Family Relationships

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Dr. Carol Orsborn Responds to Sandwiched Boomers

Our thanks to all you sandwiched boomers who tuned in yesterday to take part in our interview with Dr. Carol Orsborn. We had a spirited discussion about "The Year I Saved My (downsized) Soul."

Clicking on the title of this post will take you to Amazon and you can learn more about "The Year I Saved My (downsized) Soul." Our thanks to Carol for being so generous with her time. You can still read all of the responses, in full, through yesterday's "comments" link at the bottom of the post. Here's a sampling:

One reader asks: I agree with what you say about how sharing can make you feel less alone. I lost my job six months ago but I'm not talking. Where do I begin?

Carol's response: First of all, I emphathize with you and all the many of us who have gone through the "downsized" experience. In addition to whatever in-person resources your community may offer, many women 50+ are finding relief in being able to share their experiences online. There are a number of websites (check around) but I do a lot of my venting on a wide range of topics at You can come on the site anonymous or use your real name. In either case, I think you'll find it rewarding to discover what a relief it is to be able to speak your mind to like-minded women. (I think you'll find that you'll find yourself in some rich conversations--and it's free and easy to get started, 24/7. Good luck!)

Catherine wonders: You mention that you've never written such a personal book before. What have been the after effects of, as you say, "exposing" yourself?

Carol's answer: You ask about the effects of exposing myself in a memoir. Well, I braced myself for huge negative ramifications and then nothing bad happened. Of course, I did back way off my first draft that read more like "The Devil Wears Prada", overshadowing the spiritual heart of the book that was really the point--so I did edit back a lot. In fact, I edited out 100 pages! That said, a friend of mine did a memoir about her relationship with family members and doesn't speak to any of them any more--so you never know. My suggestion to all memorists is first write it for catharsis fearlessly, then upon rewrite, remove anything that doesn't advance the story and that is either vindictive or therapy.

Another reader reflects: I've heard from friends that journaling is helpful. I've made a few attempts but don't stay with it. Any hints?

Carol's thoughtful reply: I try to journal every day, especially when I'm working through an issue or feeling generally "off", and yes, it helps me a lot! In fact, my book grew out of my daily journals, as you know. How to keep at it? My first advice is to not overthink it. Assume nobody will ever read it and don't worry about spelling, grammar or even making sense. In fact, you might try capturing stream of consciousness: just write whatever's in your mind, i.e. jump from the fact that you're upset to that you need to buy toilet paper--again, without judgement. Eventually, if journaling is going to become "your thing", it will start surfacing deeper wisdom/self-knowledge and clarity. If it doesn't, just might not be your best tool. For me personally, I'm kind of "worded" out so I'm going to start doing a visual journal, where I draw abstract (or whatever) with colored pencils to capture my mood. I'll report back at some point if this worked!

Another reader is searching for direction: I just found out that my company has been bought out and after the holidays I won't have a job. Carol, what's your best tip about keeping up your spirits, especially at this time?

Carol reassures her: First, my condolences regarding finding out you're going to be unemployed--esp. difficult when through no fault of your own. Even if like most of us, you are tempted to take some level of responsibility...that's my first advice, don't take that on! Let yourself be sad/angry or anything other than turning against yourself. Secondly, that's a big question about how to keep your spirits up. I'd like to direct you to the four-part series I just completed for You'll see me and parts three and four on our home page, but if you start there, you will easily be led to parts one and two and can read the series in order. Best of luck!

Jan has an often asked question: A lot of women talk about the void - I can't remember the author's name but she writes for boomer women and coined the term. What do you mean by it?

Carol here: Hi Jan, I've been using the term "void" for twenty years--but don't take responsibility for coining it, as I'm pretty sure it's a literal translation of a Buddhist term. In any case, the way I use it is to describe that uncertain place between status quo's, where you are in transition but to you, it feels like you've fallen into utter darkness and hopelessness. In Christianity, they refer to this place as being akin to "the dark night of the soul." Almost every spiritual tradition has something similar.

Cassidy writes: this may be a silly question but how did your spirituality help you during the time you felt so low? i'm going through a divorce and i can't seem to find myself. cassidy

Carol shares an improtant lesson: Hi Cassidy, The point about spirituality is that we all believe in something. The philosopher William James says that believing things are going to be alright in the long run (i.e. that this is a loving universe) helps in the same way that the attitudes of two mountain climbers who have to jump a crevice will make a difference. Who will have the better chance of making it across? The one who thinks it's impossible or the one who thinks if he/she tries hard enough, she'll make it? People who are "spiritual" examine their beliefs and if they discover that they believe they're "on their own", take the leap of faith of believing there's a power greater than themselves that actively cares about them--even if it doesn't seem so at the time. The thing is, they call it an act of faith exactly because you don't know for certain...One final thought, I have found that the very impulse to pray--the willingness to give it a try--is what God responds to, not the choice or eloquence of the words or even the certainty of belief.

Carol's final words: It's the end of the day and I'm going to be signing off now. Thanks for all who checked this out--and especially those who posted comments. Thanks so much to Phyllis and Rosemary for hosting me. If you'd like to stay in the loop with my perspective/thoughts, I Tweet as Carol Orsborn; and of course, you are welcome to stay in touch with me and our community of women 50+ at

Well, that's it for now. If you want a break from holiday shopping, visit our website by clicking on the first link to the left of this post, "Her Mentor Center." You'll find lots of tips about the family in both the 'Newsletter Library' and 'Nourishing Relationships.' And you can sign up for our newsletter, Stepping Stones, by clicking on the second link marked "FREE Newsletter."

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