This website, and the associated book, are dedicated to every woman who’s ever broken through a barrier, violated a taboo, or overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve what seemed impossible, but was merely difficult . . . without even breaking a nail, or whining about it if she did.

What do you do when it’s done

Structures

We spend our youth in a specific structure called school.

It tells us when we have to be certain places and what things we do at those places. Then, suddenly as you graduate from school, you enter into the vast expanse of you now and you in 89 years and there’s practically nothing that’s giving that future a structure.

Many of us like to grab onto dreams as things which guide our future. We think about family, work, home, hobbies, and then somehow after it’s all said and done, it can feel really unsatisfying.

Or maybe you’ve been putting in your time for years and now is your big break where you get to live in paradise, travel the world, and have freedom. Except, you wake up and realize there’s nothing. What happened?

Achievements

Especially in cultures like the U.S. and Japan, we thrive by encouraging ourselves to focus on achievements (ummm anyone have a bucket list?). Yet we rarely are taught to navigate the moments after everything is said and done. The day after you’ve gotten that promotion you’ve been waiting for. The morning after you’re final day of work for retirement.

For me, this reality of the ???? after achieving a dream came after I finished my book, In My Own Skin.

I felt like I had created something so dark and depressing I wondered if anyone would ever read it. In fact, as I was writing, I had people offer to help me review it, and rarely did they ever finish it. I also didn’t know what do with myself now that it was done. Do I just start writing something new? After three years of hard work, is this it?

Then, a friend said, “Why don’t you host a reading?”

What comes next

Much to my surprise, as soon as I started sharing the published book, I have felt just how much joy it brings me to offer my experience and story as a guide to others on these big journeys of transformation.

I went from thinking no one would ever look at what I’d done to a line of people out the door waiting to talk with me. 

As much as I have my experience with finishing a big deal project or losing someone close and suddenly so that a phase of life ends with a big bang, I’ve also found there are all kinds of other ways death manifests in my everyday life, and yours too. Death, in other words, as endings.

The Everyday endings

Most recently, I’ve become lactose intolerant.

When I was a 9th grader fresh after my dad’s death, I LOVED ice cream. I would have said it was my favorite food. I also would have said I never thought there would be anything that brought me closer to my dad again.

Then, I became lactose intolerant as a 24 year old.

Suddenly, those memories of setting 5 glasses of milk for Mom, my sisters, and I and 1 glass of water for Dad around the dinner table have taken on a whole new meaning. I’ve become connected to him in a way I never thought possible.

That is to say, there are so many things we lose in our lives (loss takes on many faces in our lives). Especially with really big things like people we care about, we can get focused on just how much is taken away from us.

We can feel like we get to the other side of an accomplishment and have no idea what comes next. 

But that’s not all that happens with loss. 

When my mom decided to move across the country and go to medical school, I saw my first real example of how being broken open by my loss meant not just things getting taken away but also new things coming into our lives and taking root. 

Now, I am so grateful to work with people like you on your own journeys of transformation.

From Deep Waters Back to Shore – Transition Coaching

I was very good at getting myself out to deep waters as I wrote and processed my loss, but I needed a guide to get back to shore.

I believe that’s true for all of us.

Whether we choose to act on it or not, in those moments of transition we need people to help guide us back to shore.

That’s why I’m here for you. 

If you’re looking for someone to support you like that, I would love to be that person for you. We can do that by working 1:1 together with undivided attention on the face of loss in your life. Together, we find what it means for you to feel fulfilled in your life in this moment, and we grow the ways for you to feel that as often as you can.

Click here to set up a call with me to see if you’re a good fit for my 1:1 program.

After years of feeling under constant attack from my grief, I can finally look at my lactose intolerance and not say I’ve lost another thing, but to instead say, “Thanks, Dad. I know how much you love me.”

Endings are Beginnings

Seeing those grief triggers as love notes is just one of many ways I’ve come to feel at peace with my loss. It is an honor and a privilege to support you in finding that peace too.

There’s so much here for us, even when we think it’s all gone. That’s what I find so amazing. All this darkness we experience is what reminds us how alive we are.

When we can settle into our own aliveness, that’s when the new dreams start emerging and we find the path for our next thing has been there for us all along.

Originally published on Aging Courageously. Kirsten Schowalter is the author of In My Own Skin and a transition coach with Aging Courageously.

“Age is not important unless you are cheese.”

Helen Hayes

“Age is not important unless you’re cheese.” – Helen Hayes, an American actress whose career is said to have span 80 years.

 

When I saw her quote for the first time, it made me think of two things:

  1. The really good cheese I enjoy that takes time to age.
  2. The people I know who are doing amazing things and “have aged” according to cultural concepts of aging.

One of those people who stands out to me is someone named Sherry Saterstrom. I met Sherry when I was a college student and she was a dance professor. She has the kind of voice recognizable from across a room. She expresses the energy of what she’s communicating in exclamations and punctuative sound. Similarly, she is nimble and quick, and the most energetic and curious person I have ever met. At the time, she was also almost 70 years of age.

Sherry Saterstrom

While I was at school, I took several of her dance classes, one of them I even took twice just because it meant more time around Sherry. We learned anatomy, physiology, evolution, somatics, dance, and improvisation, and practiced something we now call “Mindful Movement.” As students, we watched and learned as this limber and spritely woman showed us how with an attention to alignment you can be in the middle of lecture and discover you can do a handstand (this literally happened one day while we were in class).

When I think of someone who doesn’t let anything, like expectations around what someone at age 70 should be doing, I think of Sherry. In fact, her more recent jump from teaching into what most people call retirement also took a more unconventional route.

“Graduation”

After spending 30 years (of one year contracts) teaching dance at St. Olaf College, Sherry decided it was time for one great life phase to end. No, she wasn’t retiring. As a St. Olaf alumnus herself, she told everyone, “I’m finally graduating.”

During her time teaching at St. Olaf, she had never gone on sabbatical, so her first year after “graduation” she set aside as “sabbatical.” She gardened, cross country skied, cooked, organized her home office, and probably ate yummy cheese. But she didn’t sit around in the fridge like cheese. In fact, winter, when Minnesota feels the most like a refrigerated world, is when Sherry loves to be outside the most.

This year, she told me she’s looking for a market. She’s ready to start her own venture about mindful moving and fitness.

“This is an idea I had 20 years ago, but when I was thinking about it then, I was 20 years too early!” She says, “Today, even when I go to the Y for my cross fit class I hear the trainers talking about being mindful. Who knows, maybe I’m still wrong and it’s too early, but I think there’s a wider awareness now about what mindfulness is and that makes me look for a market to launch a venture offering new kinds of classes.”

Lessons about Age

Listening to Sherry’s story, I wonder: how did she know this was the idea she wanted to go for? In some ways, it was because it’s something that she has been fascinated by for decades. In other ways, it’s because she has seen other people talking about the concepts she wants to build a business around. Either way, her age has given her the advantage to see her idea in a broader context.

That tells me two things:

  1. We all have potential skills and value to offer already inside us. Like an expensive cheese, we have so much depth and richness that can create value in the world today. Potentially, even greater value the more we age!
  2. Hearing about other people thinking the same thing isn’t a bad signal. In fact, it may be a signal the idea you have is even more worth doing. Timing is critical in launching and getting traction around a business, and knowing your idea resonates with people who may be future customers is a great signal you’re onto something good.

While things are still early for Sherry, what I love about her journey into “retirement” so far is that it’s characterized by a clear intention to throw out the window all the things we think “should” happen as we get older. Instead, she plans to continue to be curious about what’s next. No venture is too big or too small when you set your mind to it and begin to see all the possibility. Who knows, maybe Sherry’s career in dance will eventually rival Helen Hayes’ career in acting. If you’re going to have that much life, what are you going to get up to?

If you’re curious about what this world of mindfulness that Sherry has seen come to life looks like, take a peek at the Mindful Movement Intro Series from Aging Courageously.

Kirsten Schowalter is the founder of Aging Courageously and the author of the memoir In My Own Skin. Originally posted on Aging Courageously.