- The anguish and angst around a baby born with a malfunctioning heart
- Filing for divorce after enduring a spouse’s 20 years of infidelity with your best friend only to discover he has skipped town with her and emptied all the bank accounts
- Transporting a drunken spouse to jail on your way to the office, again and again – and no one knows
- A house fire that decimates dreams as everything goes up in flames
- A mother sings Amazing Grace and prays during her daughter’s 6 hour experimental heart surgery
- The miracle of a surrogate to mother and carry your child because age prevents safe pregnancy
- A Down’s Syndrome child who beats the odds and lives happily at age 35
Themes for a new gut wrenching, heart breaking country western song? Hardly. This is real life, folks. I spent last weekend in Chicago with 7 of my college sorority girlfriends from 40 (FORTY!) years ago at the University of Michigan. What we relinquished in Ann Arbor, Michigan, those many years ago – youth, beauty, invulnerability, immortality, untested brash self confidence – has been reclaimed in the years since as deep life experience. Tragedies and joys have carved a sensitivity, compassion, wisdom, bonding and true joy in all of us more precious than any self-possessed 22 year old exploration, escapade, or exploit. When the education stopped, life began. Between then and now, each of us has known abundant joy, carved out by deep sorrow.
For all of us, it was a weekend of true intimacy – a close bonding with others who define us. A gift to energize and affirm. Roots. Scaffolding. Connectness. Validation. Bridges from then to now. Women who knew you when you came of age. When you lost your virginity. When your heart was broken. When your engagement was announced. When you stood on the table and drank 21 beers at your 21st birthday party, and who took care of you afterwards. Women who said of my divorce after 33 years, “We knew he was wrong, even then.”
At Sex on the Porch 2 weeks ago, we talked about how intimacy plays out uniquely for each of us as seasoned women. We talked about the “intimacy” wedge (one of 7 wedges) on my Wheel of Sexuality for seasoned women – the umbrella over how we articulate our sexuality as women at midlife and beyond . Intimacy is the need to be close to another person. To trust. To confide. To share. To laugh about life’s miraculous joys and mind-blowing happiness. To cry. To ache together about life’s relentless pain.
Intimacy is a critical, life-force giving component to being a sexual, sexy, seasoned woman. It’s the glue that keeps us connected to others, reflects back to us who we are, and colors our capacity to have relationships – romantic and friendship. It’s not about sex, its about connectedness. With someone. A lover, perhaps. An old friend. A new ally. For women, as we move beyond menopause, much of our intimacy comes from other women, though many men report finding intimacy high on their need list as they pass the testosterone laden younger years. We all need comfortable closeness and association to live a mentally healthy life. Without a community that gives us connectedness to others, deep depression results – for both men and women.
I am blessed to have reunited with my “sisters” after all these years. It was living proof of what we had discussed at Sex on the Porch the week before. It’s energizing, redefining, and empowering to circle back to old friends and enjoy the mirror on our lives that only they can provide.