Your Second Season’s monthly Magnificent Midlife Spotlight woman for November 2019!
Written by Ann Bloomingdale
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Hence, the immense popularity of the internet meme. One of the more popular motivational memes out there is called “Success Is Like An Iceberg.” The message of the meme being when we look at a successful person, we tend to only see the tip of the iceberg. What we often fail to see is what makes up 90% of this glacial mass or what the meme portrays as the many experiences, attributes and healthy habits a person practices on the road to success.
We all know women who are the epitome of someone who takes control of her life versus letting life control her. We see someone who seems to be sailing through midlife, reaching their goals, living their dreams and looking great doing it. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking they’ve just snapped their fingers and viola, they were physically fit, had a positive attitude, a rewarding career and lust for life that we admired or even envied. We see them as women we want to emulate.
Jenny Linden is one of those women. But Jenny herself can attest to the fact there is more to the iceberg than just the tip. Her ability to thrive and not just survive during this midlife transition, is the result of experience, setbacks, hard work and determination to reach her personal goals. Anyone who knows Jenny can tell you she exudes an amazing amount of positive energy and vitality. Her strong sense of emotional and physical well-being is contagious, and she has approached midlife with an attitude of passion and enthusiasm.
At 52, she seems unstoppable, which without a doubt is due to her strong convictions on the importance of keeping physically fit. “I started running 15 years ago,” Jenny said. “Since then I’ve run four full Marathon’s and over 30 halves. The last two years I started doing Cross-fit. I love the high intensity workouts!” She attributes her ambitious spirit to her younger years. “I’ve always been pretty competitive,” she remarked. “I had to be. I’m the youngest of nine kids!”
In addition to physical health, Jenny kept mentally fit with her pursuit of higher education. Like many women during midlife, Jenny found herself rethinking past decisions. Among her eight siblings, she was the only one that didn’t graduate from college. “That was a regret of mine,” Jenny remarked. “I don’t believe in quitting. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do; I was immature at the age of 18, 19 and 20,” she explained. After three years of college, Jenny left school and got a full-time job. Never one to dwell on the past, years later, in addition to working full-time, she made the decision to go back to school and earn her degree. In 2016, at the age of 49, she did just that. This achievement is indicative of Jenny’s tenacious nature. “Having goals, being organized and moving forward motivate me,” she commented. Jenny also had made her emotional health a priority. “I make time for friends,” she said. “In order to have friends, you have to be a friend. I am lucky to have some amazing, smart friends in my life. I also have five incredible sisters I can always lean on.”
Midlife has proved to have its bright spots for Jenny. However, she was not immune to the challenges that many women face during this transition. Her healthy lifestyle, however, seemed to mitigate the symptoms of menopause, another hallmark of midlife. “The only symptom I have is hot flashes,” she remarked. “I get a few during the day and a few at night. I think working out has helped, along with my diet. I stay away from processed foods and try to eat as clean as possible.”
Her desire to stay fit has undoubtedly helped Jenny maintain a sense of physical well-being. “I run with my friends two times a week and do cross-fit four times a week,” she said. “I’m at the gym at 5:00 am and amazingly I am energized all day. For me, morning workouts are the best. I am in bed most nights at 9:00 pm and 4:15 am is an early wake-up call!”
Though Jenny seems to have addressed menopause with ease, another midlife obstacle was not so easy. When her grown son, Jake, left for college, like many women who are met with the “Empty Nest” experience, Jenny had discomforting thoughts of “What do I do now? He doesn’t need me; he’s moving on.” Questions such as this can lead to a feeling of being lost or directionless. “It was really, really hard,” Jenny remembered. She kept up her courage, though, even in the face of the next blow midlife would deal. This was the disheartening and stressful experience of divorce.
The end of her marriage proved to be a difficult time for her. “Going through a divorce after 22 years of marriage was a huge stressor,” she remarked. “Fortunately, I have both my parents, eight siblings and incredible friends who were there for me. I don’t know how I could have done it without them,” she recalled. The strong support Jenny received during this experience emphasizes the importance of having a solid support system to provide consolation and encouragement in stressful situations.
Regarding pursuing one’s dreams during midlife, Jenny is fond of saying “It’s never too late!” While attending classes to earn her bachelor’s degree, Jenny felt her interest piqued in the area of gerontology. Displaying her trademark determination and drive, Jenny continued her quest to advance her education, thereby expanding her career opportunities. In the fall of 2017, she decided to pursue her master’s degree in Social Gerontology and will graduate in May 2020.
There are those who work to live and those who live to work. Due to her determination, self-discipline and the conviction to follow her dreams, Jenny insured she was among the latter. She sought out a career that dealt with her interest in the concerns of aging adults. Jenny currently holds the position of Team Manager of the Response Team for Home Instead Senior Care, at their Global Headquarters. Home Instead provides home care for the elderly to insure they can continue to live independently in their home. The ability to age at home is important to many seniors today and is comforting to their loved ones as well. “I really feel like I’m working for a purpose and with a purpose.” Jenny said.
A sense of purpose is perhaps one of the most crucial elements of a rewarding and gratifying life. It is not uncommon for women to find themselves facing a sort of identity crisis during their midlife transition. Grown children leaving the nest, the death of a parent, or the experience of divorce can lead to a sense of loss and finality. The meaning they had found in being a mother, caregiver or wife, seems to evaporate. These experiences can lead to them searching for their meaning or objective in life. During this time, it is of such importance to embrace change and discover passion and inspiration in new experiences and endeavors. Going back to school to earn both her bachelor’s and master’s degree was just one of the ways Jenny found to fill the void that the hurdles of midlife can create.
Getting involved in her community and helping others has further fueled Jenny’s sense of contribution. “Volunteering gives you a purpose, whether you do it at church or an organization,” she said. “I started with Big Brothers Big Sisters after my divorce,” Jenny said. “My son was away in college and my brother recently passed away. He was very involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters. I had the time to volunteer, so I did, in honor of my brother and for myself. I think it’s important to give back.” The experience motivated Jenny to continue to enhance her own life, by giving inspiration and guidance to others. “I had a Little Sister for three years before the family moved away. A year later, I started at Girls Incorporated. I’ve been with my Mentee now for three years. I love it! I just start volunteering at Dreamweaver, an organization here in Omaha that makes dreams come true for terminal seniors. I can’t wait to get started!” she said.
Jenny’s zest for life and ability to successfully navigate her midlife journey is both admirable and inspiring. Her advice on how others can do the same is invaluable. “Find a good support system and surround yourself with smart, positive individuals,” she said. “Find something you love to do. I love to run with my friends and workout with my friend, Rik. It’s a win- win situation,” she added. Practicing self-care is also essential. “You’ve got to do something for yourself and make it a positive thing,” she advised. Getting healthy, exercise and joining a gym are a few of her suggestions to “Boost your morale and feel good about yourself.”
Jenny has strong convictions on the importance of aging well. “Exercising is the key to health, wellness and longevity. Exercise often, and you’ll live a longer, healthier life. You’ll sleep better, your workdays will be more productive, your mood will improve and your risk of developing almost any chronic disease will drop. If you haven’t done it in a while, start slowly with walking. Find a friend who will go with you and go two to three days a week for 30 minutes. Every dose of exercise is 100% effective; even small ones. It’s the most powerful, readily available drug in the world and it’s free!” she remarked.
Studies have shown that women are living longer lives than in the past and Jenny firmly contends that it is never too late to pursue your dreams. When facing uncertainty herself and tackling new endeavors, Jenny feels it’s important to hold dominant thoughts of positivity, telling herself, “I’m going to do this, and yes, it’s going to be hard, but I’m going to persevere.” Jenny also advocates women being proactive when it comes to their own future. “I think we need to take control of our lives and continue to challenge ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually to take care of ourselves; because if we don’t, no one else is going to.” she said.
Clearly, family and friends have had a tremendous influence on Jenny’s ability to thrive with confidence during the midlife transition. Her sister gave her the gift of an empowering sentiment Jenny often repeats to others experiencing the stress and uncertainty life’s changes can bring. When encouraging others or offering advice, Jenny reassures them with her prevailing motto, “Forward. Always forward!”
Ann’s Takeaway – Jenny’s story reminds us that we all have a choice. We can sit back, and watch life happen, or we can take control and make life happen. Taking control and making positive choices, however, often means embracing uncertainty, practicing healthy habits, maintaining a positive mindset and finding lessons in our disappointments and past mistakes. In other words, it requires effort on our part, and therein lies the rub.
We have to admit we often take the path of least resistance. This path is easier, gives us a feeling of safety and doesn’t require us to leave our comfort zone. It is only when we start to question just how comfortable this zone really is, that we find the strength and courage to create the desired changes in our life. This means at times we must expose ourselves to the possibility of facing obstacles, feeling insecure and making mistakes.
Confucius said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall.” Choosing to fall forward when tripping over life’s hurdles, results in self growth, improvement and development. The good news is that it is never too late to change the path we take. Reaching our destination and creating the life we want does not happen overnight. It is achieved by taking one day and one step at a time. Now is the time to take that first step and remember, “Forward. Always Forward!”