Karen Shopoff Rooff is a women’s wellness warrior with a decade of experience guiding professional women as they craft a wellness lifestyle. As a certified personal trainer, women’s wellness coach, and health coach, she inspires others to become Well Balanced Women. Her popular blog Running on Balance offers quality women’s health education. Coach Karen’s signature ecourse Survive & THRIVE Perimenopause teaches that when women become informed citizens of their own bodies anyone can create a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Her busy life as an entrepreneur, wife, and mom of three kids shows that you can have balance without having it all together. Find Karen’s wealth of knowledge on her blog and Instagram.
True Story #1
When I was a little girl, I was a gymnast. And, like most girls my age, I was inspired by the acrobatic talents and megawatt smile of MaryLou Retton. But, unlike my fellow gym rats, the Olympics weren’t my calling.
I wanted to join the circus.
Part of my desire to join the circus was the thrilling acrobatic feats. But part of my circus dreams hinged on the wandering freedom of circus performers. It seemed like a great way to run away and have adventure.
Fast forward nearly 30 years, and I was still captivated by circus arts. For a few years, I got really in to flying trapeze.
There was something so enticing about doing something slightly dangerous. It took loads of concentration, focus, and athletic training to perform the various tricks.
There was an element of running away involved in my trapeze lessons. The rig wasn’t convenient to my house, so each time I took a class it was a half-day investment. In my mom-of-young-kids-life, taking trapeze lessons was pretty darn close to running away. And that was a thrill.
True Story #2
When I was deep in the sleeplessness of having my third newborn, my long-held desire to run away grew.
But I was no longer drawn to the exciting adventures of the circus.
No. Not at all.
My dream had shifted, and my new desire was to run away (even if only for a weekend) to a silent retreat. The idea of being somewhere by myself with no one asking me for anything was positively dreamy.
As the mother of three young children, I had not a moment to myself. I found the transition from two kids to three quite overwhelming. (Especially because the third was a surprise bonus baby.)
I needed a break. All of my kids are talkers. Even the baby babbled dramatically from a very young age. And while I love hearing their experiences in the world, I just needed a tiny break.
So, there I was up in the middle of the night nursing my daughter. I decided that while she nursed—she was a slow, methodical, savoring nurser—I would do a little internet research to see if I could find a silent retreat center near me.
As it is with Google, a few seconds later I had my answer.
Casa de la Rosa
At this point, I laughed maniacally, waking the other members of my family and causing my poor, sweet suckling daughter to cry in fright.
You see, my daughter’s name is Rosa.
The whole reason I needed to go on a silent retreat was because I live at Casa de la Rosa.
I never did go on that silent retreat.
What I learned from these two true stories, though, is that running away is hardly ever the answer.
(What? You were looking for something more profound?!)
Instead, I needed to change a few things in my current life to give me both the adventure and solitude that feed my personality. Some days it was as simple as going for a run by myself. Other days it was bringing a group of people together in supportive community.
The three lessons I had to learn were: I needed to honor that which is within me. I needed to ask for help. I needed to be willing to receive help.
Like many women, these ideas are simple on paper but very hard to live out. Looking for ways to honor myself, ask for, and receive help are all part of living a life with self-compassion. When we take the time to listen to ourselves and act accordingly, it is easier to advocate for ourselves and then we feel less taken advantage of.
But there’s more than meets the eye going on. Mother Nature has a role in this escapism experience, too.
For women 40+ (like me), our hormones are shifting in such a way that lowered estrogen decreases our natural tendency to nurture. Our brains receive the messaging that it’s time to go out into the mountains and be by ourselves.
The problem is clear: most women in perimenopause are in the thick of raising children and/or caring for aging parents.
Being in “the sandwich generation” affects women profoundly. Many of us going through perimenopause are riding the downslope of our teenager’s adolescent rising hormonal rollercoaster. At the same time, we’re juggling the care for our aging parents. Being caught in the middle is physically exhausting and emotionally demanding. No wonder we want to run away!
A few generations ago, this conundrum didn’t exist. Kids would have been out of the house by age 40. The likelihood of having parents still alive at this point in our lives would have been small. This means we’re living now in a time where our reality is out of synch with our physiology.
And the best thing we can do to bring balance to our lives is to create space within our everyday reality to recognize and honor this asynchronicity. When we can appreciate our human physiology for what it is and recognize that it conflicts with our modern reality, it invites us to release some of the tension that feels stressful.
When we take the time to understand why we are feeling the pull to drop it all and start again, we can cultivate more compassion for ourselves. From that starting point, it is easier to understand why it is so important to create a life in which self-care is thoroughly embedded. Honoring our bodies and their natural processes encourages us to create systems of self-care the work to support your real life rather than wanting to escape it.
This is real, compassionate self-care. Becoming an informed citizen of your own body is radical. So is recognizing your human limitations. By putting education and humility to work, you can create a way of life that supports and nurtures you throughout the changes of life.