self-discovery at 52

Peggy’s Story: Self-Discovery at 52

This newsletter features a series of communications with
one of our readers. Peggy’s story gives you a window
into the process she has been going through the past
nine months.

Peggy’s first heartfelt email began with:

“Obviously I need to log onto your website more often, as
it reminds me that I am part of a large wave of women
in transition.

I’m 52 and feel, some days, I’m 18 and just embarking on my
life. For the last 15 years I’ve been self employed as a
working artist/craftswoman/designer. From wearable art to
soft sculpture figures sold in galleries across the U.S.,
I’ve experienced great success in maintaining a sense of
freedom while also paying the bills.

In the past five years my business morphed into a
supplier for the gift industry, a line of unique
lavender-filled silk pillows. I did the big trade shows,
had as many as 45 reps at one time, and the money was
rolling in – until 9/11 when the first retailer to pull
the plug was Neiman Marcus. As we all know, nothing has
been the same since.

I’m now in debt, have lost all heart for this cut-throat
retail world, and began experiencing insomnia and night
panic attacks that all but ended my business.

I still continue to see a therapist who is facilitating
the deep mining of my heart and soul with the full knowledge
that, at this age, this is no dress rehearsal. I am taking
a sabbatical, paid for by my home equity, and asking myself
the deepest question that life asks: What have I come
here for and what will I leave behind?

I recently volunteered to teach a sewing class to incoming
high school freshmen with an emphasis on ritual. It’s the
first thing I’ve been excited about in a long time. Tonight
I go to a first meeting at a college 20 miles away to see
if it’s a fit for me to finish my 4 year degree. And, I’m
moving out of my 1200 foot studio to an in-home studio 1/3
the size in an effort to cut back; also to get more in tune
with my creativity that’s not prompted by what’s the next
trend for the marketplace.

I used to love to travel, even alone, to Mexico, Hawaii,
Bali. But now the journey is so much more personal.
Looking for my true self and what my real work is here
in Earth School.”

We responded to Peggy, trying to be a sounding board and
to provide encouragement for what she was facing.
Days later came the following:

“Thank you for your warm reply! I didn’t expect to actually
hear from you except, perhaps, as an invitation to pay for
mentoring. I had received your newsletter and just wanted
to vent. What a surprise to hear back, and so supportively.

This week I am holding my last moving sale and bringing my
studio into my small and cozy home. Already I feel more
creative and especially enjoy working in my garage/studio
at night when the muse seems to visit.

I’m still borrowing from my home equity and paying off a big
business loan. But I have decided to have faith in putting
one foot in front of the other to continue in the direction
that feeds my heart and soul rather than my pocketbook.

Turning 50 I spent some months mourning what I hadn’t
done so far. And the inevitable changes in body and face
(oh, vanity). Now, newly 52, I have moments of such clarity
and joy, knowing what I have learned and how lucky I am to
have lived long enough to appreciate it all. The journey
gets richer with age.”

The summer passed and in September we heard from
Peggy again, this time telling us she was one of 12
crafters from Portland who had been chosen to
participate in a cable T.V. show. She ended her
email with: “Oprah, here I come!”

We again caught up with Peggy before the holidays, and
here’s her updated version of what’s going on in her life:

“It’s now 9 months down the road, the appropriate time to
birth something, wouldn’t you say? My business is now run
out of my garage: three 6-foot tables, a sewing area, an
ironing board and my fax machine. All along the walls are
wonderfully organized metal shelves, right up to the 5-foot
wide storage loft overhead that was added on. I had glass
sliding doors installed so I can look into my backyard.
It already had a skylight and side window so now my studio
is full of light.

I managed to stay afloat all summer with a few key
accounts that placed large orders. I still borrowed on my
home equity (Suze Orman would not be happy). But you know
what? I’m in debt, but no longer focusing on that.
Instead I was able to give myself a much slowed-down
year and, in the process, discovered what was important.

What I discovered is I love working with adolescent girls
and that two college classes was one too many (but that
one per term feeds my brain). As far as my production
business goes, I realized I love the freedom I have
working odd hours. Even as I was burning out from the
demands of it, my creative drive was, once again,
blossoming. I signed up for a local trade show for the
whopping cost of $300.00. When I last did the NYC gift
show, the cost of the booth was $3,000.00. My new motto
is simplify, stay local, do what you love.

I’m learning screen painting and have been playing around
with new pillow surface design techniques. I am excited
and full of ideas. Instead of buying into the gift
industry’s hunger for the cheapest products, I’ve decided
I have to be true to myself and my work in the world.
Therefore I’m actually going to do more high end pieces
and love every minute of the process. My goal is not so
much monetary gain as soul satisfaction.

If I’ve learned one thing from last year’s wild-menopausal-
life-changing-ride, it’s that our society neglects the soul
and the soul must be heard. It may speak as an illness,
a depression, a lack of joy. If we listen, we can discover
a path and honor it. It may be a path to fame or to a quiet,
humble life.

I don’t know what the future holds. I’m learning to pay more
attention to the present. But I do feel I’ve experienced a
hard won transition that only time on this planet and an open
mind could bring about. It is amazing how feared aging is
when the focus is only on the physical when, in fact, it is
a journey to wisdom and inner peace. I feel that I am
finally at home within myself.

My website is And I thank you for
giving me this forum to express myself. It is ever so
comforting to know that I am going through this with so
many others.”

So that’s the story, a poignant and uplifting one.


Stepping Stones: Peggy’s Journey Toward “Soul Satisfaction”

Peggy experienced a major life transition and recognized it
as such. She said so succinctly, “What is important is what
I have come here for and what I will leave behind.”

She knew she had to discover her “soul satisfaction.”

Her journey began by recognizing her dissatisfaction. Like
the heroes of myth and history, she left her home, her
comfort zone and embarked on a quest.

*** She found an appropriate guide, her therapist.

*** She explored many paths – moving, teaching,
taking classes.

*** She settled in to a smaller, more comfortable space.

*** She began to trust her own muse and felt the creative
juices start to flow.

*** She maintained her positive attitude and cherished what
she had rather than what she did not have.

*** She moved slowly, “putting one foot in front of the other.”

*** She honored her new motto: “Simplify, stay local, do
what you love.”

*** She followed the direction of her heart and soul and
found the satisfaction she sought.

What a role model she is for those of us who are feeling that
same need to find our heart’s content. We hope you can find
here what resonates for you and tailor these Steps to your
own situation.


Recommended Resources

You may want to visit Peggy’s website,,
to see what she is producing in her life journey. She
infuses her website with her spirited energy. See for
yourself her unique and multi-dimensional creations.

Author Marsha Sinetar, in her book, “Do What You Love and
the Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood,”
helps us find the courage to look inward and uncover the
barriers that we erect to keep us from doing what we love.

Peggy has recommended two of her favorite books to us.
You may want to look at sociologist Martha Beck’s “Finding
Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to
Lead,” for exercises and a step-by-step program and at
artist Julie Cameron’s “Walking in This World: The
Practical Art of Creativity,” for additional inspiration
and the means to discover your human potential.

Peggy found her true self and what her “real work is here
in Earth School.” Why don’t you absorb Peggy’s process in
the way that works best for you:

read her words again;
focus on the parts that interest, excite or scare you the most;
share the story with a friend and then talk together;
write your thoughts and feelings in a journal;
reflect on a transition you are facing;
take the first step to begin some change for yourself.


Our Invitation to You

Do you have your own transition story? We invite you to
share it with our readers for the benefit of women who
themselves may be dealing with similar changes. The skills you
used may be Stepping Stones for others. If you are interested,
please e-mail us.

(c) Her Mentor Center, 2005