We are very pleased to have with us C. J. Golden who recently published a book that is a resource for women dealing with changes in life. Welcome to Reader Views..Irene: Recently you wrote a great resource book for women dealing with passages into another stage of their lives.
Please give us a gist of your book.CJ: Thank you for calling the book "a great resource for women". In essence, it is a guide to follow as we go through life's transitions and challenges. My narrator, Taogirl, is someone who inspires us to remember the acceptance of the ancient Taoist philosophy. She also reminds us to couple that with a defiant attitude: one that defies old-fashioned stereotypes, limitations and self-defeating attitudes.
Irene: What inspired you to write this book?.CJ: Quite honestly, I needed to write this book for myself. I had an extremely difficult time accepting my birthdays every year ? recognizing that I was getting older and not knowing how to "be" at each new age and stage. I wanted to live a more active and vital life than my mother did, wanted to be more like my daughter, yet didn't know how to go about doing so. Or if it was even possible.
I was totally caught up in our youth-oriented society back then.Irene: "The Tao of the Defiant Woman." Your title of the book is seems contradictory. On one hand, "Tao" refers to harmony in life and on the other hand "defiant" refers to a person with an attitude. Please give us an insight of how both can meet in the middle and create the harmony of Tao.CJ: Taoism accepts that we are all part of the Universe and, as the Universe follows a natural path, so, too, do we.
That being said, Taoism is not complacent, it doesn't tell us to give up and give in when we face challenges. Taoism also teaches that a healthy soul requires a healthy body to support it. Now we get to "defiant". The dictionary defines it as being bold. The attitude (or not) comes in when we realize just what it is that we are being asked to defy. As I stated above, this defiance is fighting stereotypes and negativity.
No where in the book do I tell women to defy getting older, or to defy a challenge in their lives. What I do recommend is defying anything or anyone ? including one's self ? that keep you from continuing along the path of life joyfully and vibrantly.Irene: I so agree with you when you tell us to defy stereotypes and rewrite the scripts.
I often think back to when I was growing up and how, in my cultural community, the thought was that when a woman hit menopause she was considered "old." When I look at pictures of my grandmother when she was 10 years younger than I am now, I see a very unhappy, old woman. Do you believe stereotyping started within cultures? Or, how did it start?.
CJ: Irene, I'm not a sociologist so my thoughts are just that ? my thoughts based solely on my own beliefs and not based in scientific study. Now that I've said that I will answer your question: I've seen cultures other than our own here in the States that admire the elderly for their wisdom and spirit. Even the Native American seems to revere the older members of their society. My friends in Europe had (notice the past tense) recognized the beauty of the older woman and did not debase the physical changes the passing of the years brought. Yet, I've recently received a letter from a woman in The Netherlands who bought my book to help her accept the advancing years.
When I questioned why she felt the need to do so she said that we Americans are sending our youth-oriented culture across the Ocean and they're buying right into it. You mention your grandmother, however, as looking very old and very unhappy. Some of that generation accepted their age with contentment. The part of my philosophy that seemed to be missing was the defiance ? the joy of remaining vital and active.
Today medical science has allowed our bodies to stay "younger" longer. It's our attitudes that now need the "tune-up".Irene: You have dealt with hundreds of women that transition into different stages of their life. Do find the 40 is the hardest transition, and why?.CJ: I must say that 40 was the hardest transition for me. My children were grown, leaving the nest so I wasn't needed as their mother in the same way I had grown used to.
While I always worked outside of the house, I still defined myself as my husband's wife and my children's caretaker. That was changing and I wasn't quite sure there was still life ahead of me ? one that could focus on "me" more. For some women the hardest transition comes later.
For a few, earlier. The decade birthdays (or even the last year before a new decade) always seem to be the most difficult. Our transitions, however, don't always revolve around our ages. There are changes in our health, relationships, families, business lives and the world around us. These are all tough.
Irene: Why do women have a hard time transitioning?.CJ: It's always difficult to leave the old behind and accept the new. We knew what we had. No matter how difficult the situation might have been, it was familiar. And if it was great ? well, who wants to leave "great" behind? Being thrust into a new situation will usually bring some trepidation.
How will we feel? What will happen to us? What will life be like in this new situation? These are all very real concerns. Women, especially have often put their lives on hold in order to take care of their families. Often they don't understand just who they are or know what skills and strengths they really possess. That's where the combination of Tao and defiance comes in ? accepting that which we must (the loss of the old) and doing all we can to remain vital and joyful (accepting the new).Irene: Is it any different for men?.CJ: I suspect not, although I'm certainly not an expert.
We're all human with the same fears and concerns. Men might struggle with different issues than we women do. And they might show (or not show) their apprehension in different ways, but I bet they all have some area of life or transition that presents a challenge.
Irene: What stage is the easiest for women to transition into? And, why?.CJ: Wow. I'm not sure I have the answer for this one. Each one of us transitions differently. I had an extremely tough time just knowing I was getting older.
Many women say that they have no problem with that. Some have a problem accepting their new, older, physical attributes. Others don't care a bit about gray hair and wrinkles. One woman might have breezed through empty nest syndrome; a divorce; career change, while another has a more difficult time dealing with one of more of these transitions. We're all made up differently.
One thing I know for sure, though, is that it is possible to accept these challenges and continue living life to the fullest whatever changes come our way.Irene: For you personally, what was the hardest transition so far? How did you find a way to become peaceful about the transition?.CJ: I've had to deal with my divorce, the passing of my parents, my children growing up and becoming independent young adults, several minor illnesses, yet the hardest transition I faced took place a short five years ago. I did not, no way, no how, want to become a grandmother.
That, of course, meant that I was truly getting older. No matter how hard I hid from my birthdays that little kid who was going to call me grandma would spill the beans. Everyone would know I was no longer twenty-five. (Of course, I looked like a very elderly and haggard twenty-five-year-old as I was really fifty-seven).
One of the stories in the book talks about Joanne who worked in a craft shop. She met an older women customer one day who was sporting a very cute baseball cap covered with hat tacks and buttons. When asked about the hat, the women said that as long as she was a grandmother, she was going to be the "eccentric" grandmother to those kids. After all, "every child deserves an eccentric grandmother", she concluded. Joanne took that to heart, and, hearing the story, I did, too.
Now I love being the "eccentric" grandmother to my three grandchildren. What a joy they are. I learned that being a grandmother didn't make me "old". It didn't keep me from still being vital and joyful. "Old" was only in my head and I didn't have to let it stay up there and hold me back anymore. How much I would have missed if I hadn't learned that lesson!.
Irene: TV and movies often define a woman by their body shape. Most of us are not what is portrayed by the media, we know it is superficial, yet, we desire the bodies of a youthful figure.CJ: That's a shame, isn't it! And every time we allow ourselves to go under the knife, to have liposuction, to alter our bodies or faces medically, we are perpetuating that myth and "perfect youthful body" culture. I know I need to lose some weight ? not because I don't like the way I look (its quite okay, thank you ? somewhere between Sandra Bullock and Queen Latifa and they both look spectacular just the way they are). My desire for a drop in the numbers on my scale is based solely on maintaining the most desirable weight for optimum health.
Perhaps if more of us stop falling into the "be young and skinny to be beautiful" trap, we can slowly change culture's perception of beauty. How great would that be?!.Irene: CJ, you are very encouraging to women that face transition. The important thing is that we realize that we are always transitioning ? right from the beginning of our birth. It just seems harder when we become wiser. You book, "The Tao of the Defiant Woman---A Guide to Life over 40" gives us permission to be who we are and accept our wisdom we gathered along the way.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know about your or your book?.CJ: My hope is that not only the book, but the philosophy as well, travel around the country helping women go through these very difficult transitions of life. We need to gain strength by being role models for each other and creating communities of caring.
I call such communities "Taogirl Gatherings" where we gather in small groups for support; learning from each other and recognizing the strength we have as a group of individuals. My website has been created to help all Taogirls to come together and share. On it women will find a question and answer page, information about my travels as I go around the country hosting workshops and speaking events. There is a Taogirl Wisdom of the Week ? a light, uplifting quote - which you may sign up for and receive as an email every Sunday.
The sequel to THE TAO OF THE DEFIANT WOMAN is in the planning stage and will be written by those readers who are willing to share their experiences with me as they follow their own Tao and defiant path. Information about that is also on the website. I sincerely hope women who are reading this will visit the website, www.taogirl.com. I would also love to hear from them personally; perhaps help them start their own Taogirl Gathering.
My email address is, firstname.lastname@example.org.Irene, I thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak with you. It's been a pleasure and always exciting to be able to share my Tao and defiant, Taogirl philosophy..
Irene Watson is Managing Editor of Reader Views http://www.readerviews.com.
By: Irene Watson