Posted on December 2nd, 2011 by Colin and is posted in Interviews
Welcome to this next interview in the series of Meet the Experts. Meet Chloe Jon Paul - http://chloejonpaul.com - a retired educator and an expert in the area of midlife transitions.
In this poignant and amusing interview she shares her experiences, her talents and her knowledge of how to grow old elegantly, with dignity, refinement and grace. Some of the topics we discuss are:
- The four rooms you should visit each day
- A person wrapped up in self makes a very small package
- Managing change & loss
- Lost your zest? Get it back!
Chloe’s latest book – Entering the Age of Elegance – A Rite of Passage and Practical Guide for the Modern Maturing Woman – is a step-by-step travel guide, which includes practical suggestions, resources for further study, and encouragement for women who are thrust into this era without prior preparation. Chloe has not only been there but she knows the journey well.
In Chloe’s words, “Thirty-eight million baby boomer women have already entered the Age of Elegance, which is a new stage of life with a new identity. More will follow; yet many of these women are making this journey without any real advance planning. Many of them don’t even think of themselves as ”elegant” but this transition into the second half of their lives can take place with style and grace.”
Here is a quick promo video of Entering the Age of Elegance
Thanks Chloe for a great interview and showing us how to grab life and live each day with passion.
Enjoy and remember, leave us a comment and give it some Facebook love.
To your happiness and success
Colin (aka The Midlife Maverick)
(The video take about 30 seconds to download, so be patient)
Colin: Welcome to this next interview in the series of Meet the Experts. I know this person on this call doesn’t necessarily see themselves as an expert but I certainly do and it’s Chloe Jon Paul. She’s written a wonderful book, which we’ll talk about as we go into this interview. Chloe is very much an expert in the area of transitions and specifically midlife, midlife transitions, which is something I have looked into myself and talked about extensively myself.
I thought it would be great to get Chloe on the call to learn a little bit about what Chloe is about and also how she’s helping people, both males and females, in the area of midlife transitions. Welcome, Chloe.
Chloe Jon Paul: Thank you. So nice to be with you, Colin.
Colin: Thank you for finding the time to get on this interview. Why don’t you start by just sharing a little bit about what you do today and how you fill your time today and what you’re passionate about today. Then we can look at what’s gotten you to where you are today, i.e. your story and your experience. Then we can go maybe into the book and talk about what the book is about. Let’s start with how do you fill your time today?
Chloe: My days are absolutely full with everything. I have a new book that came out in May. It’s a novel. This one’s a novel. My other two books are non‑fiction. Interestingly enough, I had written the book in 1991 and trashed it. My dear friend, Hilene, retrieved it and she said to me you are not throwing this book away. I took it back and I shelved it somewhere, forgot all about it basically.
In the last couple of years everything I was reading in the news about teachers, because the book is about four teachers, everything I was reading in the news and on the Internet hit me because I said, “Oh my goodness, this stuff is all in my book.” I wrote the book in 1991 and the setting of the book takes place in the mid ’80s.
I pulled it out again and I started sending the manuscript around to see if I could get endorsements and I wound up with seven wonderful endorsements for the book, one of them from the president of the Teacher’s Federation in California and other people connected with education. I thought maybe I do have something here, something that needs to be said.
I want to honor good teachers everywhere. This stuff is not kid stuff. It’s called “This Business of Children” but it’s definitely not kid stuff. It involves four teachers, two male, two female, and their stories of what happens to them both personally and professionally in the course of a given year.
It really is, I’m told, a good read and you’ll be interested to know that one of your fellow Britons, a screenwriter, is interested in writing the screenplay for the novel. There we are. That’s what I’m doing right now. Even with all of that I have radio shows I’m doing in connection with all three books, speaking engagements.
I want to continue to write. I have a children’s book that I hope to have come out this coming year, 2012, and I’m very busy locally with things that I do. I’m the coordinator for the Good Samaritan project at my church and that’s a lengthy story which I won’t go into now. I also mentor a high school student at the local high school.
That gives you an idea of what’s going on with me right now.
Colin: All right. Just take us back then. What have you done in the past? You talk about teachers. Have you been a teacher? What was your profession?
Chloe: I was a teacher for 35 years. I have taught every grade except Kindergarten and that includes high school English in a psychiatric facility, adult ed, and also inmates in the state prison. I’ve done a little bit of everything. I want your listeners to know one thing about me. You’re speaking to a woman who, quite a few years ago, ended up in a locked ward under suicide watch.
I didn’t want to live anymore. In those days going through a midlife crisis, and that’s where I was, I was in my early 40s, you didn’t have the support systems that we have today. I survived and I’m here to tell my story. I’ve had family and friends say to me, “You don’t want to share that kind of stuff with strangers.”
I said, “Why not? If it can help one person I have done my job.” Interestingly enough, even though I don’t have it in my book “Entering the Age of Elegance”, with the research I’ve done it’s surprising to know that the suicide rate today among midlife women has risen dramatically and the researchers at Johns Hopkins University don’t know why. I actually spoke with one of them, and they’re baffled because women today have so much more than we had 30‑40 years ago. So, there’s something to think about that.
Colin: And the book that you’ve written, “Entering the Age of Elegance,” why don’t you just talk a little bit about that? How much of what’s in that book is born out of your experience of going through a transition?
Chloe: I think quite a bit of it has grown out of what I’ve learned, and some of the lessons were hard to learn. But I wrote it as a travel guide because it’s a journey that every woman ‑ and man ‑ is going to make regardless of whether they like it or not. Unless you die prematurely, you are going to go through that transition so you may as well do it with style and grace. That’s what the book is all about.
As a world traveler ‑ and I’ve been on all seven continents, and I was very delighted to fulfill a dream I had even as a child to do this, and I was able to fulfill that back in 2005 when I went to Antarctica ‑ I thought, “Yeah, I’ll write it as a travel guide.”
If you’re familiar with Frommer’s, Foder’s, Lonely Planet, you know the format, and that’s exactly what you’ll see in the table of contents. The format is like a travel guide, and so it begins with inviting the women who read it to investigate and take inventory of where they are. A lot of what I have to say in the book may either confirm what the person is already doing or it will encourage that person to make some changes that need to be made.
It’s a quick read. It’s not lengthy. I didn’t want it to be anything bulky. I wanted it to be something that a woman could tuck into her purse, read on the train, plane, bus, whatever, while she’s waiting for an appointment in someone’s office, and that’s exactly the way it turned out. Now, the book is also on Kindle, so it makes it available, too.
And I’m not in this for fame and fortune, Colin. Fame and fortune do not interest in the least. We talk about these women or men who have their 15 minutes of fame doing the most outrageous things. That does not interest me. Money does not interest me. I have never seen a FedEx following a hearse to the cemetery, so things are not important to me; people are. I have what I need. I have down‑sized immensely at this point in my life, and I’m very, very satisfied.
You are looking at a woman who has not bought a new dress in a department store since 1992. I am the thrift shop queen, and I’m loving it. I have appeared on television, and I have appeared before big crowds of people in a speaking engagement wearing my thrift shop clothes, and I have been complimented time and time again. So, what do you think about that?
Colin: [laughs] I think that’s fantastic. With your experience then of what you went through and not knowing about mid‑life transitions, as I did when I went through mine, was there a defining moment for you?
Chloe: I think the defining moment came ‑ and I did go through a lot of counseling. I was very, very fortunate to have a series of counselors. I didn’t want to deal with a psychiatrist because they really don’t do much of anything except write out a prescription for Prozac or whatever. And I was told that I was going to be on Prozac for the rest of my life, and I said, “Yeah, when pigs fly.”
I did my research, and I learned that there are alternative ways to raise the serotonin level in your brain. So, I began doing that and there’s got to be consistency in doing that. I can honestly say to you that I have not had depression in years.
We all have an occasionally sad day, and that’s perfectly all right. You can have your pity party. I advise people to turn on the kitchen timer, no more than 30 minutes. Have your pity party and then get on with your life. So, that defining moment for me, I think, when I was able to look into the mirror and say, “I am strong and lovable,” and that is one of my mantras.
I think it’s advisable to have one or two mantras that you can recite every day to just clue you into your yourself, to get to know yourself better. I mentioned to you in our email that, perhaps, we could talk about those four rooms that a person should visit every day.
There was a wise, old Indian guru who once said, “Man is a house with four rooms: the psychical, the spiritual, the mental and the emotional. The problem is he tends to spend most of his time in only one of those rooms every day when it would be in his best interest to visit all four.” That’s what I do. I visit all four of those rooms every day.
My day begins in the spiritual room and anywhere between one‑and‑a‑half hours and two hours, and I have the luxury of time in my life and I realize that not everyone has that amount of time, but you don’t have to have that much time, but to connect with my spiritual self.
The spirituality that I talk about is not necessarily what we call religion. I have my denominational faith that I subscribe to which I’m not going to go into here because this is not the time or place to do it. We do need to connect with our spiritual selves. We are not just matter. We are more than a body. Then the physical.
To pay attention to what you put into your mouth and your lifestyle, eating habits. I’m thinner now than I was in my 20s and 30s. No diet involved. It’s a question of lifestyle. Eating healthy foods and eating at the right times. That includes exercise. I exercise at least three times a week at Planet Fitness, which is a health club in the local area, and it’s wonderful.
You would be amazed at what I can do within 35 to 40 minutes because that’s as much time as I can afford to spend there. You would be amazed at what I manage to accomplish in that amount of time. The mental, keeping yourself alert, learning something new every day. We never stop learning. Doing brain activities that keep your brain sharp.
I love playing solitaire and poker on those little handheld gizmos that we have. When I’m not doing that, if I’m stuck in traffic you know what I’ll do? I’ll look at license plates and add up all the numbers forward and backward and do all kinds of crazy things. It’s wonderful. They have a lot of websites that deal with that sort of thing.
Then with the emotional, identifying the emotions that seem to be uppermost in your life and taking possession of them, taking ownership. I always tell people because I have a wonderful, wonderful background in conflict resolution I was a lead facilitator for the alternatives to violence project for many, many years. I probably got more out of it than I actually put into it, but I learned some wonderful, wonderful techniques.
I actually have a blog on my website, “Fighting Fair in Five Easy Steps”. People have to learn how to speak and I talk about the I message. Sometimes it’s like learning a foreign language at first, and this was true when I was working with inmates but they came around and they got to master it and it was wonderful to see. It simply is this, it’s a simple formula.
You begin with the word when. When such and such occurs, and you describe the situation, I feel and you take ownership of how you feel and you name what that emotion is because and you give the reason. Then you follow‑up with can we talk about this now or do you need a little bit more time? You never use the word ‘you’ because the word ‘you’ closes down shop.
It’s not going to get you anywhere. It puts the other person on the defensive. Another thing that I’ve used and it’s wonderful, you have no idea all the wonderful things that have come about when I say to someone, especially with business matters, “Look, I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. How can we work this out to a win‑win situation?”
They love it and they go overboard to give me things that I didn’t even expect to receive as a result because people are pleased when you approach them in that manner. These are little tricks that I’ve learned along the way.
Colin: Wonderful. Wonderful. I agree. Owning your emotions is absolutely key and easy not to do. It’s easy to throw the blame out there and accuse and finger point and make someone else responsible for our emotional life. Love it.
Can you talk a little bit about transitions then because there may be someone listening to this right now that may be going through a big transition, a loss of some type. A loss of job, a loss of someone they love, a loss of some description. With your experience and what you’ve put in the book what would you say are some key things to keep in mind as you’re going through that transition?
Chloe: I have a whole section. Part four of my book is called “The Traveler’s Advisory: Managing Change and Loss”. Oprah once said, “Time isn’t the enemy. Accept that nothing lasts forever and you’ll start to appreciate the advantages of whatever age you are now.” There is a hidden side of change and my dear friend and contributor to the book, Edgar Papke, he’s the CEO and president of Living Change and that’s a Denver based consulting firm, offers valuable insight.
I would suggest that anybody who wants to go to his website can find out more. You have changes that are going to come about. The loss of a loved one, it could be a parent, it could be a spouse, it could even be a child, it could even be a pet, a pet that you’ve had for so many years that you love almost like your own child.
As you said, the loss of a job, what they call the empty nest syndrome. You have to begin looking at who you are. Like I tell women, most women have spent their entire lives being someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, someone’s mother, grandmother, or a career woman so wrapped up in her career that she has no identity outside of that career and then they wake up one day and they’re startled and scared. Who am I?
I call transition time get‑acquainted‑with‑yourself time. Get to know who you really are and get to the point where you can look in the mirror and wink and say, “Hey kid, you’re OK.” I do that often. I like who I am. I don’t need to be someone else. I am perfectly content with who I am. Wrinkles, gray hair, you name it. I’m satisfied.
Speaking of hair, I was every color in the book. Want a red head? That was me. Want a brunette? That was me. Black? Oh yeah. Blonde? Mm‑hmm. Then one day I looked in the mirror, in fact I was losing my hair and it was very obvious. The color that I had made it very obvious that I was thinning out so I went and got myself a GI Jane haircut and let the hair start growing out and the rest is history.
I am perfectly satisfied. I see more and more women leaning toward that. In fact, another colleague of mine, Maggie Crane has another book out called “Amazing Grays” so any woman out there, or even man, who is worried about the gray hair I would certainly recommend reading something on it. There are inevitable losses. We have to be accepting with what comes about.
The changes, caregiving issues. That’s a big issue with a lot of people in transition right now, especially caring for the elderly. I say a great deal about that in my first book and it’s called “What Happens Next”.
It’s a family caregivers guide and actually to nursing home visits and more because I discovered that even though a person may have been taking care of their loved one at home for a long time the day may come when they have to place them in a long term care facility and they really don’t know what happens next.
The book treats all the topics that you can think of in terms of what happens next. How to deal with staff, how to deal with troublesome residents, how to visit. I would watch people go in to visit with their loved ones sitting there, staring into space, nobody saying anything and you could see that everybody was stressed out.
My sister and I used to go in to visit with my mom, who was there for six‑and‑a‑half years, and we’d bring old records from the ’20s and ’30s, start doing dances from the ’20s and ’30s like the Charleston and talk about old times because that’s what she would remember. Her mind was disintegrating with dementia but the long term memory was there.
She couldn’t tell you what day of the week it was or what year but she could tell you the name of her fourth grade teacher. We capitalized on all of those things. I talk about using M&M’s in my book and that is meditation and metamusic. I was very, very fortunate to spend a week at the Monroe Institute where I learned about the Hemi‑Sync method and metamusic and they have been very, very helpful to me. Using the metamusic to relax, the meditation, just maybe reading one page of something and then thinking about it for a few minutes. These are my salvation points.
Colin: Fantastic. Just in case there’s something listening and thinking I hadn’t really thought about transitions but I’m not feeling myself at the moment, do you have any indicators that you can share that would let people know if they are in transition? I’ve found when I talk about midlife transitions, especially with men, firstly they don’t think they’re in midlife.
Midlife is not them. What age do you think midlife is? Well, it’s obviously not someone in their early 40s. It must be someone in their late 40s. It’s always someone else.
Chloe: Actually, in my book I talk about the 10 major fears that women have at this point in their lives and I don’t think we have time to go through that right now. I think that one of the key things that a woman, or man, will experience will be any one or more of these major fears. Not having enough money to live on in the future, fear of being a burden to someone.
These are some of the things that have come up. Even fear of death. I discuss all of these things in my book at length and those are just a couple of the fears that I mentioned, and I do mention a good 10 of them. I think that is the trigger we can talk about if a person is wondering if indeed they are going through a midlife crisis.
The dissatisfaction on a daily basis, that you don’t want to get up in the morning, that you don’t want to do this, that you don’t want to do that. One of my favorite sayings is, and this includes a man, “A woman wrapped up in herself makes a very small package.” I think that when you begin to reach out and touch others and go beyond yourself you are going to be a much happier person.
I know I am. I am always amazed at the things that occur as a result of my having reached out to touch someone. I mentioned before that I’m the coordinator of the Good Samaritan project at my church. We have done so many wonderful things that one of our parishioners, who preferred to remain anonymous, was so impressed that this person donated $20,000 to the project.
That enables our pastor to help families who are suffering right now, especially with the economic disaster that we’re going through. That pleases me to no end knowing that I was able to begin the project and now it was blossomed. I have 30 volunteers, men and women, who are ready and willing on any given day to do what needs to be done. I hope that answered your question.
Colin: Beautiful. Yes. Just as we start to conclude, what’s obvious to me is your wonderful zest for life. Your energy is incredible. We talked a little bit about it there, but having that support system around you when you go through a transition is so important. The email that you sent me when Sharon passed away was beautiful, as was many emails that came through.
For me, I really understood support systems and people and the things that they do that can make a big difference. As I say, you have a tremendous zest for life. You haven’t shared your age with the audience yet, and it’s up to you whether you want to, but when you told me I was gobsmacked.
Looking on your website, there’s so much that’s been achieved since the age of 55. It seems like you’ve packed it all into a very short period of time. What are some of the secrets you’ve got for that, for having the incredible energy that you’ve got that gets you up early in the morning and keeps you awake late at night?
Chloe: I’ll share with you and your listeners the piece in the book called “Lost Your Zest? Get It Back”. Many years ago I heard a sermon that focused on attitude. The part I especially remembered dealt with how a person can greet a new day. One can say, “Good God, morning,” or, “Good morning, God.” The latter appealed to me as a solid expression of a certain zest for life.
Until then, I hadn’t thought about whether this quality was apparent in my own life. Since then, I have become more aware of its presence not only in my life but the world at large. Unlike patience, perseverance, and empathy, zest does not depend upon certain circumstances to induce it. It is freeborn, free form, and uninhibited, suited to every moment and purpose.
It is the how of intense, vigorous pursuit of what is at hand, challenging the uncharted sea or simply smelling the roses. I’m not going to read the whole thing here, but I go on to say athletes use it, how religion and history are studded with personalities who displayed zest, and even in theatrical productions.
Who can forget the lusty Zorba in “Zorba the Greek” or Tevye, the fiddler, in “Fiddler on the Roof”? That’s what I think drives me on every day, to have that zest for life, because tomorrow is not promised to any one of us so we’d better live this day to the max. As for what I’ve accomplished since the age of 55, oh yes. I am very, very pleased and proud of what I’ve accomplished and that, again, is on my website, both my websites, www.chloejonpaul.com as well as www.enteringtheageofelegance.com. Have I answered your questions?
Colin: You’ve answered it in a number of ways, just in your energy as you were talking about it. I would like to conclude with a question that I ask all of my interviewees. It’s right at the very end. I don’t tell them about it because I just like to see where it takes them. My question to you is as you sit there in that chair today what’s becoming clearer to you?
Chloe: What’s becoming clearer to me in my life right now is simply this, I have lived the bulk of my life and even if I lived another 20 years I still have the bulk of my life behind me. I know that at any given time, at any given moment I could pass away but I am perfectly content with that.
One of the very last prayers that I say at night is what Christ said on the cross. “Father, into my hands I commend my spirit,” because I know that I could conceivably die in my sleep. I have a condition that warrants that. I won’t get into that right now and I’m perfectly OK with it, but I know that there’s a 46 percent chance that I could die in my sleep one night.
What I’m aware of now is life is closing in on me but I want my legacy to be more than just a certain amount of money left to the family or certain articles, things the family would want to keep. That’s not important to me. I want the legacy that I leave to be in the same manner as what my grandmother and my mother left for me. Something that can be passed on from generation to generation.
Basically that’s the way I’ve lived my life. These two women were such great role models for me in what they did. They didn’t have much education, they didn’t have any money. We could spend another hour talking about what they gave me. I’m hoping that the way I live my life, the way I was able to reach out to others, that’s what I want my legacy to be.
I am perfectly content. Whether I live another year, 10 years, 20 years makes no difference to me. As a matter of fact, I almost died three‑and‑a‑half years ago but that’s another story. It was incredible. It was a wonderful experience and the doctors could not get over me and the things that happened as a result.
It was a wakeup call to say, “Hey, this could be it.” I am at peace and I think my peace and my serenity are very, very important to me. As I used to tell the inmates in the prison when I was doing my workshops I said, “I value my serenity and my dignity. As a matter of fact, I like them even better than sex.” Of course they would crack up and I did that on purpose. I did it for dramatic effect.
Colin: [laughs] It worked on me as well. Thank you. I think that’s a fitting way to end this interview and thank you, Chloe, for sharing your wisdom, your wit, your insight. I will put the link to your two websites on the blog post. I’ll also put your book on there as well so that people can click and purchase your book and also ask any questions to you on your website.
Thank you very much for your time today and for sharing what you shared with us today. Thank you very much.
Chloe: My pleasure, Colin. Have a blessed day.
Colin: Thank you.