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The new book “Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-Up Woman’s Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve” aims to debunk the notion that “young is beautiful and old is just old.” Written by Kathy Kinney (best known as Mimi on “The Drew Carey Show”) and Cindy Ratzlaff (marketing guru behind the launch of The South Beach Diet), the book describes “the seven best gifts a woman can give herself.” Here is an excerpt.
If not now, when?
Welcome to the second half of your life, or what we believe can be the best half of your life!
“Queen of Your Own Life” is a philosophy, a decision and an invitation to happiness for women who have made the tough but rewarding journey to the midpoint in their lives. We’re excited to be your guides on this next big adventure.
With humor and common sense we will offer you our tried and-true actions to blast away at the societal tall tale that young is beautiful and old is just old. With our seven simple steps we will help you let go of the negative thoughts that keep you from fully admiring and accepting yourself just the way you are — a woman in full bloom, valuable, sensual, vibrant, wise and more beautiful than ever.
Every significant stage of life is marked by a celebration or ritual — birth, graduation, marriage, even death — yet we have nothing to mark the momentous accomplishment of reaching midlife. That is, unless you count the horrible tradition of over-the-hill birthday parties, complete with black balloons, coffin-shaped cakes and gift bags filled with incontinence supplies. Yuck. That’s the “celebration” society sets up for women as we reach midlife? After you follow our easy, straightforward guidelines to claiming your crown, we’ll help you plan one hell of a kick-ass Crowning Ceremony, filled with laughter and good friends, that will mark your transition into the glorious second half of your life.
If you have been feeling that the best part of your life is past, then this book will prove to you that there is always something more and that the door to being happy is not only never closed but is just waiting for you to fling it open. Remember, you don’t have to be twenty to have your whole life ahead of you. So, let’s get going. It’s time to become Queen of Your Own Life — if not now, when?
Why we wrote the bookIt all started one night because Kathy’s feet were hot and she couldn’t sleep. While searching the Internet to see if other women had similar symptoms or if what she was experiencing was fatal, she stumbled upon several sites telling her that she had reached her crone years and must embrace entering the final phase of her life. Having an understandably violent reaction to the word crone she looked it up in the dictionary. That night on the Internet she learned two important things:
1. Many women have hot feet and need to kick the covers off at night to cool off.
2. Crone meant exactly what she thought it did and she didn’t want to be one.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary the word crone dates back to the 14th century and is a Middle English term of abuse. The dictionary under the Tools menu in Microsoft Word agrees with Merriam-Webster’s and adds one additional definition: woman over 40.
Kathy found Web sites that claim the title crone hasn’t always been derogatory; in pre-Christian times, old women were particularly important members of the community. Yes, we’re sure they were very important members of their society but we bet they didn’t like being called a crone any more than we do. Let’s face it, words matter. The language that others and we use to describe our lives and ourselves as women affects us. No matter what kind of spin you put on it, the word crone still evokes an image of a withered old woman at the end of her life, and that’s no reason to throw a party.
There are also Web sites that offer the advice that a woman should take time alone to make the transition to crone. Alone, so that the constant waking and the tossing of covers to accommodate night sweats can be guilt free. Alone, to deal with hot flashes and to come to terms with the chaos created by hormonal changes, as well as to deal with erratic moods that may alienate family and friends. Hang on — it’s bad enough you get labeled a crone but now you’re supposed to go off alone?
Certainly spending time by yourself can be meaningful and enriching, but isolating yourself to protect yourself and others from your symptoms of menopause while you embrace your inner crone doesn’t seem like a positive way to deal with growing older. What about staying put and surrounding yourself with a community of like-minded women who will offer you love and support?
A few weeks after Kathy’s visit to the Internet we met for our annual “girlfriend getaway.” That year, to celebrate our friendship and mutual love of travel, we met in the beautiful city of Prague. As always, over dinner the first night, we began by congratulating each other for not being on any kind of medication and then launched into the fun task of catching up as we were both going through many changes in our careers and relationships. It wasn’t long into the conversation that Kathy dropped the C-word — crone — and, not surprisingly, Cindy didn’t want to be one, either. We quickly reached the conclusion that, even though we were hovering on the edges of menopause, what with all the advances in science, we were probably only at the midpoint of our lives. Being a crone for the next 40 or 50 years was not an attractive option.
We wondered if there was a comparable word for describing aging men and, if there was, would they allow themselves to be called that. We couldn’t think of a single word that was even close. The sight of the well-lit Prague Castle out the window of our restaurant made us think of the phrase “a man is the king of his castle.” What the heck does that make us — the crone in the corner? We decided, right then, that we would become Queens — Queens of Our Own Lives — and we would celebrate this transition, not in isolation, but together with friendship, joy and, hopefully, cake.
We realized we needed a format for our celebration. We thought about the kind of events that had meaning and significance to us, and how we’d like to create a new event to celebrate entering this next stage of life. Every New Year’s Eve Kathy has a big dinner with a lot of candles, good food, great friends and champagne. During the course of the meal a candle is passed around the table and everyone answers these two questions when the candle comes to them: What do you want to let go of or leave behind in the old year that no longer works for you, and what do you want to keep that is still working for you? In those two sentences, often with tears, courage and much laughter, the old year is honored and put to rest and the New Year is welcomed in. We wanted something like those New Year’s Eve dinners to help us let go of things from the first half of our lives that were still holding us back and to bring forward the things that we admired about ourselves. So that’s what we did. We used the two questions and we called it our Crowning Ceremony.
A ‘spring-cleaning of our mental closets’
For the next six nights over dinner we asked each other what we wanted to let go of from the first half of our lives that was no longer working, and what we wanted to keep and take to the second half that was still working. During the day we wandered, saw the sights and marveled at gorgeous Prague. At night over wonderful meals like goose and champagne or sometimes just goulash and pilsner beer, by asking these two deceptively simple questions, we began an adventure that turned into a thorough virtual spring-cleaning of our mental closets. We happily left huge piles of useless old beliefs, about fear, beauty and needing to wear high heels, in booths and under tables in restaurants all across Prague.
During the middle of our Crowning Ceremony week we started to feel that, while we had most definitely enjoyed our youth, the best of life might really be yet to come. By letting go of things like self-doubt, fear of being judged and worry about how to look younger, we were setting ourselves free to admire who we were right now. We were overjoyed to discover that we did admire the women we had become. We were two strong women, who brought with them to the second half of life courage, wisdom and, most of all, the knowledge that they could survive anything with their dignity and humor intact.
At the end of our Crowning Ceremony week, by examining our lives and asking each other these two questions, we felt strong, powerful and positive that this second half of our lives would certainly be the best half. Cindy had left her doubt about being smart enough to compete in the business world with some swans floating in the Vltava River outside a three-star seafood restaurant and was taking great pleasure in the knowledge that she was still the courageous 20-year-old woman who had sold her bike for $200, taken the money and moved to New York City. Kathy, leaving behind her fear of not being worthy of love, in an underground gothic café that served beer, absinthe and goulash, was elated to reclaim the sense of humor that had helped her keep a positive outlook on life since she had told her first knock-knock joke at the age of 4.
Having declared ourselves Queens of Our Own Lives, we ended our vacation and returned to our homes. We were delighted to find that we both continued to feel empowered by our Crowning Ceremony. Every woman we told about our vacation loved the idea and wanted to have a Crowning Ceremony of her own. We’d had so much fun and gained such strength, we decided that the least we could do was pass it on to our friends. So we began to host gatherings that we continued to call Crowning Ceremonies.
Crowning more royalty
Our first ceremony was with our friend Nancy over coffee, scrambled eggs and bacon in Las Vegas. We bought each of us a crown-shaped rhinestone brooch and made our friend an official You Are Crowned Certificate, which we signed and gave her at the end of breakfast. In keeping with becoming Queens, we had simplified the questions to: What do you want to banish from the first half of your life, and what do you want to keep? The ceremony was fun, low-key and yet transforming for our friend, who realized she needed to banish spending time caring for others who hadn’t even asked for her help, so she could be a better friend to herself. Delicious bacon and eggs with good friends and an important life-altering revelation — could there be a better breakfast experience?
The next Crowning Ceremony we hosted was in a hotel room in New York City with several old friends, over glasses of wine and a large fruit plate. We went around the room and these women, whom we had known for more than 20 years, freely shared their answers to the two questions. One friend banished the feelings of being inadequate and yet another banished the need to be perfect, and we all decided that we wanted to keep our lifesaving senses of humor. We laughed, cried, ate pieces of unripe fruit that you can find only on bad fruit plates and made already good friendships even stronger. We soaked in the warmth, comfort and peace of being in a community of trusted women who, also at the midpoint in their lives, were ready to give themselves the gift of being Queens of Their Own Lives.
Each Crowning Ceremony we hosted became larger, with friends wanting to bring friends and those friends wanting to bring friends. Soon there were more strangers than friends at the celebrations. Yet, at the end of each gathering, all the women present felt the same sense of warmth, comfort and peace that we had felt at our intimate gatherings with old friends.
No matter what age or level of education, whether out in the business world or working at home in the business of caring for their families, the women at these ceremonies were amazed and surprised by the revelation that they were not alone — they all had a common longing: to be given the permission to celebrate, with joy and in a community, this transition to not a crone but a mature, valuable, beautiful, strong woman.
We’re not therapists (although we did both work as secretaries at the New York County District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association). We’re simply two women who in more than 30 years of friendship have developed some commonsense tools and strategies to prepare ourselves to live the second half of our lives in grace, filled with the excitement of what is yet to come and the knowledge that we are beautiful just the way we are. If you’re also longing for this, then we invite you to come with us on the journey.
Seven giftsHere are the seven gifts you’ll give yourself by reading our book:
1. Claim your beauty and feel your power
2. Clean your mental closet and find your Queen voice
3. Admire yourself for who you’ve become
4. Build deep, fulfilling friendships with other women
5. Establish firm boundaries that will strengthen all of your relationships
6. Discover the simple trick to finally being happy
7. Proclaim yourself Queen of Your Own Life
Join us in our simple guide to laughing, crying, healing and easily making the transition into what will be the best half of your life. Remember, you don’t have to be 20 to have your whole life ahead of you.
Excerpted with permission from “Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-Up Woman's Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve” by Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff (Harlequin, 2010). For more information, visit .