stepped out of my car and, a few paces later, into a giant pothole, severely spraining my ankle. I fell face down onto the asphalt. No one noticed. I lay there waiting. Nothing. I finally struggled up and, on all fours, dragged myself into the sales office.  A robotically smiling young woman, brochures in hand, looked down at me.  "Have you visited our models before?" she asked.

"I'm hurt," I moaned, rolling and flailing on the floor at her feet.

"Does this mean you don't want to look at the models?"

"I fell in a pothole out there and I can't walk."

"Oh. Well, do you want to sit down for awhile?" And she rushed to answer a phone call.

I sat, realizing that if I didn't get ice on my ankle and some medical attention soon, I wouldn't be able to move at all.  I crawled back to my car, still invisible to the construction crew only a few feet away, and drove myself to an Urgent Care center.

To varying degrees, it happens to all of us.

My college roommate Ruth, a successful attorney with a taste for hot sports cars, says that her realization of invisibility came when young men stopped staring at her at stoplights and saying "Hi, babe. How you doing?" and started saying  "Hmmm. Nice car!"

When we reach a certain age, advertisers and marketers start ignoring us for younger, more free-spending demographics. Most movies are made for younger audiences more likely to pack theaters.
The female movie stars of our youth -- with the exception of Helen Mirrin, Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon who seem to elude all ageist categorization -- slip into television or obscurity.  As my Aunt Molly used to say "You know you've reached that certain age when you're a guest at the party, but the party is never for you."

And yet, like Harry Potter's wonderfully useful invisibility cloak, there is an upside to middle-aged invisibility.

It gives us the freedom to go the party for someone else and rejoice for them. It allows us to sit on the sidelines without feeling diminished as we cheer our kids, our grandchildren or young people we're mentoring on to achievement.

It gives us the joy of being very much ourselves, less concerned with how we appear to others and what others think.  It allows us to find our voice, to speak our minds with new clarity. Away from the outside clamor and attention, often from those who really don't matter to us, we quietly come to terms with the unique individuals we have grown to be.

Middle-aged invisibility allows me to sweat at the gym and take the risk of throwing myself into Zumba Gold and Pilates secure in the knowledge that no one is looking at me. So what if I'm a klutz or overweight or forgetfully mangle routines? I have the joy of getting fit without worrying about looking like a fool.

Invisibility allows us to speak our minds, take new risks and tackle new challenges because, until we're well along with our goal, no one notices.

And when people do notice, it's to give us extra credit for things that used to be ordinary. Young people laugh with appreciation and a bit of surprise when I erupt with a cynical opinion, a mild obscenity or a statement they consider at least a little outrageous for a white-haired woman of a certain age.  When my husband and I hold hands or put our arms around each other in public, almost invariably, a younger person will approach us with "Oh, you guys are soooo sweet!"

But the opinions of others don't matter nearly as much as they used to. Now that we're mostly invisible, we're self-directed, more confident and more in touch with who we are and what we think.  Only our own and the opinions of those close to us matter.

Not long ago, my sister-in-law Amp, who is in her late twenties and from Thailand, suddenly, mid-conversation, took my face in her hands and said softly "You are so beautiful. I hope when I am older, I can be as beautiful as you."

Stunned, I looked back at her lovely young face with obvious incredulity.

"Your life is in your face and I love what I see," she said, tracing a finger along a laugh line. "Where I come from, we know that real beauty takes time."

I thought back -- through all my youthful disappointments, the loneliness of my blossoming young adulthood and the confidence that grew through finding my own voice, cheering others on and celebrating each season of my life -- and felt the power and truth of her words.

Beautiful -- in my own way and my own time. At last.

Friday, October 29, 2010

7 Ways to Prevent a Halloween (Caloric) Nightmare

Q. I'm dreading Halloween because I always pig out. When my kids were small, I'd steal some of their candy. Now I buy too much candy and eat a bunch of it of it both before and after the holiday. I can't afford the calories this year.  I don't want to be a old grump, not buy candy and turn off the porch light. How can I celebrate (survive!) Halloween without it being a diet disaster?

                                                                                                       Linda H.

What is it with Halloween?

Willpower wilts before the spectre of candy corn and fun-sized candy bars both before and after the young ghouls have come calling. Candy that one can resist with little difficulty the rest of the year is irresistible now -- and it's the last thing some of us need as we battle our middle-age spread.

So what to do -- to keep the fun in the holiday and the fat off your hips?

1. Give candy you don't like or can't eat. 
For me that would be chewy caramels or tough nougets or sticky nut clusters -- all guaranteed to remove thousands of dollars of my dental work in record time. I don't dare even think of indulging. Whatever your least favorite candy -- sour drops, hard candy, licorice -- that's what should be in your Trick or Treat bowl this year. Whatever culinary horrors you offer, there will be kids who will be delighted.

2. Don't give out candy -- try stickers or small toys instead.
Granted, it can be risky, but some kids are happy to get something a little different. It's a good idea to check with your favorite child first before you buy anything to find out what's cool and what's likely to get your car egged.

3. Freeze the candy until Halloween.
When you can't grab a piece of candy on impulse, you're less likely to over-indulge!

4. Allow yourself a small indulgence.
Totally denying yourself candy on Halloween may whet your appetite for sweets and derail your diet for weeks. Decide which variety of candy you really want,  count out a (reasonable) number of pieces -- then give the rest away.

5. Limit your quantities of leftover sweets.
Do you buy enough candy to feed half the population of a major American city? Cut back! Buy less! Give away more to the little ghouls.

6. Keep giving -- and get the leftovers out of the house.
After the trick or treaters have come and gone, bundle up any leftovers. Take them to work with you the next day (but don't keep the giveaways on or in the vicinity of your desk!). Donate the candy to a food pantry. Even throw it all out. It's better in the trash than expanding your waistline.

7. If celebrating Halloween is important to you, go ahead and celebrate -- with fewer calories.
Some of us over-indulge on Halloween because it gets us back in touch with our own fondly remembered trick or treating past and the joy of achieving the ultimate sugar high one night a year. Remember what you enjoyed about Halloween besides devouring a sackful of candy? Maybe it was a costume? So dress up and join a local Halloween party or parade. Maybe it was a special family ritual that you could re-create.

My neighbor Louise has fond memories of the many Halloweens she made costumes for her kids and grandkids, decorated the house and yard with her own special holiday creations and, before sending the little ones off for a night of trick or treating, she served her family their traditional Halloween meal of chili and cornbread. (They loved it and it cut down a bit on their candy consumption later!)  This year, while we're all hoping for lots of kids at our doors, the rumor is that young tricksters rarely venture into our new neighborhood. Undeterred, Louise is decorating her front yard with a variety of ghosts, spider webs and other traditional ghoulish decor. And she is serving up chili and cornbread to the neighborhood, as we celebrate not only the memories of Halloween past -- but Halloween present in a new but wonderful way.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Five Things You Can't Afford to Overlook in Retirement Planning

For most of us, the mere mention of "Retirement Planning" conjures up financial concerns and anxieties: Will I ever have enough money to retire? How much is enough? Will I ever really be able to retire? Is long-term care insurance worth the price for me? Where do I begin with serious estate planning?

To be sure, those are all important considerations.

But planning for the emotional transitions of retirement is equally important. How do you begin to prepare? 

Start by asking yourself the following questions.

Why do I want to retire?

When you dream of retiring, is it to escape your present reality? To do things you really want to do? To embrace a new phase of life? All of the above?

If most of your retirement dreams focus on getting out of the rat race, ditching a necessary but dreary job and being free, you may find retirement a let-down. What?? It's true. When you think mostly of running away from a less-than-thrilling life, you may find yourself thinking "What now?" after the initial euphoria of not having to get up at 4:30 a.m. for the big commute begins to wane. I see some people here in my own community who look for random ways to fill their days that are as passionless as their workdays might have been.

If you dream of retirement to pursue interests long-deferred, think of starting to do these things right now even with your busy work schedule. You may be able to bring new satisfaction into your life today even if retirement is years away. Think of this as building for retirement as surely as you put money into your 401K every month. Building interests, skills and pursuing your passions are all part of preparing for a satisfying retirement -- and a more fulfilling life at the moment.

If you dream of embracing a new phase of life, that's a positive. But beware of the fantasy that life will be a dream as you morph into the person you always wanted to be. Remember the saying "Wherever you go, there you are." Transitioning into a new phase of life doesn't mean you'll be a different person, but the same person in new circumstances.

Since I retired from everything but writing earlier this year and moved to a new community dedicated to fitness, wellness and continued education, I still struggle with my weight, which began to climb when I was in my forties. I still love sweets a bit too much.  The difference is that I'm in a setting and a phase of life when daily workouts and healthy meal planning are easier. There's no excuse at all for fast food on the run. And so I'm losing weight, getting firmer, feeling healthy. Regaining my health and fitness was a major retirement goal for me -- a goal I started pursuing before I left my job in Los Angeles and a major part of my lifestyle here.

My neighbor Larry retired late last year from an executive position. The timing seemed right for a lot of reasons, but, once retired, Larry found he wasn't quite ready for a life of leisure. So he is taking charge in a new way by assuming a leadership role in the community and making a difference in a variety of wonderful ways. He's bringing himself with all his organizational skills and high energy into a new passion for community involvement.

When you're asking yourself why you want to retire, it really helps to have a higher balance of positive rather than negative reasons. Envision yourself running to and eagerly embracing a new phase of your life rather than running away from the tedium or worse that you feel on the job.

2, How do you want to retire?
Some people retire gradually, switching from full-time to part-time work in the years just prior to their planned retirement. My husband Bob worked four day weeks the last three years on the job. While this meant taking home less money,  that extra day off, on his own, gave Bob a great headstart on pursuing new interests and structuring a satisfying day alone.

Some people try a gradual retirement with one spouse retiring before the other.  My cousin Caron has done this and she loves the time to see girlfriends, take classes and help to care for her grandkids. Her only complaint is that she wishes she had more leisure time with her husband who only recently cut down from full time to a four day a week arrangement at work.

For some, gradually easing into retirement with part-time work or one spouse retiring before the other, is a way of making this life transition a bit less jolting. It can be especially helpful if you're not quite sure what you want to do once retired. Gradual retirement allows you to test the waters before taking the plunge.

3. When do you want to retire?
For many people, a particular age spells retirement.  Despite current economic realities (or, in some cases, because of them) Baby Boomers are showing a decided preference for retirement at age 62, despite the permanently lower Social Security payment each month.  If money isn't an issue and you really want to retire at that point, there's no reason you shouldn't.

But there's also no reason you should -- just because you're 62 or 65 or 66 and can retire. If you're not ready, why do it?

That's the reasoning of a friend I'll call Corrine (she's a very private person and doesn't want her real name used). Corrine has been with the same company for more than 30 years, enjoys an executive salary and perks and can look forward to retiring with a great pension as well as Social Security benefits. Especially since things are increasingly tense and unrewarding in the culture of her company, her co-workers are stunned that she isn't thinking of retiring now that she is 62.  "I don't want to retire just because I can," she says. "My  greater question is 'What will I do when I leave here? How can I continue to make a difference?'" She is starting to imagine a plan for volunteer work and mentoring with a certain population of women. But for now, she's content to stay put on the job. Her feeling is that retiring prematurely and finding herself wondering what to do next would be more painful for her than dealing with the daily tension of her workplace -- at least for now.

If you really look at what you want in your life now and in the future, you'll know when it's time to retire. And if you're like some Baby Boomers, that time may be years off -- or maybe never.

4. Where Do You Want to Retire?
Some people can't imagine leaving a long established hometown near family and friends. Others enthusiastically take to the road in an RV and live no particular place for years. In between, there are people who choose a retirement home in a new setting or who spend part of the year in their hometowns with another six months in a sunny retirement house or condo.

What's right for you?  Give yourself time -- lots of time -- to consider what would work.

Ten years ago, my husband Bob and I used to dream about retiring somewhere in Hawaii, one of our favorite places on earth. Then, especially as house and condo prices zoomed into the stratosphere, along with the expense of flying to the Mainland to see family and friends, we began to reconsider.

We thought about staying put in our long-time home in Valencia, CA. It's a wonderful community and we loved our modest little home. But there were minuses, too: most residents of Valencia have long commutes into downtown L.A. or the West side of L.A. as we did.  Although our neighbors were lovely people, they tended to be considerably younger and, like us, had demanding work schedules and horrible commutes. No one was in the mood to socialize. Garage doors slammed shut the minute the commuters arrived home. We had some cherished friends in L.A., but our families lived out of state. Every day we battled the traffic, we thought more and more about life with a slower pace, a home in a more rural area.  We also decided that if we were to move, we would want to go to an area with more affordable home prices where we could pay cash for a house with the proceeds from selling our little house in L.A.

 After years of researching communities that were a feasible drive from Los Angeles, so we could occasionally come back and visit friends, we settled on Anthem Merrill Ranch, about half way between Phoenix and Tucson. It includes an all ages section as well as an over-55 section, so isn't exactly a geriatric ghetto. And the community focus on health, wellness and continuing education was just what we wanted.  For us, as we settled into a home twice the size and half the price of the one we left behind and got to know a whole new crowd of lovely neighbors who were as open as we were to new friendships, this was exactly the right choice.

But it wouldn't be for everyone. My friend Pat lives in a lovely home overlooking all of Los Angeles. She inherited this home from her parents and has been working hard to make it uniquely her own while cherishing its connection to her past. Being close to her friends, family and church are all very important to her.  She's a wonderfully adventurous person, but choses to pursue her adventures in travel and in being open to new people and ideas, not in resettling -- and that's exactly the right choice for her.

Making peace with the person you are and what you want in life is an important part of shaping your retirement destiny. Some people we've met here have bounced from one active adult community to another from here to Florida, seeking retirement nirvana. And they're still dissatisfied.  It may well be that where you retire is less important than the thought that goes into it -- what you want and expect and how you deal with the pros and cons you'll find with any decision about where to live.

5.  What will you do?
That's a major consideration.  It helps to have a game plan beyond simple leisure or you may find yourself glued to the couch, the t.v. remote in hand, waiting for your next meal -- and feeling painfully disconnected from life.

Think about things you love to do, causes you'd like to pursue, good works you now have the time and energy to do -- and do these! Set priorities. Have a plan.

My husband Bob's passions in life are music (he plays several instruments), reading and learning.  We're regulars at three local libraries. He is taking classes on everything from theoretical physics to Arizona history and he plays the guitar for at least an hour or two a day, expanding his repetroire and soothing his spirit.

My plan, when I walked out of my office at UCLA for the last time this past April, was to spend the first six months of retirement relaxing, establishing a daily exercise plan, eating sensibly and making friends. No more getting up before dawn. I slept in until -- gasp! -- 7 a.m. It felt deliciously decadent. Bob and I have hit the onsite gym and lap pool nearly every day. And I've spent long, languid afternoons in the outdoor recreational pool getting to know my neighbors. Now the second part of my retirement plan is kicking in: continuing to do all those good things, but also getting back to writing and considering volunteer possibilities.

It's an ongoing process, this life transition, but having a plan from day to day, week to week, helps to ensure that you can do all the things you really want to do.

Paying attention to the emotional aspects of retirement planning is critical in making sure that you retire only when you're ready and in a way, place and lifestyle that is right for you.  As with any transition, there are bound to be some difficult days, times when you have a lingering thought of looking back on your life and wondering what might have been if you had chosen a different path, times when you wonder if you can make a difference once again, times when you have to remind yourself that episodes of depression or anxiety are endemic to the human condition and not a sign that your life is meaningless or that retirement was a mistake.

But when you have given careful thought to why and how and when and where you will retire and what you will do once you reach this life transition, the daily rewards can far exceed even the best of your pre-retirement fantasies!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Six Sex Secrets Men Wish Their Wives Knew

Sex secrets?? When you've been married for twenty or thirty years? Or when you've been having sex with a variety of partners since your youth?

Well, some things may be secrets and other things may be reminders....but there are some sexuality-related issues that still seem to surprise many women. I've seen this often in my work with couples, conversations with friends and consultations with other mental health professionals.  There are some things that men often find difficult to express to their spouses.

Like what?

1. Men do not necessarily have a greater sex drive than women do.
Okay, I'm not talking about teenage boys or college Romeos, but midlife men with families and jobs and mortgages. These men are much less likely to seek sex to meet a variety of emotional needs and more likely to view sex in the context of a love relationship. Sometimes they're tired or stressed and find great pleasure in just being held and touched. There are many ways to express love that have nothing to do with intercourse. At midlife, you may notice that sex drives between the genders are more likely to equalize. Of course, there are variations among both men and women. Some men and women have a high level of desire and others don't.
 In therapy, we're as likely to see an imbalence of desire where a man has a lower sex drive than his wife as we are to see a sexually frustrated husband and a wife with a lower libido.
If there is an imbalance of desire in your relationship, talk about it with understanding instead of criticism. Enjoy the full range of physical and emotional affection - hugging, kissing, cuddling, speaking loving words -- whether or not this leads to intercourse.

2. Men aren't out for just one thing. 
Well, once again, maybe adolescent males are an exception. But maybe not. Males of all ages want to feel cherished, desired and loved.  A mature man in a well-established marriage or long-term relationship wants to nurture and be nurtured in a variety of ways.If he touches you tenderly, this isn't necessarily a sexual overture. Mature men aren't likely to use sex as a means of proving manhood, or boosting self-esteem. If your husband or partner is like most, he wants a partner who listens, a partner with whom he feels safe and loved, as well as a partner who finds him sexually exciting. And many men also want a spouse who challenges them intellectually, emotionally and physically. Sex is just one of many ways of expressing love in a mature relationship.

3. Love is an important factor in male sexual pleasure. 
While flirtation or a fling can be exciting, there's no substitute -- for men as well as women -- for sex with someone who knows you well and loves you not only in spite of but also because of this knowledge. A friend who was a long-time bachelor recently confided to me his delight in married sex: "All that prowling I used to do, all those women...but nothing could begin to compare to the pleasure I feel with my wife.  I used to think variety and conquests kept life exciting. Now I know that the greatest joy of all is with her. She tops them all because we're truly in love. And what a difference that makes."

4. Men Need Foreplay Too.
I remember a client once saying to me "My wife thinks that if I'm not instantly ready to have sex that means I don't find her attractive. But I do! It's just that I need some kissing and touching, too." 
Life doesn't imitate erotic literature or porn. Sex expert Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld has said that "when it turns out that men aren't always ready, women worry about their attractiveness and men their virility."
And some men felt a bit cheated if foreplay is brief or absent.  "It makes me feel special and loved when my wife touches me, strokes me, looks at my naked body with approval, love and downright lust," another male client I'll call Chris told me. "I want this. I savor it when it happens. But it's difficult for me to ask for this.  I love it when she just...well, falls on me and has her way with me."

5. Men don't always want to be the ones to initiate sex.
Chris' last commen mirrors the results of a study done by Dr. Donald L. Mosher and Mark Sirkin on 138 college men at the University of Connecticut.  The study subjects found the idea of a sexually aggressive female exciting.  They were most intrigued by the scenario of sexual partners taking turns initiating sex. Mosher and Sirkin concluded that men were particularly excited by women initiating sex because this made them feel desirable and also because they were relieved of the traditional male responsibility of making sexual overtures and decisions.
While some women hesitate to initiate sex play because they fear putting pressure on their male partners or being rejected, recognizing a man's right to say "No" can take a lot of pressure off both partners. According to Dr. Zilbergeld: "A lot of women simply assume acceptance when they make sexual overtures. But men, just like women, sometimes need to say 'No.'"

6.  Viagra does not produce an instant sexual Superman.
While Viagra can be a real asset to a middle-aged or older man, it doesn't produce an instant erection.  If the man in your life needs to take Viagra or another similar drug to achieve or maintain an erection, give him time and encouragement during the period the drug needs to take effect.  And, instead of lamenting that sexual spontaneity is a thing of the past, savor the joy of anticipation and make taking this pharmaceutical aid part of your sexual flirtation.  Is this a Viagra Night? If it is, rejoice!  And let him see your pleasure in anticipation. Your enthusiasm can be a major boost to his pleasure as well.

Communication is the key to sexual understanding. If you tell each other what you most want or enjoy in lovemaking, you'll be taking an important step toward dispelling old myths and misunderstandings and experiencing new closeness and pleasure together.

We all need to hear words of thanks, support and love, both in and out of the bedroom. This, along with an understanding of the many ways that men and women are more than a little alike, can add immeasurably to the joy of sharing our lives.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Musings of a Midlife Orphan

The day my mother died of a heart attack, four months to the day after my father's fatal heart attack, my literary agent Susan Protter, seeking to comfort me, reassured me that, at 66, my parents had lived full and long lives.

I wanted to scream "Not long enough!"

My parents had died years -- decades -- before I had imagined they would.

I was an orphan at 35.

Ten years later, when Susan's father died at the age of 89, she called sobbing "He was only 89!"

I listened with empathy and the understanding that when you lose a parent at any age, it feels too soon. Even when a parent's death comes after a lingering illness, the sense of loss, both during the illness and after death is very real and life-changing.

The deaths of your last parent and the last member of your parental generation are major life transitions as your own sense of who you are, your place in the family and the universe change irrevocably.

1. You're now among the family elders.

In one sense, mortality takes on a whole new meaning as you walk up to the turnstile and know, with new immediacy, that time is finite.

That's not as depressing as it sounds: this new sense of time may provide the impetus for you to pursue some long-deferred dreams.

I had thought for years about going back to school, getting a degree in clinical psychology and becoming a psychotherapist.  But I didn't find the motivation to act on this dream until after my parents had died. Part of moving me to action was my own experience with grief and my appreciation for the therapist who helped me during that time.  I wanted to help others in the same way. Another part of my impetus to stop dreaming and do it was the understanding that this was not a dress rehearsal, that if I wanted to accomplish something more in my life, I needed to do it sooner rather than later.

After the death of my last parental generation relative -- my beloved Aunt Molly -- in 2004, I felt new motivation to slow down a bit and savor life, as she had.

And I felt suddenly older.

Aunt Molly used to say "As long as I'm around, you're still a kid!"

As nobody's kid, I've evolved in my generativity, feeling more joy in cheering younger family and friends on, stepping back and enjoying the accomplishments of others even more.

2. You're free of out-grown roles and expectations.

Many parents label their kids from childhood on and these old family roles can stick, whether they're true or not, until the parents are gone.

Of course, you've always had the choice to live this role or re-invent yourself.  But it becomes easier when you're on your own in this whole new way.

My mother's view of me was that I wasn't as pretty as my sister or as brilliant as my brother, but that I was a good, reliable person on whom she could always depend.

As I have evolved as an adult orphan, I've chosen to cultivate the positive part of my old role in being there when needed for family and friends.  But I've also come to appreciate anew my intelligence and imagination and the kindness I see in my own face.

When I'm not expected to be relentlessly dependable, I feel a new lightness and freedom in offering my support to others.

3. You may build new relationships with siblings, cousins and other extended family.

While it's true that some families fracture after the deaths of parents, you may find yourself becoming closer to siblings and other extended family.  When our parents are alive, too often we keep in touch with siblings and extended family through them. When your parents are gone, your other family relationships may assume new prominence in your life.

I've always loved my brother and sister, but our relationships, unfiltered and unfettered by parental issues, have grown in depth and warmth over the years. My relationships with my cousins, no longer filtered through my aunts, their mothers, have also become more immediate and personal.

4. You may feel new love and appreciation for your parents.

It goes beyond simply missing them, wishing you could pick up a phone or pop over for a visit just one more time or ask for more family history or the recipe for your favorite childhood treat.

Once you are no longer dealing with the complex people your parents were and the issues around their decline and death, you can remember them with love uninterrupted by the stresses of daily living.

My father was a difficult, demanding person who struggled with alcoholism and depression most of his life. He was also bright, witty, and, in his own way, a loving parent who strongly encouraged me to be the best I could be.

Now that he is gone, I can focus with greater clarity on his positive qualities.

All of this is not to say that we mid-life orphans don't miss our parents forever.

But these major losses can give us opportunities to grow, to reach out to others and to love in new and wonderful ways.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Let's Make Life's Second Half the Best!

Reaching midlife or beyond is a unique experience today. It isn't about rocking chairs and not so funny over the hill jokes. You may be at the top of your game professionally or starting over in a new career or actively planning for retirement. You may be an empty nester or have a nest full of late life children, grandchildren or adult kids returning home.

Relationships matter tremendously at this stage of life, whether you want to bring new sizzle to a cherished long marriage, find a life partner, be a loving parent to your growing or grown children, discover new friends or nurture old ones and make the best of your own emotional and physical health, sexuality and dreams for the future.

I'm Dr. Kathy McCoy and I'd like to walk this road with you.  This blog covers many aspects of the challenges and joys of midlife and beyond.

On one level, I'm a professional -- a psychotherapist and book author (see About Me).

On another more important level, I'm like you: learning and loving and growing through the transitions of the second half of life.  I've learned a lot from life's ups and downs, from my patients, my friends and my family.  I'd like to join with you in making the most of these very special years!